Saturday, October 31, 2015

My hero / Lisa Jardine by Martin Rees

 Lisa Jardine.
Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi

My hero: Lisa Jardine by Martin Rees

The astronomer royal pays tribute to polymath Lisa Jardine, who died this week

Martin Rees
Sat 31 Oct 2015

ost people’s careers run in grooves. Even if their achievements are lasting, they are usually within an established role – in politics, business, academia or a profession. But there are some people who can’t be categorised – creative personalities who straddle conventional boundaries in a unique way. These are the individuals who leave the most distinctive legacy, and Lisa Jardine was one of them. Scholarly in science as well as literature and history, she spanned the “two cultures”. She was politically engaged and campaigned for many causes and institutions. Above all, she had a zest for communicating and was able to engage with a wide public, young and old.

I first met Lisa when she was a young lecturer at Cambridge University. Later, when I was president of the Royal Society, we were fortunate to have her support and her advice on our archives. She was especially excited to recover a folio by Robert Hooke, containing long-lost records of the society’s meetings.
Her response to a cancer diagnosis in 2004 was to work even harder. During the last decade she presented dozens of radio talks and a fine series on the history of science; she was active on innumerable panels and committees. We both resigned from the board of the Royal Institution, in protest against actions we thought deplorable.
One of her most surprising decisions, in 2008, was to become chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, a challenging role involving novel ethical issues. It was perhaps in homage to her father, Jacob Bronowski, that she felt she should do some scientific service to the nation.
In her public and private roles she was a supreme life-enhancer. Her death has come as a shock and sadness to those of us who hoped that her effervescent enthusiasm would inspire us for at least another decade.







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