John Maddox, 22 year editor of Nature

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John Maddox, 22 year editor of Nature

Postby Kevin » Tue Apr 14, 2009 5:12 pm

John Maddox, Editor Who Enlivened Nature, Is Dead at 83

John Maddox, who turned the British journal Nature into an internationally influential showcase for the most recent developments in scientific research during his two stints as editor, while bringing a sense of fun and an appetite for spirited argument to its formerly staid pages, died Sunday in Abergavenny, Wales.

He was 83 and lived in London and Brecon, Wales. The cause of death was pneumonia associated with a chest infection, said his son Bruno.

Mr. Maddox, a chemist and physicist by training, drew on his experience as science correspondent for The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian) to bring a new sense of competitiveness and timeliness to Nature in his 22 years as its editor. Rather than waiting for scientific papers to come to him, he beat the bushes in search of exciting material, a practice that, over time, guaranteed that the most interesting, provocative papers found their way to Nature first. Such was the competition to be published in its pages that one desperate physicist, after repeated rejections, threatened to set himself afire on the magazine's doorsteps.

It was a mark of his skilled editorship that Nature could publish a paper on, say, the Loch Ness monster without sacrificing its authority.

"He took command of Nature in a big way," the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins said. "He had a tremendous grasp of science in the full range, from physics to biology to public affairs as they affected the world of science."
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