Rather sad to hear of the death of Adrian Berry aged 78. Adrian, aka the 4th Viscount Camrose, was a member of the Berry family that owned The Daily Telegraph for 60 years. He was the paper’s infectiously enthusiastic science correspondent from 1977 to 1997. If I remember rightly, I met him first in Southampton at the BA meeting the year I was the BA-DT’s Young Science Writer of the Year and again at the AAAS meeting in Boston the following February (attending both events was all part of the prize and a great kickstarter for a freelance science writing career to be sure).
My new wife came with me to Boston on that trip, we having been married late in the previous year and so travelling with an out-of-date, but unexpired, passport and our wedding certificate, it was touch and go whether they’d let us in. We stayed at the Sheraton with a supersized double room overlooking the Scientology building. We suffered the minus 18 Celsius outside and gloriously sunny winter weather and trotted between lectures, breaks, ice sculpture displays, architecture and eateries, chaperoning the junior young science writer Catherine along the while.
My wife and I ate at a pasta place one night where they wouldn’t let you leave without a doggy bag, which I gave to a homeless guy who spoke to us as we left. But, it was another evening meal that had a more lasting effect on my science writing. Adrian took us all to what we thought was an incredibly upmarket lobster restaurant, and it probably was, thankfully he got the tab. It was great fun, what a raconteur full of science and with a lesson to teach.
We got on to the subject of chemistry, as you do, and he suggested, if I recall correctly, that it was always going to be difficult to get chemistry stories into the papers (tell me about it, although I had a few successes with the Telegraph (HT Roger Highfield) and was a regular in The Guardian science section throughout the 1990s HT Tim Radford). The problem as he saw it was partly the esoteric jargon and partly because its image at the time (has that changed?). Anyway, I was on the hot topic of chirality and how it had arisen in nature in only one form, amino acids, DNA, proteins blah, blah, balh. Adrian stopped me mid-sentence, “What’s chirality?” he asked. “Oh,” I said, “handedness”. “Righto, you could just use that word instead, then.”
Hah! He was right, although in the piece I did for the Telegraph at the time, I did include the jargon term, but only as an aside, “handedness” it was, all the ay. Got to hand it to him, he improved my writing with a single question. So long and thanks for all the lobster.