I studied at Cambridge, London and Padua universities. Theoretical physics was my first love, but then I became fascinated by the history of science. I am especially fond of the medieval and early modern periods: everything, that is, from the Venerable Bede (c.673-735) to the Honourable Boyle (1627-91), and a bit beyond. But Galileo has always been my favourite. Initially I was intrigued by his classic work on falling bodies, projectiles, and pendulums and such; then I got interested more broadly in his life and the wider world in which he lived and worked.

Galileo’s stories

A few years ago, I started work on a new, up-to-date biography of Galileo. Unfortunately (for me) a couple of other excellent scholars had already had the same idea. J.L.Heilbron’s brilliant Galileo, for example, came out in 2010 and I shelved my own project. But all was not lost. I have always loved crime fiction and historical fiction and above all historical crime fiction.1 And so I had already started working on an early draft of my novel Galileo’s Revenge.

My story, filling in some of the quite large gaps in our knowledge about his early life, entangles the young, ambitious Galileo with the real (and highly suspicious) deaths of the Medici Duke and Duchess of Tuscany in 1587. How hard can creative writing be? I asked myself. You just make it up as you go along. And I won’t have to check my references. A much older and slightly wiser man, I finally stopped writing and published Galileo’s Revenge or, A Cure for the Itch in November 2018.

My life and works

I taught for the Open University for some fifteen years; for another twenty years I was a supervisor and an Affiliated Research Scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge. My previous works include Heat and Thermodynamics. A historical perspective (2007) which won an award from the prestigious US journal Choice as one of the ‘Best Academic Books of the Year 2008’ – or something like that.

But I have put all that behind me now, and I am trying to go straight. I live quietly just off the Mill Road in Cambridge, in newly fashionable Romsey Town. This is most convenient for splendid café/vinyl store Relevant Records, for wonderful cocktails at ‘196’, and for tasty Italian delicatessen at Limoncello. 2 It was at each of these excellent emporia, of course, that I had the original inspiration for Galileo’s Revenge. Oh alright, that’s not true, it was whilst walking along the promenade at Southwold, but they have all helped to keep me going along the way.

For more of my thoughts on writing historical fiction (including cat allergy in history, the problem with silhouettes, and more), see my article for Historical Fiction Addicts.

  1. Yes, yes, I admit it: I adore Cadfael, even if he is the veritable white line down the middle of the road.
  2. By the way, does anyone else find the juxtaposition of ‘Italian’ and ‘delicatessen’ a bit odd? I mean, apart from the 1930s, they’ve never really got on all that well, have they?