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Cathcart, Brian 1956-

Cathcart, Brian 1956-

PERSONAL:

Born October 26, 1956, in Derry, Northern Ireland; son of Rex (a university professor) and Hazel Cathcart; married Ruth Griffiths, November 1, 1985; children: Thomas, Patrick. Education: Trinity College, Dublin, B.A., 1978.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England. Office—Kingston University, Penrhyn Rd., Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE, England. Agent—David Godwin, 55 Monmouth St., London WC2H 9DG, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Reuters News Agency, foreign correspondent, 1978-1986; Independent, London, England, member of foreign desk staff, 1986-89; Independent on Sunday, London, foreign editor, 1990-94, deputy editor, 1995-2003; Kingston University, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England, currently senior lecturer and professor in journalism; New Statesman, weekly columnist.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Golden Dagger Award in nonfiction, Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, 1999, for The Case of Stephen Lawrence; George Orwell Prize for political writing, 2000.

WRITINGS:

Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb, John Murray (London, England), 1994.

Were You Still Up for Portillo?, Penguin (London, England), 1997.

The Case of Stephen Lawrence, Viking (London, England), 1999.

Jill Dando: Her Life and Death, Penguin (New York, NY), 2001.

Rain, Granta (London, England), 2002.

The Fly in the Cathedral: How a Small Group of Cambridge Scientists Won the Race to Split the Atom, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to newspapers and magazines, including Guardian, Independent, Mail, and New Statesman.

SIDELIGHTS:

Brian Cathcart is a journalist, editor, and university journalism professor. He has worked in journalism as a senior editor for the Independent on Sunday, and since 2003 has been a freelance journalist for several prominent British newspapers. The subjects of Cathcart's books range from historical and far-reaching looks at important technology to stories of personal tragedy. Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb is a "detailed and powerfully related account of five years of complex and complicated efforts to produce ‘Hurricane,’ the first British atom bomb," reported Leo Muray in the Contemporary Review. Cathcart relates the intense planning and scientific work that went into making the bomb, including the creation of plutonium. He also looks at the political turmoil in the British government that accompanied the birth of the bomb. Cathcart "produces in impressive details the planning and making of that bomb that ensured Britain's status of a first ranking power for more than a generation," Muray stated.

Jill Dando: Her Life and Death relates the case of Dando, a BBC television personality and news presenter who was killed by a single gunshot to the head outside her London home on April 26, 1999. The Case of Stephen Lawrence is the story of Lawrence, a young African American man killed in a racist attack in England. "Invaluable on every level, it is the first detailed narrative account of the case," noted Tariq Ali in the New Statesman. Cathcart recounts the details of the case, how Lawrence and friend Duwayne Brooks were attacked by a large group of young Caucasians, and how Lawrence died as a result. He describes the investigation and shows how Lawrence's parents, Neville and Doreen, were determined to seek justice for their son. "Meticulously researched and skillfully crafted, The Case of Stephen Lawrence deserves a place in every public library, including that of the police college in Hendon," Ali concluded.

Cathcart returns to a scientific subject with powerful worldwide implications in The Fly in the Cathedral: How a Small Group of Cambridge Scientists Won the Race to Split the Atom. "For a man who admits he never took a class in physics, Brian Cathcart certainly knows how to turn great science into arresting drama," remarked Laurence A. Marschall in Natural History. The author describes in detail the race between teams in Britain and America to split the atom, and how the British team managed to accomplish this profound scientific breakthrough first. He relates the difficulties imposed by funding restrictions, poor working conditions, and bulky equipment often held together by little more than wire and modeling clay. The author also profiles the important personalities involved in the British milestone at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, including team leader and Nobel laureate Ernest Rutherford; John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, who conducted the work that split a lithium atom for which they received a Nobel Prize in 1951; and prankster and brilliant scientist George Gamow. "The fluent Cathcart applies just the right intensity in illuminating both the science and the scientists," commented Gilbert Taylor in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that "Cathcart instills in the reader a sense of excitement as the nuclear age unfolds around the world."

Cathcart once told CA: "I am by instinct a historian, and I believe that even the very current materials that have been the subjects of my recent books have appealed to me because of their historical content as much as their journalistic interest. My approach, by and large, has been to give primacy to the narrative, with a minimum of interpretation. This was true as much of The Case of Stephen Lawrence, the story of a 1993 British race murder and its very controversial aftermath, as it was of Test of Greatness, which gives an account of the making of the first British atomic bomb between 1947 and 1952. Were You Still Up for Portillo? is a more lighthearted book, which aims to capture the mood of election night in Britain in May 1997, when eighteen years of Conservative government came to an end. Jill Dando is an account of television celebrity and the murder of a popular British television presenter.

"My two more recent books, Rain and The Fly in the Cathedral, conform to a similar narrative pattern, although making a narrative out of the subject of rain may not seem an obvious course. Both books presented challenges to a nonscientist, and both were an enormous pleasure to struggle with and to write.

"These days I am a weekly columnist for The New Statesman and a busy university teacher. Though this seems to leave me little time for writing books at the moment, that chapter of my life is certainly not closed for good."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Scientist, July-August, 2005, Peter Westwick, "Probing the Nucleus," review of The Fly in the Cathedral: How a Small Group of Cambridge Scientists Won the Race to Split the Atom, p. 375.

Booklist, December 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 629.

Choice, June, 1995, M. Swartz, review of Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb, p. 1651; May, 2005, D. Park, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 1609.

Contemporary Review, December, 1994, Leo Muray, review of Test of Greatness, p. 329; May, 2003, Michael Karwowski, "Rain, Rain, and More Rain," review of Rain, p. 311; August, 2004, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 126.

Economist, June 19, 1999, review of The Case of Stephen Lawrence, p. 12.

Guardian (London, England), February 21, 2004, John Banville, "Gnat for Turning," review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

History Today, October, 1994, review of Test of Greatness, p. 51.

Independent (London, England), February 29, 2004, John Morrish, review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

Journal of British Studies, January, 1999, Kirk Willis, review of Test of Greatness, p. 125.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2004, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 991.

London Review of Books, July 7, 2005, review of Rain, p. 8.

Natural History, June, 2005, Laurence A. Marschall, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 50.

Nature, November 17, 1994, F.H. Hinsley, review of Test of Greatness, p. 283; June 17, 2004, Frank Close, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 702.

New Statesman, November 7, 1997, Michael Fallon, review of Were You Still Up for Portillo?, p. 46; June 21, 1999, Tariq Ali, review of The Case ofStephen Lawrence, p. 46; March 1, 2004, Edwina Currie, "Off with a Bang," review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 50.

New Statesman & Society, September 30, 1994, Clive Ponting, review of Test of Greatness, p. 54.

New York Review of Books, February 24, 2005, Freeman Dyson, "Seeing the Unseen," review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 11.

Observer (London, England), March 7, 2004, Robin McKie, "Splitters of Science's A-Team," review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

Publishers Weekly, October 25, 2004, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 34.

Race and Class, July 1, 2000, Sujata Aurora, review of The Case of Stephen Lawrence, p. 95.

Science Books & Films, January-February, 2005, Eugene E. Nalence, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 19; November-December, 2005, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 240.

Science News, February 12, 2005, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 111.

SciTech Book News, June, 2005, review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 13; March, 2006, review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

Spectator, March 13, 2004, Ray Monk, "A Light Blue Victory," review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 40.

Times (London, England), February 22, 2004, Brenda Maddox, review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

Times Educational Supplement, June 4, 1999, Michael Marland, review of The Case of Stephen Lawrence, p. D10.

Times Higher Education Supplement, November 11, 1994, Sergei Kapitza, review of Test of Greatness, p. 24; May 21, 2004, Andrew Robinson, "Little Midnight Oil for a Trio Who Get to the Heart of Matter," review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 30.

Times Literary Supplement, October 14, 1994, Brian Pippard, review of Test of Greatness, p. 14; August 13, 1999, Robert Reiner, review of The Case of Stephen Lawrence, p. 35; February 4, 2005, Peter D. Smith, "Heart of the Atom," review of The Fly in the Cathedral, p. 32.

ONLINE

Cosmos Magazine,http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/ (February 26, 2008), Bob Guntrip, review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

Cyber Space Spinner,http://www.hycyber.com/ (February 26, 2008).

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (February 26, 2008), filmography of Brian Cathcart.

Irish Science Teachers Association Web site,http://www.universityscience.ie/ (February 26, 2008), Gerry Aylward, review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

Kingston University London Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Web site,http://fass.kingston.ac.uk/ (February 26, 2008), biography of Brian Cathcart.

Popular Science,http://www.popularscience.co.uk/ (February 26, 2008), Brian Clegg, review of The Fly in the Cathedral.

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