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Mahon, Basil 1937-

MAHON, Basil 1937-

PERSONAL:

Born Basil Lavis, May 26, 1937, in Malta; name legally changed, c. 1946; son of Arthur (a soldier) and Nancy (later surname, Mahon) Lavis; married Ann Hardwick (a teacher of chemistry), April 1, 1961; children: Tim, Sara, Danny. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Attended Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, 1955-57; Royal Military College of Science, B.Sc., 1960; Birkbeck College, London, M.Sc., 1971. Politics: "Floating voter." Religion: "Agnostic."

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—67 Westmount Rd., London SE9 1JF, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

British Army, career officer, serving with Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Germany, Aden, and United Kingdom, 1955-74, retiring as major; Government Statistical Office, civil servant, 1974-96. Consultant and trainer on censuses and statistics, including work for clients in Russia, Estonia, Croatia, and Republic of Georgia.

MEMBER:

Royal Statistical Society (fellow; chartered statistician).

AWARDS, HONORS:

Goodeve Medal, Operational Research Society, 1975.

WRITINGS:

(With Myra Chapman) Plain Figures, Her Majesty's Stationery Office (London, England), 1986.

(With Michael Crone) Counting Heads II: A Practical Guide to Census Management, Department for International Development (London, England), 1998.

The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, John Wiley and Sons (Chichester, England), 2003.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

Research on the development of physical science in the nineteenth century and on the lives of people who made outstanding creative contributions in that field.

SIDELIGHTS:

Basil Mahon told CA: "To me, the joy of writing is simply the chance to give readers the joy of reading—to share one's thoughts and passions with them, hoping to leave them with a feeling of pleasure and well-being. By the time I came to write The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, careers in the army and the civil service had given me plenty of practice in writing instructions—where crispness and clarity were the cardinal virtues—so the big test was to try to hold fast to these qualities and to entertain the reader at the same time.

"The method that works best for me in biographical writing is to read and assess all the relevant material over and over again until a full and coherent picture forms in the mind, and then to write the story from the head, referring back to sources only to check the details. Not a time-efficient method but, for me at least, it is the one that produces the best distillation of the material and the best narrative.

"I believe strongly that science is as much a part of our culture as literature and the arts and should be freely acknowledged as such. And I believe that good popular science writing has a vital role in bringing this about."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Good Book Guide, February 1, 2004, review of The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell.

M2 Best Books, March 12, 2004, Peter Haswell, review of The Man Who Changed Everything.

Nature, October 23, 2003, John Maddox, review of The Man Who Changed Everything.

New Scientist, September 20, 2003, Marcus Chown, review of The Man Who Changed Everything.

Times Literary Supplement, December 19, 2003, review of The Man Who Changed Everything.

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