David Davies: odd submissions to 'Nature' journal

Former Editor of 'Nature' journal, David Davies, tells stories of odd, amateur submissions to the journal in the 1970s.

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One of the curious jobs in Nature was coping with the oddballs. We had a regular flow of people wanting to get papers into Nature that were clearly way off beam or weird or wonderful whatever, you had some – some regular correspondents who would send papers, pages and pages long of properties of number in the universe or this that and the other, they were – they were just obsessive amateurs who had – who’d got this view about that – you know that really science should look at their point of view. And so Roy Lincoln who was the bloke who opened the post in the morning he – he had a very good nose for which – what went where, oh that’s a book review, that goes there, and I got all the – the rubbish [laughs]. And he would come up and say, ‘Oh another one from the – from her again today,’ it’s funny how the sort of rubbish floated to the top, nobody else felt able to despatch it. So every day there would be something which John Maddox told me about, he said, ‘It’s the treadmill you have to be on of getting rid of the cranky stuff,’ and it was cranky, I mean it wasn’t – I mean sometimes you could reject papers that would turn out to be very important but this was just weird stuff of which there were sort of half a dozen regular contributors. And Roy would come in with these things and I have the job of writing every time to the letter saying, ‘Thank you very much but I’m returning it as it’s not appropriate for Nature,’ [laughs]. And at one stage I had two correspondents who were sending all this stuff in about the nature of the universe or whatever it may be and one of them was called Virginia McNiff, that’s M-c-N-i-f-f and she lived in California. And I cannot remember the name of the one in England but both of them were writing on broadly similar lines about properties of numbers or whatever. And one of these ladies wrote to me, I think the English one wrote to me and said, ‘Every time I send you a paper you reject it,’ so I said – ‘So can you put me in touch with somebody who’ll take my work more seriously?’ So I said, ‘Yes, Virginia McNiff who lives in California might be interested in it,’ and so I sent this letter off and six months later [laughs] I had a postcard from California from both of them saying that they had a wonderful time together in sharing opinions. So there we are, we got – we got them paired off but they’d – they stopped sending papers to us.
  • Interviewee David Davies
  • Duration 00:02:54
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 2/2/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/60

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