Brian Clegg had a great year at Lancaster in 1976/77 when he studied for a Masters in Operational Research and was a member of Bowland College.
Highlights included singing with the Chamber Choir and being a founder member of the Bowland College Postgraduate Society, which he admits with the safe distance of time, was only started to get the funding from the Student Union to finance drinking trips. These were, however, very educational! He was also on campus for the Sex Pistols gig at the University – he didn’t attend himself, but got some of the backlash when fans rampaged through his building (they didn't have security to speak of back then) and ripped the phone (no mobiles either) off the wall.
His time at Lancaster culminated in a project looking for ways to improve the local mobile libraries service, which gave him the chance to ride on the libraries through very rural bits of Lancashire, including a traditional stop in a stone-flagged front room for tea and cake. Very civilized, though he suspects no longer allowed. His Lancaster course led to a 17 year stint at British Airways – about half the time in Operational Research and half in IT, including running the airline’s PC department and setting up the Emerging Technologies group to research new technological developments. While at BA he developed an interest in creativity and was trained by the likes of Edward de Bono, so when he left BA in 1994 he set up Creativity Unleashed Limited providing training in business creativity to large companies.
He had always been enthusiastic about writing, and towards the end of his time at BA had started sending articles to computing magazines. But the real challenge was to get a book published, initially writing creativity books, to support the business. About ten years ago, though, there was a chance to go back to his first love. His original degree was in Physics and he started writing popular science books, which has gradually taken over most of his time.
When not writing books and for magazines, he does a fair number of talks, often for schools and in larger venues such as the Royal Institution and the British Library. It’s here, as with the creativity training, that he leans on a skill learned at Lancaster. The OR course was the first time he’d done a presentation, and managed to beat the competition with a talk that he seems to remember covered a business plan that required submarines to arrive at a railway station (don’t ask). Before then he hadn’t a clue how much he enjoyed public speaking, which has led him recently to give Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, a lesson in quantum physics That’s probably his greatest claim to fame, apart from appearing as the answer to a question on University Challenge
But he'll always remember that time at Lancaster with great affection.
For more on Brian and his books visit his website