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Written for the Letters to Sir David project: http://dearsirdavid.wordpress.com/
Dear Sir David,
Nearly eleven years ago, my Grandmother, Beryl Ayton Hall, turned 80. In a grand lunch in my parent’s gorgeous drawing room, I was asked to say a few words in her honour. I came prepared with a single prop for the occasion, hidden under a cushion adjacent to where I spoke. It was a geologist’s hammer, and I was in the first year of my geology degree.
At about the point that I described how my Grandmother used to encourage a deep interest in the natural world, I described how, as a young boy, I was bewitched by your television shows. In particular, a scene where you broke open a wedge of shale to reveal the fossil remains of a creature that had last roamed the planet hundreds of million years ago. I wanted to do that. And I wanted that hammer!
So there I was, a student geologist, holding up the hammer in a room full of people, exclaiming the influence that my Grandmother had on me, and telling it through memories the very fodder of which was your work.
Like so many countless millions, I grew up and into adulthood with your work. To this day, I cannot think of a better exponent of natural wonder, and natural science. Your work has in part shaped my visceral reaction to the natural world over the years, and I am eternally grateful.
I finished my geology degree, and have worked as a geologist for nearly eight years since. I could not have sustained a scientific career without a constant little voice in my head that simply enjoys the natural world and the stories contained within. Science is the only tool we have to unlock this treasure, and it is the great communicators of science, such as you, that bring it a human dimension. For conveying the scientific joy of the natural world into my living room, I thank you.
My Grandmother was not a scientist, rather a teacher. She always admired your shows, both at a basic level of entertainment, and also at the higher level of her very sharp (and quite scientifically capable) mind. She’s no longer with us, but I am confident that she would share my applause at your life’s work.
Truly you have shown people parts of the world that many might never have known existed. Most on Earth are unable to travel the world and see its natural wonders. Many of those people would also lack a basic scientific education. You are one of the few who have transcended these borders of space and socioeconomic status.
A significant portion of the population of Earth understands its planet better through you. Society owes you a debt. I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done.