From le to right: Ian Stewart, Terry Pratche and Jack Cohen, the authors of The Science of Discworld. Cohen and Stewart are being made honorary wizards at Unseen University during the award of an honorary degree to Terry Pratche by the University of Warwick.
In the late nineties he began collaborating on the science of Discworld with Terry Pratche, the much loved, best-selling fantasy author, and Jack Cohen. As Stewart begins describing his experiences of collaborating with Pratche and Cohen he sits up in his chair and his speech quickens. Pratche’s Discworld books are set in a fictional world consisting of a flat disc balanced on the back of four elephants who in turn are perched on the back of a giant turtle. The Science of Discworld books aimed to explain interesting scientific ideas through the use of fiction, although Pratche had to be convinced that the books would work as he did not believe that the scientific backdrop to a fictional, magical world could be wrien about. In the end, the story was adapted to be about the wizards of Unseen University’s accidental creation of Roundworld, a place where magic doesn’t exist. Between the third and final books Pratche was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but still managed to write new stories until he sadly passed away last year. In 1995, Stewart received the Michael Faraday Prize for popularising science and he claims this put him in the running to present the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, which he did in 1997 with a series entitled The Magical Maze. He gave five lectures, the final of which was on symmetry, focusing especially on paerns in the animal kingdom. The lecture began with William Blake’s poem The Tyger, which he eagerly recited to us, ending with the line “Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”. To help him explain the mathematics of paern formation in animals he decided to bring a live tiger onto the stage. Finding a tiger to borrow was harder than first anticipated and the chalkdustmagazine.com