Johnny Ball


Johnny left school with 2 O-levels, but scoring 100% in Maths? He joined the Aircraft Industry in 1954, and gainee 3 more O-levels on his own. He forsook Industrial Accountancy for three years in the RAF from 1957 to 1959 – his University. He was then qualified to enter Air Traffic Control – however,

From 1960 to 1962 he was a Butlin’s Redcoat at Pwllheli, North Wales and The Metropole Hotel, Blackpool and performed as a drummer in Liverpool in 1960/61. He also worked for Social Security in Liverpool – and education in itself.

Johnny was a successful stand-up comic from 1964 – 1976, mostly in Northern Clubs, appearing with Val Doonican and Harry Secombe in their respective shows, and compering the 90 minute 1967 ITV Christmas Night Spectacular.

Also in 1967 he joined BBC’s Playschool, where, over 16 years, he learnt Television. He wrote Cabbages and Kings, (3 series) most of the comedy for Playaway and Star Turn as well as for BBC Adult TV shows.

Johnny conceived, wrote and presented Think of a Number for the BBC in 1978 winning a BAFTA. Think Again followed and won two World TV Awards and an International Emmy Nomination and Johnny’s shows over the next 10 years, including Johnny Ball Reveals All for ITV, 1989-94, inspired a whole generation of children towards careers in mathematics, engineering, science and teaching.

In 1986 he wrote/presented the BISFA Sales Video of the Year for a Tractor and received the ITVA Craft Award as Presenter of the Year, for a video on the Water Industry.

From 1993 to 2003 as he said goodbye to Television. the Corporate world beat a path to his door. He worked for Natioanl Grid for 6 years, writing and presenting 3 videos for them. He delivered the British Gas Lectures for 3 years, a National lecture tour for The Engineering Council, 4 years of tours for BAE Systems, and wrote and produced many Science Based Videos including 8 – 30 minute shows on Cutting Edge Materials Technology for the DTI, and How Is It Made? – a UK-wide educational package for Rover. He wrote and presented the Launch Video for Torness Nuclear Power Station and by now had become very knowledgable regarding energy.

He promoted Enegy from Waste Plants, whose controls are so stringent as to make them totally safe and beneficial, saving hugh swaiths of land fill. He was asked to speak on Carbon by Toyota Lexus and Volvo Motors, putting the technology and environmental dangers into true perspective. He assisted the Outer Hebrides in fighting a wind farm, which other energy firms had turned down as unviable – in terms of the costs in getting the power to the mainland.

But Johnny also maintained his lighter, educational activities. Between 1993 and 2003 he wrote, designed, produced and starred in FIVE Educational Stage Musicals which sold around 160,000 tickets per year, working the UK’s major provincial theatres. The Michael Faraday ALL ELECTRIC Roadshow, Let the Force be with You, (both ran for three years), then for HM DOE from 2000, Tales of Maths and Legends and Tales of Blooming Science. He also set up a Historic Character Agency, The Living History of Science.

“With Your Mind and Tomorrow’s Technology, Anything is Possible” – his Mind Zone Live Production for BAE Systems, was a Total Sell Out in the Millenium Dome for the entire Year of 2000.

He has been an Ambassador for British Engineering since 1995. He staged the DofE Exhibition Maths Stands, National STEM Projects and still gives Keynote speaches at many educational and public awareness projects. He received the RAE Medal for the Promotion of Engineering to the General Public in 2007.

Johnny was Lord Rector of Glasgow University 1993/6 and has Seven Honourary Degrees from Glasgow, Salford, Sheffield Hallam, Liverpool John Moores (Fellowship), Bishop Grossteste Lincoln/Leicester, Brighton and The Institute of Teaching.

In 2012, he became the oldest ever contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.

He lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife Di and dog Holly. His daughter Zoe presents BBC TV’s It Takes Two and will soon take over BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show. Son Nick, writes for 21st Century Fox and on major TV Commercials, and Dan runs his own company Centre Space Design in Henley. Johnny’s new book, Wonders Beyond Numbers – A History of all things Mathematical, is selling well worldwide, and the Paperback will be released by Bloomsbury Press on 21st February 2019.

« Back