John Gribbin

John R. Gribbin
John Gribbin at Novacon in 2014
Born (1946-03-19) 19 March 1946
Maidstone, Kent, England
Occupation Science writer and journalist
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Sussex
University of Cambridge
Period Last half of the 20th century, beginning of the 21st century
Genre Science (origins of the Universe, astronomy, cosmology); biography; fiction
Subject Astronomy and astrophysics; popularizing science and its history; climate change and global warming
Spouse Mary Gribbin

John R. Gribbin (born 19 March 1946)[1] is a British science writer, an astrophysicist, and a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex.[2] His writings include quantum physics, human evolution, climate change, global warming, the origins of the universe, and biographies of famous scientists. He also writes science fiction.


John Gribbin graduated with his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Sussex in 1966. Gribbin then earned his master of science (MSc) degree in astronomy in 1967, also from the Univ. of Sussex, and he earned his PhD in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge (1971).[3][4]

In 1968, Gribbin worked as one of Fred Hoyle's research students at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, and wrote a number of stories for New Scientist about the Institute's research and what were eventually discovered to be pulsars.[5]

In 1974, Gribbin, along with Stephen Plagemann, published a book titled The Jupiter Effect, which predicted that the alignment of the planets in a quadrant on one side of the Sun on 10 March 1982 would cause gravitational effects that would trigger earthquakes in the San Andreas Fault, possibly wiping out Los Angeles and its suburbs.[6] Gribbin distanced himself from The Jupiter Effect in the 17 July 1980, issue of New Scientist magazine, stating that he had been "too clever by half".[7]

In February 1982, he and Plagemann published The Jupiter Effect Reconsidered, claiming that the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption proved their theory true despite a lack of planetary alignment. In 1999, Gribbin repudiated it, saying "I don't like it, and I'm sorry I ever had anything to do with it."

In 1984, Gribbin published perhaps his best-known book, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality.[8] It has been described as among the best of the first wave of physics popularisations preceding Stephen Hawking's multi-million-selling A Brief History of Time.[9] Gribbin's book has been cited as an example of how to revive an interest in the study of mathematics.[10]

In 2006, Gribbin took part in a BBC radio 4 broadcast as an "expert witness". Presenter Matthew Parris discussed with Professor Kathy Sykes and Gribbin whether Einstein "really was a 'crazy genius'".[11]

At the 2009 World Conference of Science Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers presented Gribbin with their Lifetime Achievement award.[12]

Reviews of Gribbin's writings

The conservative political magazine The Spectator described Gribbin as "one of the finest and most prolific writers of popular science around" in a review of Science: A History, which it praises as "the product of immense learning, and a lifetime spent working out how to write in a vivacious way about science and scientists".[9]

Henry Gee, a senior editor at Nature, described Gribbin as "one of the best science writers around".

A review of The Universe: A Biography in the journal Physics World praised his skill in explaining difficult ideas.[13]

A Wall Street Journal review of Flower Hunters (co-authored with Mary Gribbin) described the writing as "pedestrian", with plenty of domestic detail but a failure to convey a larger cultural context. It stated that the book's chapter-length biographical sketches are too often superficial, and criticised the book for glaring omissions of prominent plant collectors.[14]

In a review of The Reason Why, the Times Higher Education states that Gribbin writes on speculative matters and presents some of his theories without supporting evidence, but noted his comprehensive research and lyrical writing.[15]

A review of his biography of Stephen Hawking in the Los Angeles Times expressed concern that Gribbin and White's work had not been edited for American readers and that some readers may be put off as a result, and stated that some of the authors' information regarding an American educational institution was "simply wrong".[16]



  • (1999) Almost Everyone's Guide to Science: The Universe, Life and Everything, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-08460-9
  • (1999) Get a Grip on New Physics, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. ISBN 0-297-82703-0
  • (1999) The Little Book of Science, Barnes and Noble, ISBN 978-0-7607-1687-8
  • (2003) Science: A History 1543–2001, Gardners Books, ISBN 0-14-029741-3
  • (2003) The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors, Random House, ISBN 0-8129-6788-7
  • (2006) The Fellowship: The Story of a Revolution, Allen Lane, ISBN 0-7139-9745-1 (the story of the Royal Society)
  • (2006) History of Western science, 1543-2001, Folio Society, London [2nd edition of Science: A History, 1543-2001, with minor amendments and a new preface by the author].
  • (2009) Flower Hunters, Oxford University Press, with Mary Gribbin, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-956182-7
  • (2010) In Search of the Multiverse: Parallel Worlds, Hidden Dimensions, and the Ultimate Quest for the Frontiers of Reality, Wiley, ISBN 0-4706-1352-1

Children's books on science

  • (2003) Big Numbers: A Mind Expanding Trip to Infinity and Back (coauthor Mary Gribbin), Wizard Books (children's imprint of Icon Books) 2005 edition ISBN 1-84046-661-8
  • (2003) How far is up? : Measuring the Size of the Universe (coauthor Mary Gribbin), Icon Books, 2005 edition ISBN 1-84046-439-9
  • (2008) Time Travel for Beginners (coauthor Mary Gribbin), Hodder Children's, ISBN 978-0-340-95702-8
  • (2000) Eyewitness: Time & Space, DK Children, ISBN 0-7894-5578-1


The Sun

  • (1980) The Death of the Sun, Dell Publishing ISBN 978-0-440-51854-9 (also as The Strangest Star: The Scientific Account of the Life and Death of the Sun, 1980, Athlone Press, ISBN 978-0-485-11207-8)
  • (1991) Blinded by the Light: The Secret Life of the Sun, Bantam, ISBN 978-0-593-02064-7

Quantum physics

Evolution and human genetics

  • (1982) The Monkey Puzzle: A Family Tree (coauthor Jeremy Cherfas), Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-394-52794-1
  • (1988) The One Percent Advantage: The Sociobiology of Being Human, Blackwell Pub, ISBN 978-0-631-16004-5
  • (1990) Children of the Ice: Climate and Human Origins, Blackwell Pub (with Mary Gribben) ISBN 978-0-631-16817-1
  • (1993) Being Human: Putting People in an Evolutionary Perspective, J.M.Dent & Sons (with Mary Gribben) ISBN 978-0-460-86164-9
  • (1985) In Search of the Double Helix, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 978-0-07-024740-6
  • (1985) The Redundant Male: Is Sex Irrelevant in the Modern World? (coauthor Jeremy Cherfas) Paladin, ISBN 978-0-586-08503-5
  • (2003) The Mating Game, (revised edition of The Redundant Male) Barnes and Noble, ISBN 978-0-7607-4543-4
  • (2003) The First Chimpanzee: In Search of Human Origins, (coauthor Jeremy Cherfas) Barnes and Noble, ISBN 978-0-7607-4542-7

Climate change and other concerns

  • (1975) Our Changing Climate, Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-10696-7
  • (1976) Forecasts, Famines, and Freezes: Climates and Man's Future, Wildwood House Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7045-0193-5
  • (1977) Our Changing Planet, Wildwood House Limited ISBN 0-690-01693-X
  • (1978) Climatic Change, Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-21594-7
  • (1978) The climatic threat: What's wrong with our weather?, Fontana ISBN 978-0-00-634832-0
  • (1979) Climate and Mankind, Earthscan, 56 pp ISBN 978-0-905347-12-7
  • (1979) Weather Force: Climate and Its Impact on Our World, (co-author: John Man) Putnam Pub Group, ISBN 978-0-399-12400-6
  • (1981) Carbon Dioxide, Climate, and Man, Intl Inst for Environment, 64 pp. ISBN 978-0-905347-28-8
  • (1982) Future Weather and the Greenhouse Effect, Delacorte Press, ISBN 978-0-440-02498-9
  • (1985) Weather, Macdonald Education, 48 pp. ISBN 978-0-356-11183-4
  • (1986) The Breathing Planet, (editor) Blackwell Publishers, ISBN 978-0-631-14288-1
  • (1988) The Hole in the Sky: Man's Threat to the Ozone Layer (rev. ed, 1993) Bantam, ISBN 978-0-553-27537-7
  • (1989) Winds of Change, Hodder Arnold, ISBN 978-0-340-52283-7
  • (1990) Hothouse Earth: The Greenhouse Effect and Gaia, Random House, ISBN 978-0-517-07951-5
  • (1992) Too Hot to Handle? Greenhouse Effect, Corgi, ISBN 978-0-552-54295-1
  • (1979) This Shaking Earth (aka Earthquakes & Volcanoes) Sidgwick & Jackson, ISBN 978-0-283-98462-4
  • (1996) Watching the Weather, Trafalgar Square, ISBN 978-0-09-477380-6

Astronomy and description of the Universe

  • (1976) Astronomy for the Amateur, Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-333-18806-4
  • (1976) Our Changing Universe: The New Astronomy, Dutton, ISBN 978-0-87690-216-5
  • (1977) White Holes: Cosmic Gushers in the Universe, Delacorte Press/E. Friede, ISBN 978-0-440-09529-3
  • (1979) Timewarps, Delacorte Press/E. Friede, ISBN 978-0-440-08509-6
  • (1981) Future Worlds, Springer, ISBN 978-0-306-40780-2
  • (1982) Cosmology Today, (editor and contributor) IPC Media, ISBN 978-0-85037-518-3
  • (1983) Spacewarps: Black Holes, White Holes, Quasars, and the Universe, Delta, ISBN 978-0-14-022531-0
  • (1988) The Omega Point: The Search for the Missing Mass and the Ultimate Fate of the Universe , Bantam, ISBN 978-0-553-34515-5
  • (1989) Cosmic Coincidences: Dark Matter, Mankind, and Anthropic Cosmology, Bantam, ISBN 0-553-34740-3
  • (1992) In Search of the Edge of Time: Black Holes, White Holes, Worm Holes, Bantam Books, ISBN 978-0-593-02409-6 (US title Unveiling the Edge of Time, Three Rivers Press. 1994 reprint: ISBN 0-517-88170-5)
  • (1994) Time and Space, as Eyewitness: Time and Space, (2000) DK Children, ISBN 978-0-7894-5578-9
  • (1996) Companion to the Cosmos, John and Mary Gribbin, Little: ISBN 0-316-32835-9
  • (1997) Time and the Universe (Whats the Big Idea), (children's) Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 978-0-340-65590-0
  • (1998) The Case of the Missing Neutrinos: And Other Phenomena of the Universe, Fromm Intl. ISBN 978-0-88064-199-9
  • (1998) The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN 978-0-316-32975-0
  • (1998) Watching the Universe, Constable, ISBN 978-0-09-478230-3
  • (2001) Space: Our Final Frontier, BBC Books, ISBN 978-0-563-53713-7
  • (2001) Hyperspace: The Universe and Its Mysteries, (also pub as Space: Our Final Frontier) DK ADULT, ISBN 978-0-7894-7838-2
  • (2008) Galaxies: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-923434-9
  • (2007) The Universe: A Biography, Allen Lane, ISBN 0-7139-9857-1
  • (2008) From Here to Infinity: The Royal Observatory Greenwich Guide to Astronomy, (with Mary Gribbin) National Maritime Museum, ISBN 978-0-948065-78-1; republished in 2009 as From Here to Infinity: A Beginner's Guide to Astronomy, Sterling ISBN 978-1-4027-6501-8
  • (2011) Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-1-118-14797-9

Origins of the Universe

  • (1976) Galaxy Formation: A Personal View, Wiley, ISBN 978-0-470-32775-3
  • (1982) Genesis: The Origins of Man and the Universe, Delacorte Press, ISBN 978-0-385-28321-2
  • (1986) In Search of the Big Bang, Bantam, ISBN 0-553-34617-2
  • (1993) In the Beginning: The Birth of the Living Universe (In the Beginning, Viking, ISBN 978-0-670-84927-7
  • (1994) In the Beginning: After COBE and before the Big Bang, Bulfinch Press, ISBN 978-0-316-32833-3
  • (1997) Origins: Our Place in Hubble's Universe, Constable and Robinson ISBN 978-0-09-477550-3 (as Empire of the Sun, '98; as Cosmos '06)
  • (2001) The Birth of Time: How Astronomers Measured the Age of the Universe, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-08914-7 (2009 edition ISBN 978-0-300-08914-1)
  • (2015) 13.8: The Quest to Find the True Age of the Universe and the Theory of Everything, Icon Books, ISBN 978-1-84831-918-9


  • (1980) The Sixth Winter (with Douglas Orgill) (novel) Simon & Schuster ISBN 978-0-671-25016-4
  • (1982) Brother Esau (with Douglas Orgill) (novel) Harper & Row ISBN 978-0-06-039016-7
  • (1988) Double Planet (with Marcus Chown) (novel) Victor Gollancz ISBN 978-0-575-04357-2
  • (1990) Father to the Man (novel) Tor Books ISBN 978-0-8125-3850-2
  • (1991) Ragnarok (with D.G. Compton) (novel) Gollancz ISBN 978-0-575-05110-2
  • (1991) Reunion (with Marcus Chown) (novel) Gollancz ISBN 978-0-575-04860-7
  • (1993) Innervisions (novel) Penguin Books ISBN 978-0-14-017447-2
  • (2009) Timeswitch (novel) PS Publishing ISBN 978-1-906301-61-3
  • (2011) The Alice Encounter (novella) PS Publishing ISBN 978-1-84863-138-0


  • (1992) Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science (coauthor Michael White), National Academies Press ISBN 0-452-26988-1, 2002 edition: ISBN 0-309-08410-5
  • (1993) Einstein : A Life in Science, (coauthor Michael White) Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-671-01044-1
  • (1995) Darwin: A Life in Science, (coauthor Michael White) Dutton Adult ISBN 978-0-525-94002-9
  • (1997) Darwin in 90 Minutes, (with Mary Gribbin) Constable and Robinson ISBN 978-0-09-477050-8 (Part of a series including: Curie ISBN 978-0-09-477020-1, Einstein ISBN 978-0-09-477130-7, Faraday ISBN 978-0-09-477100-0, Galileo ISBN 978-0-09-477110-9, Halley ISBN 978-0-09-477030-0, Mendel ISBN 978-0-09-477120-8, Newton ISBN 978-0-09-477040-9)
  • (1997) Richard Feynman: A Life in Science, (coauthor Mary Gribbin) Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-025334-3
  • (2003) FitzRoy: The Remarkable Story of Darwin's Captain and the Invention of the Weather Forecast, Yale University Press ISBN 0-300-10361-1
  • (2005) Annus Mirabilis: 1905, Albert Einstein, and the Theory of Relativity, (coauthor Mary Gribbin) Chamberlain Bros. ISBN 1-59609-144-4 (includes DVD)
  • (2009) He Knew He Was Right: The Irrepressible Life of James Lovelock and Gaia (co-author Mary Gribbin), Allen Lane. ISBN 978-1-84614-016-7
  • (2013) Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution, Wiley, ISBN 1-1182-9926-4


  1. "Dr John Gribbin's Biography". Debrett's People of Today. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  2. "A change in the weather by Gary Turbak" The Rotarian magazine, Aug 1980, p.17
  3. Profile of John Gribbin at David Higham Archived 4 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Profile of John Gribbin at a Popular Science site (not related to the magazine)". Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  5. Mitton, Simon (2011). Fred Hoyle: A life in science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-521-18947-7.
  6. Kruszelnicki, Karl S. "Planetary Alignment – Part 2". Dr Karl. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  7. Gedney, Larry (8 February 1982). "The Jupiter Effect: Article #526". Alaska Science Forum. University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  8. Kurutz, Steven (3 December 2009). "How to Boost Book Sales? For "Get a Grip on Physics," Tiger Woods' Crash Helped". The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy Blog. New York, NY: Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  9. 1 2 Macfarlane, Robert (28 September 2002). "Quod erat demonstrandum: Science: a history, 1543–2001, by John Gribbin". Spectator Book Club, book reviews. The Spectator. Archived from the original on 11 November 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  10. Kenyon, Georgina (25 August 2002). "Firing interest in maths lessons". BBC News World Edition, UK: Education. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  11. Parris, Matthew (26 December 2006). "Albert Einstein". Great Lives. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 26 December 2011. In the BBC radio 4 broadcast, Parris refers to Gribbin as their "expert witness". This is not to downplay the impressive credentials mentioned for Kathy Sykes.
  12. "Winners - ABSW Awards - Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)". Association of British Science Writers. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  13. Rowan-Robinson, Michael (June 2007). "Life, the universe and everything". Physics World. Institute of Physics Publishing: 46–47. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  14. Garmey, Jane (10 May 2008). "The Age of Botanical Exploration: Flower Hunters by Mary and John Gribbin". Books, Wall Street Journal, page W8. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  15. Dartnell, Lewis; Darracott-Cankovic, Chloe (12 May 2011). "The Reason Why: The miracle of life on earth". The Times Higher Education. TSL Education Ltd. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  16. Kevles, Bettyann (9 June 1992). "Book Review: Scientist's biography loses a bit in 'translation': Stephen Hawking: A life in science, by Michael White and John Gribbin, Dutton, $23; 304 pages". Los Angeles Times online collections. Los Angeles Times.
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