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Film-maker who made the difficult accessible

Former BBC producer Jeremy Taylor, whose work explored evolutionary science, made more than a dozen highly-popular and award-winning films

01 December, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Jeremy Taylor, ‘an extra­ordinarily patient, humorous man with an enormous intellectual capacity and yet great modesty’

JEREMY Taylor, the science documentary film-maker and author whose work explored how seemingly incurable diseases can be halted through evolutionary science, has died aged 70.

The former BBC producer who introduced evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to the mainstream died from cancer, one of the diseases he wrote about in his latest book, Body by Darwin.

In it he wrote: “We’ve survived and thrived as a species, but our bodies are littered with all the trade-offs that evolution has made, all evolution’s quick-and-dirty fixes, all the ‘live now, pay later’ antagonistic pleiotropies where evolution has invested in mechanisms designed to keep young people alive into reproductive age at the expense of the negative effects on health as we get older…”

Known to his friends and family as Jerry, the long-time Tufnell Park resident told the story of evolution and disease by speaking to people who had found solutions to illnesses seemingly hardwired to DNA, distinguishing his work from frequently impersonal academia.

The father who suppressed his son’s autism through parasitic worms, and the north London electrician whose heart was injected with “stem cell soup” to combat clogged arteries were among the people Mr Taylor spoke to.

He sought to stress how medical advances would come, not from patching up our bodies as if they were broken machines, but from considering the body as a product of evolution and natural selection, with diseases there to be outsmarted.

Biology was a lifelong passion for Mr Taylor, who studied the subject at Liverpool University. He was born in Southport, Merseyside, in 1946 and grew up in a Welsh pub.

During his doctoral research at Liverpool he was headhunted to work as a researcher for the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World – the flagship science programme which ran for 40 years and introduced the nation to new technology.

In the 1980s he became a producer for BBC’s Horizon, the long-running series which explores wide-ranging scientific themes.

Jeremy made more than a dozen highly-popular and award-winning films for Horizon, including two programmes with Richard Dawkins based on his books The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene.

“Jerry was very easy in communication and would explain extremely difficult things very carefully, making them accessible to everyone, which is what made him such a good writer and film-maker and also great company.

“He was an extraordinarily patient, humorous man with an enormous intellectual capacity and yet great modesty,” said his wife, the actress Barbara Flynn.

An online fundraising page in his memory has raised more than £15,000, with the money going to medical research at the Crick Institute, in King’s Cross.

Mr Taylor, who died in July, is survived by his wife and musician son Linus.

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