SCIENTIST AND TV scientist Professor Heinz Wolff has died aged 89.
Wolff was known to a generation of TV viewers by his appearance – with glasses, mad balding hair and bow tie making him look every inch the ‘Mad Professor’, coupled with a thick German accent.
Heinz Siegfried Wolff was born into a Jewish family in Berlin, 1928 and moved to the UK as a refugee on the first day of World War II.
After working in Bioengineering – a term he coined himself in the Fifties – he became an honorary member of the European Space Agency in 1975.
During the Eighties, his work on the effects of weightlessness on the body was connected to Helen Sharmin’s trip as first British astronaut to visit the Mir Space Station. He is also credited as inventing the gel electrode pad.
But to most, he is recognised as TV and Radio pundit, primarily as the face of The Great Egg Race – first as a judge, then the main presenter, during its seven-year run from 1979 to 1986.
The show was a forerunner of many of the popular-science and ‘geek chic’ shows of more recent times and can be seen as a proto-version of everything from Scrapheap Challenge and Robot Wars to The Crystal Maze, Task Master and Only Connect.
The idea was for teams of engineers to build machines (usually long and convoluted, in the style of Wallace and Gromit or Heath Robinson) to solve a problem.
The name came from the first challenge – to create a vehicle powered by rubber bands capable of moving eggs over the longest distance. Scores were based on “design”, “courage” and “entertainment” (as opposed to “style” “damage” and “aggression”!!).
Many of the challenges led to team building exercises played at offices across the country now.
And Wolff himself, alongside the likes of Magnus Pyke and David Bellamy, became the faces of popular science, continuing to appear on TV and Radio as a pundit for many years after.
Known for his wicked sense of humour and love of practical jokes, Wolff also appeared in comedy series being interviewed by Ali G and Karl Pilkington.
A new generation of fans will know him from the 2008 sandbox puzzle game “Professor Heinz Wolff’s Gravity” for PC and Wii.
Wolff succumbed to heart failure on 15th December 2017. He is survived by two sons from his 62-year marriage to Joan. µ
(Below we’ve included his interview with Ali G, and a trailer for an episode of The Great Egg Race which involved inventing water bicycles.)
Source : Inquirer