Obituary: Raymond Baxter

September 16, 2006

As the Guardian put it, “With his extrovert polish and buoyant optimism, Raymond Baxter, who has died aged 84, did possibly more than any other broadcaster to popularise science and bring new British inventions into the public eye.”
The Telegraph picks up:
“Baxter’s lean, craggy face and emphatic punched sentences exuded the schoolboyish enthusiasm he felt for the up-to-the-minute gadgetry over which he presided for 12 years.” Among many “marvels” — one of his favourite descriptions — he introduced to viewers were the electron microscope, the breathalyser, the pocket calculator, the microwave, the video recorder. the credit card and the barcode reader. There were also less likely hopefuls such as a wheelbarrow designed with a ball instead of a wheel and squirrel-proof birdfeeders. He said of the “marvel” of hover flight: “We thought it was going to solve everyone’s transport problems. But it just turned into a high-speed ferry on one of the most overcrowded waterways in the world. Its exciting amphibian potential was never exploited.” The programme was sometimes mocked for featuring inventions of which little was subsequently heard. Baxter once predicted that paper underwear would replace the traditional sort within three years.
“Baxter parted company with Tomorrow’s World in 1977, after falling out with its new producer, Michael Blakstad. Blakstad allegedly called the gravel-voiced presenter “the last of the dinosaurs” who vulgarised science by talking about it in a tone that suggested – to one newspaper critic – that he was addressing half-witted foreigners.” Maybe, but to my mind infinitely preferable to the cocky youngsters who can’t keep still and whose mouths twitch and jerk alarmingly who are used today. In the 1990s it was revealed that Baxter was, by marriage, the uncle of the avant-garde American sculptor Carl Andre, of Tate bricks fame . Baxter told intrigued interviewers that he had “total respect” for, if not total understanding of, his nephew’s work. Visiting Andre in New York, Baxter asked: “So where is this sculpture?” “You’re standing on it,” Andre told him.
His commentary on Concorde’s original test run in 1969 contains one of the most memorable exclamations in broadcasting history: “She flies, she flies!”


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