Decade of scientific research led to book

Alan Durden signing copies of his book, Measures of Genius, at St Mary's House, Bramber
Alan Durden signing copies of his book, Measures of Genius, at St Mary's House, Bramber

SCIENCE and a love of writing helped inspire Alan Durden to write his first book.

Working as the administrator at St Mary’s House in Bramber, he started putting his thoughts down on paper ten years ago.

The finished work, Measures of Genius – the scientists who gave their name to units of measure, was recently launched in a special evening at the historic house, in The Street.

In a short illustrated presentation, Mr Durden explained how he had started work on it in 2004, prompted by an ambition to write a book and an interest in the history of science.

“I wanted to relate science to everyday life by basing the book on terms that are used in everyday language,” he explained.

“For instance, a typical trip to the electrical department of a DIY store might involve buying a 20-watt light bulb, a pack of three-volt batteries, and a set of 13-amp fuses.

“On the way to the store, we may listen to the car radio - BBC Radio 2 is tuned to 87.5 megahertz, and we may note that in-car display showing an outside temperature of 10 degrees Celsius.

“All these terms – watt, volt, amp, hertz and Celsius – are named after people. Most people have heard of James Watt, and associate him with the steam engine, but how many know anything about Alessandro Volta, André-Marie Ampère, Heinrich Hertz or Anders Celsius?

“I wanted to bring these scientists to life by describing what they did and how they lived.”

Around 40 people attended the book launch, where they were able to buy signed copies.

The book traces some of the key developments in physical science – astronomy, electricity and heat – during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It also shows how those units form a coherent system of measurements – the metric system.

Alan’s wife, Diana, said: “Over the years, we enjoyed a number of holidays both here and abroad, where these scientists had come from, and there just happened to be a statue in the main square, waiting to be photographed, or a museum to visit.

“It was fascinating to see inside the houses where they had lived. We almost felt we had met them face to face.”

Measures of Genius is priced £14.99 and is available from Steyning Bookshop or online at