Poliakoff's big brother is new star of science

The voluminous hair, thick glasses and halting voice of the Nottingham chemist Martyn Poliakoff have made him a YouTube sensation.

Now the Professor, who insists his nutty persona is the real deal, is set to become Britain's ambassador for science.

Professor Poliakoff, 63, the older brother of the acclaimed playwright Stephen Poliakoff, has been appointed the Royal Society's foreign secretary, essentially a "worldwide figurehead" for his profession.

Professor Poliakoff, of the University of Nottingham, has appeared in a series of online videos in which he explains science using every-day props such as cups of tea and flowers, winning him millions of loyal followers online. He believes his online impact has been more profound than the Royal Family and Chelsea Football Club.

"I think it is my misfortune to look like a stereotypical scientist," he said. "Some of my collaborators believe that the success of my YouTube videos depends on the fact that I look like a mad professor. So people are pleasantly surprised when I talk reasonable sense. But I don't behave like the mad scientists which you see on films."

Professor Poliakoff has been contacted by people who accuse him of playing up to his scatty image, something he finds "irritating" rather than "offensive". He studied for his undergraduate science degree and chemistry PhD at Cambridge University and comes from a long line of high achievers. His Russian-Jewish father, Alexander, fled Russia for London in 1924 to become an electronics inventor who designed hearing aids worn by Winston Churchill. Stephen Poliakoff is among the country's best-known scriptwriters, directors and playwrights. Professor Poliakoff's children are Ellen, a psychology lecturer at the University of Manchester, and Simon, a physics teacher.

The Professor said his appointment to the role was "very pleasing and very humbling". He said: "I want to try to present the message that British science is as strong as ever.

"And I hope by the time I finish, it will be stronger than when I started. There are considerable threats to science at the moment which need to be addressed. When science in Russia was under threat during Perestroika, there was a saying that the country would 'grind to a halt but in 10 years' time'. The same is true for science in the UK if it is not properly supported."

Professor Poliakoff has won acclaim since 2007, when he began starring in a series of films about the Periodic Table's elements. These clips have now been viewed 16 million times. Topics he has explored include the science of snow and the chemistry of tea.

He is particularly popular among students for his use of a squeaky tetrahedral children's toy called a "Wiggly Giggly", which he uses to represent the molecular structure of methane.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes