New Scientist magazine founder remembered as a ‘visionary and romantic’

The partner of a highly respected science journalist has remembered him as a visionary and true romantic following his death last week.

Dr Tom Margerison, who co-founded New Scientist magazine, died peacefully on February 25, two months after he was rushed to the Whittington Hospital with septicaemia on Boxing Day following a 15-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 90.

He lived with partner Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, in Bisham Gardens, Highgate, for 40 years.

Ms Wallace said Dr Margerison never complained about his illness and they would sing and make up words to songs together as he lay in hospital.

“I met Tom in my early 20s and I was not only struck by his very good looks but he was the most brilliant man I had ever met,” Ms Wallace said.

“He was driven by his ideas and visions but never wanted recognition and wasn’t interested in making money, sadly.

“He was also a true romantic, especially in the last five years of his life.

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“In his last few days I would go into the hospital and he was nearly blind, but through his oxygen mask he would say, ‘you look beautiful’.”

Dr Margerison was born in Finchley in 1923 but moved around the country during his childhood because his father was a tax inspector.

He graduated with a PhD from Sheffield University before launching a career in scientific writing.

He rose to scientific editor of Butterworth Press in the early 1950s and it was while editing its journal, Research, that he and Peter Cudlipp thought of producing the country’s first weekly science magazine.

The New Scientist was born, with Dr Margerison as its first scientific editor.

In the same year, 1956, he branched into television and regularly appeared on the BBC’s Tonight to report on science, medicine and technology.

Considered the UK’s leading science journalist in the 1960s, working as science editor at The Sunday Times, Dr Margerison was at the forefront of reporting on the space race between the Soviet Union and the US.

Soon after, he realised his vision of bringing the highest quality entertainment to TV screens by bidding for the ITV weekend franchise, which became London Weekend Television (LWT).

But after bringing media tycoon Rupert Murdoch on board as chief executive to help with failing finances, he staged a dramatic walk-out when it was revealed that Mr Murdoch was taking editorial control of the station.

Murdoch was subsequently banned from owning TV companies for 15 years.

Dr Margerison also helped Ms Wallace set up SANE in 1986 and they worked together on several projects.

He leaves his partner, with whom he had a daughter, two sons from his first marriage, and three stepsons.