Johnny Ball

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Johnny Ball
Johnny Ball for Eureka! museum.jpg
Ball for Eureka! museum in 2019
Graham Thalben Ball

(1938-05-23) 23 May 1938 (age 83)
Bristol, England
Spouse(s)Julia Ball (née Anderson) (1969–1972)
Diane Ball (1976–present)
Children4, including Zoe [1]

Johnny Ball (born Graham Thalben Ball; [2] 23 May 1938) is an English television personality, a populariser of mathematics and the father of BBC Radio 2 DJ Zoe Ball.


Early life

Ball was born in Bristol where he attended Kingswood Primary School on the eastern edge of the city. [3] Later in his childhood the family moved to Bolton, Lancashire, where he attended Bolton County Grammar School. He left formal education with two "O" Levels, one in mathematics [4] and one in geography. He then signed on for three years in the Royal Air Force, worked as a Butlin's Redcoat, and was an entertainer in northern clubs and cabaret. He was nicknamed Johnny after John Ball, who played for Bolton Wanderers from 1950 to 1958 and the name stuck. [5]

Television and radio career

Ball was a regular fixture on children's television from the mid 1970s and throughout the 1980s, presenting several series of popular science and technology programmes intended for children (including Think of a Number; Think Again; Think Backwards; Think...This Way and Johnny Ball Reveals All). He was also one of the hosts of infant education programme Play School beginning in 1967 and continuing throughout the 1970s and beyond. As well as appearing on screen Ball wrote jokes for some shows including Crackerjack . [6] All of these shows (except the ITV programme ...Reveals All) appeared on the BBC. Ball's shows were renowned for presenting scientific and technological principles in an entertaining and accessible way for young people.[ citation needed ]

In 2003, he appeared on The Terry and Gaby Show in which he answered viewers' questions. In July 2004, he was named in the Radio Times list of the top 40 most eccentric TV presenters of all time. [7] In July 2012, he presented a Horizon special on ageing on BBC Four. He has starred in ITV and Channel 4 television adverts as well as radio adverts for the Yorkshire-based firm Help-Link. [8]

Ball's daughter Zoe presents Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two for BBC TV and presents the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2. His son Nick is a film director.[ citation needed ]

Ball lives with his wife Di in Buckinghamshire. [9]

In 2012, Ball took part in the Strictly Come Dancing TV show, where he was paired with Aliona Vilani. A training accident in the three-week interval resulted in torn ligaments for Vilani, causing her to retire temporarily from the show. She was replaced by Iveta Lukošiūtė who, with Ball, went on to be eliminated in the first week. [10] Vilani returned in the final group dance alongside Ball. In a TV interview in October 2017, Ball claimed Vilani faked the injury, with Vilani denying the allegation and saying she would take legal advice over Ball's comments. [11] He was 74 at the time, and he is the oldest contestant in the show's history.[ citation needed ]

Series guide

Think of a Number

Think Again


Think! This Way

Think It ... Do It


Johnny Ball Reveals All

(source: BBC)

Other activities


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  1. "Zoe Ball on Radio 4 Desert Island Discs" . Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  3. Johnny Ball "Why the Right teacher really does make a difference" Retrieved 7 November 2015
  4. Johnny Ball – "Past Imperfect, Future Fantastic" – Wrexham Science Festival 1 of 4 on YouTube
  5. Alex, Michael. "FEATURE: Why 1980s children's TV legend Johnny Ball is still 'thinking of numbers' ahead of Dundee University talk". The Courier. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  6. "BFI Screenonline: Ball, Johnny (1938–) Biography".
  7. "BBC NEWS - In Pictures - In pictures: TV's greatest eccentrics".
  8. Johnny Ball Productions: News & Appearances Archived 17 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Wintle, Angela (23 June 2019). "Johnny Ball: 'I'm a better investor than most advisers'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  10. "BBC – Blogs – Strictly Come Dancing – Johnny Ball leaves Strictly". BBC.
  11. 'Strictly Come Dancing': Aliona Vilani 'Taking Legal Advice' As She Denies Johnny Ball's Claims Huffington Post , 17 October 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  12. "A climate of fear". Science & Technology. BBC Manchester. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  13. "Johnny Ball Potted Biography". iTeach. November 2006. Archived from the original on 23 August 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  14. Kenber, Billy (16 December 2009). "Johnny Ball booed by atheists over climate change denial". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  15. "The 'toxic wall' around children" The Sunday Times interview, November 2006
  16. "University of Glasgow :: Story :: Biography of Johnny Ball". Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  17. "FatallyFlawed website" . Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  18. "Raspberry Pi Foundation blog entry" . Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  19. "Metro (Entertainment)" . Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  20. "Russian Multiplication – Numberphile". YouTube. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  21. "Mesolabe Compass and Square Roots". YouTube. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  22. "Parabolas and Archimedes - Numberphile". YouTube. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Pat Kane
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Richard Wilson