Jeremy Taylor obituary

Other lives: Television producer and science writer who produced two popular books on evolution

My husband, Jeremy Taylor, who has died aged 70, was a television producer and science writer. A modest man of huge intellectual capacity, he had a gift for communicating complex scientific ideas with ease, whether on paper, film or face to face. For 30 years Jerry made science documentaries for television, particularly for the BBC’s Horizon series, and later wrote two popular science books on evolution.

Born in Southport, Lancashire (now part of Merseyside), he grew up in a pub called the Lion near Montgomery, mid-Wales, and went to Welshpool grammar school. When his father, Crom, died, Jerry deferred his place at Liverpool University for a year to run the business with his mother, Wilma (nee White). At Liverpool, he gained a first-class degree in biology, a passion for explaining science and treasured friendships – he also enjoyed many evenings in the Philharmonic pub.

In 1973, on the verge of finishing a PhD, he had an opportunity to become a researcher for the BBC series Tomorrow’s World. Jerry seized it and left for London.

He relished the climate of trust created by inspirational editors working in documentary at that time. As a senior producer on Horizon, Jerry made more than a dozen films, including No One Will Take Me Seriously, about scientists who do not conform to contemporary theories, and The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, featuring the physicist Richard Feynman (both 1981), and Playing With Madness (1988), on the link between mania and creativity.

It was Jerry’s initiative that brought Richard Dawkins to the screen, and together they made Nice Guys Finish First (1986) and The Blind Watchmaker (1987), which won awards for Jerry and thanks and enduring friendship from Richard.

Jerry was also responsible for popularising the phrase “acid rain” in his film A Killing Rain (1982), about the effects of waterborne pollution. For Channel 4’s Equinox, he made Women: The Inside Story (1996), on female sexuality, Mindreaders (1997), on autism, and Born That Way? investigating a biological basis of homosexuality. For WGBH-TV in Boston he made Sudden Death (1988), about a lethal electrical instability of the heart.

Jerry and I met at a party in Camden Town, north London, and we were married in 1982, settling happily in nearby Tufnell Park, where our son, Linus, was born in 1990. Jerry and I worked side by side: while he was making documentaries, I got on with my acting career.

His deep interest in determining our origins led him to write his first book, Not a Chimp: The Hunt to Find the Genes That Make Us Human (2009), showing how and why we are unique. His second book, Body By Darwin (2015), examines the importance of Darwin’s theory of evolution to modern medicine.

Jerry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just four weeks before his death, which he faced with grace, candour and clear-sightedness.

He is survived by me and Linus, and by his sister, Lesley.

Barbara Flynn Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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