Full marks for teacher who nurtured a love for chemistry and physics

Former physics and chemistry teacher William Smith is known for having made the subjects popular by making it accessible to millions of people through television in the 90s.

On Thursday, Smith was awarded the Order of the Baobab in Silver for his contribution to teaching and for demystifying mathematics and science.

He sat down with Azania for this week's Friday Profile.

Correcting the reason for his latest award, Smith says mathematicians would turn in their graves if they heard him say he was a maths teacher.

Careful, I am not maths, not really. I would say arithmetic [maths] if you insist but I am physics and chemistry. Because I did a lot of calculations in physics, people keep on saying maths. The mathematicians will turn in their graves if they heard me say I was maths.

William Smith, Former physics and science teacher

Having completed his Masters in less than seven months many years ago, Smith says he ditched his doctorate when he realised he did not want to be an academic despite having parents who were professors.

His father, JLB Smith, was an ichthyologist - a fish scientist.

Both my parents were academic... I decided I had to be different.

William Smith, Former physics and science teacher

Smith's legacy still stands, with many of today's adults describing him as a legend. He has received hearty congratulations from social media users who were exposed to his work.

On this, Smith says it has been an 'absolute' privilege. He says the trick to his ability to simplify the subject of physics and science on television was that fact that he is not a linguist.

I am not a linguist which I think was an advantage. I tend to use simple language and that is an important thing in broadcasting. A lot of people try and impress with words and the second you use a word that someone does not understand, you have lost them.

William Smith, Former physics and science teacher

I think a lot of intelligent people tend to make bad teachers because everything is obvious and it is not.

William Smith, Former physics and science teacher

Click on the link below to hear the full profile...


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