When I wrote to Professor (later Sir) Fred(erick) Holliday while coming to the end of my MPhil course at UCL, back in 1974, he took the trouble to write back, and at length.
I had written to him at Stirling University because I was thinking about plunging not into city planning, which I had been studying, but into either oceanography or fish farming. His advice: Don’t.
I needed a lot more more science to do oceanography, he said, and fish farming was at too early a stage for him to advise that route, either. But he was encouraging on the environmental front – and that was the route I took.
Looking back, though, his biggest impact on me was probably the example he set in replying to a young person writing in out of the blue. A number of other people I wrote to at the same time responded in like manner, though some didn’t.
Ever since, I have replied to everyone who wrote to me – and seen a fair proportion of them, too. It’s amazing how many of our best people have come via that route.
So a belated thank you, Sir Fred.