Heinz Wolff, scientist and presenter, dies at 89

His son Laurence Wolff paid tribute to his father


Heinz Wolff, the German inventor and professor who escaped the Nazis, has died aged 89.

The renowned scientist and television presenter, known for hosting BBC Two's science show The Great Egg Race, died of heart failure on 15 December.

Speaking to BBC News, his son Laurence Wolff paid tribute to his father.

He said Mr Wolff had touched people “through his ingenuity in terms of his inventing... and his great belief in educating about science and technology.”

His father, who moved to the UK from Berlin on the day that World War Two broke out in 1939, had a "natural sense of fun and he knew that was also a way of engaging people. People would stop him in the street and they would say, 'you got me into science'".

Laurence Wolff said his father, who was made an honorary member of the European Space Agency in 1975, was passionate about "inspiring young people…he wanted to use science to entertain as well as educate.

“The person that people saw when they met him was the person we knew at home. His sense of humour, his curiosity, his enthusiasm. That was our father."

His research into how human beings could survive in hostile environments led to Dr Helen Sharman becoming the first British astronaut and the 15th woman in space in 1991.


After he retired he became emeritus professor of bioengineering at London's Brunel University, having founded the Brunel Institute for Bioengineering, in 1983.

Professor Julia Buckingham, vice-chancellor and president of Brunel University, paid tribute to her colleague.

She said: "Heinz's remarkable intellect, ideas and enthusiasm combined to make him the sparkling scientist we will so fondly remember. "He was a wonderful friend and supporter to staff and to students - and an inspiration to all of us."

Professor Ian Sutherland, also a colleague, added: "There was nothing he loved more than having a team of people around him, devising completely new ways of doing things."

Mr Wolff began his television career in 1996, by appearing on the BBC's Panorama programme. He featured because he had produced a pill that could measure pressure, temperature and acidity.

Mr Wolff became best known by viewers for his trademark bow tie and hairstyle, as the host on The Great Egg Race, from 1977 until 1986. The science show challenged contestants to invent useful objects with limited resources.

Mr Wolff’s friends said that he had a love of practical jokes. They recalled his arrival at his 80th birthday party which involved him riding in on a scooter propelled by fire extinguishers.

He is survived by two sons and four grandchildren.

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