I think I’ve been lucky in a number of respects, in that I started to work in a subject — astronomy and space — at a time when it was really taking off with new techniques and new ideas and I did this in a university and in a community of colleagues who were very stimulating. So I’ve been very lucky to have a ringside seat, as it were, for the developments of a science, understanding the cosmos. Which I think — when the history of science is written — will be one of the sort of most exciting chapters for the last few decades. I’ve been lucky to be part of that.
But also I’ve been, in my later years, involved in policy regarding the applications of science, not just rocketry in space but also bio and cyber, because I’ve been in a university where I’ve got to know these people. I had the privilege of being President of the Royal Society, which is the British academy of sciences, and involved in policy areas. So I feel I’ve had the chance of being close to many of the people involved in changing the world through other sciences, quite apart from the science that I’m an expert in. And also to have been able to do this in an environment which is very stimulating, and to have had contact with very many people through this work.
So I think I’ve been very lucky, but I think the main theme, I would say for my work, is it’s been very collaborative and interactive. I’m not the kind of person who likes to sit alone and think through some very complicated logical or mathematical problem. I like interacting and sharing ideas, and I’ve been very lucky to work in fields where that’s actually been a constructive thing to do. And I hope that I’ve stimulated others to do work which I have not been able to do myself, and to raise wider consciousness of some of these concerns which stem from science. Because science deepens our sense of mystery and wonder about the world around us ,but also it allows us to change the world around us, and we’ve got to make sure we change it in benign ways and minimize the downsides. So that’s been something I’ve been concerned about, certainly in the last decade or two.