Antony Kamm (1931–2011)

by Malcolm Baird

Antony Kamm, co-author of John Logie Baird: a life (2002), died on 11 February 2011 at his home in Dollar, Scotland, after a short illness.

During my 43-year career as a researcher and teacher in chemical engineering I had little spare time to follow up on many details of my father’s life. This situation changed in 1999 when I began my collaboration with Antony and we were commissioned by the National Museum of Scotland to write a biography of John Logie Baird. This was not the first one to have been written, but earlier books had tended to focus on particular facets of his life such as his technical work or his family history. Even his own memoirs, while full of highly readable anecdotes, were short on detail.

Antony and I set out to cover all facets of my father’s remarkable life in a balanced way. This included the response to early television which changed from the scepticism and wonder of the early 1920s to the keen competition between big companies a decade later. In so doing we were struck by the huge differences between life and social attitudes in the early 20th century and those of today. Also we shone some much-needed light on speculative stories (legends) that had begun to grow around John Logie Baird. Antony brought to the project his experience in the publishing industry and his wide-ranging expertise as an historical writer. He found and interpreted previously unconsidered sources , for example company records and BBC and newspaper archives. For my part, I trawled through old family papers and diaries our collaboration has led me to catalogue these papers in some sort of order. I was particularly impressed by the work Antony put in on my father’s scrawled notebook covering the little-known years in London between his return from Trinidad in 1920 and his arrival at Hastings in early 1923.

Antony was a fine example of the English, Oxford-educated gentleman, always patient and courteous , with a touch of humour, even during our occasional disagreements. It was a privilege to have known him and worked with him.