Scientist Heinz Wolff dies at the age of 89

Renowned scientist and television presenter Heinz Wolff, has died at the age of 89.

The German-born inventor and professor, famous for hosting BBC Two’s perennial science show, The Great Egg Race, died of heart failure on 15 December, his family said.

A former consultant to the European space Agency, he was Emeritus professor at London’s Brunel University, working on projects in connection with the ageing of the population.

Brunel’s colleagues described him as an “innovative and inspiring leader”.

Close friend Professor Ian Sutherland added: “There was nothing he loved more than a team of people around him to do the design completely new ways of doing things.”
Brand bow tie

A Jewish refugee, Wolff moved to the UK from Berlin at the age of 11 years to the day of the second world war broke out in September 1939.

After school in Oxford, he worked in Hematology at the city’s Radcliffe Infirmary, where he invented a machine for counting of patients blood cells.

He later went on to graduate from the University College London with a first class honours degree in physiology and physics.

Wolff moved to television in 1966, first appeared on the BBC’s Panorama programme with Richard Dimbleby, where he produced a pill that could measure the pressure, temperature and acidity.

However, he was best known for hosting BBC Two’s The Great Egg Race from 1977 to 1986 – immediately recognizable for his trademark bow tie and eccentric hairstyle.

The show will be challenged to invent competitors useful objects from limited resources.

Friends and colleagues also recalled his love for practical jokes, especially in an instance when he has reached his 80th birthday on a scooter powered by fire extinguishers.


Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor and President, Brunel University, said: “Heinz is remarkable, intellect, ideas, and enthusiasm combined to make him the sparkling scientists, we will remind of us so much.

“He was a wonderful friend and supporter, staff, and students – and an inspiration for all of us.”Social conscience

In addition to his TV appearances, Wolff was in his efforts the the progress of the people through his scientific work.

He was elected an honorary member of the European Space Agency in 1975, and his work in how people could survive the hostile space environments, led by Dr. Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut and the 15th woman in space in 1991.

Wolff is also a strong supporter of local charities in the course of his life, including spending more than 25 years as a Trustee was, and then life President, of the Hillingdon partnership trust.

He was married to his wife Joan until her death in 2014, and leaves behind two sons and four grandchildren.