I didn’t know Jake Page. Until his death, I wasn’t even aware of him.
But reading his obituary, I see a kindred spirit.
Page was a young editor at Doubleday when he was given responsibility for an imprint called “Natural History Books.” He’d never taken a science course in high school (how is that possible?) or college, and was suddenly in charge of making science books accessible to regular people.
“My job was to edit them so that any idiot could read them,” he told an interviewer. “I was any idiot then for the next seven years.”
He eventually wrote a monthly column for Smithsonian Magazine called “Phenomena, Comment and Notes.”
His style was to report on science by imbuing his writing with humor. “Science, which always seems earnest to the point of stuffiness, is too important to leave only to scientists.”
Amen, I say. The same holds true for medicine.
One other note about Mr. Page: Apparently, he had a good eye. Early in his career, he recommended publishing a series by a British author named J.R.R. Tolkien, only to be rebuffed by his boss.
Recalling his life in publishing, Page recalled, “Most memorably, the editor…shot down my notion that we should publish a fascinating trilogy by an English author, so the whole billion-dollar Hobbit enterprise was taken on by Ballantine.”