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Meet Martin Black: Young wizard going a long way (with video) Comment on this post ↓
June 12th, 2013 by Warren Swil

Doctoral candidate built

this web site in record time

Martin Black and I enjoy a warm, sunny spring day on the patio at the Eagle pub in Cambridge, England on June 3. Both of us are redheads. He is heading south – very far south – this winter. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

HE IS A  Ph.D. student at the British Antarctic Survey, with a grant to spend the next Southern Hemisphere summer (January and February) conducting research in the Antarctic.
He obtained his Masters in geography from Durham University.
Martin Black, 22, is also a genius at CSS code with which he built this website, “In the (K)now” in about a week in early May.
“It pays the rent,” he told me when we had lunch June 3 in the quaint but enchanting town of Cambridge, U.K., home to the campus of the eponymous, world-renowned educational institution.
“It is really easy to program for [Wordpress, the platform on which this blog is based],” Black added, as if it was something I could do in a snap.
He then tosssed out words like “PHP” (a computer language) and “SQL” (structured query language) … and I was totally lost. I took a sip of the Greene King IPA Gold beer he selected for me. (I always choose the local specialty, if I can find out what it is.)

WATCH A VIDEO BELOW THE FOLD

Kings College at Cambridge University was just around the corner from where Martin Black and I had lunch on June 3. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

 I HAD REQUESTED  we go to his favorite watering hole. The Eagle pub was one minute’s walk from Kings College, the magnificent Gothic edifice that dominates the university town.
The Eagle features a historical marker, for it is the location where the famous pair Francis Crick and James Watson in 1963 had their “eureka” moment when they discovered the DNA double helix.
Our timing was unexpectedly fortuitous. About an hour before we arrived was the deadline for many Cambridge doctoral students of the spring semester to turn in their PhD thesis: a couple of dozen students, celebrating a major milestone in their lives, surrounded us at the pub. The atmosphere was joyous and celebratory.Black and I visited together on the patio for about two hours, enjoying an uncommon English spring day, the sun beating down upon us.
“I’ve been doing web design since 2004,” Black said, modestly. Check out his own site here.
That’s how he and I became connected in the first instance.
Black designed the website of the Oxfam Society of Durham Univeristy (an affiliate of the world famous non-profit) as well as the one for the Palatinate, the official 65-year-old student newspaper at Durham University.

The web site of Martin Black Design, Co. Click the image to visit the site.

The latter, he did as a volunteer. Only then did he start getting remunerated for his creativity and technical know-how.
Standing about 5 foot 10, Black is slender, fair complexioned, and with a mop of ginger hair, as you can see in the image that accompanies this story.
What you cannot see, is the uncanny resemblance Black has to me when I was his age.
With the image I sent him via email, I noted: “My mother must be turning over in her grave.”

MARTIN BLACK WAS RAISED in Stockton, just a few miles from Durham, in Northern England. He has lived in Cambridge only six months.
He met me at the station with his Giant Escape 21-speed bicycle. We walked the 20 minutes through Cambridge to the Eagle.
“I like my bike,” he said. “It is my transportation. I can’t afford a car. The bike was paid for with my web design (income.)”
He’s missing little: a car is useless in Cambridge, where everything one needs is a short walk away, and there is absolutely nowhere to park. Train service throughout Britain is faster and cheaper than driving – as you can tell from the video below.
One day, I vow, Black and I will ride together somewhere – me on my Urban three speed cruiser.
In the summer of 2012, I was desperately seeking a web designer to revamp the college newspaper of which I am the adviser.
A professional mutual friend recommended I contact Martin Black. Before I could, however, we found a local designer.
In April, again desperate but for this website, I finally contacted him. Within hours, we signed a contract. I had no inkling of with whom I was working.
It cost me more than anticipated. Black worked so fast – and I am so impatient – I felt obligated to provide what we called a “lightspeed” bonus.
Worth every single penny – or pound!
In fact, the first thing I said to him when I stepped off the train was: “Martin, you must charge more!”
Black said he was 10 years old when he got his first computer in the year 2000. He now plays the keyboard like a maestro.
For his Ph.D., he switched to geology. “I will be studying the geology of Adelaide Island, part of the Antarctic Peninsula (which is part of the British Antarctic Territory),” he said.
He will be working at Rothera research station, with the British Antarctic Survey, but his degree will be awarded through the University of Hull.
If Black thinks English winters are on the cool side, he has a new experience in store: the Antarctic summer!
Take your woolies, Martin!

 
 




5 Responses  
  • Jean Barlin writes:
    June 14th, 2013

    I really enjoyed reading your story about Martin Black, as well as the video taken on the way to Cambridge!
    Yes, Martin certainly does resemble you when you were that age, no question! He seems like a very likeable young man, and extremely clever!! It is great that you got to meet him and spend a couple of hours with him too.
    Your article on the Mandela crisis was also very nicely written. Keep up the good work!

    • Martin writes:
      June 14th, 2013

      Thank you for generous comments! And Thanks again Warren for a pleasant afternoon in the sunshine :)

  • Rochelle Swil writes:
    June 16th, 2013

    Martin Black – a young version of Warren Swil! Looks like he could be
    related. Did you know this before you met him or is it purely co-incidental?

  • Warren Swil writes:
    June 16th, 2013

    Rochelle:
    I had no idea what Martin looked like before I stepped off the train.
    I was shocked!
    Very few except close relatives know what I looked like some 40 years ago. You do.
    See if you can find a picture of me then … and send it to me so I can show everyone else.

  • Harry Potter's muse writes:
    July 4th, 2013

    Well, this guy sure sounds like a Wizard, but doesn’t J.K. Rowling have a trademark or something on that word?
    She should!


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