Horrible Science

Horrible Science

Front cover of Measly Medicine
Author Nick Arnold; Phil Gates
Illustrator Tony De Saulles
Cover artist De Saulles
Country United Kingdom
Subject Science
Genre Children's literature; science writing
Publisher Scholastic
Publication date

Horrible Science is a sister series of books to Horrible Histories, written by Nick Arnold (with the exception of Evolve or Die, which is written by Phil Gates), illustrated by Tony de Saulles and published in the UK and India by Scholastic. They are designed to get children interested in science by concentrating on the trivial, unusual, gory, or unpleasant. Amazon.com reviews of books in the series sometimes attribute their children's interested in science to the series. The books are in circulation in 24 countries, and over 4 million books have been sold in the UK alone.[1]

Nick Arnold released a paper entitled "Teaching Science the Horrible Way",[2] in which he demonstrates the reasons why the Horrible Science series has a positive contribution to learning. According to Arnold, Horrible Science books are based on everyday topics and key areas of the curriculum. The range of approaches used in Horrible Science books are intended to emphasise the drama and excitement and wonder of science. Science words and concepts are introduced gradually often using humour or fact files. Although mathematics is not needed at the level of science covered in the books, some activities require calculators. The books contain experiments under the heading Dare you discover… The experiments do not require expensive or elaborate equipment. Several of the books end with thoughts on how science will shape our future. On his website, Nick Arnold also has downloadable experiments for teachers to use in the classroom as an aid to his books (e.g. the Horrible Hydrogen experiment at [3]).


Before writing the series, Nick Arnold was at the University of North London working on an educational project. He explained to The Birmingham Post: "It was actually a lucky break or a well-placed letter – whichever you want to believe - Because I wrote this really cheeky letter to the publishers Scholastic saying that if they were looking for someone to write a horrible science book I was the one. And would you believe they actually let me write a science book and put lots of horrible bits in it – and then it was hugely successful”.[4]

During the mid-2010s, Horrible Science decided to have a book makeover, altering the covers of some of their old books, and all of the new books being published to have a new, more colorful background and updated information.

A Horrible Science theatre show produced by the Birmingham Stage Company - which also brought Horrible Histories to the stage - was created in 2013.[4]


Nick Arnold explained his approach towards writing the series in an interview with The Birmingham Post: "My approach to a subject is to vastly over-research it. I have become quite good at science by writing these books so have got quite a lot of knowledge already but then I really like finding out more information. If I over-research then I don’t just have all the facts I need, I have a lot more – and that means I can really choose what I want to include. The thing about a Horrible Science book is that actually it is all about imagination. The more you know the more you want to know and the more you want to develop that."[4]

Critical reception

The response towards the series has been generally positive. Some reviews of the series website [5] included a The Independent review that Really Rotten Experiments is "Perfect for keeping the kids occupied on a rainy day, this is full of useful tips…and fun, naughty experiments". Another review by the Evening Express (Aberdeen) said that the book Horrible Science: Painful Poison is "With fantastic fact files, quirky quizzes, humorous cartoons and easy-to-understand text, it makes science pretty horrible, but great fun". Books For Keeps said of the book Deadly Diseases: "Gruesome gut churning contents, you need a strong stomach to tackle this, and certainly before eating". The Scotsman commented on the series as a whole, "Nick Arnold has a reputation as quite a showman and his Horrible Science series provides him with plenty of opportunity for stunts. Children emerge wide-eyed and inspired". A review at [6] described the series as "These are so much better than some of the dry textbooks that I used to have to read when I was in school...I'm saying that books like this are great for students because they show students that science is truly interesting and amazing!". A review by Roberta of the Growing with Science blog said of the book Chemical Chaos: "It is every bit as humorous (downright silly in spots) and as comprehensive as the history series was". She adds that the "[series as a whole] go a long way to fill that gap [between middle and high school students". As said of Evil Inventions in a review by Jennifer Cameron-Smith at:[7] "This is a delightful book and would make a wonderful present for any budding young scientist as well as a worthwhile addition to a school library. Making science fun can sometimes be a challenge, but books such as this certainly assist."


There has been a negative response to Issue 6 - Hidden Horrors in the Home in the magazine adaption of the book series. The article named "Loony Lab" in this Horrible Science Collection had a section called "Grow your own manky microbes". A complainant, a biology teacher and parent, described it as "irresponsible in the extreme". A plastic petri dish and sachet of agar powder are provided as a "free gifts", and children are encouraged to sample areas which may harbour disease-causing organisms (pathogens), such as a toilet handle, a dog's ear, or a "bogey". Under certain circumstances, contact with these substances is potentially life-threatening. The complainant added "The potential for real harm is jaw-dropping. Even in school, under supervision of trained staff, we would not be allowed to do much of what the article suggests, namely for health and safety reasons. How can they be sure that every child will follow even the meagre and woefully inadequate safety advice given?"[8]

Awards and nominations

The Horrible Science series has received the following awards :

Book categories

Original books

These are the original books in the core series:

Omnibus editions and boxed sets

There are several "Two in One" editions:

There have also been Three in One editions such as Ugly Bugs, Nasty Nature and Vicious Veg, a set of 10 books, and a set of 20 titled Bulging Box of Books.

Activity books

Shuffle puzzle books

Jigsaw books

Sticker-activity books


It may be noted that the Sticker-Activity books have be renamed, along with their new design, by dropping the "Sticker" aspect and leaving "Activity".



There are a few books in the Horrible Science series that have a special sign on the front cover that indicate their inclusion in the Special sub-series of Horrible Science. They are:


Following suit with the other main Horrible series', Horrible Science has recently introduced a new range of books, known as Handbooks.

Teachers resources

The Horrible Science Teachers Resources subseries is, as described by Nick Arnold: "a whole series of books full of expert tips and photocopiable resources designed for pupils aged 7-11". They are intended for use by teachers in classrooms .


These are the books that do not fit into the other categories. They are:


The front cover of the issue Super Sleuth

There is also a magazine collection to this series, which is collectively known as the Horrible Science Collection. This series was originally planned to encompass 60 issues, but due to their popularity, another 20 were added to the series. The titles are as follows:

  1. Beastly Body Bits - (Human Body)
  2. Chemical Chaos - (Chemicals)
  3. The Smashing Solar System - (Solar System)
  4. Disgusting Digestion - (Digestive System)
  5. Shocking Electricity - (Electricity)
  6. Hidden Horrors In The Home - (Bacteria and Germs)
  7. Bulging Brains - (Brains)
  8. Savage Spiders & Slippery Slimeballs - (Spiders and Slugs)
  9. Rotten Reactions - (Chemical Reactions)
  10. Beastly Bloody Body Bits - (Human Body)
  11. Awful Earth - (Earth)
  12. Mad as Matter - (Matter)
  13. Painful Poisons - (Poisons)
  14. Bones 'n' Groans - (Bones)
  15. Insect Invaders - (Insects)
  16. Super Sleuth - (Spies Codes)
  17. Nasty Nature - (Nature)
  18. Fearsome Fuels - (Fossil Fuels)
  19. Deadly Diseases - (Diseases)
  20. Gruesome Gravity - (Gravity)
  21. Mean Machines - (Machines)
  22. Universe & Worse.... - (The Universe)
  23. Vicious Veg - (Plants)
  24. Body Owner's Manual - (Body Parts)
  25. Lethal Lightning - (Lightning)
  26. Mean Mammals - (Mammals)
  27. Mighty Magnetism - (Magnetism)
  28. Awesome Ants & Sleazy Bees - (Ants and Bees)
  29. Fatal Forces - (Forces)
  30. Crazy Cures & Revolting Remedies - (Cures)
  31. Barmy Birds - (Birds)
  32. Blast Off! - (Spacecraft)
  33. Evil Evolution - (Evolution)
  34. Horrible Heat - (Heat)
  35. Freaky Fish - (Fish)
  36. Startling Senses - (The 5 Senses: Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch and Hearing)
  37. Sounds Dreadful - (Sound)
  38. Sinister Swamps - Swamps)
  39. Ghastly Genes - (Genes)
  40. Microscopic Monsters - (Microorganisms)
  41. Growing Up Grossly - (Growth)
  42. Foul Frogs & Slimy Toads - (Frogs and Toads)
  43. Terrible Time - (Time)
  44. Frightening Light - (Light)
  45. Dangerous Dinosaurs - (Dinosaurs)
  46. More Painful Poisons - (Poisons)
  47. Fearsome Flight - (Flight)
  48. Foul Food - (Food)
  49. Staying Alive - (Survival)
  50. Fearsome Flying Machines - (Flying Machines)
  51. Revolting Reptiles - (Reptiles)
  52. Dead Freezing - (Cold)
  53. Noisy Nature - (The animal kingdom)
  54. Mad Medicine - (Medicine)
  55. Foul Fungi - (Fungi)
  56. More Dangerous Dinosaurs - (Dinosaurs)
  57. Blinding Light - (Light)
  58. Gruesome Germs - (Germs)
  59. Slimy Sea Monsters - (Sea creatures)
  60. It's About Time - (Time)
  61. Perilous Planes - (Planes)
  62. Big And Bad Beasts - (Dangerous Animals)
  63. Shady Spies - (Spies)
  64. Musical Mayhem - (Sounds and Music)
  65. Prehistoric Pests - (Prehistoric Life)
  66. Baffling Brainboxes - (Human Brain)
  67. Mind Boggling Materials - (Matter)
  68. Pesky Plants - (Plants)
  69. Wicked Weather - (Weather)
  70. Underwater Uglies - (Aquatic animals)
  71. Mean Body Machine - (The Human body)
  72. Rowdy Robots - (Robots)
  73. Gruesome Guzzling - (Eating and Digestion)
  74. Nuclear Nasties - (Nuclear power)
  75. Mind Magic - (Science of magic)
  76. Hairy Humans - (Evolution of humans)
  77. Freaky Future - (Futurology)
  78. Horrid Healthcare - (Health and Medicine)
  79. Awful Inventions - (Inventions, Technology)
  80. How to be a Suffering Scientist - (Scientists)

There have also been three 'special' magazines in the series. They are:

S1. DIY Shocking Science- (Experiments)

S2. Spooky Science- (Hallowe'en and Monsters)

S3. Alien Science- (Aliens)

Flip charts

On 3 March 2008, several online flip charts (aka Activlessons) were released by Promethean Planet . As the site explains, "these ready-made interactive whiteboard resources have instant child-appeal, making the teaching of the QCA Science units fun and effective". The titles included are:

TV series

In May 2015, British television network CITV announced that filming had begun on a new ten-part TV series of Horrible Science. The series is produced by Toff Media, a company owned and founded by comedians Ben Miller and Alexander Armstrong, and co-owned by Hat Trick Productions.

The series stars Ben Miller, stand-up comedian Chris Martin, Tom Bell, Jason Forbes, Letty Butler, Susie Wokoma and Eleanor Lawrence. There will also be some guest appearances by other actors.[12]

The series focuses on a science show and its crew that consist of the show's host Mark (Martin), a talking brain Professor McTaggart (Miller) (who hosts the segment called The Brain Dump), robot Bob (Bell), microscopic Professor Small (Lawrence) and her crew of scientists and the show's producer Lucy (Butler). Armstrong provides the voice of the unseen announcer Tannoy who tells the crew how long until the show starts. Each episode also features a famous scientist being interviewed by either Mark or McTaggart. In a similar vein to the TV adaptation of Horrible Histories, each episode also concludes with a song that serves as a parody of another popular song.


Series 1

Series 1 began on September 13, 2015.

for series
Title Director Writer
11"Deadly Diseases"[13]Simon GibneyMark Oswin13 September 2015 (2015-09-13)

This episode coughs up the disgusting details of snot, sneezes and viruses, from the cruel common cold to shocking smallpox. Guest Star: Ben Miller as Edward Jenner

Song of the Week:
22"Abominable Blood"[14]Simon GibneyMarc Haynes and Will Maclean20 September 2015 (2015-09-20)

Red blood - what is it and why do we need it? How does it transport important things around the body? Bob the robot needs his first aid badge so he can go to the robot jamboree - the only trouble is he is hates blood. Mark is stopped just in time by expert Charles Drew as he is about to give someone a blood transfusion from a dog! Guest Star: Jason Forbes as Charles R. Drew

Song of the Week:
33"Chemical Chaos"[15]Simon GibneyMarc Haynes and Will Maclean27 September 2015 (2015-09-27)

This episode features explosions, atoms and fiendish forces that bubble, go bang and bump! What makes things explode? Lucy has made a mistake in the script and now everyone thinks the show is about elephants. It is a disaster - especially as their guest is the legendary scientist Marie Curie! Guest Star: Eleanor Lawrence as Marie Curie

Song of the Week: Elements
44"Space, Stars and Slimy Aliens"[16]Simon GibneyDavid Armand4 October 2015 (2015-10-04)

This episode examines what happens to our bodies in space. Can we live on other planets? Who invented the telescope, and how can we make one at home? Guest Star: Marcus Garvey as Galileo Galilei

Song of the Week: I'm Mr. Average
55"Wasted World"[17]TBATBA11 October 2015 (2015-10-11)

Gruesome greenhouse gasses and deadly toxic waste. Why do we recycle and what would happen if we stopped? Is global warming really bad news? The team try to find out what is going on with the climate, although the show nearly ends in disaster again when they discover there is a bear roaming free in the studio! Guest Star: Bear Grylis

Song of the Week: Let It Snow
66"Gruesome Guts"[18]TBATBA18 October 2015 (2015-10-18)

This episode examines poo, pizza and disgusting germs! Why do we poo and how does digestion work? Who was Louis Pasteur and what is his legacy? Mark arrives at the studio with terrible stomach pains and asks the Shrinking Scientists to find out what is wrong with him. In their toughest mission yet, Dr Sensible, Professor Small and Junior get ready to fly up Mark's nose to investigate. Guest Star:

Song of the Week:
77"Microscopic Monsters"[19]TBATBA25 October 2015 (2015-10-25)

This episode examines some of the nasty invaders that live in our homes and on our bodies. Fleas, parasites, worms and every tiny, disgusting thing in between. Mark can't stop itching, but no one knows what is causing it. The Shrinking Scientists get on the case and investigate. Microscope expert Robert Hooke joins them in the studio. Guest Star:

Song of the Week: 8 Pints
88"Bulging Brains"TBATBA1 November 2015 (2015-11-01)

Guest Star: as Rita Levi

Song of the Week:
99"Sounds Dreadful"TBATBA8 November 2015 (2015-11-08)

Guest Star: Alexander Graham Bell

Song of the Week:
1010"Vicious Veg"TBATBA15 November 2015 (2015-11-15)

Guest Star:

Song of the Week: Killer Veg


  1. "Welcome to Horrible Science - Horrible Science". horrible-science.co.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  2. Teaching Science the Horrible Way
  3. Horrible Hydrogen
  4. 1 2 3 "Horrible Science finds all the ingredients for a good children's story". birminghampost. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  5. "Welcome to Horrible Science - Horrible Science". horrible-science.co.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  6. "abasiccurriculum.com". abasiccurriculum.com. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  7. "Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Evil Inventions (Horrible Science)". amazon.com. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  8. http://www.ise5-14.org.uk/prim3/New_Guidelines/Newsletters/33/Horrible_Science.htm
  9. "House of Horrors (Horrible Science): Nick Arnold, Tony De Saulles: 9781407116730: Amazon.com: Books". amazon.com. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  10. "Annual 2012 (Horrible Science): Amazon.co.uk: Nick Arnold, Tony De Saulles: 9781407129648: Books". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  11. "How to Draw Horrible Science: Amazon.co.uk: Tony De Saulles: 9781407111018: Books". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  12. Horrible Science Press Release, CITV
  13. http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/horrible_science/episodes/1/1/
  14. http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/horrible_science/episodes/1/2/
  15. http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/horrible_science/episodes/1/3/
  16. http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/horrible_science/episodes/1/4/
  17. http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/horrible_science/episodes/1/5/
  18. http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/horrible_science/episodes/1/6/
  19. http://www.itv.com/tvguide/
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