The late David Jones, who contributed to Nature under the pseudonym Daedalus, produced an innovative idea every week — and not just in his own field (see From 1988 to 2000, he proposed ingenious 'inventions' that ranged from calming children with amniotic fluid to refolding prion proteins with heavy water to treat bovine spongiform encephalopathy (see Nature 390, 126–127; 1997).

Although his published ideas incorporated deliberate flaws, about one in five of them turned out to be viable (see also The Inventions of Daedalus (W. H. Freeman, 1982) and The Further Inventions of Daedalus (Oxford Univ. Press, 1999)).

A physical chemist, he was a pioneer in the use of mass media for research. For example, he debunked the theory that Napoleon was deliberately poisoned by arsenic after he speculated in a radio broadcast that wallpaper in Napoleon's St Helena home contained the poison. This unearthed a sample of the original wallpaper that satisfactorily accounted for the levels of arsenic detected in the emperor's hair (D. E. H. Jones and K. W. D. Ledingham Nature 299, 626–627; 1982).

Jones also wrote two books on the origin of innovative ideas (The Aha! Moment Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2012; and Why Are We Conscious? Pan Stanford, 2017). The second was published days before he died on 19 July at the age of 79.

Daedalus eschewed hot topics, recognizing that exciting ideas are often to be found in ignored areas. His approach to science holds important lessons for everyone struggling to survive in our metrics-driven world.