Dr Andrew Szydlo is proof that science really isn't dull. He often disappears in a huge cloud of smoke, swings teapots of liquid nitrogen high above his head, and creates large explosions.

The Highgate School chemistry teacher keeps bangs in the classroom to a minimum, but his public lectures like the one he delivered on Sunday as part of Highgate Science Week are spectacular.

"I do like explosions," he admits. "My lectures are a show I play the violin, the bugle and go off stage with a huge explosion and a cloud of smoke."

Performing his lecture, The Chemical Elements, is a theatrical sideline to his main teaching job.

"My classroom teaching is fairly standard, but with a twist of something different," he said. "It's all relevant to the syllabus, but gains the attention of the pupils.

"The idea is to make people enjoy science and appreciate it."

The father-of-two, who lives in Onslow Gardens, Muswell Hill, is a jack of all trades.

He variously describes himself as a dancer he has danced with a Polish dancing company for 40 years musician, photographer, automobile engineer and chemical historian. He teaches car mechanics, runs an automobile society and holds photography lessons at Highgate School.

"Variety is the spice of life that's why I like teaching so much," he said.

But his specialised subject and passion is alchemy the medieval version of chemistry, linked to the concoction of magical potions aimed at bringing eternal life, inducing love and turning metals into gold.

His interest in the subject was first ignited in his teenage years by the prospect of creating gold.

"People attempting to do the impossible and amazing first got me interested. There's a lot of magic about chemical changes. Unexpected things happen," he said.

But Mr Szydlo, 55, strongly believes the discipline deserves more scientific credit than it is granted, given the nagging popular perception of it as medieval mumbo-jumbo'.

"Alchemy should have more recognition as the forerunner to modern science. It wasn't just the hocus-pocus stuff," he says.

Through his school teaching and public demonstration lectures, Mr Szydlo seeks to explain how useful science can be in everyday life.

"My message is, that people can do more with science than they realise. In today's society everyone takes things for granted, and they are used to an easy life, but understanding how things work is very important".

Parents need not concern themselves with safety worries about Mr Szydlo's classroom explosions. He holds a masters degree in industrial safety and is always sure to warn students not to try this at home'.