Philip Pullman (1964-Present) International Humanist 2008

The Humanist, January-February 2008 | Go to article overview

Philip Pullman (1964-Present) International Humanist 2008


"What I care about is whether people are cruel or whether they're kind, whether they act for democracy or for tyranny, whether they believe in open-minded inquiry or in shutting the freedom of thought and expression."

--Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman is the award-winning author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. He was born on October 19, 1946, in Norwich, Norfolk, England, the son of a Royal Air Force pilot. As a youth he attended schools in England, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Australia. His mother settled in Australia (remarrying after Pullman's father was killed in a plane crash) and Pullman attended high school at the Ysgol Ardudwy school in Harlech, Gwynedd. During these years he discovered Paradise Lost by John Milton, which would become an influence for His Dark Materials.

Pullman attended Exeter College in Oxford, studied English, and received a Third Class BA in 1968. After working several odd jobs, he returned to the Oxford area and taught in various middle schools for twelve years. In 1970 he married Judith Speller. Becoming a part-time lecturer at Westminster College, Oxford, in 1986, Pullman taught students who were pursuing a Bachelor's of Education. There, he had the opportunity to teach courses about the Victorian novel and on the folk tale, as well as a course that examined how words and pictures fit together.

Though best known for his children's books, he has also penned adult fantasy fiction and short stories, which he terms fairy tales. He began his work on His Dark Materials in 1993, Northern Lights (1995, titled The Golden Compass in the U.S.), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). They have variously been honored both in the United States and the United Kingdom, including the Carnegie Medal for children's fiction, the Guardian's Children's Book Award, and the Whitbread Prize for best children's book. …

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