Magazine article Times Higher Education

The Pick - Sage of the Radio Age

Magazine article Times Higher Education

The Pick - Sage of the Radio Age

Article excerpt

Bertrand Russell: The First Media Academic

BBC Radio 4, 14 January, 8.00pm-9.00pm

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was not only "a mathematician and a philosopher, an earl and an atheist, a peace campaigner and a moral reformer", argues presenter Robin Ince, but also "the first intellectual star of the modern media age". Yet, unlike most of this breed, "his appearances were backed up by a depth of knowledge and understanding, a charm and compassion, that makes him as relevant today as he was 40 years ago".

Ince's programme makes an energetic case for Russell's continuing importance. He was in many ways a surprising star. Shy and self-conscious about public speaking in his youth, he had a forbidding reputation as a philosopher and was already 50 when the BBC was founded as the British Broadcasting Company in 1922. Yet he took to radio with great enthusiasm and became so well known a public figure that Jonathan Miller could mercilessly mock his voice and manner in the satirical revue Beyond the Fringe. Close to 40 years after his death, Russell could still appear as the hero of Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou's graphic novel Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth.

Two of today's leading "media academics", Marcus du Sautoy and Brian Cox, pay tribute to Russell as a pioneer with real intellectual clout. Material from the archives reveals his impact on earlier generations. Former Labour leader Michael Foot, for example, called Russell "unquestionably my man of the century" and almost "the happiest man I ever saw", although this happiness had been "achieved against enormous odds". …

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