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Bertrand Russell: First Media Academic?

January 24, 2012


Alexandre Borovik points to this BBC Radio 4 broadcast.  Just the title Bertrand Russell:  First Media Academic? seems to capture something very true about Russell – a man who undoubtedly thrived on popular attention.  Indeed, it is surprising that the majority of Russell’s books are so accessible to the public.  (Did he secretly campaign for his 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature?  One wonders.)

Unfortunately, I missed the chance to hear this broadcast; but fortunately, many of Russell’s BBC broadcasts are still easily downloadable.  I suppose as good a place to start as any is with Russell’s 1948 BBC Reith Lectures.  (These can also be downloaded from the Reith Lectures podcast page).

This also reminds me of the Richard Posner’s study with its highly judgmental title:  Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline.

The full blurb from the BBC:

Bertrand Russell was one of the greatest thinkers of the last century. His contributions to the field of mathematics and philosophy are still widely acknowledged as some of the most important of their kind. But, as Robin Ince discovers, he was also arguably one of the first great media academic stars, who brought his own brand of rationalism and intellect to an audience far beyond the academic and political circles he routinely mixed with. His relationship with the BBC goes back almost to the beginning of its own history, and his many broadcasts and appearances on radio, in particular, brought his ideas to a whole new audience. He delivered the very first Reith Lectures back in 1948, and was a regular panellist on the hugely popular The Brains Trust. His thoughts on themes ranging from education, through to nuclear armament and religion, were regularly broadcast on the BBC, right up to the end of his life. Robin Ince takes a listen back to some of Russell’s great contributions to broadcasting and looks at the life of arguably the first great media academic.

In the unlikely chance that any of this blog’s readers might have a lead how I might be able to hear Bertrand Russell: First Media Academic?, could I ask you to leave a comment below?  My thanks in advance.

Update:  I would like to express my sincere thanks to Tom Stanley of the Bertrand Russell Society Library, for giving me this link to the BBC broadcast in the comments below.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 8:37 pm

    Thanks for the link to the broadcasts. I’m a huge Russell fan and would also love to hear the “First Media Academic” broadcast. I’ll see what I can find.

  2. January 25, 2012 1:00 am

    Thanks Kris! I should have mentioned that there are also transcripts of those lectures.

    Apparently Russell was quite a character. I remember hearing stories from some older philosophers who claim that even when he was quite advanced in age, he would put the moves on women — at least one of whom memorably described it as “dry leaves crinkling on the leg.”

  3. Tom Stanley permalink
    January 25, 2012 8:53 am

    You may download the BBC 4 broadcast here :

    [audio src="" /]

    Tom Stanley
    Bertrand Russell Society Library

  4. January 25, 2012 12:19 pm

    Tom — wow, thank you so much for letting me know about that (and so quickly after I posted my query. I am indebted to you.

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