Bertrand Russell: The First Media Academic?: A Retrospective of His Influential Radio Appearances

Bertrand Rus­sell was one of the most impor­tant logi­cians and math­e­mat­i­cal philoso­phers of the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. He was also a tire­less cam­paign­er for peace and social progress. Born into an aris­to­crat­ic British fam­i­ly, Rus­sell believed that the social and polit­i­cal ills of the world could be less­ened if peo­ple of all social class­es had a bet­ter grasp of knowl­edge and crit­i­cal rea­son­ing. To this end, he devot­ed a great deal of his time to writ­ing pop­u­lar books on moral and intel­lec­tu­al mat­ters. He was also a reg­u­lar pres­ence on BBC radio dur­ing the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Most of Rus­sel­l’s sur­viv­ing radio pro­grams have been locked away in the archives for all these years. But in Jan­u­ary of 2012, pro­duc­ers at BBC Radio 4 assem­bled some inter­est­ing excerpts from the philoso­pher’s many radio appear­ances for a ret­ro­spec­tive. Bertrand Rus­sell: The First Media Aca­d­e­m­ic? (above, in its entire­ty) is a fas­ci­nat­ing overview of Rus­sel­l’s life as a pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al. Host­ed by come­di­an and writer Robin Ince, the pro­gram includes com­men­tary from two of Britain’s cur­rent crop of media aca­d­e­mics: physi­cist and for­mer pop musi­cian Bri­an Cox and math­e­mati­cian Mar­cus du Sautoy, who cur­rent­ly holds Richard Dawkin­s’s old seat as the Simonyi Pro­fes­sor for the Pub­lic Under­stand­ing of Sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford. There are excerpts from vin­tage inter­views with peo­ple who knew Rus­sell, includ­ing his son Con­rad and his sec­ond wife, Dora Black Rus­sell. But the best con­tri­bu­tions are from the philoso­pher him­self. Even the most devot­ed fan of Rus­sell will find some­thing new and inter­est­ing to lis­ten to in this excel­lent assem­blage of rare audio clips.

Note: You can down­load a fine­ly-pol­ished record­ing of Bertrand Rus­sell: The First Media Aca­d­e­m­ic? from And you could always get it for free by tak­ing advan­tage of Audi­ble’s 30-day Free Tri­al. Find details on that here. When­ev­er a read­er signs up for a free tri­al with Audi­ble, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bertrand Rus­sell in Bol­ly­wood: The Old Philosopher’s Improb­a­ble Appear­ance in a Hin­di Film, 1967

Lis­ten to ‘Why I Am Not a Chris­t­ian,’ Bertrand Russell’s Pow­er­ful Cri­tique of Reli­gion (1927)

Bertrand Russell’s Ten Com­mand­ments for Liv­ing in a Healthy Democ­ra­cy

Bertrand Rus­sell on His Stu­dent Lud­wig Wittgen­stein: Man of Genius or Mere­ly an Eccen­tric?

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