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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