300 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

In Our Time BBC

    • History
    • 4.6, 3K Ratings

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

    Zeno's Paradoxes

    Zeno's Paradoxes

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zeno of Elea, a pre-Socratic philosopher from c490-430 BC whose paradoxes were described by Bertrand Russell as "immeasurably subtle and profound." The best known argue against motion, such as that of an arrow in flight which is at a series of different points but moving at none of them, or that of Achilles who, despite being the faster runner, will never catch up with a tortoise with a head start. Aristotle and Aquinas engaged with these, as did Russell, yet it is still debatable whether Zeno's Paradoxes have been resolved.

    With

    Marcus du Sautoy
    Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford

    Barbara Sattler
    Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews

    and

    James Warren
    Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 47 min
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

    In a programme first broadcast in 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the jewels of medieval English poetry. It was written c1400 by an unknown poet and then was left hidden in private collections until the C19th when it emerged. It tells the story of a giant green knight who disrupts Christmas at Camelot, daring Gawain to cut off his head with an axe if he can do the same to Gawain the following year. Much to the surprise of Arthur's court, who were kicking the green head around, the decapitated body reaches for his head and rides off, leaving Gawain to face his promise and his apparently inevitable death the following Christmas.

    The illustration above is ©British Library Board Cotton MS Nero A.x, article 3, ff.94v95

    With

    Laura Ashe
    Professor of English Literature at Worcester College, University of Oxford

    Ad Putter
    Professor of Medieval English Literature at the University of Bristol

    And

    Simon Armitage
    Poet and Professor of Poetry at the Universities of Leeds and Oxford


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Photosynthesis

    Photosynthesis

    In a programme first broadcast in 2014, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and many other organisms use sunlight to synthesise organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose very early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life on Earth. In addition to providing most of the food consumed by organisms on the planet, it is also responsible for maintaining atmospheric oxygen levels, and is thus almost certainly the most important chemical process ever discovered.

    With:

    Nick Lane
    Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London

    Sandra Knapp
    Botanist at the Natural History Museum

    John Allen
    Professor of Biochemistry at Queen Mary, University of London.

    Producer: Thomas Morris

    • 47 min
    John Clare

    John Clare

    In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Northamptonshire poet John Clare who, according to one of Melvyn's guests Jonathan Bate, was 'the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced'. Clare worked in a tavern, as a gardener and as a farm labourer in the early 19th century and achieved his first literary success with Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. He was praised for his descriptions of rural England and his childhood there, and his reaction to the changes he saw in the Agricultural Revolution with its enclosures, displacement and altered, disrupted landscape. Despite poor mental health and, from middle age onwards, many years in asylums, John Clare continued to write and he is now seen as one of the great poets of his age.

    With

    Sir Jonathan Bate
    Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford

    Mina Gorji
    Senior Lecturer in the English Faculty and fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge

    and

    Simon Kövesi
    Professor of English Literature at Oxford Brookes University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson.

    • 49 min
    Carl Friedrich Gauss (repeat)

    Carl Friedrich Gauss (repeat)

    In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Gauss (1777-1855), widely viewed as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He was a child prodigy, correcting his father's accounts before he was 3, dumbfounding his teachers with the speed of his mental arithmetic, and gaining a wealthy patron who supported his education. He wrote on number theory when he was 21, with his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, which has influenced developments since. Among his achievements, he was the first to work out how to make a 17-sided polygon, he predicted the orbit of the minor planet Ceres, rediscovering it, he found a way of sending signals along a wire, using electromagnetism, the first electromagnetic telegraph, and he advanced the understanding of parallel lines on curved surfaces.

    With

    Marcus du Sautoy
    Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford

    Colva Roney-Dougal
    Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

    And

    Nick Evans
    Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Southampton

    Producer: Simon Tillotson.

    • 49 min
    Frankenstein

    Frankenstein

    In a programme first broadcast in May 2019, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Mary Shelley's (1797-1851) Gothic story of a Swiss natural philosopher, Victor Frankenstein, and the creature he makes from parts of cadavers and which he then abandons, horrified by his appearance, and never names. Rejected by all humans who see him, the monster takes his revenge on Frankenstein, killing those dear to him. Shelley started writing Frankenstein when she was 18, prompted by a competition she had with Byron and her husband Percy Shelley to tell a ghost story while they were rained in in the summer of 1816 at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva.

    The image of Mary Shelley, above, was first exhibited in 1840.

    With

    Karen O'Brien
    Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford

    Michael Rossington
    Professor of Romantic Literature at Newcastle University

    And

    Jane Thomas
    Professor of Victorian and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of Hull

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    This programme is a repeat

    • 55 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
3K Ratings

3K Ratings

johnmercer ,

Indispensible

This is probalby one of the most important radio series ever conceived. The content is not dumbed down - it is up to date, challenging and thought provoking. The whole series needs to be made available as a national treasure.
Actually here is a request (if anybody reads this) why can we not download all the programmes (since most of us only just got an ipod!) - would love to catch up.

Kona Katumu ,

Thanks

Love this program and the presenter. So educational. Keep it coming.

MrMillipeed ,

This Programme is Important

This has to be one of the most wonderful, important programmes ever conceived. It should be kept as a record for the nation and I would love to see it part of the National Curriculum, there has to be time for a class to sit and listen to experts in their field discussing this vast array of learning.

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