315 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas, people and events that have shaped our world.

In Our Time BBC Podcasts

    • History
    • 4.6 • 4.4K Ratings

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas, people and events that have shaped our world.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    Superconductivity

    Superconductivity

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery made in 1911 by the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926). He came to call it Superconductivity and it is a set of physical properties that nobody predicted and that none, since, have fully explained. When he lowered the temperature of mercury close to absolute zero and ran an electrical current through it, Kamerlingh Onnes found not that it had low resistance but that it had no resistance. Later, in addition, it was noticed that a superconductor expels its magnetic field. In the century or more that has followed, superconductors have already been used to make MRI scanners and to speed particles through the Large Hadron Collider and they may perhaps bring nuclear fusion a little closer (a step that could be world changing).

    The image above is from a photograph taken by Stephen Blundell of a piece of superconductor levitating above a magnet.

    With

    Nigel Hussey
    Professor of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Bristol and Radbout University

    Suchitra Sebastian
    Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge

    And

    Stephen Blundell
    Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Mansfield College

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Rawls' Theory of Justice

    Rawls' Theory of Justice

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss A Theory of Justice by John Rawls (1921 - 2002) which has been called the most influential book in twentieth century political philosophy. It was first published in 1971. Rawls (pictured above) drew on his own experience in WW2 and saw the chance in its aftermath to build a new society, one founded on personal liberty and fair equality of opportunity. While in that just society there could be inequalities, Rawls’ radical idea was that those inequalities must be to the greatest advantage not to the richest but to the worst off.

    With

    Fabienne Peter
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

    Martin O’Neill
    Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of York

    And

    Jonathan Wolff
    The Alfred Landecker Professor of Values and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and Fellow of Wolfson College

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    John Donne

    John Donne

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Donne (1573-1631), known now as one of England’s finest poets of love and notable in his own time as an astonishing preacher. He was born a Catholic in a Protestant country and, when he married Anne More without her father's knowledge, Donne lost his job in the government circle and fell into a poverty that only ended once he became a priest in the Church of England. As Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, his sermons were celebrated, perhaps none more than his final one in 1631 when he was plainly in his dying days, as if preaching at his own funeral.

    The image above is from a miniature in the Royal Collection and was painted in 1616 by Isaac Oliver (1565-1617)

    With

    Mary Ann Lund
    Associate Professor in Renaissance English Literature at the University of Leicester

    Sue Wiseman
    Professor of Seventeenth Century Literature at Birkbeck, University of London

    And

    Hugh Adlington
    Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham

    Tycho Brahe

    Tycho Brahe

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) whose charts offered an unprecedented level of accuracy.

    In 1572 Brahe's observations of a new star challenged the idea, inherited from Aristotle, that the heavens were unchanging. He went on to create his own observatory complex on the Danish island of Hven, and there, working before the invention of the telescope, he developed innovative instruments and gathered a team of assistants, taking a highly systematic approach to observation. A second, smaller source of renown was his metal prosthetic nose, which he needed after a serious injury sustained in a duel.

    The image above shows Brahe aged 40, from the Atlas Major by Johann Blaeu.

    With

    Ole Grell
    Emeritus Professor in Early Modern History at the Open University

    Adam Mosley
    Associate Professor of History at Swansea University

    and

    Emma Perkins
    Affiliate Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.

    The Great Stink

    The Great Stink

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the stench from the River Thames in the hot summer of 1858 and how it appalled and terrified Londoners living and working beside it, including those in the new Houses of Parliament which were still under construction. There had been an outbreak of cholera a few years before in which tens of thousands had died, and a popular theory held that foul smells were linked to diseases. The source of the problem was that London's sewage, once carted off to fertilise fields had recently, thanks to the modern flushing systems, started to flow into the river and, thanks to the ebb and flow of the tides, was staying there and warming in the summer sun. The engineer Joseph Bazalgette was given the task to build huge new sewers to intercept the waste, a vast network, so changing the look of London and helping ensure there were no further cholera outbreaks from contaminated water.

    The image above is from Punch, July 10th 1858 and it has this caption: The 'Silent Highway'-Man. "Your Money or your Life!"

    With

    Rosemary Ashton
    Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London

    Stephen Halliday
    Author of ‘The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis’

    And

    Paul Dobraszczyk
    Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London

    • 50 min
    Persuasion

    Persuasion

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Jane Austen’s last complete novel, which was published just before Christmas in 1817, five months after her death. It is the story of Anne Elliot, now 27 and (so we are told), losing her bloom, and of her feelings for Captain Wentworth who she was engaged to, 8 years before – an engagement she broke off under pressure from her father and godmother. When Wentworth, by chance, comes back into Anne Elliot's life, he is still angry with her and neither she nor Austen's readers can know whether it is now too late for their thwarted love to have a second chance.

    The image above is from a 1995 BBC adaptation of the novel, with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds

    With

    Karen O’Brien
    Vice-Chancellor of Durham University

    Fiona Stafford
    Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford

    And

    Paddy Bullard
    Associate Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Reading

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
4.4K Ratings

4.4K Ratings

PhilConsequence ,

Amazing

This podcast is amazing and the included reading list on their website is growing my library exponentially. I’ve learned so much from listening to this podcast and have discovered so many topics I never would have explored on my own. I wish the episodes were 2 hours long. 10 stars!!!!

Wordlover 107 ,

I really want to like this podcast …

… but I absolutely find the interruptions by the host unbearable. The scholars slated for the podcast are just that … scholars. I’d love to hear more from them and less from the host. If one looks through the reviews, it is quite obvious that there is a history here. To the producer, your audience is pleading with you to do something about this obnoxious and patronizing behaviour …

Music_Lv'r ,

Interesting, well-informed, but rude (male) co-host

Though this is a very-interesting BBC podcast, with interesting subjects, and clean language (all of which I do appreciate much), its co-host ruins it, by being dismissive, and quite rude to his (female) co-hostess. He does not do the same to his male guests, and/or co-host. It is set in a “panel discussion” format, with the co-hosts (apparently 3 of them, one of whom is a female), this (apparently) main host frequently cuts off and interrupt the co-hostess in mid-thought, and mid-sentence. I don’t think she’s ever truly allowed to finish a sentence. His behavior makes clear he is dismissive of the (female) co-hostess, doesn’t care for what she thinks, or is (at the very least) an ill-bred man. I want to LIKE this Podcast, but his behavior towards her is an annoyance. Since I listen to Podcasts to both be informed, and for idle-time entertainment, his behavior makes this otherwise good podcast, intolerable to me. I’m unsubscribing🙁

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