Isaiah Berlin

Philosopher, Author

1909 – 1997

95

Who was Isaiah Berlin?

Sir Isaiah Berlin OM, CBE, FBA, was a Russian-born British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas, "thought by many to be the dominant scholar of his generation". He excelled as an essayist, conversationalist and raconteur; and as a brilliant lecturer who improvised, rapidly and spontaneously, richly allusive and coherently structured material. He translated works by Ivan Turgenev from Russian into English and, during the war, worked for the British Diplomatic Service. In its obituary of the scholar, The Independent stated that "Isaiah Berlin was often described, especially in his old age, by means of superlatives: the world's greatest talker, the century's most inspired reader, one of the finest minds of our time ... there is no doubt that he showed in more than one direction the unexpectedly large possibilities open to us at the top end of the range of human potential".

In 1932, at the age of 23, he was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. From 1957 to 1967, he was Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1963 to 1964. In 1966, he played a crucial role in founding Wolfson College, Oxford, and became its first President. He was appointed a CBE in 1946, knighted in 1957, and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. He also received the 1979 Jerusalem Prize for his writings on individual freedom. The annual Isaiah Berlin Lectures are held at the Hampstead Synagogue and both Wolfson College, Oxford and the British Academy each summer.

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Born
Jun 6, 1909
Riga
Religion
  • Agnosticism
Ethnicity
  • Ashkenazi Jews
  • Jewish people
Nationality
  • United Kingdom
  • Russian Empire
Profession
Education
  • Corpus Christi College, Oxford
  • University of Oxford
  • Balliol College
Lived in
  • Livonia
  • Riga
Died
Nov 5, 1997
Oxford

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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"Isaiah Berlin." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 19 Aug. 2022. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/isaiah_berlin>.

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