What a national treasure is Melvyn Bragg. A true Renaissance man who cheerfully rejects C P Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’ and embraces with enthusiasm science and engineering as well as the arts in his In Our Time series on the radio.
Looking through the programmes I have downloaded, I find subjects as diverse as The Celts, Relativity, The Diet of Worms, The Industrial Revolution, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The Dissolution of the Monasteries, Photosynthesis, The Great Reform Act and so on.
Bragg has written many novels and non-fiction, including an excellent book on the English language, The Adventure of English. I also find that he wrote the script for Ken Russell’s wonderful film on Tchaikovsky, The Music Lovers. Melvyn famously fronted the avant-garde arts programme The South-Bank Show for a number of years. I’ll admit to being a little nonplussed to discover that, according to Wikipedia, he is a friend of Tony Blair, but then no-one is perfect…
What I really like about our Melvyn, apart from his gentle adenoidal Geordie accent, is the fact that as an intellectual he treats science and the arts on an equal footing. I remember hearing Robert Robinson, Laurie Taylor and others on Robinson's radio programme Stop the Week, pompously chortling with amusement about how some fairly straightforward detail of science was completely inexplicable to them. How contemptuous they would have been of a scientist who made the same comment about some aspect of literature or the arts. Not so Melvyn; and he scores one better over some of the very good science programmes on BBC TV, in that he gets real scientists, not ‘good’ presenters to put over the explanations. These don’t always work but when they do, like today’s programme on Dark Matter, they really are more than excellent.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs