Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

James Burke (science historian)

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Nationality  British
Citizenship  United Kingdom

Name  James Burke
Role  Author
James Burke (science historian) James Burke Werner Erhard Interviews Distinguished BBC

Born  22 December 1936 (age 86) (1936-12-22) Derry, Northern Ireland
Books  The Knowledge Web, The Pinball Effect
Known for  Connections, The Day the Universe Changed
Education  Jesus College, Oxford, Maidstone Grammar School, University of Oxford
TV shows  Connections, The Day the Universe, Tomorrow's World, British television Apollo 11
Similar People  Raymond Baxter, James Lee Burke, Judith Hann, Maggie Philbin, Michael Rodd

Episode 727 james burke

James Burke (born 22 December 1936) is a British broadcaster, science historian, author, and television producer, who is known, among other things, for his documentary television series Connections (1978), and for its more philosophically oriented companion series, The Day the Universe Changed (1985), which is about the history of science and technology. The Washington Post called him "one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world".


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James Burke (science historian) Transcript Interview with James Burke from Episode 020

James Burke was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, and was educated at Maidstone Grammar School, and at Jesus College, Oxford, where he earned an M.A. degree in Middle English. Upon graduation he moved to Italy, where at the British School in Bologna he was lecturer in English and director of studies, 1961–63. He also lectured at the University of Urbino. Thereafter he was headmaster of the English School in Rome, 1963–65. He was also involved in the creation of an English–Italian dictionary, and the publication of an art encyclopedia.

James Burke (science historian) Episode 727 James Burke YouTube

Burke explained how he got into television to the US magazine People in 1979: "Television beckoned by chance one day on a Rome bus. Spotting an ad for a reporter for the local bureau of Britain's Granada TV, he says, 'I decided if the bus stopped at the next corner I would get off and apply for the job.' It did, he did, and the next thing he knew 'we went straight off to Sicily to do a series on the Mafia.'"

James Burke (science historian) James Burke Professional Public Speakers Motivational Business

In 1966 he moved to London and joined the Science and Features Department of the BBC, for which he was host or co-host of several programmes. He also worked as an instructor in English as a Foreign Language at the Regency Language School in Ramsgate.

James Burke (science historian) James Burke Professional Public Speakers Motivational Business

Burke established his reputation as a reporter on the BBC science series Tomorrow's World. He was BBC television's science anchorman and chief reporter for the Project Apollo missions, as the main presenter of the BBC's coverage of the first moon landing in 1969.

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In collaboration with Mick Jackson, he produced the ten-part documentary series Connections (1978), which was first broadcast on the BBC, and subsequently on PBS in the United States. Connections traced the historical relationships between invention and discovery: each episode chronicled a particular path of technological development. Connections was the most-watched PBS television series up to that time. It was followed by the twenty-part Connections2 (1994) and the ten-part Connections3 (1997). Connections: An Alternative View of Change was broadcast in more than fifty countries and the companion book Connections: An Alternative History of Technology (1978) sold well.

In 1980 Burke and Jackson produced the six-part BBC series The Real Thing, about perception.

In 1985 Burke, with Richard Reisz and John Lynch, produced the ten-part series The Day the Universe Changed (revised 1995), which concentrated on the philosophical aspects of scientific change in Western culture.

Burke has also been a regular writer for Scientific American and Time, and a consultant to the SETI project.

Burke has received the gold and the silver medals of the Royal Television Society. In 1998 he was made an honorary fellow of the Society for Technical Communication.

Burke has also contributed to podcasts, such as in 2008 when he appeared on Hardcore History with Dan Carlin, and in 2016 on Common Sense with Dan Carlin, and to newspaper articles including two series for the Mogollon Connection by Jesse Horn, one focusing on the nature of morality, the other on the future of our youth.

Knowledge Web

James Burke is the leading figure in the development of the Knowledge Web, to be the digital realization of his books and television programmes, and which will allow the user to travel through history and create his or her own connections. Eventually, the project may even feature immersive virtual-reality historical recreations of people, places, and events.

Connections App

James Burke is developing a Mobile app called Connections app which aims to allow users to make searches in Wikipedia in ways that could lead them to develop mind associations and connections of apparently unrelated fields of knowledge or topics. Surprises, anomalies, and unexpected perspectives on a search can emerge from using the app. According to Burke, the Connection App is an alternative and innovative method to more linear internet search engines such as Google.


In an article for the Radio Times in 1973 Burke predicted the widespread use of computers for business decisions, the creation of metadata banks of personal information, and changes in human behaviour, such as greater willingness to reveal personal information to strangers. In an interview on the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 on 30 August 2013 Burke discussed his predictions of a post-scarcity economy driven by advances in nanofactories, which he believes may be viable by the year 2043.

Burke posed at least one of his predictions within a question. In Connections, he pointed out that the increase in possible connections over time causes the process of innovation to not only continue, but also to accelerate. So, what happens when this rate of innovation, or more importantly 'change' itself, becomes too much for the average person to handle, and what does this mean for individual power, liberty, and privacy? (See accelerating change).

In the conclusion of Connections, Burke said that computing and communications might be controlled by a computer science élite. Later, in contrast to this, he suggested in the conclusion of The Day the Universe Changed that a worldwide revolution in communications and computer technology would allow people to instantaneously exchange ideas and opinions (that is, he predicted the Internet).

Television credits

Television series and documentaries by James Burke:

  • Tomorrow's World (1968–1969)
  • The End of the Beginning (1972), about the end of the Project Apollo space programme
  • The Burke Special (1972–1976)
  • The Inventing of America (1976), NBC–BBC co-production for the U.S. Bicentennial, co-hosted by Burke and Raymond Burr
  • Scenario: The Oil Game (1976), crisis game examining OPEC
  • Scenario: The Peace Game (1977), crisis game examining NATO
  • Connections (1978)
  • The Men who Walked on the Moon (1979), a 10th anniversary review of the flight of Apollo 11
  • The Other Side of the Moon (1979), a critical examination of the Apollo space programme
  • The Real Thing (1980), about human perception
  • The Neuron Suite, about the human brain (1982)
  • MacGillivray Freeman's Speed (IMAX) (1984), as the narrator
  • The Day the Universe Changed (1985, 1995)
  • After the Warming (1989), about the greenhouse effect
  • Masters of Illusion (1993), about Renaissance painting
  • Connections 2 (1994) (also rendered Connections²)
  • Connections 3 (1997) (also rendered Connections³)
  • Stump the Scientist, featured an audience of children who questioned a panel of scientists in the hope of presenting a question they could not answer
  • ReConnections (2004)
  • Books

  • Tomorrow's World I, with Raymond Baxter, (BBC 1970) ISBN 978-0-563-10162-8
  • Tomorrow's World II, with Raymond Baxter, (BBC 1973) ISBN 978-0-563-12362-0
  • Connections: Alternative History of Technology (Time Warner International/Macmillan 1978) ISBN 978-0-333-24827-0 also published in North America as Connections (Little, Brown and Company, 1978) ISBN 0-316-11681-5 and pbk: ISBN 0-316-11685-8.
  • The Day the Universe Changed (BBC 1985) ISBN 0-563-20192-4
  • Chances (Virgin Books 1991) ISBN 978-1-85227-393-4
  • The Axemaker’s Gift, with Robert Ornstein and illustrated by Ted Dewan (Jeremy P Tarcher 1995) ISBN 978-0-87477-856-4
  • The Pinball Effect — How Renaissance Water Gardens Made the Carburetor Possible and Other Journeys Through Knowledge (Little, Brown & Company 1996) ISBN 978-0-316-11610-7
  • Circles — Fifty Round Trips Through History Technology Science Culture (Simon & Schuster 2000) ISBN 978-0-7432-4976-8
  • The Knowledge Web (Simon & Schuster 2001) ISBN 978-0-684-85935-4
  • Twin Tracks (Simon & Schuster 2003) ISBN 978-0-7432-2619-6
  • American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked (Simon & Schuster 2007) ISBN 978-0-7432-8226-0
  • References

    James Burke (science historian) Wikipedia