Author and Journalist
Photograph by Jonathan Bowen
Andrew Robinson is the author of more than twenty-five books, aimed at both general and academic readers. They cover three main areas:
for example, Einstein on the Run;
for example, The Story of Writing;
for example, The Indus.
They include seven biographies, of both scientists and artists--ranging from the physicist Albert Einstein and the physician/polymath Thomas Young, through the archaeological decipherers Jean-François Champollion and Michael Ventris, to the Indian film-director Satyajit Ray and the Indian writer/artist Rabindranath Tagore. For instance:
(a biography of Thomas Young);
(a biography of Jean-François Champollion);
Many of the books have been translated from English into a wide variety of languages:
Their trade and academic publishers in the United Kingdom and the United States of America include:
Creative and expert figures from both outside and inside the academic world have appreciated the books. For example, from the arts and humanities:
actor and film-director, on Satyajit Ray: A Vision of Cinema:
photographer and artist, on The Story of Writing:
"a fascinating book"
archaeologist and writer, on The Indus:
"Everyone interested in ancient civilizations should read this
eloquent, closely argued biography (it is nothing less) that brings
the Indus people in from the historical shadows."
writer and historian, on Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore:
"a triumphant work of scholarship, expertly annotated and
historian and director of the Einstein Papers Project,
on Einstein on the Run:
"This is a jewel of a book, to be read by anyone interested in
Albert Einstein, his science, his peripatetic existence, his joys and
singer-songwriter, satirist and mathematician,
"clearly an extraordinary book"
writer and novelist (and Nobel laureate),
"an extraordinarily good, detailed and selfless book"
Egyptologist and writer, on Cracking the Egyptian Code:
"This is a spirited account of a fascinating subject: the birth of
Egyptology ... written with verve, elegance and perception"
And from the sciences:
physicist (and Nobel laureate),
"It is wonderful to have such an elegant biography of this
astrophysicist, on Einstein on the Run:
"A well-researched and very readable book about a less well-
known period in Einstein's life"
cosmologist (and Nobel laureate), on Rabindranath Tagore:
"The entire book was a revelation to me."
physicist and science-fiction writer, on Lost Languages:
"Andrew Robinson has now followed up his beautifully illustrated
The Story of Writing with a highly appropriate sequel: Lost
Languages, on undeciphered scripts. Many, it seems likely, will
never be deciphered—which raises an interesting question. If we
cannot always understand messages from our fellow humans
—how successful will we be when we receive the first
communication from Outer Space?"
geochemist, environmentalist and writer, on Earthshock:
"a wonderful compilation of the things that can happen when our
planet does no more than turn in its long sleep"
astronomer and writer,
"by far the best book about Einstein that I have ever come
geophysicist and writer, on Earth-Shattering Events:
"a truly welcome, and refreshing, study that puts earthquake
impact on history into a proper perspective"
physician and geneticist, on The Scientists:
"This excellent celebration of the evolution of science over the
centuries should be of broad interest to scientists and non-
scientists alike—it will also be a wonderful stimulus to young
people thinking about a career in science."
Einstein on the Run: How Britain Saved the World's Greatest Scientist was published by Yale University Press in September 2019 (UK) and October 2019 (USA). See the full jacket, and read an excerpt from the book in Time magazine.
Britain inspired the young Einstein's physics in the 1890s; it made him world famous in 1919; and it saved his life from Nazi death threats by offering him sanctuary in 1933. This biographical study is the first account of Einstein's fruitful and complex entanglement with Britain--scientific, cultural and political--from the 1890s until his death in 1955. It was published during the centenary of the confirmation of his general theory of relativity by British astronomers' observations of a solar eclipse in 1919, which launched Einstein as an international star.
AR wrote an article about the centenary, "The experiment that made Einstein famous" (download article) in The Wall Street Journal (February 2019); and two reviews of books about the centenary, "The eclipse that made Einstein famous" in Science (May 2019), and "A relative revolution" in Physics World (September 2019).
See also his recent general-interest articles on many aspects of Einstein:
Published reviews of the book include the comments:
(Barbara Kiser, Nature)
(Ian Randall, Physics World)
(Emily Winterburn, BBC Sky at Night)
(Andrew Crumey, Wall Street Journal)
--a beguiling mix of idealism and down-to-earth opinions, free of
pretensions or pomposity."
(P. D. Smith, The Times Literary Supplement)
Listen to an interview with AR, "Einstein on the run", on Cool Science Radio, KPCW (21 November 2019).
As a journalist--and Literary Editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement from 1994-2006--AR has written features and reviews for many national newspapers and magazines in the UK and the USA. See Journalism.
The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, The Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Science magazines and journals include:
Antiquity, Current World Archaeology, E&T (Engineering and Technology), (BBC) Science Focus, Geoscientist, The Lancet, Nature, New Scientist, Physics World and Science.
Other magazines, journals and websites include:
Aeon, BBC History Magazine, British Museum Magazine, History Today, The London Library Magazine, Minerva, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, The Spectator, Sight and Sound, The Times Higher Education Supplement and The Times Literary Supplement.
Plus entries in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
He has also appeared on BBC Radio and BBC Television, and acted as a consultant for two BBC TV programmes based on his research for his biographies of Satyajit Ray and Michael Ventris.
TALKS AND LECTURES
AR gives talks and lectures at academic institutions, literary festivals, museums and related events, in venues such as the Ashmolean Museum, the British Library, the British Museum, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Hay Festival of Literature, the Oxford Literary Festival, the Royal Institution and the University of Oxford. See Talks and Lectures.
His lecture, "The origins of writing" at the British Museum in January 2019, packed out both of the theatres at the museum.
Watch his lecture, "Cracking ancient codes" at the Royal Institution in June 2019.
He recently joined the Advisory Council of the Friends of the British Museum in London and the Advisory Board of Planet Word, a museum of language and writing due to open in Washington DC in 2020.
EDUCATION AND CAREER
An alumnus of the Dragon School, Oxford, AR was a King's Scholar of Eton College. He holds degrees from University College, Oxford (in chemistry) and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (in South Asian area studies). From 2006-10, he was a Visiting Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. His father, F. N. H. (Neville) Robinson, was a physicist at the University of Oxford from the 1950s to the 1990s.
He has received a number of academic grants towards his research, notably a fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust, a research grant from the British Academy, and a major grant from the John Templeton Foundation to study creativity, genius and breakthroughs in the arts and sciences.
He was on the staff of Macmillan Publishers from 1979-82, Granada Television from 1983-88 and the independent television production company Brian Lapping Associates from 1989-90, and was Literary Editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement in London from 1994-2006. He has extensive experience of editing reviews, essays and books written by authors in fields ranging from physics through finance and cookery to literature. In 2007, he became a full-time writer of books and journalism.
Read his articles about his career, "Polymathic pursuits" and "Entangled with Einstein", in The Author, and his Wikipedia entry, and listen to him talking about polymathy (based on his biography of Thomas Young, The Last Man Who Knew Everything), on BBC Radio 4 in 2017.
Copyright © 2016 Andrew Robinson. All rights reserved.