ANDREW ROBINSON

Photograph by Jonathan Bowen

Author and Journalist

​​​​​​​​Andrew Robinson is the author of more than twenty-five books, aimed at both general and academic readers. They cover three main areas:

  • Science and the History of Science 

        for example, Einstein on the Run;

  • Archaeology and Scripts 

        for example, The Story of Writing;

  • Indian History and Culture

        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:

  • thirteen European languages;
  • Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Taiwanese and Vietnamese. 

 

Their trade and academic publishers in the United Kingdom and the United States of America include:

  • Bloomsbury, Oneworld, Picador, Plume (Penguin), Reaktion and Thames & Hudson;
  • Cambridge University Press, McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press, University of California Press and Yale University Press.

 

Creative and expert figures from both outside and inside the academic world have appreciated the books. For example, from the arts and humanities:

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson,

        photographer and artist, on The Story of Writing:

        "A fascinating book"

 

  • Arthur C. Clarke,

        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?"

 

  • Prof. Brian Fagan,

        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.

 

  • V. S. Naipaul,

        writer (and Nobel laureate), on Satyajit Ray

        "An extraordinarily good, detailed and selfless book"

 

  • Prof. John Ray,

        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:

  • Prof. Philip W. Anderson,

        physicist (and Nobel laureate),

        on The Last Man Who Knew Everything:

        "It is wonderful to have such an elegant biography of this

        remarkable man"      ​​

 

  • James Lovelock,

        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"

 

  • Patrick Moore,

        astronomer and writer, 

        on Einstein: A Hundred Years of Relativity

        "By far the best book about Einstein that I have ever come

        across"

    

  • Prof. Amos Nur,

        geophysicist and writer, on Earth-Shattering Events:

        "a truly welcome, and refreshing, study that puts earthquake

        impact on history into a proper perspective"

 

  • Prof. Martin Rees,

        cosmologist and writer, on Einstein on the Run:

        "a valuable new perspective on this great scientist's personality"

For further comments, see Books.

 

 

CURRENT BOOK

 

Einstein on the Run: How Britain Saved the World's Greatest Scientist will be published by Yale University Press in late September 2019. See the full jacket.

 

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 relationship with Britain--scientific, cultural and political--from the 1890s until his death in 1955. It will appear during the centenary of the confirmation of his general theory of relativity by British astronomers by observations of a solar eclipse in 1919 that 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 a review of two books about the centenary, "The eclipse that made Einstein famous", in Science (May 2019).


See also his general-interest features: "Einstein in Oxford" in Physics World (June 2019); "Nowhere at home: Albert Einstein, the 'gypsy' who became a citizen of the world" in Athenaeum Review (Spring/Summer 2019); and "Hidden corners: Einstein & England" in The London Library Magazine (Autumn 2019).

 

Advance comments on Einstein on the Run include:

  • "Andrew Robinson's evocative account of a transitional phase in Einstein's life offers a valuable new perspective on this great scientist's personality."

        (Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal)

  • "A well-researched and very readable book about a less well-known period in Einstein's life--his contact with England and English scientists.”

        (Jocelyn Bell Burnell, University of Oxford)

  • "This is a jewel of a book, to be read by anyone interested in Albert Einstein, his science, his peripatetic existence, his joys and travails."

        (Diana K. Buchwald, Director, Einstein Papers Project​)

 


JOURNALISM


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.

 

Newspapers include: 

The Daily TelegraphThe Financial TimesThe GuardianThe IndependentThe New York TimesThe Times and The Wall Street Journal.

 

Science magazines and journals include: 

AntiquityCurrent World ArchaeologyEndeavourE&T (Engineering and Technology), (BBC) FocusGeoscientistThe LancetNatureNew ScientistPhysics World and Science.


Other magazines, journals and websites include:

AeonBBC History MagazineBritish Museum MagazineHistory Today, The London Library MagazineMinervaThe Journal of the Royal Asiatic SocietyThe SpectatorSight and SoundThe 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 article about his career, "Polymathic pursuits", in The Author, winter 2016, 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.

 

 

CONTACT ADDRESS

andrew[at]andrew-robinson.org