Famous British Intellectuals & Academics

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Intellectuals and academicians undoubtedly play a great role in shaping up a society or a country. One of the reasons why nations like the United States, Canada and Australia have developed by leaps and bounds over the years is the great contribution made by their intellectuals. Great Britain also boasts of many such eminent individuals who have played a vital role in the development of the nation. These individuals have been addressing various issues plaguing the society since time immemorial through their work. Yesteryear economist and philosopher Adam Smith, as well as philosopher Alan Watts are two of the many famous British intellectuals and academicians. Many of these individuals have also helped establish academies to encourage budding talents for their achievements in fields like art, sports and science. The lives of these eminent people continue to be a great source of inspiration for many even today. Take a look at the biographies of some of the most famous British academicians and intellectuals. Learn everything about their life stories, timelines and few interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.
Vote for Your Favourite British Intellectuals & Academics
 1 
Charles Darwin
(Naturalist known for His Contributions to Evolutionary Biology)
Charles Darwin
4
Birthdate: February 12, 1809
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: The Mount House, Shrewsbury, England
Died: April 19, 1882

Widely regarded as one of the most influential personalities in the history of mankind, Charles Darwin was an English biologist, naturalist, and geologist. He is credited with publishing the Theory of Evolution, which explains the evolution of life from a unicellular organism to human beings. A prolific writer, Charles Darwin also wrote important books on plants and barnacles.

 2 
John Locke
(Philosopher)
John Locke
12
Birthdate: August 29, 1632
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wrington, Somerset, England
Died: October 28, 1704
John Locke, also known as The Father of Liberalism, was a prominent Enlightenment Age philosopher. A qualified physician, Locke postulated the theory of mind, empiricism, and the idea of tabula rasa. His ideas influenced the social contract theory, the works of Kant and Rousseau, and the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
 3 
Bertrand Russell
(Philosopher)
Bertrand Russell
9
Birthdate: May 18, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Trellech, Monmouthshire, Wales
Died: February 2, 1970

Bertrand Russell was a British polymath and Nobel laureate. His work, which is spread across various fields, has had a considerable influence on philosophy, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, mathematics, linguistics, and logic. Russell is also credited with leading the revolt against idealism in Britain and is regarded as one of the founders of analytic philosophy.

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 4 
Francis Bacon
(Philosopher, Politician)
Francis Bacon
10
Birthdate: January 22, 1561
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: York House, London, England
Died: April 9, 1626

Francis Bacon was a Renaissance philosopher and author who was known as the Father of Empiricism, because of his belief in the scientific method and theory that scientific knowledge can only be created through inductive reasoning and experience. He was later knighted and served as the first Queen's counsel.

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 5 
Ludwig Wittgenstein
(One of the Greatest Philosophers of the 20th Century)
Ludwig Wittgenstein
5
Birthdate: April 26, 1889
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: April 29, 1951

Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is remembered for his works related to logic, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of mathematics, and the philosophy of language. He taught at the University of Cambridge for many years. He published only one book during his lifetime. Most of his manuscripts were collected later and published posthumously.

 6 
Thomas Hobbes
(Philosopher)
Thomas Hobbes
11
Birthdate: April 5, 1588
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Westport, Wiltshire, England
Died: December 4, 1679

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher. Widely regarded as the co-founder of modern political philosophy, Hobbes is best known for his influential book Leviathan. Apart from political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes also contributed immensely to various other fields, such as ethics, theology, geometry, history, and jurisprudence.

 7 
John Maynard Keynes
7
Birthdate: June 5, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cambridge ,England
Died: April 21, 1946

John Maynard Keynes was an English economist. His ideas are credited with changing the theory and practice of the economic policies and macroeconomics of governments at a fundamental level. Counted among the 20th century's most influential economists, Keynes' ideas are the basis for Keynesian economics. In 1999, he was named in Time magazine's Most Important People of the Century list.

 8 
John Stuart Mill
(The Most Influential English-Speaking Philosopher of the Nineteenth Century)
John Stuart Mill
7
Birthdate: May 20, 1806
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pentonville, London, England
Died: May 7, 1873
Nineteenth-century philosopher John Stuart Mill is best remembered for his work On Liberty, which spoke of personal freedom and "the harm principle.” His The Subjection of Women was one of the first works written by a male author that promoted women's rights. He supported Jeremy Bentham's ethical utilitarianism.
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 9 
Jeremy Bentham
(British Philosopher, Social Activist and One of the Founders of 'Modern Utilitarianism')
Jeremy Bentham
4
Birthdate: February 15, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
Died: June 6, 1832
Philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham is remembered as the pioneer of modern utilitarianism. He believed in economic freedoms, women’s rights, animal rights, the separation of the church and the state, and freedom of expression. Bentham wished for his body to be dissected and then to be displayed as an auto-icon.
 10 
Karl Popper
(Popper is known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method in favour of empirical falsification.)
Karl Popper
8
Birthdate: July 28, 1902
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: September 17, 1994
Austrian-British philosopher and academic Sir Karl Popper is remembered as one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century. He rejected the inductivist scientific method and advocated for the empirical falsification, detailing falsifiability in his book Logik der Forschung. He was also a supporter of liberal democracy. 
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 11 
Herbert Spencer
(Philosopher and Sociologist Known for His Hypothesis of ‘Social Darwinism’ and the Expression 'Survival of the Fittest')
Herbert Spencer
4
Birthdate: April 27, 1820
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Derby, Derbyshire, England
Died: December 8, 1903

Herbert Spencer was the man behind the expression “survival of the fittest,” after reading Charles Darwin's iconic work On the Origin of Species. The British anthropologist, sociologist, and philosopher introduced the concept of Social Darwinism, which applied the theory of evolution to societies and social classes.

 12 
Jane Goodall
(Primatologist)
Jane Goodall
8
Birthdate: April 3, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England

Jane Goodall is an English anthropologist and primatologist. Goodall's research proved that chimpanzees could use tools like stalks of grass to fish out termites from termite holes; this also challenged the long-held belief that chimpanzees were vegetarians. Goodall also discovered that chimpanzees are capable of emotions like sorrow and joy. Goodall is also credited with founding the Jane Goodall Institute.

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 13 
Charles Spurgeon
(One of the Most Influential and Extraordinary Preachers of the 19th century)
Charles Spurgeon
5
Birthdate: June 19, 1834
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kelvedon, England
Died: January 31, 1892

Charles Spurgeon was an English Particular Baptist preacher who was a powerful figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition. Hailed as the "Prince of Preachers", he was well respected by Christians of various denominations. He was pastor of the congregation of the New Park Street Chapel for almost four decades. He was the author of several books, sermons, and commentaries. 

 14 
Florence Nightingale
(Social Reformer & Founder of Modern Nursing and Known as 'The Lady with the Lamp')
Florence Nightingale
6
Birthdate: May 12, 1820
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: August 13, 1910
The Lady with the Lamp Florence Nightingale is remembered for her relentless efforts in nursing soldiers during the Crimean War. She founded London’s St Thomas' Hospital to train nurses. She also pioneered the use of the polar area diagram and was the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.
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 15 
Thomas Robert Malthus
(Political Economist)
Thomas Robert Malthus
7
Birthdate: February 13, 1766
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Surrey, England
Died: December 23, 1834

Thomas Robert Malthus was an English economist and demographer, who viewed poverty as man’s unavoidable destiny. Author of An Essay on the Principle of Population; he believed that increase in national food production results in feeling of well-being, leading to population growth, which in turn results in poverty. Commonly referred as Malthusianism, it made immediate impact on British social policy.

 16 
John Wycliffe
(Philosopher, Theologian)
John Wycliffe
4
Birthdate: 1328 AD
Birthplace: Hipswell, United Kingdom
Died: December 31, 1384

John Wycliffe was an English theologian, scholastic philosopher, biblical translator, priest, and reformer. He was also associated with the University of Oxford where he served as a seminary professor. John Wycliffe played a key role in the development of the Bible's translation into English. Wycliffe’s works also greatly influenced the teaching and philosophy of a Czech reformer named Jan Hus.

 17 
T. E. Lawrence
(Archaeologist & Army Officer Known for His Legendary War Activities in the Middle East During World War I)
T. E. Lawrence
16
Birthdate: August 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tremadog, Carnarvonshire, Wales
Died: May 19, 1935
T. E. Lawrence was a British army officer who participated in the Arab Revolt, against the Ottoman regime, during World War I. Nicknamed Lawrence of Arabia, he inspired a movie of the same name. His treatise of his war experiences was published as Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his best-known work.
 18 
Alan Watts
(Writer)
Alan Watts
16
Birthdate: January 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chislehurst, Kent, England
Died: November 16, 1973

Alan Watts was a British writer, philosopher, and speaker. He is credited with popularizing Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism in the Western world. A prolific writer, Alan Watts wrote one of Buddhism's first bestselling books, The Way of Zen. He also explored psychedelics and human consciousness in his works, such as The Joyous Cosmology and The New Alchemy.

 19 
Aldous Huxley
(Writer and Philosopher Best Known for His Novels: ‘Brave New World’, ‘Island’ and ‘Point Counter Point’)
Aldous Huxley
4
Birthdate: July 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Godalming, England
Died: November 22, 1963

English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley wrote countless books, including novels, short stories, non-fiction, and poems. He is best remembered for his science-fiction novels Brave New World and Island. The seven-time Nobel Prize nominee was also a Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature and a Vedanta believer.

 20 
Mary Wollstonecraft
4
Birthdate: April 27, 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 10, 1797

Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, advocate of women's rights, and philosopher. Wollstonecraft, who attracted a lot of attention for her unconventional personal relationships, is widely considered a founding feminist philosopher. Although her unorthodoxy initially attracted criticisms, her advocacy of women's equality became increasingly important during the 20th century. Modern-day feminists cite her works and her life as important influences.

 21 
Terry Jones
10
Birthdate: February 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, Wales
Died: January 21, 2020
Starting his career as a comedy writer, actor-director Terry Jones later soared to fame as part of the Monty Python comedy team. An avid historian, too, he wrote several books and presented TV documentaries on the topic. In his later years, the BAFTA Cymru award winner struggled with dementia. 
 22 
John Milton
4
Birthdate: December 9, 1608
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cheapside, London, England
Died: November 8, 1674

John Milton was an English poet whose epic poem Paradise Lost is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of literature. Milton's other celebrated work Areopagitica is counted among history's most impassioned and influential defenses of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. John Milton’s works have influenced other prominent writers, such as Thomas Hardy and George Eliot.

 23 
John Henry Newman
(Theologian and Philosopher)
John Henry Newman
5
Birthdate: February 21, 1801
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United Kingdom
Died: August 11, 1890

An important figure in the English religious history, John Henry Newman was a nineteenth century theologian, scholar and poet. Famed for leading the Oxford movement in the Church of England, he later switched to the Roman Catholic Church, eventually becoming the Cardinal Deacon of St. George in Velabro.  Also an influential educator and writer, he was canonized in October 2019.

 24 
Robert Hooke
(Philosopher)
Robert Hooke
7
Birthdate: July 28, 1635
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Freshwater, Isle of Wight
Died: March 3, 1703

Scientist Robert Hooke, also called England's Leonardo, initially gained recognition as an architect, conducting surveys following the Great Fire of London. He also taught geometry and was part of the Royal Society. He assisted Robert Boyle and eventually developed his own microscope, thus becoming the first to visualize micro-organisms.

 25 
Edmund Burke
(Statesman)
Edmund Burke
4
Birthdate: January 12, 1729
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Died: July 9, 1797

Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke, was a member of parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of Great Britain for several years. He supported  Catholic emancipation and strongly opposed the French Revolution. He felt revolution destroyed the fabric of good society and traditional institutions of state and society. He is considered the philosophical founder of modern conservatism. 

 26 
George Boole
(Mathematician, Philosopher, and Logician Best Known as the Author of ‘The Laws of Thought’)
George Boole
4
Birthdate: November 2, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England
Died: December 8, 1864

George Boole is remembered for pioneering Boolean algebra, a tool used in digital computer circuits. More of a self-taught mathematician, Boole began teaching at 16 and later grew up to be a math professor at Queen’s College, Cork. His work in differential equations and algebraic logic was groundbreaking.

 27 
Howard Carter
(Archaeologist)
Howard Carter
4
Birthdate: May 9, 1874
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kensington, London, England
Died: March 2, 1939
 28 
Samuel Coleridge
4
Birthdate: October 21, 1772
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ottery St Mary, Devon, Great Britain, United Kingdom
Died: July 25, 1834

Samuel Coleridge was an English poet, philosopher, theologian, and literary critic. He is credited with co-founding the Romantic Movement in England along with his friend William Wordsworth. Despite struggling from bouts of depression and anxiety throughout his adult life, Samuel Coleridge had a major influence on American transcendentalism and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 29 
Lucy Worsley
(British Historian Best Known as a Presenter of BBC Television Series on Historical Topics)
Lucy Worsley
5
Birthdate: December 18, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Reading, Berkshire, England

British historian and author Lucy Worsley is not just a curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces, but is also a famed TV presenter, popular for her work on series such as A Very British Murder and If Walls Could Talk. Suffering from a speech disorder, she pronounces “r” in a peculiar way.

 30 
Anthony Blunt
(Art Historian, University Teacher)
Anthony Blunt
6
Birthdate: September 26, 1907
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bournemouth, Hampshire, England
Died: March 26, 1983
Art historian Anthony Blunt is best remembered as part of the spy group Cambridge Five. His confession, revealed after years, stripped him of his knighthood. An expert on the works of Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin, he had also authored works such as Art and Architecture in France 1500–1700.
 31 
George Berkeley
(philosopher)
George Berkeley
4
Birthdate: March 12, 1685
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: January 14, 1753

George Berkeley was an Anglo-Irish philosopher who is credited with popularizing a theory called immaterialism, which claims that material substance like tables and chairs can't exist without being perceived by the mind. Berkeley influenced several philosophers like David Hume. Also remembered for his humanitarian work, George Berkeley worked towards creating homes for abandoned children in London.

 32 
Anna Freud
(British Psychoanalyst and Founder of Psychoanalytic Child Psychology)
Anna Freud
5
Birthdate: December 3, 1895
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: October 9, 1982

Anna Freud was a British psychoanalyst. The daughter of Sigmund Freud, Anna followed in the footsteps of her father and made important contributions to the field of psychoanalysis. Alongside Melanie Klein and Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, Anna Freud is counted among the founders of psychoanalytic child psychology. Her work and contributions were featured in a documentary titled The Century of the Self.

 33 
Alfred Marshall
(Economist)
Alfred Marshall
4
Birthdate: July 26, 1842
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bermondsey
Died: July 13, 1924

One of the co-founders of the English neoclassical school of economics, 19th-century economist Alfred Marshall is best remembered for his path-breaking book Principles of Economics. His studies on topics such as marginal utility, consumer’s surplus, and the elasticity of demand, enriched the field of economics for years to come.

 34 
William Tyndale
(Theologian)
William Tyndale
4
Birthdate: 1494 AD
Birthplace: North Nibley
Died: October 6, 1536

English scholar, William Tyndale, became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He is known for translating the Bible into English. An active writer, he wrote extensively on political issues and religion. He was accused of heresy and condemned to be burned to death. Executed in 1536, he is honored as a martyr.

 35 
Edward Gibbon
(Historian)
Edward Gibbon
5
Birthdate: April 8, 1737
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 16, 1794

Eighteenth-century historian and author Edward Gibbon is best remembered for his 6-volume historical work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a narrative that charted events from the 2nd century to the Fall of Constantinople. He had also been an MP, representing Lymington and Liskeard.

 36 
Roger Bacon
(Philosopher)
Roger Bacon
4
Birthdate: 1214 AD
Birthplace: Ilchester
Died: 1294 AD
 37 
John Dee
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
John Dee
4
Birthdate: July 13, 1527
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tower Ward, London
Died: February 29, 1609

Anglo-Welsh mathematician, occultist, astronomer, teacher, astrologer and alchemist John Dee is best-remembered as advisor to Queen of England, Elizabeth I. Dee coined the term British Empire and advocated its formation by founding of English colonies in the New World. He had one of the largest libraries in England at the time and wrote on astrology, geography, trigonometry, navigation and calendar reform.

 38 
Alice Roberts
(Anthropologist)
Alice Roberts
6
Birthdate: May 19, 1973
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bristol
Biological anthropologist Alice Roberts has taught at the University of Birmingham and led the charity Humanists UK. She gained fame as the presenter of shows such as Dr. Alice Roberts: Don't Die Young and The Incredible Human Journey. She has also authored books such as The Complete Human Body.
 39 
Alfred North Whitehead
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
Alfred North Whitehead
4
Birthdate: February 15, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ramsgate, Kent, England
Died: December 30, 1947

Alfred North Whitehead was a British mathematician and philosopher, best known for his collaboration with his student Bertrand Russell on Principal of Mathematics, a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics. Also known for his pioneering works on process philosophy and metaphysics, he is credited with developing a comprehensive metaphysical system that differs from most Western philosophies.

 40 
William of Ockham
(Philosopher)
William of Ockham
4
Birthdate: 1287 AD
Birthplace: Ockham Civil Parish, United Kingdom
Died: April 10, 1347

William of Ockham, also known as Doctor Invincibilis, is chiefly remembered as one of the pioneers of nominalism. The 14th-cenntury Franciscan friar was also a scholar and philosopher, and laid the foundation of Occam’s razor. His written works include Summa logicae and his commentary on his own lectures, Sentences.

 41 
David Harvey
(Professor of Anthropology & Geography)
David Harvey
6
Birthdate: October 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Gillingham, Kent, England

David Harvey is a  Marxist economic geographer, podcaster, and a fellow of the British Academy. He is currently a distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He has authored many books and essays and is one of the most cited authors of books in the humanities and social sciences.   

 42 
Robert Boyle
(Founder of Modern Chemistry, Boyle's Law)
Robert Boyle
4
Birthdate: January 25, 1627
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ireland
Died: December 30, 1691

Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish chemist, natural philosopher, inventor, and physicist. Regarded as the first modern chemist, Boyle is often counted among the founders of modern chemistry. One of the pioneers of the scientific method, Robert Boyle is also remembered for his books, including The Sceptical Chymist, which is viewed as a keystone book in chemistry.

 43 
Katharine Gun
(Linguist)
Katharine Gun
8
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: Taiwan, Taiwan
 44 
Arnold J. Toynbee
5
Birthdate: April 14, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
Died: October 22, 1975
 45 
Jim Corbett
(Hunter, Naturalist)
Jim Corbett
4
Birthdate: July 25, 1875
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nainital, Uttarakhand, India
Died: April 19, 1955
 46 
George Osborne
(Politician, Economist)
George Osborne
7
Birthdate: May 23, 1971
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England

Conservative Party politician George Osborne is the son of Osborne & Little co-founder Sir Peter Osborne. He initially aspired to be a journalist but started his career as an MP from Tatton and later served as the Chancellor Of The Exchequer and the First Secretary of State of the U.K.

 47 
George Whitefield
(Evangelist, Theologian)
George Whitefield
5
Birthdate: December 16, 1714
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gloucester, England
Died: September 30, 1770

George Whitefield was an Anglican evangelist and cleric. He is credited with co-founding the evangelical movement and Methodism. Whitefield's teachings of a series of revivals in North America became an important component of the First Great Awakening. Thanks to his ability to captivate large audiences, George Whitefield preached to millions of listeners during his ministry.

 48 
Charles Wesley
3
Birthdate: December 18, 1707
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Epworth, Lincolnshire, England
Died: March 29, 1788

One of the leaders of the Methodist revival movement, Charles Wesley is better known as the author numerous hymns and carols. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and Christ the Lord Is Risen Today being some of his more popular works.  Averaging ten poetic lines per day for fifty years, he published more than 4,500 hymns, leaving some 3,000 in manuscript.

 49 
Thomas Cranmer
(First Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury)
Thomas Cranmer
4
Birthdate: July 2, 1489
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Aslockton
Died: March 21, 1556

Thomas Cranmer was the first Protestant to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was instrumental in the annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which led to the separation of the English Church from the See of Rome. He was eventually burnt at the stake for preaching Protestantism.

 50 
Alain de Botton
(Philosopher and Author Known for His Books: ‘Essays in Love’ and ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’)
Alain de Botton
5
Birthdate: December 20, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland

Swiss-born British philosopher and author, Alain de Botto,n is best known for his work, Essays in Love, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. He is one of the founders of the educational company, The School of Life, launched in 2008. He is a recipient of  "The Fellowship of Schopenhauer", an annual writers' award from the Melbourne Writers Festival.