Famous British Intellectuals & Academics

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.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 29, 1898
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Belfast, Ireland
Died: November 22, 1963

C. S. Lewis was a British writer whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide after having been translated into over 30 languages. His works, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, have inspired the works of other famous authors. Lewis' work continues to attract readership and he was ranked 11th on The Times' 50 greatest British writers since 1945 list.

 2 Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall
2
Famous As: Primatologist
Birthdate: April 3, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: 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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 3 John Locke

John Locke
4
Famous As: Father of Classical Liberalism
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.

 4 Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 18, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Trellech, Monmouthshire, UK
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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 5 T. E. Lawrence

T. E. Lawrence
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Famous As: Archaeologist
Birthdate: August 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tremadog
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.

 6 Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 22, 1561
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Strand, 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.

 7 Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft
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Famous As: Novelist
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.

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 8 Terry Jones

Terry Jones
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Famous As: Actor
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. 
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 9 Alan Watts

Alan Watts
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Famous As: Philosopher, Writer & Speaker
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.

 10 John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill
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Famous As: British Philosopher and Civil Servant.
Birthdate: May 20, 1806
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pentonville, London, England
Died: May 8, 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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 11 Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 5, 1588
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wiltshire
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.

 12 John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes
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Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 5, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: CambridgeApril
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.

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 13 Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale
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Famous As: Founder of Modern Nursing
Birthdate: May 12, 1820
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Florence
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.

 14 Gerald Durrell

Gerald Durrell
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Famous As: Naturalist, Conservationist
Birthdate: January 7, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jamshedpur, India
Died: January 30, 1995
Naturalist, author, TV presenter, and zookeeper Gerald Durrell, the youngest brother of author Lawrence Durrell, was the founder of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo. His memoirs were made into the series My Family and Other Animals and The Durrells. He was also a skilled Illustrator.

 15 Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 18, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Reading, Berkshire, England, UK

 16 Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
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Famous As: Founding Father of the United States
Birthdate: January 29, 1737
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Thetford, England
Died: June 8, 1809

English-born American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Thomas Paine, is credited to have penned some of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. His works inspired the common people of America and motivated them to fight for independence from British rule. He was ostracized for criticizing Christianity and died a lonely man.

 17 Karl Popper

Karl Popper
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 28, 1902
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Vienna
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. 

 18 Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 15, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Spitalfields
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.

 19 George Boole

George Boole
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher and Logician
Birthdate: November 2, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lincoln
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.

 20 Samuel Coleridge

Samuel Coleridge
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Famous As: Poet
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.

 21 Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer
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Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 22 William Penn

William Penn
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Famous As: Founder of the Province of Pennsylvania
Birthdate: October 14, 1644
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: July 30, 1718

William Penn was a writer and one of the earliest members of the Quakers. He is credited with founding the Province of Pennsylvania. He also oversaw the planning and development of the city of Philadelphia. Penn has several universities and schools named in his honor, including the William Penn University in Iowa. 

 23 Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson
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Famous As: Writer, Economic historian, Historian, University teacher, Journalist, Economist
Birthdate: April 18, 1964
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Glasgow

 24 John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe
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Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian
Birthdate: 1328 AD
Birthplace: Hipswell, United Kingdom
Died: December 31, 1384

 25 Katharine Gun

Katharine Gun
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Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: Taiwan, Taiwan

 26 John Dee

John Dee
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: July 13, 1527
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tower Ward, London
Died: February 29, 1609

 27 Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 27, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Buslingthorpe, Lincolnshire, England
Died: January 12, 2020

Philosopher and author Roger Scruton is best remembered for his work as an editor of The Salisbury Review and for his countless books on topics such as art, sexuality, and political philosophy. He also taught at Boston University and other institutes, and was a skilled pianist and composer, too.

 28 Robert Hooke

Robert Hooke
2
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 29 Bettany Hughes

Bettany Hughes
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Famous As: historian
Birthdate: 1968 AD
Birthplace: London

 30 Suzannah Lipscomb

Suzannah Lipscomb
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Famous As: historian
Birthdate: December 7, 1978
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Barnes, London, United Kingdom

 31 Edward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: April 8, 1737
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 16, 1794

 32 Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
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.

 33 William of Ockham

William of Ockham
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Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 34 Thomas Babington Macaulay

Thomas Babington Macaulay
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: October 25, 1800
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Leicestershire, England
Died: December 28, 1859

 35 Isaiah Berlin

Sir Isaiah Berlin
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 6, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Died: November 5, 1997

British historian and philosopher Isaiah Berlin is best remembered for his concepts of liberal theory and value pluralism. He is also considered a pioneer of intellectual history. Initially a philosophy lecturer, he later deviated to political science. He also penned iconic works such as The Hedgehog and the Fox.

 36 David Harvey

David Harvey
0
Famous As: Professor of Anthropology & Geography
Birthdate: October 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Gillingham, Kent, England

 37 Max Müller

Max Müller
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Famous As: Scholar, Philologist
Birthdate: December 6, 1823
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dessau, Duchy of Anhalt, German Confederation
Died: October 28, 1900

Max Müller was a German-born Orientalist and philologist. Müller is credited with co-founding the western academic disciplines of religious studies and Indian studies. In 1874, he was honored with the Pour le Mérite. He received the prestigious Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art in 1875. In India, the Goethe Institutes are named in his honor.

 38 Dan Jones

Dan Jones
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Birthdate: July 27, 1981
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Reading, England

 39 James Lovelock

James Lovelock
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Famous As: Biologist, Chemist, University teacher, Mythographer
Birthdate: July 26, 1919
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Letchworth

 40 George Everest

George Everest
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Famous As: Geographer
Birthdate: July 4, 1790
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 1, 1866

 41 Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton
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Famous As: Literary critic
Birthdate: February 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Borough of Salford Salford, England

 42 Alasdair MacIntyre

Alasdair MacIntyre
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Famous As: Philosopher, Professor
Birthdate: January 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow

 43 J. L. Austin

J. L. Austin
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: February 8, 1960

Philosopher J. L. Austin is remembered for his study on ordinary-language philosophy and is also considered a pioneer of the theory of speech acts. His lectures at Harvard were later collected in How to Do Things with Words. He died of cancer while developing a theory on sound symbolism.

 44 Derek Parfit

Derek Parfit
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 11, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chengdu
Died: January 1, 2017

 45 Philippa Foot

Philippa Foot
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Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: October 3, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Owston Ferry
Died: October 3, 2010

Philippa Foot is remembered as a forerunner of what is now known as virtue ethics. Granddaughter of American president Grover Cleveland, Foot laid down the Trolley problem and believed that the morality of any act is related to its rationality. She was also associated with the charitable organization Oxfam.

 46 Frank P. Ramsey

Frank P. Ramsey
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher, Economist
Birthdate: February 22, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge
Died: January 19, 1930

British philosopher and mathematician Frank P. Ramsey was the son of a famed mathematician and later laid down the Ramsey theory of mathematical logic. The Cambridge alumnus also translated Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus but died at age 26, probably due to a liver infection he contracted while swimming.

 47 Alan Clark

Alan Clark
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Famous As: Politician, Historian, Diarist
Birthdate: April 13, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paddington
Died: September 5, 1999

 48 Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris
0
Famous As: Zoologist
Birthdate: January 24, 1928
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Purton, Wiltshire, England

 49 A.J. Ayer

A.J. Ayer
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 29, 1910
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: St John's Wood, London, England
Died: June 27, 1989

Educated at the prestigious Eton College and the University of Oxford, A.J. Ayer grew up to popularize logical positivism. During World War II, he had been an MI6 spy. Known for his bestselling work Language, Truth, and Logic, he promoted ideas such as emotivist ethics and the verification principle.

 50 H. L. A. Hart

H. L. A. Hart
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 18, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Harrogate, England
Died: December 19, 1992

Noted 20th-century political philosopher H. L. A. Hart was a practicing lawyer and had also worked with MI5 during World War II. Known for his iconic works such as The Concept of Law and Law, Liberty and Morality, he made significant contributions to the field of legal positivism.