James Burke (science historian)

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James Burke (born 22 December 1936) is a British broadcaster, science historian, author and television producer known amongst other things for his documentary television series Connections (1978), focusing on the history of science and technology leavened with a sense of humour. The Washington Post has called him "one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world".[1]



Burke was born in Derry, Northern Ireland,. He was educated at Maidstone Grammar School and at Jesus College at the University of Oxford, where he gained an MA in Middle English.

Later, Burke moved to Italy, where he lectured at universities in Bologna and Urbino as well as at English schools in that country. While in Italy, he was engaged in the creation of an EnglishItalian dictionary and the publication of an art encyclopedia.

In 1966, after a period of broadcasting work, Burke moved to London to join the BBC's Science and Features Department, where he hosted and co-hosted a number of programmes. He was fascinated by the possibilities of television and the potential to educate and entertain by making programmes about science and technology. He also worked for a while as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language at the Regency Language School in Ramsgate.

Burke first made his name as a reporter on the BBC science series Tomorrow's World. He was BBC television's science anchor and chief reporter on the Project Apollo missions, including being the main presenter on the BBC's coverage of the first moon landings in 1969.

Burke co-produced (with Mick Jackson) his most important work: a highly acclaimed 10-part documentary series Connections (1978) that was first aired on the BBC and subsequently on PBS channels in the United States. The series traced paths of invention and discovery through their interrelationships in history, with each episode chronicling a particular path, usually in chronological order, and was a great success for Burke. It was followed by the 20-part Connections2 (1994) and then the 10-part Connections3 (1997) series. Later, it was shown in more than 50 countries and appeared in about 350 university and college curricula. Additionally, the book that followed the series was also a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic.

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