James Burke (science historian)
|James Burke M.A. (Oxon)|
James Burke in 2007
22 December 1936 |
Londonderry, Northern Ireland
|Education||Oxford University, Jesus College|
|Known for||Connections, The Day the Universe Changed|
James Burke (born 22 December 1936) is a British broadcaster, science historian, author, and television producer, who is known, among other things, for his documentary television series Connections (1978), and for its more philosophically oriented companion series, The Day the Universe Changed (1985), which is about the history of science and technology. The Washington Post called him "one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world".
James Burke was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and was educated at Maidstone Grammar School, and at Jesus College, Oxford, where he earned an M.A. degree in Middle English. Later, Burke moved to Italy, where he lectured at universities in Bologna and Urbino, and at English schools. He was engaged in the creation of an English–Italian dictionary, and the publication of an art encyclopedia. In 1966, Burke moved to London and joined the Science and Features Department of the BBC, where he was host and co-host of several programmes. He also worked as an instructor of English as a Foreign Language, at the Regency Language School in Ramsgate.
Burke established his reputation as a reporter on the BBC science series Tomorrow's World. He was BBC television's science anchorman and chief reporter for the Project Apollo missions, as the main presenter of the BBC's coverage of the first moon landing in 1969. In collaboration with Mick Jackson, he produced the ten-part documentary series Connections (1978), which was first broadcast on BBC, and subsequently on PBS in the U.S. Connections traced the historical interrelationships between invention and discovery; each episode chronicled a particular path of technological development. In the U.S., Connections was a great success for Burke, as the most-watched PBS television series to that time; it was followed by the twenty-part Connections2 (1994, Exec. Prod. Tim Cowling), and the ten-part Connections3 (1997, Exec. Prod. Michael Latham) series. In the event, Connections: An Alternative View of Change was broadcast in more than fifty countries, and featured in the curricula of some 350 universities and colleges; and the TV series companion book Connections: An Alternative History of Technology (1978), sold well in the U.K. and the U.S.
In 1985, with Richard Reisz and John Lynch, Burke produced the ten-part series The Day the Universe Changed (revised 1995), which concentrated on the philosophical aspects of scientific change upon Western culture. In contrast to the conclusion of Connections, wherein he said that computing and communications might be controlled by a computer science élite, in the conclusion of The Day the Universe Changed he suggested that a world-wide revolution in communications and computer technology would allow people to instantaneously exchange ideas and opinions; popular access to the internet suggests he was correct. James Burke has been a regular contributing writer to Scientific American and Time magazines, been a consultant to the SETI project, and has received the gold and the silver medals of the Royal Television Society. In 1998 he was made an honorary fellow of the Society for Technical Communication.
Burke has also contributed to podcasts, such as his 2008 appearance on Hardcore History with Dan Carlin, and newspaper articles including two series for the Mogollon Connection by Jesse Horn, one focusing on the nature of morality, the other on the future of our youth.
James Burke is the leading figure of the KnowledgeWeb Project, the digital realisation of his books and television programmes, which allows the user to travel through history, and create his or her own connections. Eventually, the KnowledgeWeb Project will feature immersive virtual-reality historical recreations of people, places, and events.
Popular culture 
The BBC comedy series Not The Nine O'Clock News presented a sketch in which Griff Rhys-Jones, imitating the narrative manner of James Burke, delivered a passage of elaborately mischievous prose that concluded: "So, there we have it. It’s all really very simple, and if it isn’t, I make it up. So, until then, goodbye." He then exits the scene, but suddenly reappears: "Hello again. Ha! That fooled you, didn’t it; or, did it?"
The pop song The Black Hit of Space, by The Human League, mentions him in the final verse: "Get James Burke on the case". The song describes a gramophone record that distorts space and time when played, and how it affects the world. The reference is in the album Travelogue (1980), and coincided with the broadcast of Burke’s television programme The Real Thing, about human perception.
Television credits 
Television series and documentaries by James Burke:
- Tomorrow's World (1968-1969)
- The End of the Beginning (1972), about the end of the Project Apollo space programme
- The Burke Special (1972–1976)
- Scenario: The Oil Game (1976), crisis game examining OPEC
- Scenario: The Peace Game (1977), crisis game examining NATO
- Connections (1978)
- The Men who Walked on the Moon (1979), a 10th anniversary review of the flight of Apollo 11
- The Other Side of the Moon (1979), a critical examination of the Apollo space programme
- The Real Thing (1980), about human perception
- The Neuron Suite, about the human brain (1982)
- MacGillivray Freeman's Speed (IMAX) (1984), as the narrator
- The Day the Universe Changed (1985, 1995)
- After the Warming (1989), about the greenhouse effect
- Masters of Illusion (1993), about Renaissance painting
- Connections 2 (1994) (also rendered Connections²)
- Connections 3 (1997) (also rendered Connections³)
- Stump the Scientist, featured an audience of children who questioned a panel of scientists in the hope of presenting a question they could not answer
- ReConnections (2004)
- Tomorrow's World I, with Raymond Baxter, (BBC 1970) ISBN 978-0-563-10162-8
- Tomorrow's World II, with Raymond Baxter, (BBC 1973) ISBN 978-0-563-12362-0
- Connections: Alternative History of Technology (Time Warner International/Macmillan 1978) ISBN 978-0-333-24827-0
- The Day the Universe Changed (BBC 1985) ISBN 0-563-20192-4
- Chances (Virgin Books 1991) ISBN 978-1-85227-393-4
- The Axemaker’s Gift, with Robert Ornstein and illustrated by Ted Dewan (Jeremy P Tarcher 1995) ISBN 978-0-87477-856-4
- The Pinball Effect — How Renaissance Water Gardens Made the Carburettor Possible and Other Journeys Through Knowledge (Little, Brown & Company 1996) ISBN 978-0-316-11610-7
- Circles — Fifty Round Trips Through History Technology Science Culture (Simon & Schuster 2000) ISBN 978-0-7432-4976-8
- The Knowledge Web (Simon & Schuster 2001) ISBN 978-0-684-85935-4
- Twin Tracks (Simon & Schuster 2003) ISBN 978-0-7432-2619-6
- American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked (Simon & Schuster 2007) ISBN 978-0-7432-8226-0
- Connecting with one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world, Byline: IAN STARRETT, 2005/06/03, News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), The Newspaper / BNET[dead link]Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
- "Previous Honorary Fellows". Society for Technical Communication. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- "Hardcore History". A Fly on James Burke's Wall. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "Chasing Demons". The biology of good. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "For the Sake of Our Children". Disconnection. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- NTNOCN: James Bloody Burke (1980), Youtube
- The Men who Walked on the Moon on YouTube
- The Other Side of the Moon on YouTube
- The Neuron Suite on YouTube
- ReConnections from KCSM on the Internet Archive
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: James Burke (science historian)|
- Burke's KnowledgeWeb Project
- James Burke at the Internet Movie Database
- Many of his TV Shows are available on YouTube
- Stranova Interview with James Burke on "The Knowledge Web" 26 September 2006.
- Admiral Shovel and the toilet roll talk by Burke in the dConstruct Archive