Material World (radio programme)

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Material World
Genre Current science
Running time 30 mins (Thursdays)
Country UK
Language(s) English
Home station BBC Radio 4
Host(s) Quentin Cooper, Sue Nelson
Air dates 9 April 1998 to 27 June 2013
Website Website
Podcast Podcasts

Material World was a weekly science magazine programme on BBC Radio 4 on a Thursday afternoon, presented by Quentin Cooper with contributions from scientists researching areas under discussion in each programme.


The programme began as The Material World in April 1998, being presented by Trevor Phillips, a chemistry graduate of Imperial College. In September 2000 Phillips was told that he could not work at the BBC any more due to his close links with the Labour Party, which broke BBC rules of impartiality. He was one of the few regular black broadcasters on Radio 4.[1] The programme was presented by Quentin Cooper from 2000 to its end in 2013.

Material World was one of the BBC's main conduits for up-to-date scientific news, along with Frontiers, Science in Action and Bang Goes the Theory.

From 5 April 2010 the programme was repeated on a Monday evening at 21.00, in the former slot of Costing the Earth. For a short time, when programmes on 5 Live began webstreaming with video, Material World was also webcast.

On 14 June 2013 it was announced that the show was to be cancelled, to be replaced by a new show, Inside Science.[2] The last programme presented by Quentin Cooper was broadcast on 20 June 2013 with the final episode airing a week later on 27 June 2013, presented by Gareth Mitchell.


The programme covered up to three or four topics, divided into 7-10 minute sections. For many years the programme was divided into two sections of fifteen minutes on separate topics. It took the form of interviewing a guest scientist or engineer.

The topics discussed were not generally on repetitive subjects, but covered most aspects of science, no matter how many long words or jargon ended up being used. The more controversial or revolutionary a piece of recent scientific work was, the more likely it was to be included into the programme. The programme did not attempt to sugar-coat any scientific stories, to avoid distress - if anything black humour frequently surfaced. Cooper often ended the programme with a terrible, scientific pun.

Many past programmes are available for online listening via the programme's website. Some sequential sets of programmes have been made in collaboration with the Open University (OU).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ahmed, Kamal (24 September 2000). "BBC bans Trevor Phillips for political link". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Bakaya, Mohit (14 June 2013). "Introducing Inside Science". Retrieved 20 June 2013. 

External links[edit]