30 January 1944|
|Occupation||Science journalist & broadcaster|
Robyn Williams AM (born 1944) is a science journalist and broadcaster resident in Australia who has hosted the Science Show on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation since 1975, Ockham's Razor (created 1984) and In Conversation (created 1997).
Williams was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and educated in Vienna and London. He graduated from the University of London with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree. During this period he was active in university acting and, like many other notable students, made guest appearances in the BBC series The Goodies, Monty Python's Flying Circus and Doctor Who.
Williams emigrated to Australia and joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Science Unit in 1972 where, after several years in background production and interviewing, in 1975 he began hosting the award-winning Science Show, a one-hour (format) science-based radio interview show.
Ockham's Razor (15-minute format) followed in 1984, with Williams introducing a leading scientist or personality who then expounds from a prepared text on a topic of their choice, with a view to making a subject simple and accessible to the public, hence the title relating to the famous statement on parsimony by William of Ockham. In Conversation (15-minute format) commenced in 1997, with Williams interviewing the personality.
Other media work
- Narrating Nature of Australia, a series for ABC TV;
- Appearing in World Safari with David Attenborough;
At his instigation, the ABC and Australian Museum established the Eureka Awards for Excellence in Science Communication and Innovation.
Trade union activism
In 1977 Williams gave an impassioned speech to the ABC Staff Association against the ABC management's quiescence in the face of budget cuts and political interference. He said a UK proposal that the government appoint one third of BBC Board members had been publicly opposed by BBC management but that ABC Chairman acted as if he headed an organisation rivalling the BBC. Following his speech the meeting voted unanimously that it had no-confidence in the ABC Chair John Norgard.
Honorary and subsidiary positions
- President of the Australian Museum Trust (1986 - 1994);
- Deputy Chairman of the Commission For The Future;
- President of the Australian & New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) Congress held in Brisbane;
- Co-Chairman of the Biology Department at the University of Texas, El Paso.
He is a visiting professor at the University of New South Wales.
Williams has written ten books, three of which were used in high school reading lists. His autobiography is And Now For Something Completely Different, a reference to an interview (on psychiatry) with Monty Python star John Cleese. His book, Future Perfect, focuses on cities, transport, communication, education and science. He is the author of a dystopian novel 2007 (published in 2001) describing a rebellion of animals.
- Williams is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the first journalist so honoured;
- Williams has Honorary Doctorates of Science from Deakin University, University of Sydney, and Macquarie University and an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the Australian National University
- Honorary Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1988 (he has never taken out Australian citizenship)
- Australian Rostrum Speaker of the Year (1993)
- Australian Humanist of the Year (1993); awarded by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies
- Reuter Fellow, University of Oxford (1994)
- In 1998 he was voted one of Australia's Living National Treasures;
- Radio Prize from the Human Rights Commission
- United Nations Media Peace Prize
- Michael Daley Award for Science Journalism
- Centre for Australian Cultural Studies National Award 1996 (Individual).
- Centenary Medal (2001)
Robyn Williams is in a long term relationship with Dr Jonica Newby, a presenter on the ABC Television's science journalism series, Catalyst. Williams underwent chemotherapy for colorectal cancer in 2014 and 2015; at one point he was hospitalised for five weeks but continued to make The Science Show from his hospital bed.
- Molomby, Tom (1991). Is there a moderate on the roof? ABC Years. Port Melbourne: William Heinemann Australia. pp. 97–100.
- "Voiceless, the animal protection institute".
- "Robyn Williams". Celebrity Speakers.
- http://www.globalcollab.org/about/associates/richard-tanter/richard-papers/robyn-williams-2007-a-true-story-waiting-to-happen[dead link]
- It's an Honour AM
- "Past Winners & Finalists (Eureka Prizes)". Australian Museum.
- It's an Honour Centenary Medal
- Newby, Jonica (15 May 2016). "Catalyst - Exercise and Cancer - Transcript". ABC Website. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 May 2016.