Libby Purves was born in London in 1950.
A diplomat's daughter, she was educated at convent schools in Bangkok, South Africa and France and, finally, The Sacred Heart School in Tunbridge Wells. She won a scholarship to St Anne's College, Oxford where she obtained a first-class English degree. In 1971, she joined the BBC as a studio manager. In 1976, at the age of 28, she joined Brian Redhead and John Timpson on the Today programme, becoming the show's first woman presenter and the youngest ever. She was the first person to broadcast live from Beijing, hosting Today from there in 1978.
Libby was a regular interviewer on Midweek and became its host in 1983. She has presented a number of documentaries including Mysterious Ways, a millennial six-part series. Libby is a main commentator for The Times and the author of a number of books including ten novels, most recently Acting Up; the How Not to Be... series on childcare, and One Summer's Grace, relating a 1700-mile sailing journey round Britain with children aged three and five.
She is married to Paul Heiney; they have a daughter, the actress and writer Rose Heiney, and a son Nicholas (author of The Silence at the Song's End) who died in 2006.
Formerly chief theatre critic of the Times, she now runs an independent online review site theatreCat.