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Sir Thomas Browne

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, ideas and language of Browne (1605-82), a doctor sharing his personal views on science, history and religion at a time of great change

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the range, depth and style of Browne (1605-82) , a medical doctor whose curious mind drew him to explore and confess his own religious views, challenge myths and errors in science and consider how humans respond to the transience of life. His Religio Medici became famous throughout Europe and his openness about his religion, in that work, was noted as rare when others either kept quiet or professed orthodox views. His Pseudodoxia Epidemica challenged popular ideas, whether about the existence of mermaids or if Adam had a navel, and his Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial was a meditation on what matters to humans when handling the dead. In 1923, Virginia Woolf wrote, "Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, but those that do are the salt of the earth." He also contributed more words to the English language than almost anyone, such as electricity, indigenous, medical, ferocious, carnivorous ambidextrous and migrant.


Claire Preston
Professor of Renaissance Literature at Queen Mary University of London

Jessica Wolfe
Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Kevin Killeen
Professor of English at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

53 minutes

Last on

Thu 6 Jun 2019 21:30


Claire Preston at Queen Mary University of London

Jessica Wolfe at the University of North Carolina

Kevin Killeen at the University of York

Sir Thomas Browne – University of Chicago

Sir Thomas Browne website

‘Doubting Thomas’ (Alexander Nazaryan, 22 August 2012) – The New Yorker

Thomas Browne – Wikipedia



Hugh Aldersey-Williams, The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century (Granta, 2015)

Reid Barbour, Thomas Browne: A Life (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Reid Barbour and Claire Preston (eds.), Sir Thomas Browne: The World Proposed (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Joan Bennett, Sir Thomas Browne: A Man of Achievement in Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1962)

Thomas Browne (ed. Kevin Killeen), Thomas Browne: Selected Writings (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Thomas Browne (ed. C. A. Patrides), Selected Works of Sir Thomas Browne, (Penguin, 1977)

Thomas Browne (ed. Claire Preston) Sir Thomas Browne: Selected Writings, (Carcanet, 1995)

Daniela Havenstein, Democratizing Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and its Imitators (Clarendon Press, 1999)

Kevin Killeen, Biblical Scholarship, Science and Politics in Early Modern England: Thomas Browne and the Thorny Place of Knowledge (Routledge, 2009)

Egon Stephen Merton, Science and Imagination in Sir Thomas Browne (King’s Crown Press, 1949)

Kathryn Murphy and Richard Todd, (eds.), “A man very well studyed”: New Contexts for Thomas Browne (Brill, 2009)

Leonard Nathanson, The Strategy of Truth: A Study of Sir Thomas Browne (The University of Chicago Press, 1967)

C. A. Patrides (ed.), Approaches to Sir Thomas Browne (University of Missouri Press, 1982)

Claire Preston, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science (Cambridge University Press, 2005



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