Isaiah Berlin facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Sir Isaiah Berlin
Full name Sir Isaiah Berlin
Born 6 June 1909
Riga, Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire (present-day Latvia)
Died 5 November 1997(1997-11-05) (aged 88)
Oxford, UK
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Liberalism · Analytic philosophy
Main interests Political philosophy · Philosophy of history · History of ideas · Liberalism · Ethics · Marxism
Notable ideas Two Concepts of Liberty · Counter-Enlightenment · Value pluralism

Sir Isaiah Berlin was a Russian-British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas. He was an essayist, conversationalist, raconteur, and lecturer. In its obituary of the scholar, the Independent stated that "Isaiah Berlin was often described, especially in his old age, by means of superlatives: the world's greatest talker, the century's most inspired reader, one of the finest minds of our time, there is no doubt that he showed in more than one direction the unexpectedly large possibilities open to us at the top end of the range of human potential".

Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909, he moved to Petrograd, Russia, at the age of six, where he witnessed the revolutions of 1917. In 1921 his family moved to the UK, and he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1932, at the age of 23, Berlin was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. He translated works by Ivan Turgenev from Russian into English and, during the war, worked for the British Diplomatic Service.

From 1957 to 1967 he was Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1963 to 1964. In 1966, he played a role in founding Wolfson College, Oxford, and became its first President. Berlin was appointed a CBE in 1946, knighted in 1957, and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. He also received the 1979 Jerusalem Prize for his writings on individual freedom.

An annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture is held at the Hampstead Synagogue, at Wolfson College, Oxford, at the British Academy, and in Riga. Berlin's work on liberal theory and on value pluralism has had a lasting influence.

Berlin died in Oxford in 1997, aged 88. He is buried there in Wolvercote Cemetery. On his death, the obituarist of The Independent wrote: "he was a man of formidable intellectual power with a rare gift for understanding a wide range of human motives, hopes and fears, and a prodigiously energetic capacity for enjoyment – of life, of people in all their variety, of their ideas and idiosyncrasies, of literature, of music, of art". The front page of The New York Times concluded: "His was an exuberant life crowded with joys – the joy of thought, the joy of music, the joy of good friends. The theme that runs throughout his work is his concern with liberty and the dignity of human beings. Sir Isaiah radiated well-being."


Images for kids


Isaiah Berlin Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.