Sir Thomas Browne

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.

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  • Claire Preston No other episodes
    Professor of Renaissance Literature at Queen Mary University of London
  • Jessica Wolfe No other episodes
    Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Kevin Killeen No other episodes
    Professor of English at the University of York

Reading list

  • The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century
    Hugh Aldersey-Williams (Granta, 2015) Google Books →
  • Thomas Browne: A Life
    Reid Barbour (Oxford University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • Sir Thomas Browne: The World Proposed
    Reid Barbour and Claire Preston (eds.) (Oxford University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • Sir Thomas Browne: A Man of Achievement in Literature
    Joan Bennett (Cambridge University Press, 1962) Google Books →
  • Thomas Browne: Selected Writings
    Thomas Browne (ed. Kevin Killeen) (Oxford University Press, 2018)
  • Selected Works of Sir Thomas Browne
    Thomas Browne (ed. C. A. Patrides) (Penguin, 1977) Google Books →
  • Sir Thomas Browne: Selected Writings
    Thomas Browne (ed. Claire Preston) (Carcanet, 1995) Google Books →
  • Democratizing Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and its Imitators
    Daniela Havenstein (Clarendon Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • Biblical Scholarship, Science and Politics in Early Modern England: Thomas Browne and the Thorny Place of Knowledge
    Kevin Killeen (Routledge, 2009) Google Books →
  • Science and Imagination in Sir Thomas Browne
    Egon Stephen Merton (King's Crown Press, 1949) Google Books →
  • "A man very well studyed": New Contexts for Thomas Browne
    Kathryn Murphy and Richard Todd (eds.) (Brill, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Strategy of Truth: A Study of Sir Thomas Browne
    Leonard Nathanson (The University of Chicago Press, 1967) Google Books →
  • Approaches to Sir Thomas Browne
    C. A. Patrides (ed.) (University of Missouri Press, 1982) Google Books →
  • Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science
    Claire Preston (Cambridge University Press, 2005) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. Sir Thomas Browne, 1605 to 1682, was a physician and one of the most influential authors in English, if not widely known.