New Generation Thinkers

Series giving a platform for the opinions of up-and-coming thinkers from our universities and think tanks.


01Sunday Feature20141102

Documentaries presented by two of Radio 3's New Generation Thinkers.


Fern Riddell uncovers the astonishing life of Kitty Marion - a German child who fled her brutal father for a new life in Victorian England, where she built a career as a singer and actress in theatres and music halls.

But why would a woman like this, in a precarious profession, neither young nor wealthy, become a Suffragette?

As Riddell discovers, Marion was driven to protest by a culture endemic in the backstage world: sexual assault.

But once she became a Suffragette, Marion soon found herself in prison. Her hunger strikes were dealt with by warders forcing a feeding-pipe up her nose. In one stint in gaol she endured this 232 times.

Along the way, Marion had graduated from marching and breaking windows to far more violent activity. She was convicted of burning down a racecourse - but Riddell examines evidence that she was involved in many more fires, from country houses to railway stations.

Finally, after war came in 1914, this extraordinary woman was denounced as a German spy. Pressured to leave the country, she faded into obscurity. But, asks Riddell, do the likes of Kitty Marion deserve a more prominent place in our history of the campaign to win women the vote?

Producer: Phil Tinline


Gregory Tate explores why so many scientists have been inspired to write poetry and the relationship between their artistic work and their science.

The Cornishman Humphry Davy was a pioneer of modern science, whose lectures drew huge crowds. But, inspired by his friendship with the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge, throughout his life he wrote poems - including one about breathing nitrous oxide.

Physician Eramus Darwin; mathematician William Rowan Hamilton; astronomer William Herschel; - all wrote poetry. More recently, the 'father' of the atom bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Schrodinger, and Miroslav Holub interrogated their scientific work in verse.

Gregory Tate visits the Royal Institution in London which, as well as a laboratory, houses a large archive of poetry by scientists, and the lab in Trinity College, Dublin, where Physics professor, Iggy McGovern, develops ideas for synchrotron radiation techniques, and poems. McGovern has written a sonnet sequence on mathematician Hamilton.

Using scientific investigative techniques Gregory enquires how has poetry offer scientists a fresh perspective on their research, talking to Sharon Ruston, co-editor of Humphry Davy's letters, Daniel Brown, author of 'The Poetry of Victorian Scientists', and the poets Mario Petrucci, who has a PhD in Optoelectronics, and Ruth Padel, a descendant of Erasmus Darwin. We hear their poetry, and verse by Humphry Davy, John Tyndall, John Herschel and Rowan William Hamilton.

Producer: Julian May.

02Sunday Feature20141116

Documentaries presented by two of Radio 3's New Generation Thinkers.


Christopher Harding explores the influence of Freud on psychotherapy in Japan and India. Freud's travels around Europe and the USA a century ago catapulted psychotherapy to fame.

The invitations to Japan and India came too late for him to travel but he found his work debated throughout Asia. In India he was discussed by British colonial officers, who penned amateur tracts about Indian nationalism as mere sexual trauma.

Thousands of miles further east in Tokyo, Freud was partnered with a medieval Buddhist saint in the hybrid psychoanalytic technique of Heisaku Kosawa. Mishima read and was influenced by his work. Christopher Harding explores the spread of Freud's influence and its significance.


John Gallagher focuses on the history of a long-overlooked form of literature: the foreign language phrase book. The British often assume that most people we meet abroad will speak English - and many of them do.

This was not the case three or four centuries ago, when the Grand Tour became a rite of passage and an increasing number of entrepreneurs forged trade links across Europe and beyond. At that time English was a minority language.

Phrase books and travel guides of the time reveal the preoccupations of the day and, in the varied dialogues and phrases they offered, reflect the needs of a variety of travellers, be they tourists keen to visit the art of Italy or the salons of Paris, merchants seeking to make deals in Dutch marketplaces, or spies intent on learning the secrets of continental powers.

Producers Fiona McLean and Mohini Patel

Image: John Gallagher and Christopher Harding (Credit: Mark Allan).

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Tiffany Watt-Smith, historian of human emotions, follows the long history of scientific inquiry into the understanding of laughter in infants and what it tells us about ourselves.

Babies can be a tough crowd. You blow raspberries. You pull faces. And then your hat accidentally falls off, and you get rewarded with a joyful peal of raspy chuckles. So imagine if trying to make babies laugh was your job? Meet Dr Caspar Addyman, a psychologist investigating infant laughter at Goldsmith's University. With his electric blue hair and wide grin, he's not your typical scientist. But when he takes his tiny experimental subjects (accompanied by their parents) into a dark booth and tries to make them giggle and guffaw, he is entering into a long scientific tradition seeking to uncover the secrets of that most alluring pleasure - the sound of an infant's laughter.

Why do babies laugh? What happens to their brains and bodies when they do? And what can a baby's sense of humour tell us about life in the adult world? These questions are not new. Victorian scientists, usually thought rather stern, were fascinated by laughter of all kinds. Charles Darwin and later James Sully who set up the UK's first psychological laboratory at UCL in the 1890s, believed childhood laughter held the key to the evolution of our species' emotions. Today, scientific interest in laughter is once more on the rise. Neuroscientist Sophie Scott, of UCL, argues laughter is less about finding things amusing than it is about trying to build relationships. If she's right, then our preoccupation with trying to make babies laugh may be more than a simple pleasure. It might be that we're trying to teach them - and they're trying to learn - a crucial human skill: how to join in.

Producer: Mark Burman.

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Professor Tom Charlton explores the thoughts and life of Richard Baxter. Pamphleteer, preacher and troublemaker at the heart of England's upheaval amidst Civil War and Restoration. Tried for subverting the government in 1685, Baxter's life had been turned upside down by Civil War, Regicide and the topsy turvy Restoration. His own exhaustive but partial account of his life is a key source for anyone trying to understand the religious and political dilemmas facing the generation who challenged the idea of monarchy and argued for many of the freedoms enshrined in the new democracy to come. Baxter was the essence of non-conformity. At odds with Cromwell yet supporter of his son Richard, precisely at the moment when the monarchy was about to be restored. His dreams of a Holy Commonwealth set him at odds with those forces returned to power by the Restoration. Tom Charlton is one of a new generation of scholars seeking to interpret the life and deeds of one of the 17th century's most important figures.


Amira Bennison of Cambridge University discusses Islamic history and globalisation.


Mathematician Colva Roney-Dougal of the University of St Andrew's considers chaos, risk and the global credit crisis, asking whether current financial difficulties could have been predicted.


Charles Fernyhough of Durham University looks at developmental psychology and what the study of children's language can teach us.


Zoe Drayson of Bristol University explores the 'embodied' mind and the role of the body and the environment in producing intelligent behaviour.

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Roberto Trotta, an astrophysicist from Imperial College, London, discusses so-called 'dark energy', asking what it might reveal about the place of mankind in the universe.