Great Lives

Radio 4's biographical series.

Each week, a living celebrity is invited to nominate one of their heroes, the only condition being that the hero must be dead.

With the help of an expert on that person, presenter Humphrey Carpenter discusses the Great Life and assesses their importance.

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
20051125

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

8/10. Marty Feldman

DJ Annie Nightingale argues for the 'greatness' of manic-eyed comic Marty Feldman, best known for the role of Igor in Young Frankenstein, but who began his career as a scriptwriter until John Cleese convinced him to step in front of the cameras.

Feldman collaborator Barry Cryer also joins Francine in the studio to explore the comic's career and tragically early death.

20060407

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

1/10. On Christmas Day in 1977, almost 29 million people sat down to watch Morecambe and Wise. One of their guests was Penelope Keith, who here nominates the masters of classless entertainment for Great Lives.

She is ably backed up by Eric Morecambe's son, Gary, while presenter Matthew Parris prefers a more waspish approach.

2006050220060505

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

5/10. Ella Fitzgerald

The singer is the choice of entrepreneur Ivan Massow. He joins presenter Matthew Parris and Dame Cleo Laine to explore the contradictions in the life of the woman they called 'the First Lady of Song'.

Producer Isobel Eaton.

2006050220060506

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

5/10. Ella Fitzgerald

The singer is the choice of entrepreneur Ivan Massow. He joins presenter Matthew Parris and Dame Cleo Laine to explore the contradictions in the life of the woman they called 'the First Lady of Song'.

Producer Isobel Eaton.

20060609

10/10. News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy nominates his illustrious predecessor Robin Day.

During the height of his career, Day was regarded as Britain's finest political interviewer - the great inquisitor - on television and radio. Some salute him for breaking the mould of deferential interviewing, but others think he bullied his subjects and stole the limelight himself with his mannered performances.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy explains why, for him, Day remains a hero, and we hear archive evidence.

Matthew Parris chairs the programme.

2008051320080516

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

7/9. Nicholas Parsons nominates artist and writer Edward Lear, now remembered best for The Owl and the Pussycat, The Jumblies and other nonsense verse for children.

20080808
20080815
20080822
20080829
20080905
20080912
20080926
20081003
G K Chesterson20150115 (BBC7)
20150116 (BBC7)

Richard Ingrams nominates author and journalist GK Chesterton for regularly being right.

Richard Ingrams nominates author and journalist GK Chesterton for regularly being right. With Humphrey Carpenter. From May 2003.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

Katherine Graham20140925 (BBC7)
20140926 (BBC7)

Broadcaster Kirsty Young chooses newspaper publisher Katherine Graham. With Humphrey Carpenter. From August 2002.

Broadcaster Kirsty Young chooses newspaper publisher Katherine Graham.

Rachmaninov20141225 (BBC7)
20141226 (BBC7)

Conductor Leonard Slatkin proposes composer Sergei Rachmaninov for great life status.

Conductor Leonard Slatkin proposes composer Sergei Rachmaninov for great life status. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

Scott Of The Antartic20141218 (BBC7)
20141219 (BBC7)

Author Beryl Bainbridge selects explorer Falcon Scott as a hidden romantic.

Author Beryl Bainbridge selects explorer Falcon Scott as a hidden romantic. With Humphrey Carpenter and Bob Headland.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

Sir Donald Wolfit20140717 (BBC7)
20140718 (BBC7)

Humphrey Carpenter invites Ned Sherrin to discuss Sir Donald Wolfit.

Humphrey Carpenter invites the famous to discuss deceased heroes. This week Ned Sherrin on Sir Donald Wolfit.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

Sir Ernest Shackleton20140515 (BBC7)
20140516 (BBC7)

The polar explorer's life is scrutinised by Rosie Boycott and his granddaughter Alexandra.

The polar explorer's life is scrutinised by Rosie Boycott and his grand-daughter Alexandra. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2001.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

Viscount Slim20140807 (BBC7)
20140808 (BBC7)

Lord Carrington and Lord John Slim discuss military leader, Field-Marshal Viscount Slim. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2002.

Each week Humphrey Carpenter invites famous people to nominate great lives for discussion.

Margaret Thatcher's Foreign Secretary and former Secretary General of NATO, Lord Carrington chooses the overlooked Second World War military leader, Field-Marshal Viscount Slim, who he first met in the Australia of the 1950s.

Slim's son John explains how his father was known as 'Uncle Bill' to the men of the 14th Army during the arduous Burma Campaign.

Lord Carrington and Lord John Slim discuss military leader, Field-Marshal Viscount Slim.

Vivekananda20140703 (BBC7)
20140704 (BBC7)

Rabbi Lionel Blue and Gwilym Beckerlegge discuss Swami Vivekananda.

Rabbi Lionel Blue and Gwilym Beckerlegge debate the 19th century Hindu missionary and thinker, Swami Vivekananda.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2001.

01Series 17, Luciano Pavarotti20081209
01Series 17, Luciano Pavarotti20081212

Luciano Pavarotti is nominated by the music promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

01Series 18, Napoleon Bonaparte20090407
01Series 18, Napoleon Bonaparte20090410
01Series 19, Alfred, Lord Tennyson20090804
01Series 19, Alfred, Lord Tennyson20090807

Andrew Motion champions the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate for over 40 years

01Series 20, Henry V20091208
01Series 20, Henry V20091211

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes discusses the life of Henry V.

01Series 21, Bertolt Brecht20100406
01Series 21, Bertolt Brecht20100409

Playwright John Godber discusses the life of German writer Bertolt Brecht.

01Series 22, John Lennon20100803

Journalist John Harris, author of influential books on music, politics and popular culture, was born just as the Beatles were splitting up, and was only 11 when John Lennon died. Yet Lennon's mischievous anti-establishment position - and the richness of his lyrics and music - makes him Harris's nomination for a Great Life. Matthew Parris tries to define what it is that makes this enigmatic, often difficult figure an inspiring subject for reflection. The expert witness is Barry Miles, in whose London gallery John first met Yoko in the mid 1960s.

This is the first of new series of Great Lives - future programmes include Bettany Hughes on the Greek poet Sappho and Dominic Sandbrook on Richard Nixon.

Producer: Christine Hall.

Journalist John Harris discusses the life of John Lennon.

01Series 22, John Lennon20100806

Journalist John Harris discusses the life of John Lennon.

01Series 23, Malcolm Mclaren20101207

Matthew Parris presents the life of the great rock and roll swindler, Malcolm McLaren, who died earlier this year.

"I've been called many things," McLaren wrote as advance publicity for his one man show, "a charlatan, a con man, or the culprit responsible for turning popular culture into nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick. This is my chance to prove these accusations are true."

The man behind the Sex Pistols and Duck Rock is nominated by public relations expert Mark Borkowski, author of The Fame Formula, and a man who knew him well. What intrigues Borkowski is not just the success, but the myths that have evolved around this highly manipulative man. Matthew Parris is more sceptical, as is Chris Salewicz. As a journalist for NME between 1974-1981, Salewicz watched McLaren rewrite the rules of management. He also introduced the Sex Pistols to the man from EMI who then signed them up. An intriguing programme about fame, the media, and why the truth should not be confused with an easily believable myth.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Future subjects in the series include Samuel Beckett, Nye Bevan, and JB Priestley who is nominated by Barry Cryer.

PR man Mark Borkowski discusses the life of rock and roll swindler Malcolm McLaren.

01Series 23, Malcolm Mclaren20101210

Matthew Parris presents the life of the great rock and roll swindler, Malcolm McLaren, who died earlier this year.

"I've been called many things," McLaren wrote as advance publicity for his one man show, "a charlatan, a con man, or the culprit responsible for turning popular culture into nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick. This is my chance to prove these accusations are true."

The man behind the Sex Pistols and Duck Rock is nominated by public relations expert Mark Borkowski, author of The Fame Formula, and a man who knew him well. What intrigues Borkowski is not just the success, but the myths that have evolved around this highly manipulative man. Matthew Parris is more sceptical, as is Chris Salewicz. As a journalist for NME between 1974-1981, Salewicz watched McLaren rewrite the rules of management. He also introduced the Sex Pistols to the man from EMI who then signed them up. An intriguing programme about fame, the media, and why the truth should not be confused with an easily believable myth.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Future subjects in the series include Samuel Beckett, Nye Bevan, and JB Priestley who is nominated by Barry Cryer.

PR man Mark Borkowski discusses the life of rock and roll swindler Malcolm McLaren.

01Series 24, Thomas Edison20110405

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives. Here, Sir Clive Sinclair nominates fellow inventor Thomas Edison. Edison invented sound recording, the electric light bulb and moving pictures, but also had his fair share of duds along the way. Sir Clive invented the first electronic calculator but also the ill-fated C5 electric car. Separated by a century, do the two men have anything in common? Joining the discussion is Edison's biographer Neil Baldwin.

Sir Clive Sinclair discusses fellow inventor Thomas Edison with Matthew Parris.

01Series 24, Thomas Edison20110408

Sir Clive Sinclair discusses fellow inventor Thomas Edison with Matthew Parris.

01Series 25, Graham Greene20110802

The Third Man, Brighton Rock, Travels With My Aunt - the books of Graham Greene all still have a definite ring. But the the man himself was an enigma. He worked both as a spy as well as a foreign correspondent, and wrote endlessly about shady characters and secret affairs. This programme opens with him talking about his love of playing Russian Roulette - it turns out that Graham Greene was easily bored.

Choosing Greene for Great Lives is Tim Butcher, 20 years a war reporter for the Daily Telegraph and more recently author of Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, a title that suggests the influence of Greeneland. Tim says that it's his depiction of seedy life that appeals.

The programme also features the voices of Beryl Bainbridge, Christopher Hampton and Auberon Waugh, along with a classic clip of Trevor Howard as Scobie in the Heart of the Matter from 1953.

Matthew Parris is unimpressed with Greene's treatment of his wife, Vivienne, and questions whether the image Greene created was really true. David Pearce, founding trustee of the International Graham Greene Festival offers a robust defence.

Future programmes in the series include editions on Shakespeare, Kirsty MacColl, and Antonio Carluccio on the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi.

The producer is Miles Warde.

War reporter Tim Butcher chooses an exploration into the strange world of Graham Greene.

01Series 25, Graham Greene20110805

War reporter Tim Butcher chooses an exploration into the strange world of Graham Greene.

01Series 26, Philip K Dick20111206

Actor Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon; The Queen; Midnight in Paris) explores the life of Philip K. Dick with Matthew Parris, and explains why he had such a big influence on his recent production of Hamlet.

Michael first discovered Philip K. Dick through the film Bladerunner, and moved onto his short stories which got him thinking about science-fiction in a new way. Whilst reading about philosophy, quantum physics, and comparative mythology, it struck him how Dick was intuitively weaving narratives around all the most interesting elements that these fields were throwing up.

He talks about Philip K. Dick's innate interest in multiples realities, and how they overlap with Sheen's own family experiences of mental health issues. In fact the more he found out about him, the more he was drawn to this enigmatic writer.

Producer: Toby Field.

Michael Sheen champions Philip K Dick who has had an influence on his production of Hamlet

01Series 26, Philip K Dick20111209

Michael Sheen champions Philip K Dick who has had an influence on his production of Hamlet

01Series 27, Dylan Thomas20120403

Dylan Thomas, arguably Wales's most famous poet, comes under scrutiny on Great Lives. A man famous both for his linguistic exuberance and his chaotic, alcohol-fuelled private life, Dylan Thomas is proposed by another Welsh poet in a specially recorded programme at Bristol's More Than Words Listening Festival.

Owen Sheers is one of Britain's brightest young writers and the author of Resistance, and he is keen to bust some myths about his fellow Welshman's reputation. Joining him on stage is presenter Matthew Parris along with Damian Walford-Davies of Aberystwyth University. The programme includes archive recordings of Dylan Thomas's famous voice, and also Richard Burton reading the opening of Under Milk Wood.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Welsh poet Owen Sheers chooses Dylan Thomas for Great Lives.

01Series 27, Dylan Thomas20120406

Welsh poet Owen Sheers chooses Dylan Thomas for Great Lives.

02Series 17, Billy Marsh20081216
02Series 17, Billy Marsh20081219

Michael Grade and William G Stewart champion the life of the theatrical agent Billy Marsh.

02Series 18, Roy Jenkins20090414
02Series 18, Roy Jenkins20090417
02Series 19, Joe Slovo20090811
02Series 19, Joe Slovo20090814

David Miliband discusses the life of Joe Slovo, a leading member of the ANC.

02Series 20, Tennessee Williams20091215
02Series 20, Tennessee Williams20091218

Stand-up comedian Rich Hall discusses the life of playwright Tennessee Williams.

02Series 21, Robin Hood20100413
02Series 21, Robin Hood20100416

Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith discusses Robin Hood.

02Series 22, Sappho20100810

The Greek poet Sappho has been described as everything from a great intellectual to little more than a vamp. Hard facts about her life are in short supply - we know that she lived on the island of Lesbos over two and half thousand years ago, and fragments of her poetry still survive. The best examples deal with the language of desire, but whether she really was a lesbian (with a small l) is less clear. Historian Bettany Hughes is as obsessed with who Sappho might be, as with whom the fragmentary evidence suggest she was. "This lack of facts has not stopped people making up stories about her," writes expert Peggy Reynolds. "Sappho is not a name, much less a person. It is, rather, a space." An enigmatic choice for presenter Matthew Parris to decipher. The producer is Miles Warde.

Historian Bettany Hughes discusses the life of the Greek poet Sappho.

02Series 22, Sappho20100813

Historian Bettany Hughes discusses the life of the Greek poet Sappho.

02Series 23, Dh Lawrence20101214

DH Lawrence was, in the words of Geoff Dyer, a man with thin wrists and thick trousers. He was also the author of Women in Love, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley's Lover. But poet and performer John Hegley has chosen him above all for the quality of his poetry, an admiration presenter Matthew Parris also shares.

Lawrence died aged just 44. An obituary at the time reckoned he was 'a rebel against all the accepted values of modern civilization'. Certainly his life - born in Eastwood, Notts, became a teacher only to run off with a German-born mother of three to embark on his 'savage pilgrimage' around the world - was unpredictable. As indeed was this programme, recorded in front of an audience at the Arnolfini in Bristol, with John Hegley using both music and verse to make his point. Geoff Dyer, the author of Out of Sheer Rage, makes the case that Lawrence's unpredictability was a sign of strength, and that his best work lies in his letters and not his books.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Poet John Hegley chooses writer DH Lawrence. Author Geoff Dyer offers the expert's view.

02Series 23, Dh Lawrence20101217

DH Lawrence was, in the words of Geoff Dyer, a man with thin wrists and thick trousers. He was also the author of Women in Love, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley's Lover. But poet and performer John Hegley has chosen him above all for the quality of his poetry, an admiration presenter Matthew Parris also shares.

Lawrence died aged just 44. An obituary at the time reckoned he was 'a rebel against all the accepted values of modern civilization'. Certainly his life - born in Eastwood, Notts, became a teacher only to run off with a German-born mother of three to embark on his 'savage pilgrimage' around the world - was unpredictable. As indeed was this programme, recorded in front of an audience at the Arnolfini in Bristol, with John Hegley using both music and verse to make his point. Geoff Dyer, the author of Out of Sheer Rage, makes the case that Lawrence's unpredictability was a sign of strength, and that his best work lies in his letters and not his books.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Poet John Hegley chooses writer DH Lawrence. Author Geoff Dyer offers the expert's view.

02Series 24, Leonard Bernstein20110412

The conductor Charles Hazlewood chooses the great American composer Leonard Bernstein, music director of the New York Philharmonic and creator of West Side Story, Wonderful Town, and Candide. The charismatic Bernstein clearly influenced Charles Hazlewood's own choice of career - he's an award winning conductor, made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 2003 and recently presented The Birth of British Music on BBC tv. Joining him in the studio is Humphrey Burton, friend and professional colleague of Leonard Bernstein and whose documentaries include The Making of West Side Story. Matthew Parris presents. The producer is Miles Warde.

Conductor Charles Hazlewood chooses Leonard Bernstein.

02Series 25, Kirsty Maccoll20110809

Broadcaster Janice Long tells Matthew Parris why singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl led a "great life" despite her tragically early death in a boating accident in Mexico in 2000.

Kirsty MacColl was a supremely gifted singer-songwriter in the "English" tradition, often compared to Ray Davies or Morrissey for her kitchen-sink realism and sardonic wit. She loved pop but insisted on witty and literate writing, and, whilst sporadically successful in her own right, she was everyone's favourite collaborative artist. She battled stage-fright and writers block to produce five outstanding albums, and worked with The Smiths, Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, Simple Minds and U2. She once described her talent as a "one-woman-Beach Boys" for her ability to layer and orchestrate harmonies.

Her father, Ewan MacColl, was a famous folk singer, but Kirsty had no interest in folk music - a clear rejection of the world her father inhabited - and wanted instead to create great, "edgy" pop records.

She died in controversial circumstances when she was hit by a speedboat whilst on a diving holiday in Mexico in 2000.

Broadcaster Janice Long champions the life and work of singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl.

02Series 25, Kirsty Maccoll20110812
02Series 26, Ludwig Wittgenstein20111213

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the fascinating and misunderstood genius who changed the course of philosophy, is chosen by writer Raymond Tallis. With biographer Ray Monk, he brings alive this most enigmatic of men and his singular life. And to make sure that they don't get lost in Wittgensteinian thought, presenter Matthew Parris brings along a whistle to blow whenever he feels in danger..

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, fascinating and misunderstood thinker, is chosen by Raymond Tallis.

02Series 26, Ludwig Wittgenstein20111216

Ludwig Wittgenstein, fascinating and misunderstood thinker, is chosen by Raymond Tallis.

02Series 27, Oscar Wilde20120410

Oscar Wilde, author of The Importance of Being Earnest and The Ballad of Reading Gaol, is proposed by Will Self, a writer once described as a 'high powered satirical weapon'.

In 1895, and at the height of his success, Wilde began libel proceedings against the Marquess of Queensberry, sparking a disastrous sequence of trials, prison, exile and disgrace. A century later Oscar Wilde is often listed as one of the wittiest Britons who ever lived, but this was a life that ended in tragedy and early death. Joining Will Self and Matthew Parris in the studio is Franny Moyle, author of a biography of Oscar Wilde's wife, Constance, an often overlooked character in Wilde's life. The programme features actor Simon Russell Beale's reading of De Profundis - From The Depths.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Will Self nominates Oscar Wilde. He and Matthew are joined by author Franny Moyle.

02Series 27, Oscar Wilde20120413

Will Self nominates Oscar Wilde. He and Matthew are joined by author Franny Moyle.

03Series 16, Robert Hooke20110801

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

David Attenborough nominates the largely forgotten 17th century-inventor and illustrator. His beautiful drawings of microscopic animals first attracted Attenborough to Hooke, who also helped to design the dome of St Paul's and claimed to have arrived at some of Isaac Newton's groundbreaking laws before Newton himself. Biographer Lisa Jardine joins in the debate.

David Attenborough nominates the largely forgotten 17th-century inventor and illustrator.

03Series 17, Beachcomber20081223

Raymond Briggs celebrates Beachcomber.

03Series 17, Beachcomber20081226
03Series 18, Sir Thomas Beecham20090421
03Series 18, Sir Thomas Beecham20090424
03Series 19, John Cornford20090818
03Series 19, John Cornford20090821

George Galloway chooses British poet and political activist John Cornford.

03Series 20, Vivian Stanshall20091222
03Series 20, Vivian Stanshall20091225

Neil Innes discusses the life of his colleague and friend Vivian Stanshall.

03Series 2120100420
03Series 2120100423

Peter White discusses the controversial England cricket captain Douglas Jardine.

03Series 22, Richard Nixon20100817

The disgrace and resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974 was a profoundly traumatic moment in the history of the American presidency, leaving us the endlessly influential word Watergate and a cynicism about politics which arguably has only now, with Barack Obama, started to heal. His life is thus perhaps a strange one to nominate as "great", but the historian Dominic Sandbrook unhesitatingly selected him for celebration in this programme. Matthew Parris talks to him about his intriguing choice, and calls on Professor Philip Davies of the Eccles Centre for American Studies to round out the picture.

Producer: Christine Hall.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook discusses the life of Richard Nixon.

03Series 22, Richard Nixon20100820

Historian Dominic Sandbrook discusses the life of Richard Nixon.

03Series 23, Samuel Beckett20101221

Business guru Sir Gerry Robinson was born in Ireland but moved to England in his teens, and he chooses Samuel Beckett, another Irishman who lived away for much of his life - in Paris. Gerry, a late convert to Beckett's plays, loves him because he's accepting of the human condition: that we're all locked in this repetitive pattern. We don't want to keep on doing the same thing over and over again, but we do. Presenter Matthew Parris is also joined by Jim Knowlson, who was a personal friend of Samuel Beckett for 19 years, and is his authorised biographer. He reveals that Beckett was far from the dour gloomy figure of popular imagination, and was in fact very good company - as long as you didn't interrupt him when he was watching the rugby on the telly on a Saturday afternoon..

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Business guru Sir Gerry Robinson chooses another Irishman, playwright Samuel Beckett.

03Series 23, Samuel Beckett20101224

Business guru Sir Gerry Robinson was born in Ireland but moved to England in his teens, and he chooses Samuel Beckett, another Irishman who lived away for much of his life - in Paris. Gerry, a late convert to Beckett's plays, loves him because he's accepting of the human condition: that we're all locked in this repetitive pattern. We don't want to keep on doing the same thing over and over again, but we do. Presenter Matthew Parris is also joined by Jim Knowlson, who was a personal friend of Samuel Beckett for 19 years, and is his authorised biographer. He reveals that Beckett was far from the dour gloomy figure of popular imagination, and was in fact very good company - as long as you didn't interrupt him when he was watching the rugby on the telly on a Saturday afternoon..

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Business guru Sir Gerry Robinson chooses another Irishman, playwright Samuel Beckett.

03Series 24, Simone De Beauvoir20110419

Actress Diana Quick tells Matthew Parris why she believes that existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir lived a great life, despite living in the shadow of Jean Paul Sartre.

Simone de Beauvoir was a brilliant writer and philosopher in her own right. Her study, The Second Sex, made her an iconic figure for the feminist movement, and she remained true to her intellectual honesty until her death in 1986, aged 78. Yet despite all of her achievements, she is chiefly remembered as the student of her lover and teacher, Jean Paul Sartre.

Joining Matthew Parris and Diana Quick in the studio is de Beauvoir biographer Lisa Appignanesi. The producer is John Byrne.

Actress Diana Quick selects philosopher Simone de Beauvoir for Great Lives.

03Series 24, Simone De Beauvoir20110422

Actress Diana Quick selects philosopher Simone de Beauvoir for Great Lives.

03Series 25, Emily Dickinson20110816

Emily Dickinson's reclusive life has long gripped her biographers, but Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis gives short shrift to any romantic or sentimental readings of her choice of a great life. Dickinson, she argues, was fiercely independent and passionate, that she "had a bomb in her breast". Matthew Parris is told by Dickinson biographer Lyndall Gordon how the American poet paradoxically turned her back on the world in order to better engage with it, and how her appeal has only broadened since her death. She died in the 1880s having only had a handful of poems published, but the boldness of her voice speaks directly to modern audiences. The reader is Lia Williams.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

The reclusive American poet Emily Dickinson is the choice of fellow poet, Gwyneth Lewis.

03Series 25, Emily Dickinson20110819
03Series 26, Thomas Hobbes20111220

Thomas Hobbes: the writer and psychologist Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great English philosopher. Noel Malcolm from All Souls College, Oxford provides the expert analysis.

Power and violence are themes of the discussion of Hobbes who, Steven Pinker argues, was "perhaps the first cognitive psychologist." Although he was born in the late sixteenth century, we are fortunate to have some rich biographical description of Hobbes thanks to his contemporary and friend, the writer John Aubrey.

Now, the word Hobbesian is often used to describe a world in which life is "nasty, brutish and short." But Professor Pinker suggests Hobbes was actually "a nice man, despite the fact his name became a rather nasty adjective."

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

03Series 26, Thomas Hobbes20111223

Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

03Series 27, Gertrude Stein20120417

Gertude Stein, American poet, writer and art collector, lived most of her life in France. She was one of the first people to spot the genius of Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse, and she believed she was a genius too.Opinion on that score remains divided.

In Great Lives, Erin Pizzey chooses her because Stein inspired her to live a life without compromise. Since setting up the world's first refuge for battered women in 1971, Erin Pizzey has campaigned and written about domestic violence, publishing "Scream Quietly Or The Neighbours Will Hear" and her autobiography "This Way To The Revolution".Joining presenter Matthew Parris in the studio is Diana Souhami, author of "Gertrude and Alice".

The producer is Isobel Eaton.

Erin Pizzey chooses the American poet and writer Gertrude Stein.

03Series 27, Gertrude Stein20120420
04Series 17, Dietrich Bonhoeffer20081230

Actor David Soul champions the life of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

04Series 17, Dietrich Bonhoeffer20090102
04Series 18, Carl Gustav Jung20090428
04Series 18, Carl Gustav Jung20090501
04Series 19, Freya Stark20090825
04Series 19, Freya Stark20090828

Travel writer Dervla Murphy discusses the life of another woman traveller, Freya Stark.

04Series 20, Hannah Arendt20091229
04Series 20, Hannah Arendt20100101

Munira Mirza discusses the life of the influential political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

04Series 21, Buckminster Fuller20100427
04Series 21, Buckminster Fuller20100430

TV producer John Lloyd discusses the life of American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller

04Series 22, Mary Carpenter20100824

Matthew Parris is joined by the founder of Kids' Company, the psychotherapist Camila Batmanghelidjh, to discuss the life of her Victorian equivalent, Mary Carpenter.

Mary Carpenter developed theories for helping deprived and criminalised children through the experience of running schools and reformatories in Bristol in the mid-nineteenth century. She became very influential as MPs turned to her for advice on educational and penal reform regarding children. Her guiding principle was that the treatment of troubled children should be based on the love of the child, not on ideas of punishment or retribution.

Camila Batmanghelidjh founded Kids' Company to offer practical support 'and love' to vulnerable inner city children who may lack it from their families. She was surprised to discover how closely Mary Carpenter's beliefs mirror her own, one hundred and fifty years on, and how many of the problems Mary Carpenter described remain unchanged. Camila finds Dickensian conditions in the homes of South London children now, with filthy conditions, parents who are intoxicated and drugs being used to control or pacify children. These scenes would have been familiar to Mary Carpenter as she visited families in the slums of Bristol.

The parallels between the two women are striking: both exhibited a gift for dealing with children at an early age; both decided to devote their lives to the cause, eschewing a family life of their own; both have had to spend time raising money and advocating on behalf of the children they represent.

Matthew and Camila are joined by biographer and historian Carla Contractor in this fascinating and moving programme.

Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.

Camila Batmanghelidjh discusses the life of her Victorian equivalent, Mary Carpenter.

04Series 22, Mary Carpenter20100827

Camila Batmanghelidjh discusses the life of her Victorian equivalent, Mary Carpenter.

04Series 23, Sammy Davis Jr20101228

Lionel Blair chooses his friend and dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr. Sammy described himself as a "one-eyed black Jew" - and he was described by others as one of the greatest all-round entertainers of all time.

Lionel danced and sang with Sammy in a dazzling performance on the stage at the Royal Variety Performance in 1961, and he revisits that memory through an evocative archive recording. Paul Gambaccini is on hand to help presenter Matthew Parris draw out the contradictions and triumphs of Sammy Davis Jr's great American life.

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Lionel Blair chooses his friend and former dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr.

04Series 23, Sammy Davis Jr20101231

Lionel Blair chooses his friend and dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr. Sammy described himself as a "one-eyed black Jew" - and he was described by others as one of the greatest all-round entertainers of all time.

Lionel danced and sang with Sammy in a dazzling performance on the stage at the Royal Variety Performance in 1961, and he revisits that memory through an evocative archive recording. Paul Gambaccini is on hand to help presenter Matthew Parris draw out the contradictions and triumphs of Sammy Davis Jr's great American life.

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Lionel Blair chooses his friend and former dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr.

04Series 24, Kathleen Ferrer20110426

Kathleen Ferrier's was a British contralto singer who died in 1953 from breast cancer. Her professional career had lasted just 14 years but in that time she had had become an international star, singing at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne and Carnegie Hall; and had worked with such luminaries of post-war music as Benjamin Britten, Sir John Barbirolli, and Bruno Walter. Not bad for someone who had no formal training as a singer and who had left school to work in the Blackburn telephone exchange. Ferrier never lost her common touch, never became a prima donna, and retained her liking for beer, cigarettes, and risque jokes. In this programme, broadcaster Sue MacGregor tells Matthew Parris why she admires Ferrier's work. Joining the discussion is conductor Christopher Fifield who edited Ferrier's letters.

Broadcaster Sue MacGregor nominates contralto Kathleen Ferrier, who died tragically young.

04Series 24, Kathleen Ferrer20110429

Broadcaster Sue MacGregor nominates contralto Kathleen Ferrier, who died tragically young.

04Series 25, Eduardo Paolozzi20110823

This week's Great Life, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, hated being tagged as the father of pop art, yet his representations of images from popular culture came almost two decades before Warhol and Lichtenstein. Prolific and generous, his public sculptures populate many cities across the country, yet his name is not as well known as Moore, Hepworth or Gormley. The diversity of the forms that he worked in, and his reluctance to be packaged and promoted by agents, accounts at least partly for that.

Paolozzi's personal story is no less complicated. Born in Edinburgh to Italian parents that sent him back to Fascist summer camp in Italy every year, all the men in his family, including the young Eduardo were interned when Mussolini declares war in 1940. Eduardo spent three months prison, but his father and grandfather met a far worse fate.

Joining Matthew in the studio are two close friends of Paolozzi's. Nominating him is the restaurateur Antonio Carluccio, who remembers dining and cooking with Paolozzi, and marvelling at how his 'fatty sausage' fingers could produce artwork of such intricacy. Cultural historian, Professor Sir Christopher Frayling who taught with Paolozzi for many years also has many anecdotes to tell, and he and Matthew agree to differ on their appraisal of one of Paolozzi's most well known works; the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Produced by: Sarah Langan.

Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates the Scottish artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

04Series 25, Eduardo Paolozzi20110826

Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates the Scottish artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

04Series 26, Ludwig Ii Of Bavaria20111227

Brian Sewell on his long-standing love of "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the ultimate fantasy castle at Neuschwanstein. From his first fateful glimpse of one of Ludwig's palaces, Brian's been fascinated with the eccentric King, and his mysterious death, and has become personally involved in the story of his life. Presenter Matthew Parris and contributor Simon Winder find out more...

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Brian Sewell on his love of 'Mad' King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

04Series 27, George Lyward20120424

Aged sixteen and struggling with his sexuality, Tom Robinson attempted to take his own life. Following a series of assessments and tests, he was interviewed for Finchden Manor, a therapeutic community which Robinson describes as the "last chance saloon." Under the stewardship of George Lyward, Finchden Manor was an unconventional place that gave boys the freedom to work through their issues and "help them to shape their futures."

In Great Lives, musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson tells Matthew Parris how educationalist George Lyward saved his life. Former Finchden teacher Dr Norman Alm provides expert assistance. Lyward's work is also assessed in the context of last Summer's riots, and Matthew asks what should society do with its troubled teens?

Producer: Toby Field.

Tom Robinson explains how educationalist George Lyward saved his life.

04Series 27, George Lyward20120427
05Series 17, Bette Davis20090106

Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman champions the life of Hollywood actress Bette Davis.

05Series 17, Bette Davis20090109
05Series 18, Frank Sinatra20090505

Broadcaster and DJ Colin Murray chooses Frank Sinatra.

05Series 18, Frank Sinatra20090508
05Series 19, Sir Kyffin Williams20090901
05Series 19, Sir Kyffin Williams20090904

Rolf Harris discusses the life of the Welsh painter Sir Kyffin Williams.

05Series 20, Nero20100105
05Series 20, Nero20100108

Christopher Biggins champions the life of the Roman Emperor Nero.

05Series 21, Matthew Flinders20100504
05Series 21, Matthew Flinders20100507

Sir Stuart Rose discusses the life of the cartographer Matthew Flinders.

05Series 22, Simone Weil20100831

Simone Weil - mystic, social activist, and sort of latter day saint - is one of the more unexpected recent choices for Great Lives. She is remembered chiefly these days for her writings and the controversy over whether she starved herself to death, at the age of 34. But for Eleanor Bron she remains the supreme example of someone who lived her life according to her ideals.

Born in 1909 in Paris, Simone Weil chose to work in factories, volunteered for the anarchist militia in the Spanish Civil War, and tried to persuade General de Gaulle in the Second World War to parachute nurses onto the frontline. She seemed permanently compelled to identify with suffering, but not, argues Eleanor Bron, in a preachy way. Grahame Davies, who based his first novel on Simone Weil's life, largely agrees.

Eleanor Bron's career began with satire at the Establishment Club. She appeared alongside the Beatles in Help - her name is said to have inspired McCartney's Eleanor Rigby - and on television she has featured in Yes Minister, Doctor Who, Absolutely Fabulous, and so the list goes on. The presenter is Matthew Parris, and the producer is Miles Warde.

Eleanor Bron discusses the life of the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil.

05Series 22, Simone Weil20100903

Eleanor Bron discusses the life of the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil.

05Series 23, Aneurin Bevan20110104

In his time, Aneurin Bevan was, according to one biographer, "the most colourful and controversial, most loved and most loathed political personality in Britain".

The founding father of the NHS is the choice of Lord Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour Party who, like Bevan, grew up in Tredegar, in the heart of the Welsh coalfields, where he met his hero many times.

Kinnock regards Bevan as a hero on a level with Nelson Mandela and believes it was Nye alone who had the force of personality and political will necessary to get the Health Service established after the war. But the presenter Matthew Parris and his other studio guest, Bevan's biographer, John Campbell are more sceptical. Campbell goes so far as to argue that, the achievement of the NHS not withstanding, Nye Bevan's life was essentially a failure because, in his commitment to socialism, he misread the trend of history so completely.

Now, with the NHS facing radical reform, this programme captures some of the passion and debate that surrounded its inception and provides personal insights into the life and character of the man responsible for its creation.

The producer is Isobel Eaton.

Future subjects in the series include Barry Cryer on JB Priestley.

Lord Kinnock chooses the life of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS.

05Series 23, Aneurin Bevan20110107

In his time, Aneurin Bevan was, according to one biographer, "the most colourful and controversial, most loved and most loathed political personality in Britain".

The founding father of the NHS is the choice of Lord Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour Party who, like Bevan, grew up in Tredegar, in the heart of the Welsh coalfields, where he met his hero many times.

Kinnock regards Bevan as a hero on a level with Nelson Mandela and believes it was Nye alone who had the force of personality and political will necessary to get the Health Service established after the war. But the presenter Matthew Parris and his other studio guest, Bevan's biographer, John Campbell are more sceptical. Campbell goes so far as to argue that, the achievement of the NHS not withstanding, Nye Bevan's life was essentially a failure because, in his commitment to socialism, he misread the trend of history so completely.

Now, with the NHS facing radical reform, this programme captures some of the passion and debate that surrounded its inception and provides personal insights into the life and character of the man responsible for its creation.

The producer is Isobel Eaton.

Future subjects in the series include Barry Cryer on JB Priestley.

Lord Kinnock chooses the life of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS.

05Series 24, Lewis Carroll20110503

Matthew Parris and writer Lynne Truss discuss the life of author Lewis Carroll. Famous for the Alice books, Carroll was also a brilliant mathematician and early photographer. But his reputation has been clouded by allegations, never substantiated, that he was a repressed paedophile. With the help of biographer Robin Wilson, Lynne and Matthew try to discover why, despite the millions of words written about him, Carroll still remains a mystery.

Matthew Parris and Lynne Truss discuss the life of 'Alice' author Lewis Carroll.

05Series 24, Lewis Carroll20110506

Matthew Parris and Lynne Truss discuss the life of 'Alice' author Lewis Carroll.

05Series 25, William Shakespeare20110830

No less a figure than the national bard, William Shakespeare, is nominated for great life status by poetry curator and TV producer, Daisy Goodwin. Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre joins Matthew Parris to put flesh on the life that is remarkably light on known and verifiable facts. How and why did this son of an illiterate glovemaker from Stratford on Avon come to bestride the international stage, adopted not only as England's national poet, but even displacing Goethe and Schiller in Germany? Dromgoole argues that more than a sense of the man is conveyed in his 37 plays.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

Poetry curator Daisy Goodwin nominates the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.

05Series 25, William Shakespeare20110902

Poetry curator Daisy Goodwin nominates the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.

05Series 26, Lonnie Donegan20120103

Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter tells Matthew Parris why skiffle king Lonnie Donegan is his hero.

Lonnie Donegan is probably best remembered for the novelty hits "My Old Man's a Dustman" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour? " However, early hits like "Rock Island Line" were instrumental in inspiring the likes of John Lennon, Brian May and Roger Daltrey to perform.

Donegan played a decisive role in the development of British popular music. His revitalisation of skiffle provided the inspiration for the whole British beat movement that was to come. Ironically, although Donevan was the catalyst, he was soon eclipsed by the young electric guitar heroes of the mid-sixties, and he was left with the comedy and cabaret circuits.

Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter champions the life and work of skiffle king Lonnie Donegan.

05Series 26, Lonnie Donegan20120106

Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter champions the life and work of skiffle king Lonnie Donegan.

05Series 27, Edward Said20120501

Edward Said was a man, who, in his own words, lived two quite separate lives. First there was the scholar and literary critic of Colombia University, and then there was the fierce critic of American and Israeli policies in the Middle East. In the United States he was an academic superstar, but his views - on Palestine in particular - made him an intensely divisive figure. He died of leukaemia in 1993.

In Great Lives, Alexei Sayle explains to Matthew Parris why Edward Said, a man he met twice and described as "very noble and fiercely intelligent", inspired him. Edward Said once described the Palestinians as 'the victims of the victims'. This eloquence, on a subject that in America was taboo, still impresses Alexei Sayle today.

Producer: Toby Field.

Alexei Sayle explains why scholar and literary critic Edward Said inspired him.

05Series 27, Edward Said20120504

Edward Said was a man, who, in his own words, lived two quite separate lives. First there was the scholar and literary critic of Columbia University, and then there was the fierce critic of American and Israeli policies in the Middle East. In the United States he was an academic superstar, but his views - on Palestine in particular - made him an intensely divisive figure. He died of leukaemia in 2003.

In Great Lives, Alexei Sayle explains to Matthew Parris why Edward Said, a man he met twice and described as "very noble and fiercely intelligent", inspired him. Edward Said once described the Palestinians as 'the victims of the victims'. This eloquence, on a subject that in America was taboo, still impresses Alexei Sayle today.

Producer: Toby Field.

Alexei Sayle explains why scholar and literary critic Edward Said inspired him.

06Katherine Mansfield2008012220080125

Children's author Jacqueline Wilson nominates short story writer Katherine Mansfield for greatness. She is joined by biographer Prof Angela Smith to assess the impact of Mansfield's brilliant but tragically short career.

06Series 17, Tony Hancock20090113

Pam Ayres discusses her admiration for Tony Hancock.

06Series 17, Tony Hancock20090116
06Series 18, John Coltrane20090512
06Series 18, John Coltrane20090515

Musician Andy Sheppard chooses influential saxophonist John Coltrane.

06Series 19, Samuel Johnson20090908
06Series 19, Samuel Johnson20090911

Boris Johnson nominates Samuel Johnson, writer of the great dictionary.

06Series 20, Lise Meitner20100112
06Series 20, Lise Meitner20100115

Jenny Agutter champions the life and work of pioneering Austrian physicist Lise Meitner.

06Series 21, Charlotte Guest20100511
06Series 21, Charlotte Guest20100514

Businesswoman Baroness Sarah Hogg discusses the life of Lady Charlotte Guest.

06Series 22, Golda Meir20100907

Golda Meir was the Iron Lady of Israeli politics, a straight-talking, intransigent leader who once said, "There is a type of woman who does not let her husband narrow her horizons". She is the choice of former Conservative government minister Edwina Currie.

Golda Meir was born in Kiev and educated in the United States, but moved to Palestine her twenties, just after the First World War. One of the signatories on Israel's Declaration of Independence in 1948, Meir was elected to the Knesset and stayed there until she retired in her late sixties. But when prime minister Levi Eshkol died unexpectedly she was called back to take his place. She was the compromise candidate but stayed there for five years and was in power during the Yom Kippur War.

Edwina Currie admires her conviction and humanity, and that fact that she reminds her of her granny.

Ahron Bregman from the Department of War Studies at Kings College London, served in the Israeli army and was present at Golda Meir's funeral. Unlike Edwina, Ahron thinks Golda Meir made some unforgiveable mistakes.

Edwina Currie discusses the life of the former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

06Series 23, Jb Priestley20110111

Barry Cryer nods to his Yorkshire roots in choosing JB Priestley, the Bradford born author of The Good Companions and An Inspector Calls. Barry knew JB for the last ten years of his life, and fondly recalls visiting a man he loved with two members of Monty Python. Other memories include a trip to the Cafe Royal, and thoughts on Priestley's notorious love of women.

Martin Wainwright, northern editor of the Guardian, presenter of last year's radio documentary about the Postscripts, also brings to life a prolific writer nearly killed in World War One. Some say he wrote so much to avoid the memories of that war. Recorded in front of an audience at the Arnolfini in Bristol, the programme includes colourful clips of JB Priestley and also Priestley's son, Tom. The only discordant note is raised by presenter Matthew Parris: "It's awfully watchable, awfully readable... but where's the magic ? Is Priestley really very good ?"

The producer is Miles Warde.

Barry Cryer chooses JB Priestley. Matthew Parris presents.

06Series 24, Petra Kelly20110510

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives. Green MP Caroline Lucas nominates German Green politician Petra Kelly. Kelly was one of the first Green parliamentarians to be elected anywhere in the world. Intense, charismatic and beautiful, she became an international political superstar who rejected the idea of conventional politics. But she fell out with her colleagues and became reliant on her lover, a former German army General turned peace activist, Gert Bastian. Bastian, possibly fearing exposure as a Stasi agent, murdered Kelly and himself in 1992. Joining the discussion is Kelly's biographer and former Green Party activist, Sara Parkin.

Green MP Caroline Lucas nominates Petra Kelly, the German Green superstar politician.

06Series 24, Petra Kelly20110513

Green MP Caroline Lucas nominates Petra Kelly, the German Green superstar politician.

06Series 25, Hans Fallada20110906

The Fast Show comedian Simon Day tells Matthew Parris why he's fascinated by the life and work of German author Hans Fallada. Matthew is also joined by Fallada's biographer Jenny Williams.

Hans Fallada (real name Rudolf Ditzen) was an alcoholic, a thief, a morphine addict and, prone to depression, attempted suicide twice. He lived and worked in the Germany of the 1930's and, although declared an "undesirable author," stayed in his beloved country for the duration of the Second World War. In and out of prison, sanatoriums and relationships, his volatile personal life often informed his writing (The Drinker, 1950.)

Simon Day achieved fame as "Competitive Dad" and "Dave Angel, Eco-Warrior" in The Fast Show of the 1990's. More recently he has written of his battles with various addictions, and finds parallels between his own experience of addiction, and that of Hans Fallada.

Fast Show comic Simon Day tells Matthew Parris why he's fascinated by writer Hans Fallada.

06Series 25, Hans Fallada20110909
06Series 26, Joseph Rotblat20120110

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees tells Matthew Parris why his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat, lived a "great life".

Rotblat was a brilliant physicist who was the only scientist to resign from the Manhattan Project once it became clear that Germany would not make an atomic bomb. Rotblat believed that all scientists have a moral obligation to work for the benefit of mankind, and spent his life campaigning against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Joining Lord Rees and Matthew Parris in the studio is Rotblat's friend and colleague Kit Hill.

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees champions the life of his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat.

06Series 26, Joseph Rotblat20120113

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees champions the life of his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat.

06Series 27, John Ford20120508

John Ford had a monumental Hollywood career - over 140 films, Oscars he never turned up to receive, and a blunt way of approaching the business that made him enemies as well as friends. He stood up once at a meeting and said simply, "My name's John Ford, I make westerns."

Eric Pickles makes an unlikely, but extremely knowledgeable guest. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is often depicted as a blunt man himself. But he paints a fascinating picture of his young self sitting cross legged as a boy watching The Searchers, Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He realised even then that these were not westerns but a portrait of America finding itself. "When the legend becomes fact," says a newspaperman at the end of one of Ford's films, "print the legend."

Joining Eric Pickles in the studio are Ed Buscombe, Matthew Parris, and wonderful archive of the tough-talking director John Ford.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Eric Pickles chooses the great Hollywood director John Ford.

06Series 27, John Ford20120511

Eric Pickles chooses the great Hollywood director John Ford.

07Series 17, Alfred Russel Wallace2012051820090123
07Series 18, Fred Astaire20090519
07Series 18, Fred Astaire20090522
07Series 19, Miriam Makeba20090915
07Series 19, Miriam Makeba20090918

Kate Humble discusses the South African singer and anti-apartheid activist, Miriam Makeba.

07Series 20, Picasso20100119
07Series 20, Picasso20100122
07Series 21, Carl Sagan20100518
07Series 21, Carl Sagan20100521

Physicist Brian Cox tells Matthew Parris how Carl Sagan's Cosmos TV show changed his life.

07Series 22, Winston Churchill2010091420101105

Winston Churchill's is the Great Life chosen by Lord Digby Jones, former Director General of the CBI. Expert contribution comes from Professor David Reynolds. Both men have vivid memories of the day in 1965 when, as children, they heard that Churchill had died. Surprisingly this is the first time that Churchill has been nominated in the series.

Considered by many a busted flush in the 1930s, Churchill is now remembered as our greatest wartime leader - his speech before the Battle of Britain still sends a shiver down the spine. But his great qualities and personal flaws remained inextricably linked. David Reynolds has uncovered a stark revelation about Churchill's real state of mind at the time he made that speech, while Digby Jones argues that the ability to instil confidence in people even when there is little rational hope of victory is one of the signs of a great leader. He believes that no one made his mark on the last century in the way that Churchill did.

David Reynolds does not subscribe to the Great Man theory of history. He is the Professor of International History at Cambridge University. Known to Radio 4 listeners as the writer and presenter of "America, Empire of Liberty", he has also written extensively on Churchill, including the book "In Command of History" about Churchill's memoirs of World War Two. The presenter is Matthew Parris.

Lord Digby Jones discusses the life of Winston Churchill.

07Series 23, Gertrude Bell20110121

Gertrude Bell was a British woman who arguably founded the modern state of Iraq. Explorer, mountaineer and archaeologist, this extraordinarily talented woman travelled widely across Arabia in the years preceding the first world war. When war came, her knowledge of the tribes, geography and politics of the area made her a vital asset to British intelligence. In the wake of British victory in Mesopotamia, she became a key figure in the the post-war administration of the turbulent area, as the British grappled with how best to reduce their military commitment while still retaining influence - a situation that was to find strong echoes in post-war Iraq 90 years later. A woman who rose to the top in a man's world, her personal life was beset with ill-starred romance and tragedy.

Physicist Jim al-Khalili was born in Iraq at a time when Gertrude Bell was still revered as someone who fought for Iraqi self-determination. With the help of Bell's biographer, Janet Wallach, he explores her remarkable life. Matthew Parris chairs.

Iraqi-born physicist Jim al-Khalili on the life of Gertrude Bell. Matthew Parris chairs.

07Series 24, Jack Johnson20110517

It was the fight of the century, July 4th 1910, when Tim Jeffries, the so-called Great White Hope, was stopped by Jack Johnson in the 15th round. Suddenly white supremacy didn't seem so self-assured. In America there were riots, while a follow up fight in Britain - between Johnson and the British champion, Bombardier Wells - never took place. A leader in the Times newspaper had urged the promoter to consider 'the special position of trusteeship for coloured subject peoples which the British empire holds....'

Jack Johnson, also known as the Galveston Giant, has been proposed by Matthew Syed, a recent sports journalist of the year. His nomination is based not only on Johnson's life, but what he came to represent. The expert is Kasia Boddy, author of Boxing: A Cultural History. The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer Miles Warde.

Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, first African American heavyweight boxing champion.

07Series 24, Jack Johnson20110520

Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, first African American heavyweight boxing champion.

07Series 25, Edwin Lutyens20110913
07Series 25, Edwin Lutyens20110916

If Edwin Lutyens, the architect behind New Delhi, the Cenotaph, and the British embassy in Washington, sounds an austere, imperial figure then think again. He was fun and almost child-like - he loved to dance and doodle, and he told terrible jokes. But his great grand daughter, Jane Ridley, believes it was Lutyens' shockingly miserable marriage that inspired his greatest work. Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times and current head of the National Trust, chooses Lutyens primarily for the quality of his work. But he also recognises that the grimness of the marriage - Emily Lutyens fell in love with Krishnamurti - spurred the architect onto greater heights. Presenter Matthew Parris initially questions whether the quality of Lutyens' sex life really needs to play a part in this tale, then declares himself underwhelmed by much of the work. Expert Jane Ridley is the author of the Architect and his Wife, and the producer is Miles Warde.

Simon Jenkins proposes Edwin Lutyens, architect of New Delhi and the Cenotaph.

07Series 26, Gracie Allen20120117

Matthew Parris is joined by the actress Emma Kennedy to explore the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen.

Actress Emma Kennedy chooses the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen.

07Series 26, Gracie Allen20120120

Actress Emma Kennedy chooses the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen.

08Harry Houdini2007092520070928
20170817 (BBC7)

Paul Daniels explores the life of Harry Houdini, with help from biographer William Kalush.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

8/9. Prue Leith nominates Elizabeth David, arguably the greatest food writer of the 20th century. She is joined by biographer Artemis Cooper.

08Series 1720090127
08Series 1720090130

Horticulturalist Rachel De Thame champions her heroine, the ballerina Margot Fonteyn.

08Series 19, Harry Houdini20090922
08Series 19, Harry Houdini20090925

Paul Daniels explores the life of Harry Houdini, with help from biographer William Kalush.

08Series 20, Agustin Barrios Mangore20100126
08Series 20, Agustin Barrios Mangore20100129

John Williams discusses the life of Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore.

08Series 22, Michel De Montaigne20100921

Michel de Montaigne is one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. He is known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and became famous for his ability to fuse intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography. Montaigne's work continues to influence writers to this day.

Championing his life is the surgeon, scientist, broadcaster and politician Professor Robert Winston and providing expert witness is the writer Sarah Bakewell, whose recent biography, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, was recently published to great acclaim.

Producer: Paul Dodgson.

Professor Robert Winston discusses the life of Michel de Montaigne.

08Series 22, Michel De Montaigne20100924

Professor Robert Winston discusses the life of Michel de Montaigne.

08Series 23, Mary Stott20110125

The writer Katharine Whitehorn chooses Mary Stott, the great campaigning journalist and the first editor of the Guardian women's page. She's the journalist who more than anyone started the revolution in women's journalism since the 1950's. Matthew Parris presents.

Katharine Whitehorn chooses Mary Stott, the great campaigning journalist.

08Series 25, Hildegard Von Bingen20110920

When the singer Cerys Matthews first played the music of the 12th century nun, Hildegard von Bingen, on her BBC 6 music show, she said she felt she could hear the tumble weed rolling through the listeners' houses. Matthew unravels Cerys's admiration for the woman who was given by her parents as a 'tithe' to the church at the age of eight and who became one of the most influential people of her time. She wrote about the visions that she experienced from the age of three, later deemed to have been migraines, but was a true polymath, writing liturgical texts, songs, botanical studies and morality plays. Despite her religious devotion, she was no demure subject. Her influence was widespread and she even had the ear of the Pope. Beatified but never officially canonized, Matthew, Cerys and guest expert (tbc) celebrate the life of the woman who was nonetheless known to millions as Saint Hildegard von Bingen

Producer: Sarah Langan.

Cerys Matthews chooses the 12th century nun St Hildegard. Presented by Matthew Parris.

08Series 25, Hildegard Von Bingen20110923

Cerys Matthews chooses the 12th century nun St Hildegard. Presented by Matthew Parris.

08Series 26, Vera Brittain20120124
08Series 26, Vera Brittain20120127

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series.

08 LASTSeries 18, Giovanni Falcone20090526
08 LASTSeries 18, Giovanni Falcone20090529

Journalist Misha Glenny remembers the life of anti-Mafia campaigner Giovanni Falcone.

08 LASTSeries 21, Arthur Wharton20100525
08 LASTSeries 21, Arthur Wharton20100528

Viv Anderson champions the life of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer

08 LASTSeries 24, Harold Pinter20110524

Matthew Parris is joined by Diane Abbott MP and biographer and critic Michael Billington to explore the life of playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter.

His name - if you just add an "esque" to it, as in "Thatcheresque or Ortonesque, defines that which is 'marked especially by halting dialogue, uncertainty of identity, and air of menace'. But today's great life is not an easy man to encapsulate. He was a polymath - a playwright, poet, screenwriter, actor, director, political activist and Nobel Laureate - whom his biographer describes as 'an instinctively radical poet whose chosen medium is drama.' He was one of Britain's most celebrated writers - the 'master of the pause' - Harold Pinter.

Pinter is said to have 'stamped his mark on the cultural and political scene as an observer of suburban brooding and as an irate iconoclast.' He was also born in Hackney, which may explain in part why he has been chosen by Diane Abbott, Shadow Minister for Public Health, and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

The programme explores Pinter's life and his appeal for Abbott with expert assistance from Pinter's biographer, the writer and critic Michael Billington.

Matthew Parris introduces the life of writer Harold Pinter, chosen by Diane Abbott MP.

08 LASTSeries 24, Harold Pinter20110527

Matthew Parris introduces the life of writer Harold Pinter, chosen by Diane Abbott MP.

09 LASTSeries 17, Robert Kennedy20090206
09 LASTSeries 19, Rudyard Kipling20090929
09 LASTSeries 19, Rudyard Kipling20091002

John Major discusses the life of Rudyard Kipling, poet to the British Empire.

09 LASTSeries 20, Bill Hamilton20100202
09 LASTSeries 20, Bill Hamilton20100205

Professor Richard Dawkins discusses the evolutionary theorist Bill Hamilton.

09 LASTSeries 22, Walt Disney20100928

Satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe nominates Walt Disney.

Gerald Scarfe spent much of his childhood in his sick bed, so it's not surprising that Disney cartoons and feature films meant so much to him. He can still recall the thrill at the prospect of seeing Pinocchio at the cinema, and then the agony of being lead away again in the rain because the tickets were too expensive.

Walt Disney came from a working family. His god-fearing father Elias, said by one writer to have 'hated Capital, and favoured Labour, but really needed to make a buck', found work where he could. So Walt lived a peripatetic childhood, and sought solace in drawing and play acting. Hard times early on did not make Walt frugal with money in adulthood, and despite the huge successes of the golden era of Disney, it was only with the opening of Disneyland that Walt attained any substantial personal wealth.

You don't have to look far to find myth surrounding Walt Disney. Even after his death, rumours that his body had been cryogenically frozen spread so widely that they soon slipped into folklore. He had actually been cremated, but the readiness with which the cryogenic claim was accepted perhaps bears witness to a man who was terrified of dying, who believed in the white hope of technology and who, some might say, had been searching all his life for an escape into an immortal, fairytale world.

Matthew Parris, Gerald Scarfe and guest experts Brian Sibley and Richard Williams, creator of Roger Rabbit, discuss the life of a complex cultural icon. A man who was seemingly unpretentious, and did not fit the image of movie mogul with his scruffy tweed jacket and awkward demeanour, yet a man who was accused of being a tyrannical egomaniac. The son of a socialist who ended up naming names at the House of Un- American Activities committee. Above all else perhaps though, they discuss the life of a man who strove tirelessly for perfection and who changed the cultural landscape of a little boy called Gerald, and arguably of the world, for ever.

Scarfe himself is best known for his classic images lampooning the great and the good of politics, and also in his iconic animation for Pink Floyd's The Wall. He reveals in this programme that he also spent time working on the Disney production Hercules.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe discusses the life of Walt Disney.

09 LASTSeries 22, Walt Disney20101001

09 LASTSeries 23, Marcus Garvey20110201

Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah is a passionate advocate of Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader of the early twentieth century. Long before Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey was trying against all the odds to give black people a sense of pride, and to create the conditions in which they might hope to flourish and prosper. Kwame Kwei-Armah tells the story of Garvey's incredible rise and fall, and brings this impressive yet flawed man to life. He's joined by Colin Grant, the author of Negro with a Hat - a biography of Marcus Garvey. Presenter Matthew Parris contributes his own memories of living in both Jamaica and Africa.

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah on Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader.

09 LASTSeries 23, Marcus Garvey20110204

Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah on Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader.

09 LASTSeries 25, Gerald Durrell20110927

Former England footballer Graeme le Saux champions the life of writer, broadcaster and conservationist Gerald Durrell. Graeme and presenter Matthew Parris are joined in the studio by Durrell's widow, Lee.

Gerald Malcolm Durrell (1925 - 1995) was a pioneering conservationist who took on the established "zoo community" by emphasising the need to preserve endangered species, rather than just repeatedly dip in to the natural world for more animals to amuse and entertain. His work culminated in the creation of his own zoo on Jersey. It was there that a teenage islander called Graeme le Saux helped out in the gorilla enclosure, before moving on to play at left back for Chelsea and England.

Former England player Graeme le Saux champions the life of conservationist Gerald Durrell.

09 LASTSeries 25, Gerald Durrell20110930
09 LASTSeries 26, Razia Sultana20120131

Co-chairman of the Conservative party, Baroness Warsi recalls her Pakistani-born father during her Yorkshire childhood telling her about the heroic martial deeds conducted by a thirteenth century Indian princess, Razia Sultana.

Descended from humble stock, the much mythologized Sultana ruled for less than four years in the 1230s, but has long been celebrated as the first female Indian Muslim leader. Sayeeda Warsi explains why she's fascinated by this character whose reign was abruptly brought to an end by the jealous rivalries of the male nobility around her who could not tolerate the fact that she had been chosen by her father above the heads of her brothers. We'll hear whether Sayeeda draws inspiration from Razia's model of bold leadership, and whether she finds parallels with her own experience of British politics today within the senior ranks of the Conservative Party.

Writer and expert on India, William Dalrymple sets the scene, explaining how and why Turkish Muslims had an empire that reached as far as the Himalayas, at a time when northern India was having to withstand the Mongol incursions of Genghis Khan.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

Conservative politician Baroness Warsi nominates a 13th-century Indian princess.

09 LASTSeries 26, Razia Sultana20120203

Conservative politician Baroness Warsi nominates a 13th-century Indian princess.

0101Clement Attlee2001082420140626 (BBC7)
20140627 (BBC7)

Radio 4's biographical series.

Each week, a living celebrity is invited to nominate one of their heroes, the only condition being that the hero must be dead.

With the help of an expert on that person, presenter Humphrey Carpenter discusses the Great Life and assesses their importance.Biography discussion series.

Tim Waterstone, founder of the bookstore chain, nominates Clement Attlee, the Labour prime minister, for assessment.

With Ben Pimlott and Joan Bakewell

Bookseller Tim Waterstone and biographer Ben Pimlott discuss the former prime minister.

Bookseller Tim Waterstone and biographer Ben Pimlott discuss former prime minister Clement Attlee. With Joan Bakewell. From August 2001.

0102Ernest Shackleton20010831

Rosie Boycott nominates the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton for assessment, and is joined by his granddaughter Alexandra.

0103The Michelin Brothers2001090720140522 (BBC7)
20140523 (BBC7)

Terence Conran nominates for assessment the Michelin brothers, inventors of pneumatic tyres and the famous food guide.

Sir Terence Conran nominates the Michelin brothers, makers of the detachable pneumatic tyre. With Joan Bakewell. From 2001.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

Sir Terence Conran nominates the Michelin brothers, makers of the pneumatic tyre.

0104Friedrich Nietzsche2001091420140529 (BBC7)
20140530 (BBC7)

Ralph Steadman nominates the much-maligned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche for reassessment.

Joining him to discuss Nietzsche's life and work is Polish poet and translator Adam Czerniawski.

Cartoonist Ralph Steadman and translator Adam Czerniawski discuss the philosopher's life.

Cartoonist Ralph Steadman and translator Adam Czerniawski discuss the life of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. With Humphrey Carpenter. From September 2001.

0105Sylvia Pankhurst2001092120140606 (BBC7)

Barbara Castle nominates Sylvia Pankhurst, the most radical of that family of suffragettes, for assessment.

Barbara Castle and biographer Mary Davis discuss the life of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst.

Barbara Castle and biographer Mary Davis discuss the life of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. With Joan Bakewell. From September 2001.

0106Henri Matisse2001092820140612 (BBC7)
20140613 (BBC7)

Frank Delaney nominates the great French artist Henri Matisse for assessment, and is joined by Matisse's biographer Hilary Spurling

Writer Frank Delaney and biographer Hilary Spurling discuss the painter Henri Matisse.

Writer Frank Delaney and biographer Hilary Spurling discuss the painter Henri Matisse. With Humphrey Carpenter. From September 2001.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who has inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

0107Marshall Mcluhan2001100520140619 (BBC7)
20140620 (BBC7)

Jonathan Miller nominates for discussion Marshall McLuhan, Canadian writer on media, and is joined by Kim Henry Veltman of the McLuhan Institute.

Kim Henry Veltman joins director Jonathan Miller to discuss the Canadian writer on media.

Academic Kim Henry Veltman joins director Jonathan Miller to discuss Marshall McLuhan, Canadian writer on media. From 2001.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

0108H G Wells2001101220140508 (BBC7)
20140509 (BBC7)

Fay Weldon proposes the writer and visionary H G Wells, and is joined by his biographer Vincent Brome, who met Wells and many of his mistresses.

Writer Fay Weldon and biographer Vincent Brome discuss the life of the visionary novelist.

Writer Fay Weldon and biographer Vincent Brome discuss the life of visionary novelist HG Wells. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2001.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

0109Swami Vivekananda20011019

Biography discussion series.

Rabbi Lionel Blue proposes the 19th-century Hindu missionary and thinker Swami Vivekananda.

With Joan Bakewell

0110King Hussein Of Jordan2001102620140710 (BBC7)
20140711 (BBC7)

Biography discussion series.

Racing driver Jackie Stewart proposes his friend King Hussein of Jordan for examination, and is joined by writer Patrick Seale and Joan Bakewell

Racing driver Jackie Stewart discusses King Hussein of Jordan with writer Patrick Seale.

Racing driver Jackie Stewart discusses his good friend King Hussein of Jordan with writer Patrick Seale.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2001.

0111Brendan Behan20011102

Biography discussion series.

Theatre director Joan Littlewood talks to Humphrey Carpenter about her friend Brendan Behan, author of `The Quare Fellow' and `The Hostage'.

0112King Alfred The Great20011109

Biography discussion series.

Lord Tebbit talks to Humphrey Carpenter about his favourite historical character - King Alfred the Great.

0201Donald Wolfit20020531

Ned Sherrin talks to Humphrey Carpenter about the great Shakespearean actor Donald Wolfit.

0202George Eliot2002060720140724 (BBC7)
20140725 (BBC7)

Elizabeth Filkin talks to Humphrey Carpenter about Mary Ann Evans, better known as the great novelist George Eliot

Ex-parliamentary standards commissioner Elizabeth Filkin on the novelist George Eliot.

Ex-parliamentary standards commissioner Elizabeth Filkin on the novelist George Eliot. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2002.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

0203Franz Schubert2002061420140731 (BBC7)
20140801 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions.

Renowned cellist Steven Isserlis talks to Humphrey Carpenter about Franz Schubert, with contributions from musicologist Brian Newbould.

Cellist Steven Isserlis and musicologist Brian Newbould on the composer Franz Schubert.

Ex-parliamentary standards commissioner Elizabeth Filkin on the novelist George Eliot. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2002.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

0204Field Marshal Viscount Slim20020621

Series profiling some notable figures.

Lord Carrington nominates Field Marshal Viscount Slim, whom he first met in 1950s Australia.

0205Alexander The Great2002062820140814 (BBC7)
20140815 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Author and screenwriter Frederic Raphael selects Alexander the Great.

With classical historian Prof Tony Spawforth.

Writer Frederic Raphael chooses part man, part myth - Alexander the Great. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

Writer Frederic Raphael chooses part man, part myth Alexander the Great.

Writer Frederic Raphael chooses part man, part myth Alexander the Great. With Humphrey Carpenter. From June 2002.

0206Marquis De Sade2002070520101106 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Janet Street-porter talks about the Marquis de Sade - a perverted pornographer or an intellectual freedom fighter?

Sex-crazed diabolical criminal or bold, free-thinking radical? Janet Street Porter argues her case for the French libertine.

Sex-crazed diabolical criminal or bold, free-thinking radical?

0207Louis Armstrong2002071220140821 (BBC7)
20140822 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Jazz trumpeter Chris Barber talks about one of the all-time greats - Louis Armstrong

Band leader Chris Barber chooses the legendary jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From July 2002.

Band leader Chris Barber chooses the legendary jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong.

0208Lord Byron2002071920140904 (BBC7)
20140905 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Writer and columnist Sue Limb talks about Lord Byron, a man famously branded `mad, bad and dangerous to know'.

Writer Sue Limb chooses the 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' poet, Lord Byron.

Writer Sue Limb chooses the 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' poet, Lord Byron. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0209Tom Spring2002072620140911 (BBC7)
20140912 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Sports journalist Frank Keating talks about 19th-century bare-knuckle boxer Tom Spring.

Sports journalist Frank Keating talks about 19th-century bare-knuckle boxer Tom Spring. With Humphrey Carpenter. From July 2002.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

0210Katharine Graham20020802

Biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Kirsty Young talks about publisher Katharine Graham, under whose leadership the Washington Post broke the Watergate scandal.

0301Mother Teresa2002101820141002 (BBC7)
20141003 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Bernard Manning assesses the achievements of Mother Teresa.

Also in the studio is biographer Anne Sebba.

Comedian Bernard Manning assesses the achievements of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Comedian Bernard Manning assesses the achievements of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. With Humphrey Carpenter and biographer Anne Sebba. From October 2002.

0302Erasmus Darwin2002102520141009 (BBC7)
20141010 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Nobel Prize winner Paul Nurse discusses Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin

Paul Nurse discusses scientist, inventor and poet Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles.

Nobel prize winning scientist Sir Paul Nurse chooses Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0303C L R James2002110120141023 (BBC7)
20141024 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe discusses his uncle, the Trinidadian sportsman, writer and revolutionary C L R James.

Darcus Howe discusses his uncle, the sportsman, writer and revolutionary CLR James.

Darcus Howe chooses activist and philosopher CLR James, with help from his biographer Farrukh Dhondy. Presented by Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0304Rachel Carson2002110820141030 (BBC7)
20141031 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Bea Campbell discusses the writer and environmentalist Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring.

Writer Bea Campbell chooses pioneering environmental protection scientist Rachel Carson.

Writer Bea Campbell chooses pioneering environmental protection scientist Rachel Carson. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0305M R James2002111520141106 (BBC7)
20141107 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Muriel Gray and Christopher Frayling discuss the life of ghost story writer M R James

Writer and broadcaster Muriel Gray chooses ghost story writer, MR James. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

Muriel Gray and Christopher Frayling discuss the life of ghost story writer MR James. With Humphrey Carpenter. From November 2002.

0306Umm Kulthum2002112220141113 (BBC7)
20141114 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Novelist Ahdaf Soueif and biographer Virginia Danielson discuss the life of Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum.

Novelist Ahdaf Soueif chooses acclaimed Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum as his great life.

Novelist Ahdaf Soueif chooses legendary Egyptian singer, Umm Kulthum. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0307Benedict Spinoza2002112920141120 (BBC7)
20141121 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Professor Harry Kroto explores his abiding belief in Humanism and passion for the philosophy of Benedict Spinoza.

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir Harry Kroto chooses the philosopher Benedict Spinoza.

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir Harry Kroto chooses the philosopher Spinoza. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0308James Gillray2002120620141127 (BBC7)
20141128 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell discusses the achievements of 18th-century caricaturist James Gillray.

Political cartoonist Steve Bell chooses the 18th-century caricaturist James Gillray.

Political cartoonist Steve Bell chooses the 18th century caricaturist James Gillray. With Sheila O'Connell, curator of prints and drawings at British Museum and actor James Bolam. Presented by Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0309Richard Crossman2002121320141204 (BBC7)
20141205 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Tam Dalyell MP discusses the life of Richard Crossman, for whom he worked during the Wilson government of the 1960s.

Politician Tam Dalyell chooses cabinet minister and political diarist Richard Crossman.

Politician Tam Dalyell chooses cabinet minister and political diarist, Richard Crossman. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

0310 LASTCaptain James Cook2002122020141211 (BBC7)
20141212 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

BBC Director-General Greg Dyke talks about Captain James Cook with Professor Glyn Williams.

Media executive and broadcaster Greg Dyke chooses explorer Captain James Cook.

Media executive and broadcaster Greg Dyke chooses explorer Captain James Cook. With Humphrey Carpenter. From December 2002.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

04Dr Samuel Johnson20150528 (BBC7)
20150529 (BBC7)

Poet Kit Wright chooses author and creator of the English dictionary, Dr Samuel Johnson. With Humphrey Carpenter. From October 2003.

Poet Kit Wright chooses author and creator of the English dictionary, Dr Samuel Johnson.

0401Captain Robert Scott20030404

The biographical series Great Lives returns for a new run of ten programmes, beginning this week with Beryl Bainbridge nominating her dead hero, Robert Falcon Scott.

Scott's defeat by the Norwegian Amundsen in the race to the South Pole, and his failure to bring his men back alive, have caused frequent re-workings of his reputation.

This stern, unbending naval man appears to represent many of the failings of old imperial Britain.

But from her research for her novel ""The Birthday Boys"", Beryl Bainbridge believes she unearthed a different man, an adventurer and a romantic, whose eyes turned from blue to purple whenever he became amorous.

As well as rare archive of Scott's companions on his southerly trips, the programme contains accounts of his love for the bohemian sculptor, Katherine Bruce, and evidence of his friendship with JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan.

The idea for the Lost Boys, Bainbridge believes, came from Scott.

Bob Headland, archivist of the Scott Polar Institute provides the cooler evidence, including an account of the numerous mistakes Scott made, while Humphrey Carpenter will be keeping the expert and the nominator apart should a scrap break out.

".

0402Sergei Rachmaninov20030411

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Conductor Leonard Slatkin discusses the genius of composer Sergei Rachmaninov, with biographer Geoffrey Norris

0403Arthur Ransome20030418

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

John Sergeant discusses Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, with biographer Hugh Brogan.

0404Bob Marley2003042520150101 (BBC7)
20150102 (BBC7)

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah joins Humphrey Carpenter to explore the life of reggae legend Bob Marley.

From his musical origins in the squalor and dynamism of the Trench Town district of Kingston, Jamaica to global superstardom, Marley remained passionate about music with a message.

Marley biographer Chris Salewicz also helps to explore why, since his death in 1981, Marley's stature in the developing world has grown from rebel leader to redeeming hero.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah explores the life of reggae legend Bob Marley.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah explores the life of reggae legend Bob Marley. With Humphrey Carpenter and Chris Salewicz.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life.

Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

0405James Hogg2003050220150108 (BBC7)
20150109 (BBC7)

Geneticist Steve Jones chooses a 19th century fiddle-playing shepherd and writer James Hogg, for his intuitive understanding of the nature of madness.

Author of the fantastically titled Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner, Hogg was considered coarse and vulgar by the refined writers of genteel Edinburgh society, but Steve Jones believes that his talents have been overlooked.

Joining him and presenter Humphrey Carpenter in the studio is Hogg biographer Karl Miller.

Geneticist Steve Jones chooses 19th-century fiddle-playing shepherd and writer James Hogg.

Geneticist Steve Jones chooses 19th-century fiddle-playing shepherd and writer James Hogg. With Humphrey Carpenter. From May 2003.

0406G K Chesterton20030509

Joining presenter Humphrey Carpenter and Richard Ingrams in the studio is the chairman of the Chesterton Society, Denis Conlon to talk about the life of G K Chesterton.

Richard Ingrams comments, 'I have chosen G K Chesterton, partly because he was always proud to describe himself as a journalist.

He was proud to write for the ordinary man, and it followed from that he was a democrat.

He genuinely believed the ordinary person was the best judge of everything.' As well many of Chesterton's finer sayings - the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult, and left untried - we'll hear two recordings of the great man himself, and a lengthy debate about which actor could possibly step into Alec Guiness' shoes and bring Father Brown back to life.

Joining presenter Humphrey Carpenter and Richard Ingrams in the studio is the chairman of the Chesterton Society, Denis Conlon, who has an odd little tale about the Argentinean ambassador's efforts to have Chesterton canonised, and new information on Chesterton's brush with the occult.

0407Michael Powell And Emeric Pressburger20030516

Humphrey Carpenter is joined by jazz singer, Stacey Kent to explore the lives of film-makers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

And Ian Christie looks at the reputation of The Archers.

0408The Man In The Iron Mask2003052320150122 (BBC7)
20150123 (BBC7)

Military historian Richard Holmes nominates The Man In The Iron Mask, and Humphrey Carpenter is joined in the studio by historian John Noone to reveal the man behind the Mask.

But is this a real life of a great legend?

Military historian Richard Holmes nominates the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask.

Military historian Richard Holmes nominates the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask. With Humphrey Carpenter and John Noone. From May 2003.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

0409David Lloyd George2003053020150205 (BBC7)
20150206 (BBC7)

Tanni Grey-Thompson winner of nine paralympic gold medals, picks her Welsh compatriot, david lloyd george_for great life status.

humphrey carpenter_lloyd.html'>Lloyd George_david.html'>david lloyd George, For Great Life Status.

humphrey Carpenter ensures that national pride doesn't cloud her appraisal of this controversial Liberal Prime Minister.

Athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson chooses her Welsh compatriot, politician David Lloyd George.

Athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson chooses her Welsh compatriot, politician David Lloyd George. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

0410Elizabeth The First2003060620150212 (BBC7)
20150213 (BBC7)

Campaigning broadcaster Esther Rantzen nominates Queen Elizabeth I, an apparently masterful political player who enjoyed vast power whilst maintaining the devotion of the entire nation.

Was she always in control, or was she carefully manipulated by her own spin-doctors and counsellors? Also joining presenter Humphrey Carpenter in the studio is historian Dr John Guy.

Broadcaster and campaigner Esther Rantzen chooses Queen Elizabeth I.

Broadcaster and campaigner Esther Rantzen chooses Queen Elizabeth I. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

05Captain Henry Morgan20150827 (BBC7)
20150828 (BBC7)

Writer and photographer Lucinda Lambton chooses the supposed pirate captain.

Writer and photographer Lucinda Lambton chooses the supposed pirate Captain Henry Morgan. With Humphrey Carpenter, assisted by David Cordingley. From December 2004.

05Edward Elgar20150806 (BBC7)
20150807 (BBC7)

Writer, broadcaster and charity founder Marjorie Wallace chooses composer Edward Elgar.

Writer, broadcaster and charity founder Marjorie Wallace chooses composer Edward Elgar. With Humphrey Carpenter. From November 2004.

0501Noel Coward - Peter Bazalgette2003100320150319 (BBC7)
20150320 (BBC7)

Peter Bazalgette proposes Noel Coward for great life status.

With biographer Philip Hoare and agent Michael Imison

TV producer Peter Bazalgette chooses the actor, lyricist and playwright, Noel Coward. With Humphrey Carpenter. From October 2003.

TV producer Peter Bazalgette chooses the actor, lyricist and playwright, Noel Coward.

0502Samuel Johnson - Kit Wright20031010

Poet Kit Wright proposes Samuel Johnson for great life status, in an edition from the Birmingham Book Festival.

0503Flora Sandes2003101720150312 (BBC7)
20150313 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Veteran war reporter, Kate Adie, has long been an admirer of Flora Sandes, who became the first commissioned female officer of the modern British Army during the First World War.

Humphrey Carpenter and military historian Julie Wheelwright join Kate at the Birmingham Book Festival to entertain an audience with the fascinating story of Captain Sandes.

Kate Adie discusses Britain's first commissioned female officer in World War One.

Kate Adie on Flora Sandes, Britain's first commissioned female officer in World War One. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2003.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

0504Sarah Bernhardt2003102420150226 (BBC7)
20150227 (BBC7)

Comedienne Jenny Eclair selects the Madonna of the Victorian era as her example of a Great Life.

She joins presenter Humphrey Carpenter, theatre historian Elaine Aston and actress Frances Barber to shed light on the acclaimed tragedienne Sarah Bernhardt, arguably the world's first international superstar.

Comedienne Jenny Eclair chooses one of the first acting superstars, Sarah Bernhardt. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

Comedienne Jenny Eclair chooses one of the first acting superstars, Sarah Bernhardt.

0505Bernardo O'higgins2003103120150305 (BBC7)
20150306 (BBC7)

The former Beirut hostage Brian Keenan joins Humphrey Carpenter in the studio to champion Bernardo O'Higgins, the Liberator of Chile.

The case for this unlikely sounding illegitimate child of an Irish adventurer is backed up by the Latin American specialist, Hugh O'Shaughnessy.

Writer Brian Keenan chooses Bernardo O'Higgins, who liberated Chile in the 19th century.

Writer Brian Keenan chooses Bernardo O'Higgins who liberated Chile in the 19th century. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

05062004110520150730 (BBC7)
20150731 (BBC7)

Writer and broadcaster Tim Marlow chooses innovative singer Marvin Gaye.

Writer and broadcaster Tim Marlow chooses innovative singer Marvin Gaye. With Humphrey Carpenter and Norman Jay. From November 2004.

7/10. George Orwell

Shami Chakrabarti is a civil rights campaigner, so it's no surprise that she's chosen to talk to Humphrey Carpenter about the man who invented 'Big Brother' and wrote the anti-Stalinist fable 'Animal Farm'. But George Orwell also defended the saturation bombing of German cities and contributed names to a Government blacklist of suspected Communists. As his biographer D.J.Taylor points out, the man who wrote 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' was as complicated in his politics as he was in his love-life.

0506Octavia Hill2003110720150521 (BBC7)
20150522 (BBC7)

Brenda Dean proposes National Trust founder Octavia Hill as her choice of a Great Life.

She joins presenter Humphrey Carpenter and the Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to analyse this highly-driven and complex social reformer.

Trade unionist and politician Brenda Dean chooses National Trust founder Octavia Hill.

With Humphrey Carpenter.

From November 2003.

0507Series 22, Winston Churchill20100917

Lord Digby Jones discusses the life of Winston Churchill.

0507Tommy Cooper2003111420150326 (BBC7)
20150327 (BBC7)

Sir Clement Freud selects comedian Tommy Cooper as his choice of a Great Life.

Together with presenter Humphrey Carpenter and biographer Jeremy Novick he explains why he found the big man in the fez and the size 13 shoes so memorable and entertaining.

Writer and broadcaster Clement Freud chooses comedian Tommy Cooper.

Writer and broadcaster Clement Freud chooses comedian Tommy Cooper. With Humphrey Carpenter. From November 2003.

0508Charles Dickens2003112120150402 (BBC7)
20150403 (BBC7)

Armando Ianucci is a huge and unexpected fan of Charles Dickens.

Were he alive today, he says, Dickens would be writing sitcoms.

Alan Partridge? Maybe not.

But the man behind the Partridge phenomena will be tackling the man behind the Pickwick, Chuzzlewit, Uriah Heep phenomena on tonight's edition of Great Lives.

Joining Armando and presenter Humphrey Carpenter in the great lives studio will be the Dickens expert, Professor Andrew Sanders.

Satirist and writer Armando Iannucci chooses novelist Charles Dickens.

Satirist and writer Armando Iannucci chooses novelist Charles Dickens. With Humphrey Carpenter. From November 2003.

0509Ian Dury2003112820150409 (BBC7)
20150410 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

Comedian and Radio 4 regular Linda Smith selects singer-songwriter Ian Dury as her choice of a life well-lived.

Comedian Linda Smith nominates musician, actor and artist Ian Dury.

Comedian Linda Smith nominates musician, actor and artist Ian Dury as her choice of a life well-lived. Humphrey Carpenter is in the chair, while writer, broadcaster and Dury's former manager Charlie Gillett fills in the biographical details.

0510Mary Kingsley2003120520150416 (BBC7)
20150417 (BBC7)

Journalist Ann Leslie chooses the pioneering writer and explorer Mary Kingsley.

Journalist Ann Leslie chooses the pioneering writer and explorer Mary Kingsley. With Humphrey Carpenter. From December 2003.

0510Mary Kingsly20031205
0601Niccolo Machiavelli20040402

In the first programme of the series, Lord Alistair McAlpine, the former treasurer of the Conservative party under Margaret Thatcher, nominates Niccolo Machiavelli.

Machiavelli's name has become a byword for low cunning and unprincipled scheming - but is that reputation deserved, and was Mrs Thatcher a true Machiavellian?

0602Ernest Bevin20040409

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey examines the life of his hero, Labour's post-war Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin.

How did an agricultural labourer who left school at 11 scale such political heights? The discussion is chaired by Humphrey Carpenter, and Bevin biographer Professor Brian Brivati adds extra expertise.

0603Tchaikovsky2004041620150423 (BBC7)
20150424 (BBC7)

is the subject of this week's Great Lives, chosen by Ruth Lea, economist and head of the Centre for Policy Studies.

Humphrey Carpenter chairs the discussion, and looks at some of the myths that surround the life and death of the Russian composer.

Did he commit suicide or die of cholera, and was he troubled by his homosexuality? Music critic and writer Stephen Johnson adds his expertise, and the programme comes from the Oxford Literary Festival.

Economist Ruth Lea chooses the great Russian composer. Stephen Johnson adds his expertise.

Economist Ruth Lea chooses the great Russian composer. Music critic and writer Stephen Johnson adds his expertise. With Humphrey Carpenter. From April 2004.

0604Tom Paine2004042320150430 (BBC7)
20150501 (BBC7)

In a programme from the Oxford literary festival, radical author and activist George Monbiot champions the cause of Tom Paine, the eighteenth century writer who was at the centre of both the American and French revolutions.

Why was a man who strongly influenced the American declaration of independence eventually disowned by his adopted country?

Chad Goodwin, chairman of the Thomas Paine society, lends his support, and the discussion is chaired by Humphrey Carpenter

Writer and political activist George Monbiot chooses 18th-century revolutionary Tom Paine.

With Humphrey Carpenter.

From April 2004.

In a programme from the Oxford literary festival, radical author and activist George Monbiot champions the cause of Tom Paine, the eighteenth century writer who was at the centre of both the American and French revolutions. Why was a man who strongly influenced the American declaration of independence eventually disowned by his adopted country?

0605Nelson2004043020150507 (BBC7)

Explorer Benedict Allen has always admired Horatio Nelson, England's greatest naval hero.

When Benedict was near to death in the Amazon, he thought of Nelson - who also nearly died in Central America - and his powerful sense of duty.

But Nelson's reputation is not as secure as it once was, and in France and Italy he is considered a war criminal because of a controversial episode in Naples.

With the help of biographer Terry Coleman, the programme assesses Nelson's strengths and weaknesses.

The programme is chaired by Humphrey Carpenter

Explorer Benedict Allen chooses Horatio Nelson. With biographer Terry Coleman. Presenter Humphrey Carpenter. From April 2004.

0606Lyndon B Johnson2004050720150514 (BBC7)
20150515 (BBC7)

Charles Wheeler, the veteran BBC television reporter, thinks that history has been unfair to the Texan 'fixer' who was thrust into power with the assassination of John F Kennedy and left office to the sound of demonstrators yelling 'How many kids did you kill today?'.

Lyndon Johnson, he tells presenter Humphrey Carpenter, is the greatest of all the American presidents since Roosevelt.

With the help of L B J 's biographer Robert Dallek, he explains why.

Veteran journalist Charles Wheeler chooses the USA's 36th president.

Veteran journalist Charles Wheeler chooses the USA's 36th president, Lyndon Johnson. With Humphrey Carpenter. From May 2004.

6/10. Lyndon B Johnson

Charles Wheeler, the veteran BBC television reporter, thinks that history has been unfair to the Texan 'fixer' who was thrust into power with the assassination of John F Kennedy and left office to the sound of demonstrators yelling 'How many kids did you kill today?'. Lyndon Johnson, he tells presenter Humphrey Carpenter, is the greatest of all the American presidents since Roosevelt. With the help of L B J 's biographer Robert Dallek, he explains why.

0606Series 22, Golda Meir20100910

Edwina Currie discusses the life of the former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

0607Edith Wharton - Kimberly Fortier2004051420150604 (BBC7)
20150605 (BBC7)

Kimberly Fortier is a lively American writer who now works in London where she is the publisher of The Spectator.

For her 'great life' she has chosen another lively American writer who moved to Europe.

Edith Wharton, the author of 40 books including 'The House of Mirth' and 'The Age of Innocence', was also an intrepid traveller, a refugee-worker during the First World War and a connoisseur of architecture and design.

Wharton expert Janet Beer supplies the details.

7/10.

Edith Wharton Kimberly Fortier is a lively American writer who now works in London where she is the publisher of The Spectator.

Publisher Kimberly Fortier chooses American writer Edith Wharton.

Publisher Kimberly Fortier chooses American writer Edith Wharton. With Professor Janet Beer and Humphrey Carpenter. From May 2004.

7/10. Edith Wharton

Kimberly Fortier is a lively American writer who now works in London where she is the publisher of The Spectator. For her 'great life' she has chosen another lively American writer who moved to Europe. Edith Wharton, the author of 40 books including 'The House of Mirth' and 'The Age of Innocence', was also an intrepid traveller, a refugee-worker during the First World War and a connoisseur of architecture and design. Wharton expert Janet Beer supplies the details.

0607Series 22, Winston Churchill
0608Anton Chekhov - Richard Eyre2004052120150611 (BBC7)
20150612 (BBC7)

Sir Richard Eyre is one of Britain's greatest theatre directors and, invited by Humphrey Carpenter to nominate a 'great life', he has chosen one of the world's greatest writers.

Born in provincial Russia, and dead at the age of 44 exactly a hundred years ago, Dr Chekhov was an unlikely candidate for greatness, but with a few great plays and hundreds of stories he became 'the nearest rival to Shakespeare'.

Chekhov's latest biographer, Rosalind Bartlett, helps to explain how he achieved this.

Theatre director Sir Richard Eyre nominates Russian writer Anton Chekhov.

Theatre director Sir Richard Eyre nominates Russian writer Anton Chekhov. With Humphrey Carpenter. From May 2004.

0609Benjamin Disraeli2004052820150618 (BBC7)
20150619 (BBC7)

Tory MP and former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke explains to Humphrey Carpenter why he believes that Disraeli, the Victorian statesman and novelist, lived a great life.

Also exploring Disraeli's colourful and flamboyant character and career is historian Jane Ridley.

Kenneth Clarke chooses the Victorian politician, Benjamin Disraeli.

Kenneth Clarke chooses the Victorian politician, Benjamin Disraeli. With Humphrey Carpenter and Jane Ridley. From May 2004.

0610 LASTJoseph Banks2004060420150625 (BBC7)
20150626 (BBC7)

President of the Royal Society Lord May champions the life of a naturalist and botanist who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour and 'discovered' Australia, as well as collecting enough specimens to stock the Natural History Museum.

Historian Patricia Fara explains what Joseph Banks did for science, whilst presenter Humphrey Carpenter referees.

Scientist Lord Robert May nominates the naturalist and botanist, Joseph Banks.

Scientist Lord Robert May nominates the naturalist and botanist, Joseph Banks. With Humphrey Carpenter. From June 2004.

Joseph Banks

President of the Royal Society Lord May champions the life of a naturalist and botanist who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour and 'discovered' Australia, as well as collecting enough specimens to stock the Natural History Museum. Historian Patricia Fara explains what Joseph Banks did for science, whilst presenter Humphrey Carpenter referees.

07Duke Of Wellington20151112 (BBC7)
20151113 (BBC7)

Best-selling novelist Frederick Forsyth nominates the Duke of Wellington.

Novelist Frederick Forsyth chooses the 'Iron Duke', the Duke of Wellington. With Andrew Roberts and Francine Stock. From June 2005.

07Genghis Khan20150903 (BBC7)
20150904 (BBC7)

American commentator Joe Queenan chooses the Mongol leader Genghis Khan.

American commentator Joe Queenan chooses the Mongol leader Genghis Khan. With Francine Stock. From April 2005.

07Mozart20151008 (BBC7)
20151009 (BBC7)

Michael Morpurgo nominates Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, assisted by Stephen Johnson.

Former Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo selects composer Wolfgang Mozart. With Francine Stock and Stephen Johnson. From April 2005.

0701Gilbert And Sullivan2004100120150702 (BBC7)
20150703 (BBC7)

Few musicians divide people quite as much as Gilbert and Sullivan.

However, Dillie Keane is certain in her choice of them as examples of lives well led.

The founder of cabaret group Fascinating Aida is helped along by the expertise of film director Mike Leigh, as Dillie explains to Humphrey Carpenter why she's a life-long fan of their comic operettas: quite unlike those detractors who cringe at the mere mention of the Pirates of Penzance!

"Michael Collins" was originally scheduled for this date, but pulled at the last moment for production quality.

Actress Dillie Keane chooses the musical duo Gilbert and Sullivan. With Mike Leigh. Presented by Humphrey Carpenter. From October 2004.

Actress Dillie Keane chooses the musical duo Gilbert and Sullivan.

1/10. Michael Collins

In the first of a new series of Radio 4's biography series, film producer David Puttnam chooses Michael Collins, the Irish nationalist leader, as his example of a great life. Joined by historian Tim Pat Coogan, Lord Puttnam explores what distinguishes terrorists from freedom fighters and statesmen.

Presented by Humphrey Carpenter.

0702Robert Fitzroy2004100820150709 (BBC7)
20150710 (BBC7)

Humphrey Carpenter is joined by Baroness Jay, former Leader of the House of Lords, to discuss the life of Admiral Robert Fitzroy, best known as captain of Darwins Beagle, and who went on to found the Met Office.

Science writer John Gribbin fills in the gaps in FitzRoys life, and celebrates the fact that sea area Finisterre was recently renamed after him.

Baroness Margaret Jay chooses pioneering meteorologist Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy.

With Humphrey Carpenter.

Baroness Margaret Jay chooses pioneering meteorologist Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy. With Humphrey Carpenter. From October 2004.

Robert FitzRoy

Humphrey Carpenter is joined by Baroness Jay, former Leader of the House of Lords, to discuss the life of Admiral Robert FitzRoy, best known as captain of Darwins Beagle, and who went on to found the Met Office. Science writer John Gribbin fills in the gaps in FitzRoys life, and celebrates the fact that sea area Finisterre was recently renamed after him.

0703Vivien Leigh2004101520150716 (BBC7)
20150717 (BBC7)

Barrister Christina Gorna offers an enthusiastic nomination of Vivien Leigh.

She is joined in the studio by biographer Hugo Vickers to assess this charismatic star of stage and screen and of whom it was once said that if found naked in the Sahara Desert with absolutely nothing, she would leave twenty-four hours later "in a Rolls-Royce, covered in minks and drinking champagne.".

Barrister Christina Gorna chooses Oscar-winning actress Vivien Leigh.

Barrister Christina Gorna chooses Oscar-winning actress Vivien Leigh. With Humphrey Carpenter and Hugo Vickers. From October 2004.

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

3/10. Vivien Leigh

Barrister Christina Gorna offers an enthusiastic nomination of Vivien Leigh. She is joined in the studio by biographer Hugo Vickers to assess this charismatic star of stage and screen and of whom it was once said that if found naked in the Sahara Desert with absolutely nothing, she would leave twenty-four hours later "in a Rolls-Royce, covered in minks and drinking champagne."

0704Leonard Woolf2004102220150723 (BBC7)
20150724 (BBC7)

Television's favourite wine-expert Jilly Goolden, invited to nominate a 'great life', has chosen the writer and political thinker Leonard Woolf.

Amazingly, the husband of the great novelist Virginia Woolf and founder of the Hogarth Press has never had a full-length biography devoted to him.

Now Victoria Glendinning is writing one - and she joins Jilly and presenter Humphrey Carpenter to consider the life of one of the key members of the 'Bloomsbury Group'.

Jilly Goolden nominates writer and political thinker Leonard Woolf.

Jilly Goolden nominates writer and political thinker Leonard Woolf, joined by biographer Victoria Glendinning and host Humphrey Carpenter. From October 2004.

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter.

4/10. Leonard Woolf

Television's favourite wine-expert Jilly Goolden, invited to nominate a 'great life', has chosen the writer and political thinker Leonard Woolf. Amazingly, the husband of the great novelist Virginia and founder of the Hogarth Press has never had a full-length biography devoted to him. Now Victoria Glendinning is writing one - and she joins Jilly and presenter Humphrey Carpenter to consider the life of one of the key members of the 'Bloomsbury Group'.

0705Burt Lancaster20041029

Burt Lancaster started as a circus performer and became the biggest Hollywood star of his time.

He could be as sinister as Cagney, as sensitive as Brando and as swashbuckling as Flynn - but the only role he ever played was himself.

Broadcaster Gerry Anderson - also famous for being himself - discusses the star's complex talent and complicated life with biographer Kate Buford and presenter Humphrey Carpenter

5/10. Burt Lancaster

Burt Lancaster started as a circus performer and became the biggest Hollywood star of his time. He could be as sinister as Cagney, as sensitive as Brando and as swashbuckling as Flynn - but the only role he ever played was himself.

0706Marvin Gaye20041105

Outstanding American soul singer Marvin Gaye met an untimely death at the hands of his own father twenty years ago.

He's the choice of art historian and broadcaster, Tim Marlow.

Presenter Humphrey Carpenter is also joined by DJ Norman Jay to shed light on the musician who broke the Motown mould with such classics as 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine'.

0707George Orwell20041112

Shami Chakrabarti is a civil rights campaigner, so it's no surprise that she's chosen to talk to Humphrey Carpenter about the man who invented 'Big Brother' and wrote the anti-Stalinist fable 'Animal Farm'.

But George Orwell also defended the saturation bombing of German cities and contributed names to a Government blacklist of suspected Communists.

As his biographer D.J.Taylor points out, the man who wrote 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' was as complicated in his politics as he was in his love-life.

0707George Orwell - Shami Chakrabarti20041112
0708Sir Edward Elgar20041119

The man whose portrait appears on the twenty-pound note claimed that his pet rabbit wrote songs with him and sent a little girl out with a butterfly net to catch notes for his next composition.

Marjorie Wallace, founder of the campaigning charity 'SANE', loves Elgar's music but suggests that to achieve its sublime beauty he had to struggle all his life against depression and despair.

Also joining Humphrey Carpenter for this investigation of the 'Enigma' man is Elgar's biographer Jerrold Northrop-Moore.

8/10. Sir Edward Elgar

0709Michael Collins2004112620150813 (BBC7)
20150814 (BBC7)

David Puttnam nominates Michael Collins, assisted by Irish historian Professor Roy Foster.

Film producer David Puttnam chooses Michael Collins, the Irish nationalist leader, as his example of a great life.

Joined by historian Tim Pat Coogan, Lord Puttnam explores what distinguishes terrorists from freedom fighters and statesmen.

Presented by Humphrey Carpenter

Film producer Lord Puttnam chooses the Irish nationalist leader Michael Collins. With Humphrey Carpenter. From November 2004.

Film producer Lord Puttnam chooses the Irish nationalist leader Michael Collins.

9/10. Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter. David Puttnam nominates MIchael Collins, assisted by Irish historian Professor Roy Foster.

0710 LASTCaptain Morgan20041203

Lucinda Lambton nominates Captain Morgan, assisted by David Cordingley.

Series of biographical discussions with Humphrey Carpenter. Lucinda Lambton nominates Captain Morgan, assisted by David Cordingley.

07SPECIALRobert Burns2004123120050121

Humphrey Carpenter presents a special New Year's Eve edition from Glasgow.

Singer Eddi Reader nominates her hero Robert Burns.

This was later repeated as a Hogmanay Special.

Humphrey Carpenter presents a special New Year's Eve edition from Glasgow. Singer Eddi Reader nominates her hero Robert Burns.

0801Genghis Khan20050401

Commentator Joe Queenan argues the case for the great warlord, while biographer John Man offers advice.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. 1/10. Genghis Khan. Commentator Joe Queenan argues the case for the great warlord, while biographer John Man offers advice.

0802George Sand2005040820150910 (BBC7)
20150911 (BBC7)

Mary Kenny nominates the 19th-century French novelist, while biographer Belinda Jack offers expert advice.

Mary Kenny nominates the 19th-century French novelist.

Mary Kenny nominates the 19th-century French novelist, while biographer Belinda Jack offers expert advice. With Francine Stock. From April 2005.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. 2/10. George Sand: Mary Kenny nominates the 19th-century French novelist, while biographer Belinda Jack offers expert advice.

0803Charles M Schulz2005041520150917 (BBC7)
20150918 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

Journalist and biographer Valerie Grove chooses Charles M Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip.

Journalist Valerie Grove chooses Charles M Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip.

Journalist and biographer Valerie Grove chooses Charles M Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip. Schulz's widow Jeannie provides biographical insights and Anita O'Brien, curator of the Cartoon Art Trust, puts the cartoon in its historical context.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. Journalist and biographer Valerie Grove chooses Charles M Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip.

0804Robert Louis Stevenson2005042220150924 (BBC7)
20150925 (BBC7)

The poet Douglas Dunn tells Francine Stock that the first book he ever read was Treasure Island and he's loved its author ever since.

Claire Harman, who's written the latest biography, fills in the details of a short but energetic life that began in Edinburgh and ended on the island of Samoa.

Poet Douglas Dunn nominates Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. Poet Douglas Dunn nominates Robert Louis Stevenson, explaining that the first book he ever read was Treasure Island and that he has loved its author ever since. Biographer Claire Harman fills in the details of a short but energetic life that began in Edinburgh and ended on the island of Samoa.

The poet Douglas Dunn tells Francine Stock that the first book he ever read was Treasure Island and he's loved its author ever since. Claire Harman, who's written the latest biography, fills in the details of a short but energetic life that began in Edinburgh and ended on the island of Samoa.

0805Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart20050429

The biography series where the living nominate the dead.

Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo nominates Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The three-year-old Mozart, we are told by his father Leopold, could master new instruments in a matter of minutes.

By his death at the age of 35 he had composed some of the greatest music ever.

But in between, his life was marked by rejection and the relentless hunt for a secure income.

Michael Morpurgo nominates il maestrino on the grounds that he can think of no other person who has given future generations so much pleasure.

The question Francine Stock seeks to answer is whether The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni would have ever been written if Mozart had not been pushed so hard as a boy.

Music journalist Stephen Johnson is on hand to give expert advice on Mozart's development, from his increasingly strained relationship with his father Leopold, to the effect of his heart break at the hands of Aloysia Weber and the death of his mother from typhus, for which Leopold in part held him responsible.

Mozart the genius is compared with the Mozart of public imagination (largely the work of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus); and we also hear what it was like for composers in an age when they were little more than the servants of their patrons, placed somewhere in the hierarchy between the cook and the valet.

The biography series where the living nominate the dead. Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo nominates Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The three-year-old Mozart, we are told by his father Leopold, could master new instruments in a matter of minutes. By his death at the age of 35 he had composed some of the greatest music ever. But in between, his life was marked by rejection and the relentless hunt for a secure income. Michael Morpurgo nominates il maestrino on the grounds that he can think of no other person who has given future generations so much pleasure. The question Francine Stock seeks to answer is whether The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni would have ever been written if Mozart had not been pushed so hard as a boy.

0806John D Rockefeller2005050620151015 (BBC7)
20151016 (BBC7)

Martin Smith, head of the English National Opera, nominates John D Rockefeller.

John D Rockefeller was for a time the richest, and perhaps most hated, man in the world.

Creator of Standard Oil, father of Mobil, Chevron, Exxon and Amoco, his net worth in 1913 was $900m, much of it acquired controversially - and then he began to give it all away.

Bertrand Russell reckoned two men were supreme in creating the modern world: Rockefeller and Bismarck.

Rockefeller's proposer is Martin Smith, a financier with a highly developed interest in the arts.

He's involved with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, and the Science Museum, among other organisations, and he's chairman of the English National Opera, to whom he donated £1 million in 2001.

He admires Rockefeller as a brilliant businessman in an age when the rules were not yet written, but is unclear on whether he is a sinner or a saint.

Eric Homberger, professor of American Studies at UEA, provides the background detail on the father, Devil Bill, and the events leading up to the Cleveland Massacre of 1872, when strong arm tactics led Rockefeller to take control of 22 of 26 refineries in the area, and the Rockefeller millions were made.

Financier and arts leader Martin Smith chooses US business tycoon, John D Rockerfeller.

Financier and arts leader Martin Smith chooses American business tycoon, John D Rockerfeller. With Francine Stock. From May 2005.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. Martin Smith, head of the English National Opera, nominates John D Rockefeller.

John D Rockefeller was for a time the richest, and perhaps most hated, man in the world. Creator of Standard Oil, father of Mobil, Chevron, Exxon and Amoco, his net worth in 1913 was $900m, much of it acquired controversially - and then he began to give it all away. Bertrand Russell reckoned two men were supreme in creating the modern world: Rockefeller and Bismarck.

Rockefeller's proposer is Martin Smith, a financier with a highly developed interest in the arts. He's involved with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, and the Science Museum, among other organisations, and he's chairman of the English National Opera, to whom he donated £1 million in 2001. He admires Rockefeller as a brilliant businessman in an age when the rules were not yet written, but is unclear on whether he is a sinner or a saint.

0807Marcus Garvey - 120050513

Lawyer Yvonne Brown nominates pan-African Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, with assistance from biographer Tony Martin.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. Lawyer Yvonne Brown nominates pan-African Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, with assistance from biographer Tony Martin.

0808Elizabeth Gaskell20050520

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

Historian Amanda Vickery nominates novelist and humanitarian Elizabeth Gaskell, with assistance from biographer Jenny Uglow.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. Historian Amanda Vickery nominates novelist and humanitarian Elizabeth Gaskell, with assistance from biographer Jenny Uglow.

0809Ronald Reagan2005052720151105 (BBC7)
20151106 (BBC7)

Margaret Thatcher's foreign affairs advisor, Lord Powell, proposes Ronald Reagan.

In February 1954, Ronald Reagan performed a two-week stint as the emcee at The Last Frontier in Las Vegas.

Professionally, it was the low point of an astonishing life that encompassed major Hollywood contracts, marriage to Jane Wyman and Nancy Davis, and the belated discovery that he was, in politics at least, pure box-office magic.

'Tear down this wall, Mr Gorbachev', remains one of the great lines of the last century.

Charles Powell, who was present at every meeting and phone call Margaret Thatcher had with the President, claims there was far more to his personality than the public perceived.

Reagan set deceptively simple goals, and achieved them spectacularly well.

The question is, how much glory should he claim?

Edmund Morris, author of the controversial Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan is on hand to offer the biographer's view.

Francine Stock presents the biography series where the living nominate the dead for great life status.

Lord Powell nominates Ronald Reagan, with assistance from Edmund Morris.

Lord Powell, Margaret Thatcher's foreign affairs adviser, chooses US President Ronald Reagan. With Francine Stock. From May 2005.

Francine Stock presents the biography series where the living nominate the dead for great life status. Margaret Thatcher's foreign affairs advisor, Lord Powell, proposes Ronald Reagan.

In February 1954, Ronald Reagan performed a two-week stint as the emcee at The Last Frontier in Las Vegas. Professionally, it was the low point of an astonishing life that encompassed major Hollywood contracts, marriage to Jane Wyman and Nancy Davis, and the belated discovery that he was, in politics at least, pure box-office magic. 'Tear down this wall, Mr Gorbachev', remains one of the great lines of the last century.

Charles Powell, who was present at every meeting and phone call Margaret Thatcher had with the President, claims there was far more to his personality than the public perceived. Reagan set deceptively simple goals, and achieved them spectacularly well. The question is, how much glory should he claim?

0810 LASTThe Duke Of Wellington20050603

When the Duke of Wellington died, the hero of Waterloo had become a deeply unpopular Prime Minister whom some accused of trying to be a dictator.

The novelist Freddie Forsyth proposes Wellington as this week's Great Life and discusses the Duke's astonishing career with historian Andrew Roberts and presenter Francine Stock

0901Mae West2005100720151119 (BBC7)
20151120 (BBC7)

'It's better to be looked over, than overlooked'.

As the blondest bombshell of them all and one of Hollywood's most outrageously camp icons, Mae West was certainly never ignored during a career spanning almost seven decades.

As a novelist, playwright, businesswoman, producer and performer - she always attracted scandal, controversy and men.

The writer Kathy Lette proposes Mae West as the first 'Great Life' in this new series, and discusses the queen of the quip with biographer Simon Louvish and presenter Francine Stock

Writer Kathy Lette proposes the blondest bombshell of them all, Mae West.

Writer Kathy Lette proposes the blondest bombshell of them all, Mae West, and discusses the queen of the quip with biographer Simon Louvish. From October 2005.

1/10. Mae West

As the blondest bombshell of them all and one of Hollywood's most outrageously camp icons, Mae West was certainly never ignored during a career spanning almost seven decades. As a novelist, playwright, businesswoman, producer and performer - she always attracted scandal, controversy and men.

0902R D Laing2005101420151126 (BBC7)
20151127 (BBC7)

In the 1960s R.D.

Laing was hailed as one of the greatest philosophers of his age.

His revolutionary ideas on madness and the human condition threw the world of psychiatry into turmoil and made him a hero to a generation of young people determined to expand their minds.

But was the Glaswegian psychiatrist a genius or a huckster? Carole Stone and Laing's son, Adrian, discuss the charismatic guru with Francine Stock

Carole Stone discusses the charismatic guru hailed during the 60s as a great philosopher.

Carole Stone and RD Laing's son Adrian discuss the charismatic guru hailed during the 60s as one of the greatest philosophers of his age. From October 2005.

Biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

2/10: RD Laing

In the 1960s RD Laing was hailed as one of the greatest philosophers of his age. But was the Glaswegian psychiatrist a genius or a huckster? Carole Stone and Laing's son, Adrian, discuss the charismatic guru with Francine Stock.

0903Samuel Coleridge-taylor2005102120151203 (BBC7)
20151204 (BBC7)

Samuel Coleridge Taylor's great oratorio, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, outperformed Handel's Messiah at the turn of the 19th century.

The first Black musician to attend The Royal College of Music, he attracted attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

Fellow composer Howard Goodall proposes him as a 'Great Life', joining Professor of Music at Bristol University, Stephen Banfield, and presenter Francine Stock, to discuss Coleridge Taylor's music and the essential role he played in inspiring other Black artists.

Howard Goodall champions the first black musician to attend the Royal College of Music.

Howard Goodall chooses the pioneering 19th-century black composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. With Francine Stock. From October 2005.

4 Extra Debut. Howard Goodall chooses the pioneering 19th-century black composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. With Francine Stock. From October 2005.

Biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

3/10. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge Taylor's great oratorio, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, outperformed Handel's Messiah at the turn of the 19th century. The first Black musician to attend The Royal College of Music, he attracted attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

0904Vasily Grossman2005102820151210 (BBC7)
20151211 (BBC7)

He fought and wrote at the bloodiest battles of the Second World War but novelist and war reporter Vasily Grossman is barely known outside Russia.

Historian Antony Beevor and writer Gillian Slovo put that right.

Grossman was declared unfit for service when the Germans invaded in 1941, but as a special correspondent for Red Star, the army newspaper, he was expected to fight and write.

He spent three years at the front chronicling some of the great turning points of the war.

He illustrated his experiences in Life and Fate, a novel thought so incendiary by Khrushchev that he forbade its publication.

Antony Beevor and Gillian Slovo talk about the novelist and war reporter Vasily Grossman.

4 Extra Debut. Writer Gillian Slovo chooses Soviet Russia novelist and war reporter, Vasily Grossman. With Francine Stock. From October 2005.

Biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

4/10. Vasily Grossman

He fought and wrote at the bloodiest battles of the Second World War but novelist and war reporter Vasily Grossman is barely known outside Russia. Historian Antony Beevor and writer Gillian Slovo put that right.

Grossman was declared unfit for service when the Germans invaded in 1941, but as a special correspondent for Red Star, the army newspaper, he was expected to fight and write. He spent three years at the front chronicling some of the great turning points of the war.

0905Zhao Ziyang2005110420160107 (BBC7)
20160108 (BBC7)

Robert Thomson, the editor of The Times, was a young reporter in Tiananmen Square when the tanks rolled in on the June 4, 1989.

The ensuing massacre marked the end of the reign of Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese premier who had led the push for economic and political reform.

Robert maps his rise and fall with China expert Isabel Hilton.

Journalist Robert Thomson on the rise and fall, in 1989, of Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang.

4 Extra Debut. Journalist Robert Thomson on the rise and fall, in 1989, of Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang. With Francine Stock. From November 2005.

Biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

5/10. Zhao Ziyang

Robert Thomson, the editor of The Times, was a young reporter in Tiananmen Square when the tanks rolled in on the June 4, 1989. The ensuing massacre marked the end of the reign of Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese premier who had led the push for economic and political reform. Robert maps his rise and fall with China expert Isabel Hilton.

0906Thomas Cromwell2005111120160114 (BBC7)
20160115 (BBC7)

Author Derek Wilson champions the cause of Thomas Cromwell, the man who smashed the monasteries in the 1530s.

Often portrayed as a cynical money-grabber, Cromwell ran the country for Henry VIII, but lost his head after he hitched his King to the wrong wife.

With the help of Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Derek tries to persuade Francine Stock that the politician who invented spin has been spun against by historians ever since.

Storyteller Derek Wilson chooses Henry VIII's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock. Author Derek Wilson, with the help of Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, champions the cause of the man who smashed the monasteries in the 1530s. Often portrayed as a cynical money-grabber, Cromwell ran the country for Henry VIII but lost his head after he hitched his King to the wrong wife.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

6/10. Thomas Cromwell

Author Derek Wilson champions the cause of Thomas Cromwell, the man who smashed the monasteries in the 1530s. Often portrayed as a cynical money-grabber, Cromwell ran the country for Henry VIII, but lost his head after he hitched his King to the wrong wife.

0907Beatrix Potter2005111820160728 (BBC7)
20160729 (BBC7)

Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, argues in favour of the 'greatness' of author Beatrix Potter, the woman who gave the world Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck.

But does her greatness lie in her literary achievements or in her skills as a conservationist, and is her real legacy the books or the 4,000 acres of countryside she left to the National Trust in her will?

With historian and writer Anne Hobbs.

Fiona Reynolds, former director of the National Trust, chooses writer Beatrix Potter.

4 Extra Debut. Fiona Reynolds, former director of the National Trust, chooses writer Beatrix Potter. With Francine Stock. From November 2005.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

7/10. Beatrix Potter

0908Marty Feldman20060203

DJ Annie Nightingale argues for the 'greatness' of manic-eyed comic Marty Feldman, best known for the role of Igor in Young Frankenstein, but who began his career as a scriptwriter until John Cleese convinced him to step in front of the cameras.

Feldman collaborator Barry Cryer also joins Francine in the studio to explore the comic's career and tragically early death.

NB This programme was scheduled for 20051125 but was postponed due coverage of the death of George Best.

Annie Nightingale argues for the 'greatness' of manic-eyed comic Marty Feldman, best known for the role of Igor in the film Young Frankenstein, but who began his career as a scriptwriter until John Cleese convinced him to step in front of the cameras.

Feldman collaborator Barry Cryer also joins presenter Francine Stock in the studio to explore the comic's career and tragically early death.

0909Nevil Shute2005120220160121 (BBC7)
20160122 (BBC7)

Broadcaster Adam Hart-davis attempts to convince presenter Francine Stock of the 'greatness' of engineer and writer Nevil Shute, who managed to combine a scientific and literary career, writing such best-sellers as A Town Like Alice and On the Beach.

Adam Hart-Davis selects 'On the Beach' and 'A Town Like Alice' novelist Nevil Shute.

4 Extra Debut. Broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis selects 'On the Beach' and 'A Town Like Alice' novelist Nevil Shute. With Francine Stock. From December 2005.

0910 LASTDorothy Parker2005120920160128 (BBC7)
20160129 (BBC7)

Ab-Fab actress and comic Helen Lederer tries to convince Francine Stock that despite the barbed wit, the barely disguised malice of her criticism and the unyielding pessimism of her work, the writer and poet Dorothy Parker led a "Great Life".

Helen Lederer chooses writer, poet and barbed wit, Dorothy Parker.

4 Extra Debut. Actress and comedian Helen Lederer chooses writer, poet and barbed wit, Dorothy Parker. With Francine Stock. From December 2005.

Series of biographical discussions with Francine Stock.

10/10. Dorothy Parker

1001Morecambe And Wise2006040420060407
20060407 (BBC7)
20151217 (BBC7)
20151218 (BBC7)

On Christmas Day in 1977, almost 29 million people sat down to watch Morecambe and Wise.

One of their guests was Penelope Keith, who nominates the masters of classless entertainment for Great Lives.

She is ably backed up by Eric Morecambe's son, Gary.

Penelope Keith champions the achievements of one of the most famous comic duos of all time

Actress Penelope Keith nominates legendary comedy double-act Morecambe and Wise as masters of classless entertainment.

On Christmas day in 1977, almost 29 million people sat down to watch Morecambe And Wise on BBC One. With false noses galore, Penelope co-starred alongside them in Ernie's play Cyrano de Bergerac. After this show, the duo defected back to ITV.

So will Penelope's two heroes stand up to intensive scrutiny from Mathew Parris and merit the description of having led great lives?

With Eric Morecambe's son Gary, who offers some fascinating insights into his father's background and how he viewed his success.

Producer: Miles Warde

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November 2006.

1002Andrew Carnegie2006041120060414
20160204 (BBC7)
20160205 (BBC7)

In 1901, when Andrew Carnegie sold his steel-making empire to the banker Jp Morgan for $480 million, the financier congratulated him on becoming the richest man in the world.

But it's not just Carnegie's wealth that inspired Jeff Randall to nominate him for Great Lives.

By the time he died, Carnegie had given most of his vast fortune away.

Matthew Parris invites Jeff to explore the life of an extraordinary businessman and philanthropist, with the help of Eric Homberger, Professor of American Studies at UEA.

4 Extra Debut. Financial journalist Jeff Randall chooses businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. With Matthew Parris. From November 2006.

Jeff Randall explores the life of the businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

2/10. Andrew Carnegie

In 1901, when Andrew Carnegie sold his steel-making empire to the banker JP Morgan for $480 million, the financier congratulated him on becoming the richest man in the world. But it's not just Carnegie's wealth that inspired Jeff Randall to nominate him for Great Lives. By the time he died, Carnegie had given most of his vast fortune away.

In 1901, when Andrew Carnegie sold his steel making empire to the banker JP Morgan for $480 million, the financier congratulated him on becoming the richest man in the world. But it's not just Carnegie's wealth that inspired Daily Telegraph's Editor-at-Large, Jeff Randall, to nominate him for Great Lives. By the time he died, Carnegie had given most of his vast fortune away.

Matthew Parris invites Jeff Randall to explore the life of an extraordinary businessman and philanthropist, with the help of Eric Homberger, Professor of American Studies at UEA.

1003Noel Coward - Julian Clary2006041820060421

Julian Clary's hero is Sir Noel Coward, nominated here for his elegance, his plays, and for being gay in an age when homosexuality was still illegal.

Sheridan Morley reveals many of the secrets of Coward's life, including the extent of his role in allied intelligence during the Second World War, while presenter Matthew Parris wonders how long Coward's literary achievements will last.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

3/10. Noel Coward

1004Sigmund Freud2006042520060428
20160211 (BBC7)
20160212 (BBC7)

Craig Brown reveals great dreams on Great Lives as he proposes Sigmund Freud.

Almost 70 years after his death, the father of psychoanalysis remains a powerful and compelling character, though critics have denounced his work as 'the greatest intellectual confidence trick of the last century'.

Matthew Parris chairs the programme, and Adam Phillips offers expert advice.

Craig Brown nominates the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

4 Extra Debut. Satirist Craig Brown chooses the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. With Adam Phillips and Matthew Parris. From April 2006.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

4/10. Sigmund Freud

Craig Brown reveals great dreams on Great Lives as he proposes Freud. Almost 70 years after his death, the father of psychoanalysis remains a powerful and compelling character, though critics have denounced his work as 'the greatest intellectual confidence trick of the last century'.

1005Ella Fitzgerald2006050220060505
20160218 (BBC7)
20160219 (BBC7)

Ella Fitzgerald is the choice of entrepreneur Ivan Massow.

He joins presenter Matthew Parris and Dame Cleo Laine to explore the contradictions in the life of the woman they called 'the First Lady of Song'.

Producer Isobel Eaton

Ivan Massow nominates the great jazz singer, with expert advice from Cleo Laine.

The entrepreneur Ivan Massow chooses the singer, Ella Fitzgerald. With Matthew Parris and singer Dame Cleo Laine. From May 2006.

1006Johnny Weissmuller2006050920060512
20160225 (BBC7)
20160226 (BBC7)

Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew tells Matthew Parris why athlete-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller deserves the mantle of greatness.

Weissmuller's only son Johnny Jr joins them to explore his heroic father's disturbing childhood, his astonishing swimming talent, and his Hollywood adventures with bad-tempered chimps and ticklish tigers.

Producer John Byrne.

Duncan Goodhew nominates athlete-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller.

4 Extra Debut. Duncan Goodhew champions the athlete who found fame as an actor. With Matthew Parris and Johnny Weissmuller Jr. From May 2006.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

6/10. Johnny Weissmuller

Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew tells Matthew Parris why athlete-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller deserves the mantle of greatness. Weissmuller's only son Johnny Jr joins them to explore his heroic father's disturbing childhood, his astonishing swimming talent, and his Hollywood adventures with bad-tempered chimps and ticklish tigers.

1007Ignaz Semmelweis2006051620060519
20160303 (BBC7)
20160304 (BBC7)

Writer and broadcaster Frances Cairncross nominates a forgotten hero of medicine.

Ignaz Semmelweis was a doctor ahead of his time.

In the mid-19th century he discovered why women were dying in droves after childbirth - doctors were spreading disease on their hands around hospitals.

The solution he came up with was regular hand-washing.

But his message was ignored.

Women carried on dying, Semmelweis went mad, and he died in obscurity.

Matthew Parris chairs the programme, and Semmelweis' biographer Sherwin Nuland offers expert advice.

Producer Jolyon Jenkins

Writer Frances Cairncross chooses a pioneer of antiseptic medical procedures, Ignaz Semmelweis. With Matthew Parris.

Frances Cairncross nominates a forgotten hero of medicine, Ignaz Semmelweis.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

7/10. Ignaz Semmelweis

Semmelweis was a doctor ahead of his time. In the mid-19th century he discovered why women were dying in droves after childbirth - doctors were spreading disease on their hands around hospitals. The solution he came up with was regular hand-washing.

But his message was ignored. Women carried on dying, Semmelweis went mad, and he died in obscurity. Matthew Parris chairs the programme, and Semmelweis' biographer Sherwin Nuland offers expert advice.

1008Tamara Karsavina2006052320060526
20160310 (BBC7)
20160311 (BBC7)

Writer and broadcaster Anna Raeburn nominates the ballerina Tamara Karsavina.

Born in Russia in 1885 she was caught up in the October revolution and fled to England where she lived until her death in 1978.

She was the leading female dancer in Diaghilev's Ballet Russes from its beginning in 1909 until 1922, and her partnership with Nijinsky created many of the greatest ballet roles that we know.

In England she coached Margot Fonteyn and created roles for Frederick Ashton.

Anna Raeburn explains why Karsavina still lives for her.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris. Anna Raeburn nominates ballerina Tamara Karsavina, the leading female dancer in Diaghilev's Ballet Russes from its beginning in 1909 until 1922. In England she coached Margot Fonteyn and created roles for Frederick Ashton. From May 2006.

Anna Raeburn chooses the Russian ballerina, Tamara Karsavina.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

8/10. Tamara Karsavina

Writer and broadcaster Anna Raeburn nominates the ballerina Tamara Karsavina. Born in Russia in 1885 she was caught up in the October revolution and fled to England where she lived until her death in 1978.

She was the leading female dancer in Diaghilev's Ballet Russes from its beginning in 1909 until 1922, and her partnership with Nijinsky created many of the greatest ballet roles that we know. In England she coached Margot Fonteyn and created roles for Frederick Ashton.

1009W G Grace2006053020060602
20151022 (BBC7)
20151023 (BBC7)

Piers Morgan, former editor of the Daily Mirror and life-long cricket enthusiast, nominates Wg Grace as the greatest English cricketer and, some would say, the greatest English sportsman of all time.

Piers is joined by Henry Blofeld, the voice of Test Match Special, to reflect on the achievements of the man who elevated cricket to its unique place in English life.

Matthew Parris acts as umpire.

Piers Morgan nominates WG Grace as the greatest English cricketer of all time.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris. Piers Morgan nominates WG Grace as the greatest English cricketer of all time. From May 2006.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

9/10. WG Grace

Piers is joined by Henry Blofeld, the voice of Test Match Special, to reflect on the achievements of the man who elevated cricket to its unique place in English life. Matthew Parris acts as umpire.

1010 LASTRobin Day2006060620060609
20160317 (BBC7)
20160318 (BBC7)

News presenter Krishnan Guru-murthy nominates his illustrious predecessor Robin Day.

During the height of his career, he was regarded as Britain's finest political interviewer - the great inquisitor- on television and radio.

Some salute him for breaking the mould of deferential interviewing but others think he bullied his subjects and stole the limelight himself with his mannered performances.

Krishnan Guru-murthy explains why for him Day remains a hero, we hear archive evidence, and Matthew Parris chairs the programme.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris. News presenter Krishnan Guru-murthy nominates his illustrious predecessor Robin Day. During the height of his career, Day was regarded as Britain's finest political interviewer. Some salute him for breaking the mould of deferential interviewing but others think he bullied his subjects and stole the limelight himself with his mannered performances. From June 2006.

News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy nominates his illustrious predecessor Robin Day. During the height of his career, he was regarded as Britain's finest political interviewer - the great inquisitor- on television and radio. Some salute him for breaking the mould of deferential interviewing but others think he bullied his subjects and stole the limelight himself with his mannered performances.

1101Leon Trotsky2006080820060811
20160324 (BBC7)
20160325 (BBC7)

A fiery return for the biographical series in which Matthew Parris chooses the living, and the living choose the dead.

Christopher Hitchens proposes Leon Trotsky, the hero of the Russian Revolution later assassinated with an ice pick in the skull.

He sees him as the perfect combination of the man of ideas and man of action, and says Trotsky's writings still make the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Matthew Parris is joined by Professor Robert Service in resisting him all the way.

Christopher Hitchens nominates Leon Trotsky, hero of the Russian Revolution.

4 Extra Debut. Writer and journalist Christopher Hitchens chooses Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky. With Matthew Parris. From August 2006.

1/8. Leon Trotsky

A fiery return for the biographical series in which Matthew Parris chooses the living, and the living choose the dead. Christopher Hitchens proposes Leon Trotsky, the hero of the Russian Revolution later assassinated with an ice pick in the skull. He sees him as the perfect combination of the man of ideas and man of action, and says Trotsky's writings still make the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Matthew Parris is joined by Professor Robert Service in resisting him all the way.

1102Max Miller2006081520060818
20160519 (BBC7)
20160520 (BBC7)

Max Miller was one of the highest-paid and most popular comedians of the 20th century.

But his risqué humour got him banned from the BBC.

TV critic Garry Bushell thinks he represented the true voice of working-class humour and, with the help of Roy Hudd, who worked with Miller, examines the career of the cheeky chappie.

Garry Bushell nominates the 'cheeky chappie' who portrayed the voice of the working class.

4 Extra Debut. Garry Bushell chooses the music hall comedian. With Matthew Parris and first-hand expert analysis from Roy Hudd. From August 2006.

The biographical series hosted by Matthew Parris in which a guest nominates a person who could be labelled as great.

2/8. Max Miller

Max Miller was one of the highest-paid and most popular comedians of the 20th century. But his risqué humour got him banned from the BBC. TV critic Garry Bushell thinks he represented the true voice of working-class humour and, with the help of Roy Hudd, who worked with Miller, he examines the career of the cheeky chappie.

Max Miller was one of the highest-paid and most popular comedians of the 20th century. But his risqué humour got him banned from the BBC. TV critic Garry Bushell thinks he represented the true voice of working-class humour and, with the help of Roy Hudd, who worked with Miller, examines the career of the cheeky chappie.

1103Eleanor Roosevelt2006082220060825
20160407 (BBC7)
20160408 (BBC7)

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was born into a wealthy American family but transcended her origins to become a formidable campaigner for human rights and economic justice - both in the United States and on the world stage.

Civil liberties lawyer Helena Kennedy argues that she was one of the great women of the last century, and with the help of Roosevelt biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook, examines her extraordinary life.

Helena Kennedy champions Eleanor Roosevelt, who become a formidable campaigner.

4 Extra Debut. Helena Kennedy on Eleanor Roosevelt, human rights campaigner. With Matthew Paris and biographer, Blanche Wiesen Cook. From August 2006.

The biographical series hosted by Matthew Parris in which a guest nominates a person who could be labelled as great.

3/8. Eleanor Roosevelt

1104W H Auden2006082920060901
20160414 (BBC7)
20160415 (BBC7)

Broadcaster Jeremy Vine loves the poetry of W H Auden, but isn't much interested in his life.

Presenter Matthew Parris doesn't think a lot of the poetry, but is fascinated by Auden's life.

Biographer Richard Davenport-hines thinks one needs to understand the life to appreciate the work.

Jeremy Vine is joined by Richard Davenport-Hines to explore the life and work of WH Auden.

4 Extra Debut. Broadcaster Jeremy Vine chooses the poet WH Auden. With Matthew Parris and Auden biographer Richard Davenport-Hines. From August 2006.

The biographical series hosted by Matthew Parris in which a guest nominates a person who could be labelled as great.

4/8. WH Auden

Broadcaster Jeremy Vine loves the poetry of WH Auden, but isn't much interested in his life. Presenter Matthew Parris doesn't think a lot of the poetry, but is fascinated by Auden's life. Biographer Richard Davenport-Hines thinks you need to understand the life to appreciate the work.

Broadcaster Jeremy Vine loves the poetry of WH Auden, but isn't much interested in his life. Presenter Matthew Parris doesn't think a lot of the poetry, but is fascinated by Auden's life. Biographer Richard Davenport-Hines thinks one needs to understand the life to appreciate the work.

1105Julia Ward Howe2006090520060908

American academic Elaine Showalter joins presenter Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the 19th-century American writer, Julia Ward Howe.

Best known as the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Ward Howe was a feminist, a pacifist and - according to Showalter - a great lost poet.

With Professor Gary Williams

The biographical series hosted by Matthew Parris in which a guest nominates a person who could be labelled as great.

5/8. Julia Ward Howe

American academic Elaine Showalter joins presenter Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the 19th-century American writer, Julia Ward Howe. Best known as the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Ward Howe was a feminist, a pacifist and - according to Showalter - a great lost poet. With Professor Gary Williams.

1106Stanley Baldwin2006091220060915

The former Tory Minister John Biffen tells Matthew Parris why he believes Stanley Baldwin's reputation deserves a rethink.

With journalist and Labour historian, Anne Perkins

The biographical series hosted by Matthew Parris in which a guest nominates a person who could be labelled as great.

6/8. Stanley Baldwin

The former Tory Minister John Biffen tells Matthew Parris why he believes Baldwin's reputation deserves a rethink. With journalist and Labour historian, Anne Perkins.

1107Nina Simone2006091920060922
20160331 (BBC7)
20160401 (BBC7)

The legendary chanteuse, pianist, composer and civil rights activist Nina Simone is the choice of another female musician who's made a career of defying convention - Joanna MacGregor.

Matthew Parris presents.

Joanna MacGregor talks about the acclaimed chanteuse, pianist, composer and activist.

Joanna MacGregor chooses the singer, pianist and activist. With Matthew Parris and expert analysis from Mark Coles. From September 2006.

The biographical series hosted by Matthew Parris in which a guest nominates a person who could be labelled as great.

7/8. Nina Simone

The legendary chanteuse, pianist, composer and civil rights activist Nina Simone is the choice of another female musician who's made a career of defying convention - Joanna MacGregor. Matthew Parris presents.

1108 LASTCharles Darwin2006092620060929
20160505 (BBC7)
20160506 (BBC7)

Businessman and academic Lord Adair Turner joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great scientist, Charles Darwin.

They are joined by Professor James Moore.

Businessman and academic Adair Turner talks about the life of Charles Darwin.

4 Extra Debut. Lord Adair Turner joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life and work of Charles Darwin. With Professor James Moore. From September 2006.

The biographical series hosted by Matthew Parris in which a guest nominates a person who could be labelled as great.

8/8. Charles Darwin

Businessman and academic Lord Adair Turner joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great scientist, Charles Darwin. They are joined by Professor James Moore.

1201John H Hammond2006121220061215
20160512 (BBC7)
20160513 (BBC7)

In a career that stretched from 1932 to 1985, legendary record producer John Hammond discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen.

He also worked tirelessly to end race discrimination in the music industry.

Record producer Joe Boyd discusses Hammond's career with Matthew Parris and with Dunstan Prial, author of a new biography of Hammond.

Joe Boyd discusses the career of record producer John H Hammond with Matthew Parris.

In a career that stretched from 1932 to 1985, legendary record producer John Hammond discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen. He also worked tirelessly to end race discrimination in the music industry.

Series in which a guest nominates someone has having led a 'great life'.

1/8. John H Hammond

1202Millicent Fawcett2006121920061222

For 50 years, Millicent Garrett Fawcett struggled to win the right to vote for women in Britain, yet today she is little-known compared to the suffragette leaders who took a more militant course.

Feminist campaigner Lesley Abdela discusses the extraordinary 'MGF', with Matthew Parris and historian Elizabeth Crawford

Series in which a guest nominates someone has having led a 'great life'.

2/8. Millicent Fawcett

For 50 years, Millicent Garrett Fawcett struggled to win the right to vote for women in Britain, yet today she is little-known compared to the suffragette leaders who took a more militant course. Feminist campaigner Lesley Abdela discusses the extraordinary 'MGF', with Matthew Parris and historian Elizabeth Crawford

1202Millicent Garrett Fawcett2006121920061222
20160526 (BBC7)
20160527 (BBC7)

For 50 years, Millicent Garrett Fawcett struggled to win the right to vote for women in Britain, yet today she is little-known compared to the suffragette leaders who took a more militant course.

Feminist campaigner Lesley Abdela discusses the extraordinary 'MGF', with Matthew Parris and historian Elizabeth Crawford

Feminist campaigner Lesley Abdela discusses the extraordinary suffragette leader.

For 50 years, Millicent Garrett Fawcett struggled to win the right to vote for women in Britain, yet today she is little-known compared to the suffragette leaders who took a more militant course. Feminist campaigner Lesley Abdela discusses the extraordinary 'MGF', with Matthew Parris and historian Elizabeth Crawford.

1203Albert Einstein2006122620160602 (BBC7)
20160603 (BBC7)

Time Magazine called him The Man of the Century and others have said he was 'the greatest Jew since Jesus'.

His theories still make our brains spin, but what was Einstein like as a person? TV science presenter Professor Kathy Sykes discusses the archetypal crazy genius with Matthew Parris and Einstein's biographer, John Gribbin

Scientist and broadcaster Kathy Sykes chooses the iconic physicist, Albert Einstein.

Time Magazine called him The Man of the Century and others have said he was 'the greatest Jew since Jesus'. His theories still make our brains spin, but what was Einstein like as a person? TV science presenter Professor Kathy Sykes discusses the archetypal crazy genius with Matthew Parris and Einstein's biographer, John Gribbin.

Series in which a guest nominates someone has having led a 'great life'.

3/8. Albert Einstein

1204Joan Littlewood2007010220070105

Victor Spinetti nominates director Joan Littlewood, who gave him his first big break when he was working as a comedian in a strip-club.

Biographical information is supplied by theatre historian Nadine Holdsworth and through archive interviews with Littlewood herself.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

4/8. Joan Littlewood

Victor Spinetti nominates director Joan Littlewood, who gave him his first big break when he was working as a comedian in a strip-club. Biographical information is supplied by theatre historian Nadine Holdsworth and through archive interviews with Littlewood herself.

Victor Spinetti nominates director Joan Littlewood, who gave him his first big break when he was working as a comedian in a strip-club. Biographical information is supplied by theatre historian Nadine Holdsworth and by archive interviews with Littlewood herself.

1205Richard Beckinsale2007010920070112

Alan Davies, star of Jonathan Creek and Bob and Rose, nominates a man who died less than three decades ago and whose life was so brief that no one has yet written it up.

But there was and still is something about Richard Beckinsale that remains extraordinarily well loved.

With contributions from Stephen Frears, who directed him in two films, and his widow Judy Loe, plus archive of his Porridge cell mate Ronnie Barker.

Presented by Matthew Parris

Series in which a guest nominates someone has having led a 'great life'.

5/8. Richard Beckinsale

Alan Davies, star of Jonathan Creek and Bob and Rose, nominates a man who died less than three decades ago and whose life was so brief that no one has yet written it up. But there was and still is something about Richard Beckinsale that remains extraordinarily well loved.

With contributions from Stephen Frears, who directed him in two films, and his widow Judy Loe, plus archive of his Porridge cell mate Ronnie Barker. Presented by Matthew Parris.

1206Martha Gellhorn2007011620070119
20160609 (BBC7)
20160610 (BBC7)

A typical story in Popbitch is usually about 90 words.

This probably explains why its editor Camilla Wright has chosen Martha Gellhorn as her Great Life.

Gellhorn wrote at length about the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and Vietnam.

Biographer Caroline Moorhead joins presenter Matthew Parris to dissect and debate a brilliant and complicated life.

Camilla Wright chooses Martha Gellhorn, who wrote at length about the Spanish Civil War.

A typical story in Popbitch is usually about 90 words. This probably explains why its editor Camilla Wright has chosen Martha Gellhorn as her Great Life. Gellhorn wrote at length about the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and Vietnam. Biographer Caroline Moorhead joins presenter Matthew Parris to dissect and debate a brilliant and complicated life.

Series in which a guest nominates someone has having led a 'great life'.

6/8. Martha Gellhorn

1207William Beveridge2007012320070126
20160630 (BBC7)
20160701 (BBC7)

Anne Fine nominates the author of the report that became the basis for the welfare state.

Expert assistance is provided by Frank Field, former minister of welfare reform.

Anne Fine nominates William Beveridge, who sparked the creation of the welfare state.

4 Extra debut. Writer Anne Fine chooses social security reformer William Beveridge. With Frank Field and Matthew Parris. From January 2007.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

7/8. William Beveridge

Anne Fine nominates the author of the report that became the basis for the welfare state. Expert assistance is provided by Frank Field, former minister of welfare reform.

1208Julius Caesar2007013020070202
20070522 (BBC7)
20160901 (BBC7)
20160902 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

8/9. Archaeologist Barry Cunliffe nominates Julius Caesar.

A brilliant orator and military tactician, Caesar was undoubtedly talented, yet he failed to find political solutions to the problems of the late Roman Republic.

Archaeologist Barry Cunliffe nominates ancient Roman leader Julius Caesar.

8/8. Pope John Paul II

Ann Widdicombe MP, famous for her opposition to women priests, nominates the late pontiff, who felt just as strongly on the matter. Malachi O'Doherty, author of 'I Was a Teenage Catholic', joins the debate.

1208 LASTPope John Paul Ii2007013020070202
20160616 (BBC7)
20160617 (BBC7)

Ann Widdicombe MP, famous for her opposition to women priests, nominates the late pontiff, who felt just as strongly on the matter.

Malachi O'Doherty, author of 'I Was a Teenage Catholic', joins the debate.

Ann Widdicombe MP nominates the late pontiff, who agreed with her on women priests.

Ann Widdicombe MP, famous for her opposition to women priests, nominates the late pontiff, who felt just as strongly on the matter. Malachi O'Doherty, author of 'I Was a Teenage Catholic', joins the debate.

1209George Bernard Shaw2007020620070529 (BBC7)
20160818 (BBC7)
20160819 (BBC7)

Dr Phil Hammond chooses the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, George Bernard Shaw.

4 Extra Debut. Dr Phil Hammond chooses the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, George Bernard Shaw. With Matthew Parris. From May 2007.

13Sir Alec Issigonis20070828 (BBC7)
20160915 (BBC7)
20160916 (BBC7)

Engineer Alex Moulton and the Earl of Snowdon talk about the life of Alec Issigonis.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

4/9. Engineer Alex Moulton and the Earl of Snowdon talk about the life of Alec Issigonis, the idiosyncratic designer of the Mini.

1301Joe Strummer2007040320070406
20160623 (BBC7)
20160624 (BBC7)

Phill Jupitus nominates former Clash frontman Joe Strummer, who died in 2002.

Joe was born John Graham Mellor, and, like his nominator, educated at a boarding school.

Biographer and friend Chris Salewicz offers personal insights into Strummer's life.

With Matthew Parris. Phill Jupitus nominates former Clash frontman Joe Strummer.

Comedian and broadcaster Phill Jupitus chooses the lead singer of The Clash, Joe Strummer. With Matthew Parris. From April 2007.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris. Phill Jupitus nominates former Clash frontman Joe Strummer, who died in 2002. Joe was born John Graham Mellor, and, like his nominator, educated at a boarding school. Biographer and friend Chris Salewicz offers personal insights into Strummer's life.

1302Tintin2007041020070413

Despite being totally fictional, photojournalist Nick Danziger makes a powerful case for the inclusion of the little Belgian reporter and his small dog among the pantheon of greats.

Michael Farr attempts to keep the conversation on a higher plane.

The programme includes archive of Tintin's creator Herge.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

2/9. Tintin

Despite being totally fictional, photojournalist Nick Danziger makes a powerful case for the inclusion of the little Belgian reporter and his small dog among the pantheon of greats. Michael Farr attempts to keep the conversation on a higher plane. The programme includes archive of Tintin's creator Herge.

1303Anton Chekhov - William Boyd20070417

Author William Boyd champions playwright Anton Chekhov's claim to greatness.

His work may be revered, but Chekhov's treatment of women, dogs and his pet mongoose left a lot to be desired.

Joining Matthew in the studio is Chekhov biographer Donald Rayfield.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

3/9. Author William Boyd champions playwright Anton Chekhov's claim to greatness. His work may be revered, but Chekhov's treatment of women, dogs and his pet mongoose left a lot to be desired. Joining Matthew in the studio is Chekhov biographer Donald Rayfield.

1304Marie Curie2007042420070427
20160714 (BBC7)
20160715 (BBC7)

BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh explains how Marie Curie achieved iconic status through her work on radioactivity and weighs up the cost she paid for her success.

The studio guest is Curie biographer Sarah Dry

Pallab Ghosh explains how Marie Curie achieved fame through her work on radioactivity.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

4/9. BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh explains how Marie Curie achieved iconic status through her work on radioactivity and weighs up the cost she paid for her success. The studio guest is Curie biographer Sarah Dry.

1305Billie Holiday2007050120160721 (BBC7)
20160722 (BBC7)

Pauline Black, lead singer with The Selecter, nominates Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.

Pauline played Billie in an award-winning stage role in 1990.

Guest is Julia Blackburn, whose book With Billie was based on the observations of people who knew her.

Singer and actress Pauline Black chooses a jazz legend, the singer Billie Holiday.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

5/9. Pauline Black, lead singer with The Selecter, nominates Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. Pauline played Billie in an award-winning stage role in 1990. Guest is Julia Blackburn, whose book With Billie was based on the observations of people who knew her.

1306Mata Hari2007050820160804 (BBC7)
20160805 (BBC7)

Fiona Bruce champions the claim to greatness of the notorious femme fatale Mata Hari.

Was she a dangerous double agent or a casualty of war, and how did her name become synonymous with sleaze and betrayal? Studio guest is historian Julie Wheelwright.

Fiona Bruce chooses the femme fatale, international spy and exotic dancer, Mata Hari.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

6/9. Fiona Bruce champions the claim to greatness of the notorious femme fatale Mata Hari. Was she a dangerous double agent or a casualty of war, and how did her name become synonymous with sleaze and betrayal? Studio guest is historian Julie Wheelwright.

1307Brian Clough2007051520070918 (BBC7)
20161006 (BBC7)
20161007 (BBC7)

John Motson nominates former Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough.

4 Extra Debut. Commentator John Motson chooses football manager Brian Clough. With Matthew Parris and Duncan Hamilton. From September 2007.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

7/9. Theatre director, actress and writer Yvonne Brewster nominates poet Claude McKay.

A leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, McKay gave a voice to the anger and growing confidence of African-Americans, yet he died in poverty and obscurity.

1307Claude Mckay2007051520160811 (BBC7)
20160812 (BBC7)

Theatre director, actress and writer Yvonne Brewster nominates poet Claude Mckay.

A leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, McKay gave a voice to the anger and growing confidence of African-Americans, yet he died in poverty and obscurity.

4 Extra Debut. Theatre director Yvonne Brewster chooses poet, and key figure of 1920s Harlem, Claude McKay. With Matthew Parris. From May 2007.

1308Elizabeth David2007052220070525
20070925 (BBC7)
20161013 (BBC7)
20161014 (BBC7)

Chef and novelist Prue Leith chooses cookery writer Elizabeth David.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

8/9. Prue Leith nominates Elizabeth David, arguably the greatest food writer of the 20th century. She is joined by biographer Artemis Cooper.

8/9. Archaeologist Barry Cunliffe nominates Julius Caesar. A brilliant orator and military tactician, Caesar was undoubtedly talented, yet he failed to find political solutions to the problems of the late Roman Republic.

8/9. Archaeologist Barry Cunliffe nominates Julius Caesar.

A brilliant orator and military tactician, Caesar was undoubtedly talented, yet he failed to find political solutions to the problems of the late Roman Republic.

1308Julius Caesar2007052220070525

Archaeologist Barry Cunliffe nominates Julius Caesar.

A brilliant orator and military tactician, Caesar was undoubtedly talented, yet he failed to find political solutions to the problems of the late Roman Republic.

1309George Washington2007052920070601
20071002 (BBC7)
20161020 (BBC7)
20161021 (BBC7)

British General Sir Michael Rose selects 'Father of the American Nation' George Washington

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

9/9. General Sir Michael Rose nominates George Washington for greatness. He is joined by Washington expert Frank Grizzard.

9/9. In a special edition from the Hay Festival, comedian and broadcaster Dr Phil Hammond nominates the playwright, critic and political activist George Bernard Shaw.

1309 LASTGeorge Bernard Shaw2007052920070601

In a special edition from the Hay Festival, comedian and broadcaster Dr Phil Hammond nominates the playwright, critic and political activist George Bernard Shaw.

1401Lilian Baylis2007080720070810

Jude Kelly, artistic director of London's Southbank Centre, nominates legendary Edwardian theatre producer Lilian Baylis.

She is joined by biographer Liz Schafer.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

1/9. Jude Kelly, artistic director of London's Southbank Centre, nominates legendary Edwardian theatre producer Lilian Baylis. She is joined by biographer Liz Schafer.

1402Elvis Presley2007081420070817

Former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble explains his devotion to Elvis Presley in a special programme to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the singer's death.

He is joined by Presley biographer Peter Guralnick

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

2/9. Former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble explains his devotion to Elvis Presley in a special programme to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the singer's death. He is joined by Presley biographer Peter Guralnick.

1402George Cruikshank20071218 (BBC7)
20161103 (BBC7)
20161104 (BBC7)

Quentin Blake nominates illustrator George Cruikshank.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

2/7. Illustrator Quentin Blake nominates George Cruikshank, who drew the original Fagin and Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist. Vic Gatrell outlines some of the darker sides to Cruikshank's life.

1403Alfred Russel Wallace20080101 (BBC7)
20161110 (BBC7)
20161111 (BBC7)

Travel writer Redmond O'Hanlon proposes the pioneering naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

4 Extra Debut. Travel writer Redmond O'Hanlon proposes the pioneering naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. With Matthew Parris. From January 2008.

1403Rembrandt2007082120141016 (BBC7)
20141017 (BBC7)
20160908 (BBC7)
20160909 (BBC7)

Artist and sculptor Maggi Hambling nominates Rembrandt as her choice of a great life, helped by novelist Sarah Emily Miano.

Artist and sculptor Maggi Hambling nominates Rembrandt as her choice of a great life.

Artist and sculptor Maggi Hambling chooses the 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt. With Matthew Parris.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

3/9. Artist and sculptor Maggi Hambling nominates Rembrandt as her choice of a great life, helped by novelist Sarah Emily Miano.

1404Alec Issigonis2007082820070831

Engineer Alex Moulton and the Earl of Snowdon talk about the life of Alec Issigonis, the idiosyncratic designer of the Mini.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

4/9. Engineer Alex Moulton and the Earl of Snowdon talk about the life of Alec Issigonis, the idiosyncratic designer of the Mini.

1404Howard Florey20080108 (BBC7)
20161117 (BBC7)
20161118 (BBC7)

Richard Sykes champions Sir Howard Florey, a forgotten man in the discovery of penicillin.

4 Extra Debut. Sir Richard Sykes champions Sir Howard Florey, a forgotten key figure in the story of penicillin. With Matthew Parris. From January 2008.

1405Groucho Marx2007090420070907
20080115 (BBC7)
20151001 (BBC7)
20151002 (BBC7)

Roger Graef champions the great comic Groucho Marx.

Documentary film-maker Roger Graef chooses acerbic comedy movie star Groucho Marx. With Matthew Parris. From January 2008.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

5/9. Conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin talks about the life of avant-garde composer John Cage and his influence on the visual arts.

1405John Cage2007090420070907
20160922 (BBC7)
20160923 (BBC7)

Conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin talks about the life of avant-garde composer John Cage and his influence on the visual arts.

Conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin talks about avant-garde composer John Cage.

4 Extra Debut. Conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin chooses the American writer, composer and artist. With Matthew Parris. From September 2007.

1406Katherine Mansfield2007091120070914
20080122 (BBC7)
20161124 (BBC7)
20161125 (BBC7)

Jacqueline Wilson chooses the writer Katherine Mansfield. With Angela Smith as witness.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

6/7. Children's author Jacqueline Wilson nominates short story writer Katherine Mansfield for greatness. She is joined by biographer Prof Angela Smith to assess the impact of Mansfield's brilliant but tragically short career.

6/9. Blur drummer David Rowntree discusses the life of Lord Denning, one of the great and controversial judges of the 20th century.

With Joshua Rozenberg, Daily Telegraph legal editor.

1406Lord Denning2007091120070914
20160929 (BBC7)
20160930 (BBC7)

Blur drummer David Rowntree discusses the life of Lord Denning, one of the great and controversial judges of the 20th century.

With Joshua Rozenberg, Daily Telegraph legal editor.

Blur drummer David Rowntree discusses the life of Lord Denning.

4 Extra Debut. Blur drummer David Rowntree chooses legal heavyweight, Lord Denning. With Joshua Rozenberg and Matthew Parris. From September 2007.

1407Brian Clough2007091820070921

John Motson proposes former Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough.

He is joined by biographer Duncan Hamilton.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

7/9. John Motson proposes former Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough. He is joined by biographer Duncan Hamilton.

1407Hermann Buhl20080129 (BBC7)
20161201 (BBC7)
20161202 (BBC7)

Mountaineer Joe Simpson takes up the cause of the pioneering Austrian climber Hermann Buhl

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

7/7. Mountaineer Joe Simpson takes up the cause of a relatively unknown but pioneering Austrian climber. Hermann Buhl tackled some of the most dangerous climbs in the world and was revered among his contemporaries for his ability to push himself through the bleakest of conditions.

1408Elizabeth David2007092520070928

Prue Leith nominates Elizabeth David, arguably the greatest food writer of the 20th century.

She is joined by biographer Artemis Cooper.

1409 LASTGeorge Washington2007100220071005

General Sir Michael Rose nominates George Washington for greatness.

He is joined by Washington expert Frank Grizzard.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

9/9. General Sir Michael Rose nominates George Washington for greatness. He is joined by Washington expert Frank Grizzard.

1501Thora Hird2007121120071214
20161027 (BBC7)
20161028 (BBC7)

Jan Ravens champions Dame Thora Hird.

Biographer Morris Bright and Thora's daughter Janette Scott provide expert advice on an actress once described as the Queen Mum of British stage and screen.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

1/7. Jan Ravens champions Dame Thora Hird. Biographer Morris Bright and Thora's daughter Janette Scott provide expert advice on an actress once described as the Queen Mum of British stage and screen.

Impressionist Jan Ravens chooses the award-winning actress, Dame Thora Hird.

1502Charles Bukowski2007121820071221
20080408 (BBC7)
20161215 (BBC7)
20161216 (BBC7)

Writer and comedy star Rhona Cameron champions Charles Bukowski.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Writer and comedy star Rhona Cameron champions Charles Bukowski, citing the enormous influence his writing had on her adolescence.

2/7. Illustrator Quentin Blake nominates George Cruikshank, who drew the original Fagin and Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist. Vic Gatrell outlines some of the darker sides to Cruikshank's life.

1502George Cruikshank2007121820071221

Illustrator Quentin Blake nominates George Cruikshank, who drew the original Fagin and Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist.

Vic Gatrell outlines some of the darker sides to Cruikshank's life.

1503Alfred Russel Wallace2008010120080104

Travel writer Redmond O'Hanlon proposes the pioneering naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

Dr Sandy Knapp helps to chronicle a truly extraordinary life.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

3/7. Travel writer Redmond O'Hanlon proposes the pioneering naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. Dr Sandy Knapp helps to chronicle a truly extraordinary life.

1504Howard Florey2008010820080111

Sir Richard Sykes champions Howard Florey, the forgotten man in the story of the discovery of penicillin.

1505Groucho Marx2008011520080118

Roger Graef champions the great comic Groucho Marx.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

5/7. Roger Graef champions the great comic Groucho Marx.

1506Ian Curtis2008012220080506 (BBC7)
20170112 (BBC7)
20170113 (BBC7)

Poet Simon Armitage nominates Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Poet Simon Armitage nominates Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, who took his own life in 1980 at the age of 23. Curtis's fellow band member Peter Hook remembers his friend.

1506Katherine Mansfield2008012220080125

Children's author Jacqueline Wilson nominates short story writer Katherine Mansfield for greatness.

She is joined by biographer Prof Angela Smith to assess the impact of Mansfield's brilliant but tragically short career.

1507Edward Lear2008012920080201
20080513 (BBC7)
20170119 (BBC7)
20170120 (BBC7)

Nicholas Parsons nominates Edward Lear, now remembered best for his nonsense verse.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Nicholas Parsons nominates artist and writer Edward Lear, now remembered best for The Owl and the Pussycat, The Jumblies and other nonsense verse for children.

7/7. Mountaineer Joe Simpson takes up the cause of a relatively unknown but pioneering Austrian climber. Hermann Buhl tackled some of the most dangerous climbs in the world and was revered among his contemporaries for his ability to push himself through the bleakest of conditions.

1507Edward Lear2008051320120512

(07/09)

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Nicholas Parsons nominates artist and writer Edward Lear, now remembered best for The Owl and the Pussycat, The Jumblies and other nonsense verse for children.

1507 LASTHermann Buhl2008012920080201

Mountaineer Joe Simpson takes up the cause of a relatively unknown but pioneering Austrian climber.

Hermann Buhl tackled some of the most dangerous climbs in the world and was revered among his contemporaries for his ability to push himself through the bleakest of conditions.

1508Joyce Grenfell2008020520080520 (BBC7)
20170126 (BBC7)
20170127 (BBC7)

Arabella Weir nominates Joyce Grenfell. Biographer Janie Hampton assists.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Arabella Weir nominates Joyce Grenfell, whose comic monologues she listened to and loved as a child. Joyce's biographer and family friend Janie Hampton offers inside information on one of the greatest entertainers of the last century.

1601Peter Cushing2008040120080404
20161208 (BBC7)
20161209 (BBC7)

Mark Gatiss champions Peter Cushing, a quintessentially English star of stage and screen who never gave a bad performance.

Mark Gatiss champions Peter Cushing, a quintessentially English star of stage and screen.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Actor and writer Mark Gatiss champions the life and work of one of his heroes of horror. Cushing found fame with the Hammer films of the seventies, but his career on stage, screen, radio and television stretched over forty years, from Laurel and Hardy's stooge, to Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars.

1/9. Mark Gatiss champions Peter Cushing, a quintessentially English star of stage and screen who never gave a bad performance.

1602Charles Bukowski2008040820080411

Writer and comedy star Rhona Cameron champions Charles Bukowski, citing the enormous influence his writing had on her adolescence.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

2/9. Writer and comedy star Rhona Cameron champions Charles Bukowski, citing the enormous influence his writing had on her adolescence.

1603Paavo Nurmi2008041520080418
20161222 (BBC7)
20161223 (BBC7)

Former athlete and television commentator Steve Cram nominates Paavo Nurmi, the 'Flying Finn'.

Middle and long distance runner Nurmi won nine gold medals in 12 Olympic events and is often considered the greatest track and field athlete of all time.

Former athlete and television commentator Steve Cram nominates Paavo Nurmi.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Former athlete and television commentator Steve Cram nominates Paavo Nurmi, the 'Flying Finn'. Middle and long distance runner Nurmi won nine gold medals in 12 Olympic events and is often considered the greatest track and field athlete of all time.

3/9. Former athlete and television commentator Steve Cram nominates Paavo Nurmi, the 'Flying Finn'. Middle and long distance runner Nurmi won nine gold medals in 12 Olympic events and is often considered the greatest track and field athlete of all time.

1604Alan Freed2008042220080425
20080826 (BBC7)
20170216 (BBC7)
20170217 (BBC7)

Bob Harris nominates Alan Freed, the first ever rock 'n' roll DJ.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Bob Harris nominates Alan Freed, the first ever rock 'n' roll DJ. A champion of black rhythm and blues, Freed's meteoric career was cut short when he faced allegations of commercial bribery, and he died a penniless alcoholic.

4/9. Stirling Moss nominates the great racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio, a quiet home-loving man who made the record books by winning five world titles.

1604Juan Manuel Fangio2008042220080425
20161229 (BBC7)
20161230 (BBC7)

Stirling Moss nominates the great racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio, a quiet home-loving man who made the record books by winning five world titles.

Stirling Moss nominates the great racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

1605Henry Vii2008042920080502
20080902 (BBC7)
20170223 (BBC7)
20170224 (BBC7)

Former chancellor George Osborne nominates Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Former Chancellor George Osborne nominates Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. By making the crown much less financially independent on the nobles, he claims that Henry played a key role in establishing the processes of modern government. Studio guest Dr Steven Gunn helps to assess whether Osborne is right.

5/9. Anna Ford nominates singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson. From Shakespeare to Showboat, his success as a stage actor was matched by his popularity as a singer, until he fell foul of the House of Un-American Activities Committee.

1605Paul Robeson2008042920080502
20170105 (BBC7)
20170106 (BBC7)

Anna Ford nominates singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

From Shakespeare to Showboat, his success as a stage actor was matched by his popularity as a singer, until he fell foul of the House of Un-American Activities Committee.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Anna Ford nominates singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson. From Shakespeare to Showboat, his success as a stage actor was matched by his popularity as a singer, until he fell foul of the House of Un-American Activities Committee.

1606Ian Curtis2008050620080509

Poet Simon Armitage nominates Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, who took his own life in 1980 at the age of 23.

Curtis's fellow band member Peter Hook remembers his friend.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

6/9. Poet Simon Armitage nominates Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, who took his own life in 1980 at the age of 23. Curtis's fellow band member Peter Hook remembers his friend.

1607Edward Lear2008051320080516
20120512 (BBC7)

Nicholas Parsons nominates artist and writer Edward Lear, now remembered best for The Owl and the Pussycat, The Jumblies and other nonsense verse for children.

(07/09)

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Nicholas Parsons nominates Edward Lear, now remembered best for his nonsense verse.

1607Field Marshal Bill Slim20080916 (BBC7)
20170309 (BBC7)
20170310 (BBC7)

General Mike Jackson nominates Field Marshal Bill Slim, leader of the WW2 Burma campaign.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

General Sir Mike Jackson, former Head of the British Army, nominates Field Marshal Bill Slim, leader of the Burma Campaign. Military historian Julian Thompson lends weight to the argument that Slim, less well known today than other Second World War Generals, was perhaps the greatest commander of the 20th century.

1608Joyce Grenfell2008052020080523

Arabella Weir nominates Joyce Grenfell, whose comic monologues she listened to and loved as a child.

Joyce's biographer and family friend Janie Hampton offers inside information on one of the greatest entertainers of the last century.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

8/9. Arabella Weir nominates Joyce Grenfell, whose comic monologues she listened to and loved as a child. Joyce's biographer and family friend Janie Hampton offers inside information on one of the greatest entertainers of the last century.

1609 LASTA E Housman2008052720080530

Author Colin Dexter nominates scholar and poet AE Housman.

With Oxford academic Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

9/9. Author Colin Dexter nominates scholar and poet AE Housman. With Oxford academic Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.

1701Lord Longford2008080520080808
20170202 (BBC7)
20170203 (BBC7)

Jon Snow argues the case for the prison reform campaigner and former member of Attlee's cabinet.

He is assisted by Longford's daughter Rachel Billington and his biographer Peter Stanford.

Jon Snow champions jails reform campaigner and politician, Lord Longford.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Jon Snow argues the case for the prison reform campaigner and former member of Attlee's cabinet. He is assisted by Longford's daughter Rachel Billington and his biographer Peter Stanford.

1/9. Lord Longford

1702Richard Pryor2008081220080815

Skills minister David Lammy puts the case for the revolutionary comedian.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

2/9. Richard Pryor

1703Beachcomber2008081920081223 (BBC7)
20170406 (BBC7)
20170407 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Raymond Briggs celebrates Beachcomber, the newspaper columnist who inspired both Spike Milligan and Private Eye. Richard Ingrams offers details of the column's early life and the current Beachcomber reveals his own influences.

The Snowman author Raymond Briggs chooses JB Morton, aka Beachcomber.

3/9. Robert Hooke

David Attenborough nominates the largely forgotten 17th-century inventor and illustrator. His beautiful drawings of microscopic animals first attracted Attenborough to Hooke, who also helped to design the dome of St Paul's and claimed to have arrived at some of Isaac Newton's groundbreaking laws before Newton himself. Biographer Lisa Jardine joins in the debate.

1703Robert Hooke2008081920080822
20170209 (BBC7)
20170210 (BBC7)
20110801 (R4)

David Attenborough nominates the largely forgotten 17th-century inventor and illustrator.

His beautiful drawings of microscopic animals first attracted Attenborough to Hooke, who also helped to design the dome of St Paul's and claimed to have arrived at some of Isaac Newton's groundbreaking laws before Newton himself.

Biographer Lisa Jardine joins in the debate.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

David Attenborough nominates the largely forgotten 17th century-inventor and illustrator. His beautiful drawings of microscopic animals first attracted Attenborough to Hooke, who also helped to design the dome of St Paul's and claimed to have arrived at some of Isaac Newton's groundbreaking laws before Newton himself. Biographer Lisa Jardine joins in the debate.

1704Alan Freed2008082620080829

Bob Harris nominates Alan Freed, the first ever rock 'n' roll DJ.

A champion of black rhythm and blues, Freed's meteoric career was cut short when he faced allegations of commercial bribery, and he died a penniless alcoholic.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

4/9. Bob Harris nominates Alan Freed, the first ever rock 'n' roll DJ. A champion of black rhythm and blues, Freed's meteoric career was cut short when he faced allegations of commercial bribery, and he died a penniless alcoholic.

1705Henry Vii2008090220080905

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne nominates Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty.

By making the crown much less financially independent on the nobles, he claims that Henry played a key role in establishing the processes of modern government.

Studio guest Dr Steven Gunn helps to assess whether Osborne is right.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

5/9. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne nominates Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. By making the crown much less financially independent on the nobles, he claims that Henry played a key role in establishing the processes of modern government. Studio guest Dr Steven Gunn helps to assess whether Osborne is right.

1706David Ervine2008090920080912

Former loyalist paramilitary turned Northern Ireland politician David Ervine is the controversial choice of broadcaster Lesley Riddoch.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by a Loyalist terror gang, join the discussion with the Guardian's Belfast correspondent Henry McDonald.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

6/9. Former loyalist paramilitary turned Northern Ireland politician David Ervine is the controversial choice of broadcaster Lesley Riddoch. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by a Loyalist terror gang, join the discussion with the Guardian's Belfast correspondent Henry McDonald.

1707Bill Slim2008091620080919

General Sir Mike Jackson, former Head of the British Army, nominates Field Marshal Bill Slim, leader of the Burma Campaign.

Military historian Julian Thompson lends weight to the argument that Slim, less well known today than other Second World War Generals, was perhaps the greatest commander of the 20th century.

1708Lady Hester Stanhope2008092320080926
20170302 (BBC7)
20170303 (BBC7)

Georgian political hostess, traveller, diplomat and spy Lady Hester Stanhope is nominated by businesswoman and Dragon's Den investor Deborah Meaden.

Stanhope's biographer Kirsten Ellis lends her expert knowledge to the discussion.

Deborah Meaden nominates the Georgian hostess, diplomat and spy Lady Hester Stanhope.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Georgian political hostess, traveller, diplomat and spy Lady Hester Stanhope is nominated by businesswoman and Dragon's Den investor Deborah Meaden. Stanhope's biographer Kirsten Ellis lends her expert knowledge to the discussion.

8/9. Georgian political hostess, traveller, diplomat and spy Lady Hester Stanhope is nominated by businesswoman and Dragon's Den investor Deborah Meaden. Stanhope's biographer Kirsten Ellis lends her expert knowledge to the discussion.

1708Lady Hester Stanhope *2008092320080926

Georgian political hostess, traveller, diplomat and spy Lady Hester Stanhope is nominated by businesswoman and Dragon's Den investor Deborah Meaden.

Stanhope's biographer Kirsten Ellis lends her expert knowledge to the discussion.

1709 LASTWilliam Hogarth2008093020081003
20170316 (BBC7)
20170317 (BBC7)

Eighteenth-century satirist and painter William Hogarth is nominated by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

The art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon joins the discussion.

Eighteenth-century satirist and painter William Hogarth is nominated by Ian Hislop.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Eighteenth-century satirist and painter William Hogarth is nominated by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. The art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon joins the discussion.

9/9. Eighteenth-century satirist and painter William Hogarth is nominated by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. The art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon joins the discussion.

1801Luciano Pavarotti2008120920170323 (BBC7)
20170324 (BBC7)

Luciano Pavarotti is nominated by the music promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Luciano Pavarotti is nominated by the music promoter Harvey Goldsmith, the man behind the Pavarotti in the Park concert.

The opera director John Copley and Anne Midgette of the Washington Post join the discussion.

Luciano Pavarotti is nominated by the music promoter Harvey Goldsmith, the man behind the Pavarotti in the Park concert. The opera director John Copley and Anne Midgette of the Washington Post join the discussion.

is nominated by the music promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

1802Billy Marsh2008121620081219
20170330 (BBC7)
20170331 (BBC7)

Michael Grade and William G Stewart champion the life of the theatrical agent Billy Marsh, the man who helped to turn Morecambe and Wise, Norman Wisdom and Bruce Forsyth into household names.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris

Michael Grade and William G Stewart champion the life of theatrical agent Billy Marsh.

1803Beachcomber2008122320081226

Raymond Briggs celebrates Beachcomber, the newspaper columnist who inspired both Spike Milligan and Private Eye.

Richard Ingrams offer details of the column's early life and the current Beachcomber reveals his own influences.

1804Dietrich Bonhoeffer2008123020090102
20170413 (BBC7)
20170414 (BBC7)

Actor David Soul champions the life of the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was involved in the German resistance movement in WWII.

Actor David Soul champions the life of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

1805Bette Davis2009010620090109
20170427 (BBC7)
20170428 (BBC7)

Actress Tracy-ann Oberman champions the life of Hollywood actress Bette Davis.

Joining the discussion is Davis expert Dr Martin Shingler, who explores her complex character and achievements.

Tracy-Ann Oberman champions the life of one of the silver screen's most enduring icons.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman champions the life of Hollywood actress Bette Davis. Joining the discussion is Davis expert Dr Martin Shingler, who explores her complex character and achievements.

1805Frank Sinatra20090505 (BBC7)
20150712 (BBC7)
20151224 (BBC7)
20151225 (BBC7)
20161230 (BBC7)
20161231 (BBC7)

Broadcaster and DJ Colin Murray chooses Frank Sinatra.

Broadcaster Colin Murray chooses Francis Albert Sinatra in the biographical series in which Matthew Parris asks his guests to choose someone who's inspired their lives.

"Fiercely competitive", "aggressive", "utterly masculine" and "supremely talented". Just some of the words - Matthew Parris says - that might be used to describe one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century.

Colin calls Frank omnipresent. Enchanted by his songs he says: "It's not about the notes you hit for me, it's about the simplicity and the honesty. And for me he had it in bucket loads"

New York author and music critic Will Friedwald vividly describes the singer's life history, from his early years to the marriages and through his recording and screen career.

Featuring excerpts of many of Sinatra's greatest recordings.

Produced by Beth O'Dea

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.

"Fiercely competitive", "aggressive", "utterly masculine" and "supremely talented". Just some of the words - Matthew Paris says - that might be used to describe one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century.

1806John Coltrane20170608 (BBC7)

Musician Andy Sheppard chooses influential saxophonist John Coltrane.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Musician Andy Sheppard chooses influential saxophonist John Coltrane, creator of the albums Giant Steps and A Love Supreme. Supporting Andy's choice is the editor of The Wire magazine, Tony Herrington.

1806Tony Hancock2009011320090116
20170504 (BBC7)

Pam Ayres discusses her admiration for Tony Hancock.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris

Poet Pam Ayres chooses the lad himself, Tony Hancock.

1807Alfred Russel Wallace2009012020090123

Travel writer Redmond O'Hanlon champions the life of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

Dr Sandy Knapp joins the discussion.

1807Fred Astaire20170615 (BBC7)

Dr Michael O'Donnell discusses celebrated singer, actor and choreographer Fred Astaire.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Physician, journalist and broadcaster Dr Michael O'Donnell discusses celebrated singer, actor and choreographer Fred Astaire. Joining him are Astaire's daugher, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and lifelong Astaire enthusiast and Oxford don Dr Kathleen Riley.

1808Margot Fonteyn2009012720090130
20170511 (BBC7)

Horticulturalist Rachel De Thame champions Margot Fonteyn, arguably the finest ballerina of the 20th century.

Horticulturalist Rachel De Thame champions her heroine, the ballerina Margot Fonteyn

1809 LASTRobert Kennedy2009020320090206
20170518 (BBC7)

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

Ken Livingstone discusses his hero Robert Kennedy.

Ken Livingstone discusses his hero, US politician Robert Kennedy.

1901Alfred, Lord Tennyson

1901Napoleon Bonaparte2009040720090410

Television and radio presenter Stuart Hall discusses his lifelong hero, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Is he one of the greatest figures in European history or a ruthless dictator, driven only by the desire for power?

1902Joe Slovo20090414

1902Roy Jenkins2009041420090417
20170706 (BBC7)

Polly Toynbee, David Steel and Dick Taverne argue that Roy Jenkins, former home secretary, chancellor, president of the European Commission and founder member of the SDP, was one of the greatest politicians of the post-Second World War era.

Journalist Polly Toynbee chooses one of the most noted of post-war politicians Roy Jenkins

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Polly Toynbee, David Steel and Dick Taverne argue that Roy Jenkins, former home secretary, chancellor, president of the European Commission and founder member of the SDP, was one of the greatest politicians of the post-Second World War era.

1903John Cornford20090421

1903Sir Thomas Beecham2009042120090424
20170525 (BBC7)

Politician and broadcaster David Mellor promotes the life of Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor and founder of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

He was known for his wit and energy, which spawned a huge number of anecdotes, but which of them are true?

David Mellor promotes the life of conductor Sir Thomas Beecham.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Politician and broadcaster David Mellor promotes the life of Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor and founder of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He was known for his wit and energy, which spawned a huge number of anecdotes, but which of them are true?

1904Carl Gustav Jung2009042820090501
20170601 (BBC7)

Ruby Wax discusses the life and work of Carl Gustav Jung, who has been called 'the father of analytical psychology'.

Along with author and Jungian analyst Professor Andrew Samuels, Ruby discusses Jung's theories of personality and psychological types, and reveals how his work has affected her own life.

Ruby Wax discusses the life and work of Carl Gustav Jung.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Ruby Wax discusses the life and work of Carl Gustav Jung, who has been called 'the father of analytical psychology'. Along with author and Jungian analyst Professor Andrew Samuels, Ruby discusses Jung's theories of personality and psychological types, and reveals how his work has affected her own life.

1904Freya Stark20170727 (BBC7)

Travel writer Dervla Murphy discusses the life of another woman traveller, Freya Stark.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Travel writer Dervla Murphy discusses the life of another fearless woman traveller, Freya Stark. Stark roamed across Arabia and Persia, frequently risking her life, and during the Second World War set up a pro-British intelligence network in Cairo. She was brave but also infuriating, and was liable to make impossible demands on her friends, such as John Murray, who joins the discussion.

1905Frank Sinatra2009050520090508

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests chose someone who has inspired their lives.

Broadcaster and DJ Colin Murray chooses Frank Sinatra

1905Sir Kyffin Williams

1906John Coltrane2009051220090515

Musician Andy Sheppard chooses influential saxophonist John Coltrane, creator of the albums Giant Steps and A Love Supreme.

Supporting Andy's choice is the editor of Wired magazine, Tony Herrington.

1906Samuel Johnson

1906The A-z Of Dr Johnson2007091120170803 (BBC7)

Politician Boris Johnson chooses the creator of the English dictionary, Dr Samuel Johnson.

1907Fred Astaire2009051920090522

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Physician, journalist and broadcaster Dr Michael O'donnell discusses celebrated singer, actor and choreographer Fred Astaire.

Joining him are Astaire's daugher, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and lifelong Astaire enthusiast and Oxford don Dr Kathleen Riley.

Dr Michael O'donnell discusses celebrated singer, actor and choreographer Fred Astaire.

1907Miriam Makeba2007091820170810 (BBC7)

Kate Humble discusses the South African singer and anti-apartheid activist, Miriam Makeba.

1908 LASTGiovanni Falcone2009052620090529
20170622 (BBC7)

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Journalist Misha Glenny remembers the life of anti-Mafia campaigner Giovanni Falcone, whose work on the 1986 Maxi trial contributed to over 3,000 convictions.

Falcone was blown up by the Mafia near Palermo airport in May 1992.

Matthew and Misha are joined by Diego Gambetta, who offers expert comment.

Journalist Misha Glenny remembers the life of anti-Mafia campaigner Giovanni Falcone.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Journalist Misha Glenny remembers the life of anti-Mafia campaigner Giovanni Falcone, whose work on the 1986 Maxi trial contributed to over 3,000 convictions. Falcone was blown up by the Mafia near Palermo airport in May 1992.

Matthew and Misha are joined by Diego Gambetta, who offers expert comment.

1909Rudyard Kipling2009060220170824 (BBC7)

John Major discusses the life of Rudyard Kipling, poet to the British Empire.

2001Alfred, Lord Tennyson2009080420090807
20170629 (BBC7)

Andrew Motion champions the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate for over 40 years

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Andrew Motion champions the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate for over 40 years and creator of In Memoriam and The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Ann Thwaite provides further details of Tennyson's often-troubled life.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Andrew Motion champions the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate for over 40 years and creator of In Memoriam and The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Ann Thwaite provides further details of Tennyson's often-troubled life.

2001Henry V

2002Joe Slovo2009081120090814
20170713 (BBC7)

Fforeign secretary David Miliband discusses the life of Joe Slovo, a leading member of the African National Congress and the first housing minister in Nelson Mandela's government.

Slovo's daughter, Gillian, joins in the discussion.

David Miliband discusses the life of Joe Slovo, a leading member of the ANC.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

David Miliband discusses the life of Joe Slovo, a leading member of the African National Congress and the first housing minister in Nelson Mandela's government. Slovo's daughter, Gillian, joins in the discussion.

2002Joe Slovo *2009081120090814

Fforeign secretary David Miliband discusses the life of Joe Slovo, a leading member of the African National Congress and the first housing minister in Nelson Mandela's government.

Slovo's daughter, Gillian, joins in the discussion.

2003John Cornford2009081820090821
20170720 (BBC7)

George Galloway chooses British poet and political activist John Cornford, who died at the age of 21 fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

Professor Stan Smith joins in the discussion.

George Galloway chooses British poet and political activist John Cornford.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

George Galloway chooses British poet and political activist John Cornford, who died at the age of 21 fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Professor Stan Smith joins in the discussion.

2003John Cornford *2009081820090821

George Galloway chooses British poet and political activist John Cornford, who died at the age of 21 fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

Professor Stan Smith joins in the discussion.

2004Freya Stark2009082520090828
20170727 (BBC7)

Travel writer Dervla Murphy discusses the life of another fearless woman traveller, Freya Stark.

Stark roamed across Arabia and Persia, frequently risking her life, and during the Second World War set up a pro-British intelligence network in Cairo.

She was brave but also infuriating, and was liable to make impossible demands on her friends, such as John Murray, who joins the discussion.

Travel writer Dervla Murphy discusses the life of another woman traveller, Freya Stark.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Travel writer Dervla Murphy discusses the life of another fearless woman traveller, Freya Stark. Stark roamed across Arabia and Persia, frequently risking her life, and during the Second World War set up a pro-British intelligence network in Cairo. She was brave but also infuriating, and was liable to make impossible demands on her friends, such as John Murray, who joins the discussion.

2004Hannah Arendt2009122920100101

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture, chooses the influential political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

She is regarded as a highly influential 20th-century political philosopher, although Arendt would have refuted the title 'philosopher' herself. Born into a secular German Jewish family, she grew up in what is now Hanover and Berlin. A student with Heidegger (with whom she had a tumultuous relationship; they divorced in 1929), Arendt survived being interrogated by the Gestapo and moved to Paris, where she lived for a number of years before immigrating to America in the 1940s, settling in New York.

Arendt was a lively part of an intellectual circle and held a number of academic posts until her death. Little known in the UK, Arendt is chosen by Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture and a founding member of the Manifesto Club.

2005Sir Kyffin Williams2009090120090904

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Rolf Harris discusses the life of the Welsh painter Sir Kyffin Williams.

Famous for his paintings inspired by the north Wales landscape, Williams never chose to be a painter; he was told by a doctor to take up art for his health when he was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Prof Derec Llwyd Morgan joins the discussion.

2005Sir Kyffin Williams *2009090120090904
2006Lise Meitner2010011220100115
20171005 (BBC7)

Jenny Agutter champions the life and work of pioneering Austrian physicist Lise Meitner.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Actress Jenny Agutter champions the life and work of pioneering Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, one of the scientists responsible for the discovery of nuclear fission.

2006Samuel Johnson - Boris Johnson2009090820090911

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, nominates Samuel Johnson, writer of the great dictionary.

Dr Johnson's biographer, Peter Martin, joins the discussion.

Boris Johnson nominates Samuel Johnson, writer of the great dictionary.

2007Miriam Makeba2009091520090918
20170810 (BBC7)

Kate Humble discusses her heroine, the South African singer and anti-apartheid activist, Miriam Makeba.

Kate Humble discusses the South African singer and anti-apartheid activist, Miriam Makeba.

2007Picasso2010011920100122

Photographer David Bailey discusses the life and work of Pablo Picasso.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Photographer David Bailey first saw Picasso's work in Look magazine in the 1950s - it was a revelation to him. He discusses the founder of Cubism's work and the enigma of the man himself, and their influence on him.

2008Agustin Barrios Mangore2010012620100129

John Williams discusses the life of Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Guitarist John Williams explains why he believes Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore is one of the greatest musicians of all time.

2008Harry Houdini2009092220090925

Paul Daniels explores the life of Harry Houdini.

They are joined by Houdini biographer William Kalush, who argues that the master escapologist may have been murdered by spiritualists.

Paul Daniels explores the life of Harry Houdini, with help from biographer William Kalush.

2009Bill Hamilton20090929

2009Bill Hamilton20171026
2101Bertolt Brecht20171102

Playwright John Godber discusses the life of German writer Bertolt Brecht.

Mathew Parris is back with BBC Radio Four's acclaimed biography series 'Great Lives', in which celebrated people of today nominate a great life from the past to explore and discuss.

The series begins with playwright John Godber's choice of his literary hero and inspiration, Bertolt Brecht. Both writers have in common an instinct and desire for truly popular theatre which has the power to change fundamentally the perspective of its audiences. And who else could bring the spectacle of the sports stadium into the theatre auditorium?

Specialist in German drama, Professor Michael Patterson, joins the debate to counter the widespread view that 'if it's German and political it must be boring'. Brecht's own productions were immensely lively and popular and his theatrical legacy, although eschewed by Hollywood devotees of naturalism, stands firm in the work of many of today's greatest writers. We also learn the truth about allegations of Brecht plundering the genius of his many lovers, and how he made love with his socks on.

2101Henry V2009120820091211
20170831 (BBC7)

Sir Ranulph Fiennes discusses the life of Henry V and tries to separate fact from myth.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes discusses the life of Henry V and tries to separate fact from myth, with the help of historian Juliet Barker.

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes discusses the life of Henry V.

2101Henry V *2009120820091211

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes discusses the life of Henry V and tries to separate fact from myth, with the help of historian Juliet Barker.

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes discusses the life of Henry V.

2102Robin Hood2009121520100413 (BBC7)
20160220 (BBC7)
20160221 (BBC7)

Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith discusses Robin Hood.

Clive Stafford Smith is a lawyer working for human rights both in Britain and abroad - he campaigns for the rights of prisoners on death row in the US and in Guantanamo Bay. His nomination for a life worth celebrating is at first surprising - it's the entirely fictitious Robin Hood. But, he argues in conversation with medievalist Professor Stephen Knight, the myth has a lot to teach us about the way we treat each other. The presenter is Matthew Parris.

Produced by Christine Hall.

2102Tennessee Williams2009121520091218
20170907 (BBC7)

American stand-up comedian Rich Hall discusses the life of playwright Tennessee Williams, whose work he first remembers seeing at a Kentucky drive-in cinema, rather than the theatre.

With their vivid portrayal of the American south, poetic language and dark themes, works such as Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire were snapped up by Hollywood as well as changing the direction of American theatre.

Rich Hall is joined by Williams' friend and biographer Dotson Rader to talk about the man himself: the early unhappiness that shaped his creative life, the prejudice he encountered due to his homosexuality, and his later unpopularity and decline into drink and prescription drugs.

They discover a writer with a strong sense of humour, a devotion to his family and a desire to experiment with writing throughout his career.

Was Williams' life a wasted one?

Stand-up comedian Rich Hall discusses the life of playwright Tennessee Williams.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

American stand-up comedian Rich Hall discusses the life of playwright Tennessee Williams, whose work he first remembers seeing at a Kentucky drive-in cinema, rather than the theatre. With their vivid portrayal of the American south, poetic language and dark themes, works such as Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire were snapped up by Hollywood as well as changing the direction of American theatre.

Rich Hall is joined by Williams' friend and biographer Dotson Rader to talk about the man himself: the early unhappiness that shaped his creative life, the prejudice he encountered due to his homosexuality, and his later unpopularity and decline into drink and prescription drugs. They discover a writer with a strong sense of humour, a devotion to his family and a desire to experiment with writing throughout his career. Was Williams' life a wasted one?

2102Tennessee Williams *2009121520091218

American stand-up comedian Rich Hall discusses the life of playwright Tennessee Williams, whose work he first remembers seeing at a Kentucky drive-in cinema, rather than the theatre.

With their vivid portrayal of the American south, poetic language and dark themes, works such as Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire were snapped up by Hollywood as well as changing the direction of American theatre.

Rich Hall is joined by Williams' friend and biographer Dotson Rader to talk about the man himself: the early unhappiness that shaped his creative life, the prejudice he encountered due to his homosexuality, and his later unpopularity and decline into drink and prescription drugs.

They discover a writer with a strong sense of humour, a devotion to his family and a desire to experiment with writing throughout his career.

Was Williams' life a wasted one?

2103Douglas Jardine20091222

2103Vivian Stanshall2009122220091225
20130308 (BBC7)
20170914 (BBC7)

Musician and performer Neil Innes discusses the life of his Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band colleague and friend Vivian Stanshall.

Neil recalls the moment he met Vivian Stanshall in London: he was wearing Billy Bunter trousers, a Victorian frock coat and horrible purple pince-nez glasses and carrying a euphonium.

So began a friendship and a musical partnership that exploded into life with The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, culminating in tours and TV series.

Vivian's second wife, Ki Longfellow, joins the discussion to help explore the man behind the colourful public persona.

Neil Innes discusses the life of his colleague and friend Vivian Stanshall.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Musician and performer Neil Innes discusses the life of his Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band colleague and friend Vivian Stanshall. Neil recalls the moment he met Vivian Stanshall in London: he was wearing Billy Bunter trousers, a Victorian frock coat and horrible purple pince-nez glasses and carrying a euphonium. So began a friendship and a musical partnership that exploded into life with The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, culminating in tours and TV series. Vivian's second wife, Ki Longfellow, joins the discussion to help explore the man behind the colourful public persona.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Musician and performer Neil Innes discusses the life of his Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band colleague and friend Vivian Stanshall. Neil recalls the moment he met Vivian Stanshall in London: he was wearing Billy Bunter trousers, a Victorian frock coat and horrible purple pince-nez glasses and carrying a euphonium. So began a friendship and a musical partnership that exploded into life with The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, culminating in tours and TV series. Vivian's second wife, Ki Longfellow, joins the discussion to help explore the man behind the colourful public persona.

Producer: Toby Field

2104Hannah Arendt2009122920100101
20170921 (BBC7)

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture, chooses the influential political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

She is regarded as a highly influential 20th-century political philosopher, although Arendt would have refuted the title 'philosopher' herself. Born into a secular German Jewish family, she grew up in what is now Hanover and Berlin. A student with Heidegger (with whom she had a tumultuous relationship; they divorced in 1929), Arendt survived being interrogated by the Gestapo and moved to Paris, where she lived for a number of years before immigrating to America in the 1940s, settling in New York.

Arendt was a lively part of an intellectual circle and held a number of academic posts until her death. Little known in the UK, Arendt is chosen by Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture and a founding member of the Manifesto Club.

She is regarded as a highly influential 20th-century political philosopher, although Arendt would have refuted the title 'philosopher' herself.

Born into a secular German Jewish family, she grew up in what is now Hanover and Berlin.

A student with Heidegger (with whom she had a tumultuous relationship; they divorced in 1929), Arendt survived being interrogated by the Gestapo and moved to Paris, where she lived for a number of years before immigrating to America in the 1940s, settling in New York.

Arendt was a lively part of an intellectual circle and held a number of academic posts until her death.

Little known in the UK, Arendt is chosen by Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture and a founding member of the Manifesto Club.

Munira Mirza discusses the life of the influential political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture, chooses the influential political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

She is regarded as a highly influential 20th-century political philosopher, although Arendt would have refuted the title 'philosopher' herself. Born into a secular German Jewish family, she grew up in what is now Hanover and Berlin. A student with Heidegger (with whom she had a tumultuous relationship; they divorced in 1929), Arendt survived being interrogated by the Gestapo and moved to Paris, where she lived for a number of years before immigrating to America in the 1940s, settling in New York.

Arendt was a lively part of an intellectual circle and held a number of academic posts until her death. Little known in the UK, Arendt is chosen by Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture and a founding member of the Manifesto Club.

2104Hannah Arendt *2009122920100101

Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture, chooses the influential political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

She is regarded as a highly influential 20th-century political philosopher, although Arendt would have refuted the title 'philosopher' herself.

Born into a secular German Jewish family, she grew up in what is now Hanover and Berlin.

A student with Heidegger (with whom she had a tumultuous relationship; they divorced in 1929), Arendt survived being interrogated by the Gestapo and moved to Paris, where she lived for a number of years before immigrating to America in the 1940s, settling in New York.

Arendt was a lively part of an intellectual circle and held a number of academic posts until her death.

Little known in the UK, Arendt is chosen by Munira Mirza, the London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture and a founding member of the Manifesto Club.

Munira Mirza discusses the life of the influential political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

2105Matthew Flinders2010010520171130 (BBC7)

Sir Stuart Rose discusses the life of the cartographer who mapped Australia.

Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Marks and Spencer, chooses the cartographer Matthew Flinders for Great Lives. Flinders mapped Australia two hundred years ago in His Majesty's ship the Investigator. "Since neither birth nor fortune have favoured me," he wrote, "my actions shall speak to the world." Sir Stuart Rose clearly finds inspiration in what Flinders achieved and the way he led his men. Rose also reveals that his first ambition was to join the Royal Navy, and that he applied to 25 companies before Marks and Spencer took him on. Dr Nigel Rigby of the National Maritime Museum offers the expert's view on Flinders life and Matthew Parris presents. The producer is Miles Warde.

2105Nero2010010520100108
20170928 (BBC7)

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Christopher Biggins champions the life of the Roman Emperor Nero, a man whose modest talent for poetry was overshadowed by his debauchery, extravagance and tyranny.

Christopher Biggins champions the life of the Roman Emperor Nero.

2106Charlotte Guest20100112

2106Lise Meitner2010011220100115

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Actress Jenny Agutter champions the life and work of pioneering Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, one of the scientists responsible for the discovery of nuclear fission.

Jenny Agutter champions the life and work of pioneering Austrian physicist Lise Meitner.

2107Carl Sagan20100119

2107Picasso2010011920100122
20171012 (BBC7)

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Photographer David Bailey first saw Picasso's work in Look magazine in the 1950s - it was a revelation to him.

He discusses the founder of Cubism's work and the enigma of the man himself, and their influence on him.

Photographer David Bailey discusses the life and work of Pablo Picasso.

Photographer David Bailey first saw Picasso's work in Look magazine in the 1950s - it was a revelation to him. He discusses the founder of Cubism's work and the enigma of the man himself, and their influence on him.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Photographer David Bailey first saw Picasso's work in Look magazine in the 1950s - it was a revelation to him. He discusses the founder of Cubism's work and the enigma of the man himself, and their influence on him.

2108Agustin Barrios Mangore2010012620100129
20171019 (BBC7)

John Williams discusses the life of Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore.

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Guitarist John Williams explains why he believes Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore is one of the greatest musicians of all time.

2108Arthur Wharton

2109 LASTBill Hamilton2010020220100205

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Professor Richard Dawkins explains why he believes Bill Hamilton to have been one of the greatest evolutionary theorists of the 20th century.

Dr Mary Bliss offers expert advice.

Professor Richard Dawkins discusses the evolutionary theorist Bill Hamilton.

2201Bertolt Brecht2010040620100409

Mathew Parris is back with BBC Radio Four's acclaimed biography series 'Great Lives', in which celebrated people of today nominate a great life from the past to explore and discuss.

6.04.10

The series begins with playwright John Godber's choice of his literary hero and inspiration, Bertolt Brecht.

Both writers have in common an instinct and desire for truly popular theatre which has the power to change fundamentally the perspective of its audiences.

And who else could bring the spectacle of the sports stadium into the theatre auditorium?

Specialist in German drama, Professor Michael Patterson, joins the debate to counter the widespread view that 'if it's German and political it must be boring'.

Brecht's own productions were immensely lively and popular and his theatrical legacy, although eschewed by Hollywood devotees of naturalism, stands firm in the work of many of today's greatest writers.

We also learn the truth about allegations of Brecht plundering the genius of his many lovers, and how he made love with his socks on.

13.04.10

Clive Stafford-Smith, human rights campaigner and founder of the prisoners' rights organisation Reprieve, unhesitatingly nominates as his hero the all-time Good Guy, Robin Hood - currently about to bounce back onto the screen in the guise of Russell Crowe.

You might think being fictional would limit Robin, but he has friends in high places: Professor Stephen Knight of Cardiff University joins Clive and Matthew Parris to discuss some of the ways in which stories about the man-in-green reflect deep and enduring truths about the way we treat one another.

20.04.10

Broadcaster Peter White nominates the 'Iron Duke' and inventor of 'Bodyline' cricket, Douglas Jardine.

Playwright John Godber discusses the life of German writer Bertolt Brecht

2201John Lennon

2202Robin Hood2010041320100416

Clive Stafford Smith is a lawyer working for human rights both in Britain and abroad - he campaigns for the rights of prisoners on death row in the US and in Guantanamo Bay.

His nomination for a life worth celebrating is at first surprising - it's the entirely fictitious Robin Hood.

But, he argues in conversation with medievalist Professor Stephen Knight, the myth has a lot to teach us about the way we treat each other.

The presenter is Matthew Parris.

Produced by Christine Hall.

2202Sappho

2203Douglas Jardine2010042020100423

The controversial England cricket captain, Douglas Jardine, who was responsible for the infamous 1932 Bodyline tour of Australia, is Peter White's choice of a Great Life.

Matthew Parris, who is sceptical about cricket to say the least, presents, while Christopher Douglas (who co-writes and presents Ed Reardon on Radio 4, the disaffected, failed 50-something hack writer) fills in the biographical gaps.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

Peter White discusses the controversial England cricket captain Douglas Jardine.

2203Richard Nixon

2204Buckminster Fuller2010042720100430
20171123 (BBC7)

Responsible for so many classic comedies of the last 30 years - Blackadder, QI, Not the Nine O'Clock News and Spitting Image among them, John Lloyd selects the maverick American architect, Richard Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, as his choice of a great life.

Matthew Parris hosts, joined by futurist and business strategist, Hardin Tibbs, as they debate the charge that if Buckminster Fuller - who had a molecule named after him, for its resemblance to his geodesic domes - really was the Twentieth Century's answer to Leonardo da Vinci, then why is he so little known about today? A man, John Lloyd argues, who preached environmentalism before the term was coined, so in advance of his times, but yet whose time has come today.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

TV producer John Lloyd discusses the life of American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller

Matthew Parris hosts, joined by futurist and business strategist, Hardin Tibbs, as they debate the charge that if Buckminster Fuller - who had a molecule named after him, for its resemblance to his geodesic domes - really was the Twentieth Century's answer to Leonardo da Vinci, then why is he so little known about today? A man, John Lloyd argues, who preached environmentalism before the term was coined, so in advance of his times, but yet whose time has come today. Producer: Mark Smalley.

Responsible for so many classic comedies of the last 30 years - Blackadder, QI, Not the Nine O'Clock News and Spitting Image among them, John Lloyd selects the maverick American architect, Richard Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, as his choice of a great life.

Matthew Parris hosts, joined by futurist and business strategist, Hardin Tibbs, as they debate the charge that if Buckminster Fuller - who had a molecule named after him, for its resemblance to his geodesic domes - really was the Twentieth Century's answer to Leonardo da Vinci, then why is he so little known about today? A man, John Lloyd argues, who preached environmentalism before the term was coined, so in advance of his times, but yet whose time has come today. Producer: Mark Smalley.

2204Mary Carpenter

2205Matthew Flinders2010050420100507

Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Marks and Spencer, chooses the cartographer Matthew Flinders for Great Lives.

Flinders mapped Australia two hundred years ago in His Majesty's ship the Investigator.

Since neither birth nor fortune have favoured me," he wrote, "my actions shall speak to the world." Sir Stuart Rose clearly finds inspiration in what Flinders achieved and the way he led his men.

Rose also reveals that his first ambition was to join the Royal Navy, and that he applied to 25 companies before Marks and Spencer took him on.

Dr Nigel Rigby of the National Maritime Museum offers the expert's view on Flinders life and Matthew Parris presents.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Sir Stuart Rose discusses the life of the cartographer Matthew Flinders."

2205Simone Weil

2206Charlotte Guest2010051120100514

Businesswoman Baroness Sarah Hogg discusses the life of Lady Charlotte Guest, a Victorian polymath whose many achievements included running the largest ironworks in the world.

Assistance is provided by Lady Charlotte's great grand-daughter, Revel Guest.

Producer: Paul Dodgson.

Businesswoman Baroness Sarah Hogg discusses the life of Lady Charlotte Guest.

2207Carl Sagan2010051820100521

Physicist Brian Cox tells Matthew Parris how Carl Sagan's Cosmos tv show changed his life.

As a young boy of 13, Brian Cox stared at his television screen every Wednesday evening, as Carl Sagan took him on a journey across the Cosmos.

The programme was a ground-breaking piece of television by a brilliant young scientist who could be inspiring and infuriating in equal measure.

Sagan was a complex character.

Driven to succeed, he came from a relatively poor background to become a millionaire, and one of the most influential scientists of his era.

His popularity left him open to both criticism and jealousy amongst his colleagues, and whilst he was passionate about the need to educate the populace, he could also be arrogant and dismissive of his fellow scientists.

So just how good a scientist was he, and what is his legacy?

Producer: John Byrne.

2208 LASTArthur Wharton2010052520100528

Viv Anderson, the first black footballer to play for England, talks to Matthew Parris about the life of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional player.

Arthur Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865.

He came to England to study, but he very quickly started to gain a reputation as an athlete, winning the 100 metres in a world record time of ten seconds.

He was a superb all-round athlete, and excelled in football and cricket.

In his career he played for Preston North End, Sheffield United, Rotherham Town, Stalybridge Celtic and Ashton North End.

He ended his career at Stockport County in Division Two, and, for the remainder of his working life, he laboured as a colliery haulage hand in the pits.

Wharton came from a middle class background, but his choice of a life of sport meant that a career in civil service administration was quickly closed to him, He chose to do what he loved to do, but paid a terrible price.

As his playing career collapsed, he developed a drink problem, and died a penniless alcoholic.

Viv Anderson champions the life of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer

2301John Lennon2010080320100806

Journalist John Harris, author of influential books on music, politics and popular culture, was born just as the Beatles were splitting up, and was only 11 when John Lennon died.

Yet Lennon's mischievous anti-establishment position - and the richness of his lyrics and music - makes him Harris's nomination for a Great Life.

Matthew Parris tries to define what it is that makes this enigmatic, often difficult figure an inspiring subject for reflection.

The expert witness is Barry Miles, in whose London gallery John first met Yoko in the mid 1960s.

This is the first of new series of Great Lives - future programmes include Bettany Hughes on the Greek poet Sappho and Dominic Sandbrook on Richard Nixon.

Producer: Christine Hall.

Journalist John Harris discusses the life of John Lennon

2302Sappho2010081020100813

The Greek poet Sappho has been described as everything from a great intellectual to little more than a vamp.

Hard facts about her life are in short supply - we know that she lived on the island of Lesbos over two and half thousand years ago, and fragments of her poetry still survive.

The best examples deal with the language of desire, but whether she really was a lesbian (with a small l) is less clear.

Historian Bettany Hughes is as obsessed with who Sappho might be, as with whom the fragmentary evidence suggest she was.

"This lack of facts has not stopped people making up stories about her," writes expert Peggy Reynolds.

"Sappho is not a name, much less a person.

It is, rather, a space." An enigmatic choice for presenter Matthew Parris to decipher.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Historian Bettany Hughes discusses the life of the Greek poet Sappho.

2303Richard Nixon2010081720100820

The disgrace and resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974 was a profoundly traumatic moment in the history of the American presidency, leaving us the endlessly influential word Watergate and a cynicism about politics which arguably has only now, with Barack Obama, started to heal.

His life is thus perhaps a strange one to nominate as "great", but the historian Dominic Sandbrook unhesitatingly selected him for celebration in this programme.

Matthew Parris talks to him about his intriguing choice, and calls on Professor Philip Davies of the Eccles Centre for American Studies to round out the picture.

Producer: Christine Hall.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook discusses the life of Richard Nixon

2304Mary Carpenter2010082420100827

Matthew Parris is joined by the founder of Kids' Company, the psychotherapist Camila Batmanghelidjh, to discuss the life of her Victorian equivalent, Mary Carpenter.

Mary Carpenter developed theories for helping deprived and criminalised children through the experience of running schools and reformatories in Bristol in the mid-nineteenth century.

She became very influential as MPs turned to her for advice on educational and penal reform regarding children.

Her guiding principle was that the treatment of troubled children should be based on the love of the child, not on ideas of punishment or retribution.

Camila Batmanghelidjh founded Kids' Company to offer practical support 'and love' to vulnerable inner city children who may lack it from their families.

She was surprised to discover how closely Mary Carpenter's beliefs mirror her own, one hundred and fifty years on, and how many of the problems Mary Carpenter described remain unchanged.

Camila finds Dickensian conditions in the homes of South London children now, with filthy conditions, parents who are intoxicated and drugs being used to control or pacify children.

These scenes would have been familiar to Mary Carpenter as she visited families in the slums of Bristol.

The parallels between the two women are striking: both exhibited a gift for dealing with children at an early age; both decided to devote their lives to the cause, eschewing a family life of their own; both have had to spend time raising money and advocating on behalf of the children they represent.

Matthew and Camila are joined by biographer and historian Carla Contractor in this fascinating and moving programme.

Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.

Camila Batmanghelidjh discusses the life of her Victorian equivalent, Mary Carpenter.

2305Aneurin Bevan2011010420170408 (R4)

In his time, Aneurin Bevan was, according to one biographer, "the most colourful and controversial, most loved and most loathed political personality in Britain".

The founding father of the NHS is the choice of Lord Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour Party who, like Bevan, grew up in Tredegar, in the heart of the Welsh coalfields, where he met his hero many times.

Kinnock regards Bevan as a hero on a level with Nelson Mandela and believes it was Nye alone who had the force of personality and political will necessary to get the Health Service established after the war. But the presenter Matthew Parris and his other studio guest, Bevan's biographer, John Campbell are more sceptical. Campbell goes so far as to argue that, the achievement of the NHS not withstanding, Nye Bevan's life was essentially a failure because, in his commitment to socialism, he misread the trend of history so completely.

Now, with the NHS facing radical reform, this programme captures some of the passion and debate that surrounded its inception and provides personal insights into the life and character of the man responsible for its creation.

The producer is Isobel Eaton.

Future subjects in the series include Barry Cryer on JB Priestley.

2305Simone Weil2010083120100903

- mystic, social activist, and sort of latter day saint - is one of the more unexpected recent choices for Great Lives.

She is remembered chiefly these days for her writings and the controversy over whether she starved herself to death, at the age of 34.

But for Eleanor Bron she remains the supreme example of someone who lived her life according to her ideals.

Born in 1909 in Paris, Simone Weil chose to work in factories, volunteered for the anarchist militia in the Spanish Civil War, and tried to persuade General de Gaulle in the Second World War to parachute nurses onto the frontline.

She seemed permanently compelled to identify with suffering, but not, argues Eleanor Bron, in a preachy way.

Grahame Davies, who based his first novel on Simone Weil's life, largely agrees.

Eleanor Bron's career began with satire at the Establishment Club.

She appeared alongside the Beatles in Help - her name is said to have inspired McCartney's Eleanor Rigby - and on television she has featured in Yes Minister, Doctor Who, Absolutely Fabulous, and so the list goes on.

The presenter is Matthew Parris, and the producer is Miles Warde.

Eleanor Bron discusses the life of the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil.

2306Golda Meir2010090720100910

was the Iron Lady of Israeli politics, a straight-talking, intransigent leader who once said, "There is a type of woman who does not let her husband narrow her horizons".

She is the choice of former Conservative government minister Edwina Currie.

Golda Meir was born in Kiev and educated in the United States, but moved to Palestine her twenties, just after the First World War.

One of the signatories on Israel's Declaration of Independence in 1948, Meir was elected to the Knesset and stayed there until she retired in her late sixties.

But when prime minister Levi Eshkol died unexpectedly she was called back to take his place.

She was the compromise candidate but stayed there for five years and was in power during the Yom Kippur War.

Edwina Currie admires her conviction and humanity, and that fact that she reminds her of her granny.

Ahron Bregman from the Department of War Studies at Kings College London, served in the Israeli army and was present at Golda Meir's funeral.

Unlike Edwina, Ahron thinks Golda Meir made some unforgiveable mistakes.

Edwina Currie discusses the life of the former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

2307Winston Churchill2010091420100917
20150129 (BBC7)
20150130 (BBC7)
20101105 (R4)

's is the Great Life chosen by Lord Digby Jones, former Director General of the CBI.

Expert contribution comes from Professor David Reynolds.

Both men have vivid memories of the day in 1965 when, as children, they heard that Churchill had died.

Surprisingly this is the first time that Churchill has been nominated in the series.

Considered by many a busted flush in the 1930s, Churchill is now remembered as our greatest wartime leader - his speech before the Battle of Britain still sends a shiver down the spine.

But his great qualities and personal flaws remained inextricably linked.

David Reynolds has uncovered a stark revelation about Churchill's real state of mind at the time he made that speech, while Digby Jones argues that the ability to instil confidence in people even when there is little rational hope of victory is one of the signs of a great leader.

He believes that no one made his mark on the last century in the way that Churchill did.

David Reynolds does not subscribe to the Great Man theory of history.

He is the Professor of International History at Cambridge University.

Known to Radio 4 listeners as the writer and presenter of "America, Empire of Liberty", he has also written extensively on Churchill, including the book "In Command of History" about Churchill's memoirs of World War Two.

The presenter is Matthew Parris.

Lord Digby Jones discusses the life of Winston Churchill

Lord Digby Jones chooses Winston Churchill, with contribution from Prof David Reynolds.

's is the Great Life chosen by Lord Digby Jones, former Director General of the CBI. Expert contribution comes from Professor David Reynolds. Both men have vivid memories of the day in 1965 when, as children, they heard that Churchill had died. Surprisingly this is the first time that Churchill has been nominated in the series.

Considered by many a busted flush in the 1930s, Churchill is now remembered as our greatest wartime leader - his speech before the Battle of Britain still sends a shiver down the spine. But his great qualities and personal flaws remained inextricably linked. David Reynolds has uncovered a stark revelation about Churchill's real state of mind at the time he made that speech, while Digby Jones argues that the ability to instil confidence in people even when there is little rational hope of victory is one of the signs of a great leader. He believes that no one made his mark on the last century in the way that Churchill did.

David Reynolds does not subscribe to the Great Man theory of history. He is the Professor of International History at Cambridge University. Known to Radio 4 listeners as the writer and presenter of "America, Empire of Liberty", he has also written extensively on Churchill, including the book "In Command of History" about Churchill's memoirs of World War Two. The presenter is Matthew Parris.

2308Michel De Montaigne2010092120100924

is one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance.

He is known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and became famous for his ability to fuse intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography.

Montaigne's work continues to influence writers to this day.

Championing his life is the surgeon, scientist, broadcaster and politician Professor Robert Winston and providing expert witness is the writer Sarah Bakewell, whose recent biography, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, was recently published to great acclaim.

Producer: Paul Dodgson.

Professor Robert Winston discusses the life of Michel De Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne is one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance.

2309Marcus Garvey2011020120151029 (BBC7)
20151030 (BBC7)

Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah is a passionate advocate of Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader of the early twentieth century. Long before Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey was trying against all the odds to give black people a sense of pride, and to create the conditions in which they might hope to flourish and prosper. Kwame Kwei-Armah tells the story of Garvey's incredible rise and fall, and brings this impressive yet flawed man to life. He's joined by Colin Grant, the author of Negro with a Hat - a biography of Marcus Garvey. Presenter Matthew Parris contributes his own memories of living in both Jamaica and Africa.

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah on Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader.

2309 LASTWalt Disney2010092820101001
20131012 (BBC7)

Satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe nominates Walt Disney.

Gerald Scarfe spent much of his childhood in his sick bed, so it's not surprising that Disney cartoons and feature films meant so much to him.

He can still recall the thrill at the prospect of seeing Pinocchio at the cinema, and then the agony of being lead away again in the rain because the tickets were too expensive.

Walt Disney came from a working family.

His god-fearing father Elias, said by one writer to have 'hated Capital, and favoured Labour, but really needed to make a buck', found work where he could.

So Walt lived a peripatetic childhood, and sought solace in drawing and play acting.

Hard times early on did not make Walt frugal with money in adulthood, and despite the huge successes of the golden era of Disney, it was only with the opening of Disneyland that Walt attained any substantial personal wealth.

You don't have to look far to find myth surrounding Walt Disney.

Even after his death, rumours that his body had been cryogenically frozen spread so widely that they soon slipped into folklore.

He had actually been cremated, but the readiness with which the cryogenic claim was accepted perhaps bears witness to a man who was terrified of dying, who believed in the white hope of technology and who, some might say, had been searching all his life for an escape into an immortal, fairytale world.

Matthew Parris, Gerald Scarfe and guest experts Brian Sibley and Richard Williams, creator of Roger Rabbit, discuss the life of a complex cultural icon.

A man who was seemingly unpretentious, and did not fit the image of movie mogul with his scruffy tweed jacket and awkward demeanour, yet a man who was accused of being a tyrannical egomaniac.

The son of a socialist who ended up naming names at the House of Un- American Activities committee.

Above all else perhaps though, they discuss the life of a man who strove tirelessly for perfection and who changed the cultural landscape of a little boy called Gerald, and arguably of the world, for ever.

Scarfe himself is best known for his classic images lampooning the great and the good of politics, and also in his iconic animation for Pink Floyd's The Wall.

He reveals in this programme that he also spent time working on the Disney production Hercules.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe discusses the life of Walt Disney

Gerald Scarfe spent much of his childhood in his sick bed, so it's not surprising that Disney cartoons and feature films meant so much to him. He can still recall the thrill at the prospect of seeing Pinocchio at the cinema, and then the agony of being lead away again in the rain because the tickets were too expensive.

Walt Disney came from a working family. His god-fearing father Elias, said by one writer to have 'hated Capital, and favoured Labour, but really needed to make a buck', found work where he could. So Walt lived a peripatetic childhood, and sought solace in drawing and play acting. Hard times early on did not make Walt frugal with money in adulthood, and despite the huge successes of the golden era of Disney, it was only with the opening of Disneyland that Walt attained any substantial personal wealth.

You don't have to look far to find myth surrounding Walt Disney. Even after his death, rumours that his body had been cryogenically frozen spread so widely that they soon slipped into folklore. He had actually been cremated, but the readiness with which the cryogenic claim was accepted perhaps bears witness to a man who was terrified of dying, who believed in the white hope of technology and who, some might say, had been searching all his life for an escape into an immortal, fairytale world.

Matthew Parris, Gerald Scarfe and guest experts Brian Sibley and Richard Williams, creator of Roger Rabbit, discuss the life of a complex cultural icon. A man who was seemingly unpretentious, and did not fit the image of movie mogul with his scruffy tweed jacket and awkward demeanour, yet a man who was accused of being a tyrannical egomaniac. The son of a socialist who ended up naming names at the House of Un- American Activities committee. Above all else perhaps though, they discuss the life of a man who strove tirelessly for perfection and who changed the cultural landscape of a little boy called Gerald, and arguably of the world, for ever.

Scarfe himself is best known for his classic images lampooning the great and the good of politics, and also in his iconic animation for Pink Floyd's The Wall. He reveals in this programme that he also spent time working on the Disney production Hercules.

Gerald Scarfe, merciless political cartoon satirist, chooses an icon who created icons.

2401Malcolm Mclaren2010120720101210

Matthew Parris presents the life of the great rock and roll swindler, Malcolm Mclaren, who died earlier this year.

"I've been called many things," McLaren wrote as advance publicity for his one man show, "a charlatan, a con man, or the culprit responsible for turning popular culture into nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick.

This is my chance to prove these accusations are true."

The man behind the Sex Pistols and Duck Rock is nominated by public relations expert Mark Borkowski, author of The Fame Formula, and a man who knew him well.

What intrigues Borkowski is not just the success, but the myths that have evolved around this highly manipulative man.

Matthew Parris is more sceptical, as is Chris Salewicz.

As a journalist for NME between 1974-1981, Salewicz watched McLaren rewrite the rules of management.

He also introduced the Sex Pistols to the man from EMI who then signed them up.

An intriguing programme about fame, the media, and why the truth should not be confused with an easily believable myth.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Future subjects in the series include Samuel Beckett, Nye Bevan, and JB Priestley who is nominated by Barry Cryer.

PR man Mark Borkowski discusses the life of rock and roll swindler Malcolm Mclaren

2402D H Lawrence2010121420101217

DH Lawrence was, in the words of Geoff Dyer, a man with thin wrists and thick trousers.

He was also the author of Women in Love, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley's Lover.

But poet and performer John Hegley has chosen him above all for the quality of his poetry, an admiration presenter Matthew Parris also shares.

Lawrence died aged just 44.

An obituary at the time reckoned he was 'a rebel against all the accepted values of modern civilization'.

Certainly his life - born in Eastwood, Notts, became a teacher only to run off with a German-born mother of three to embark on his 'savage pilgrimage' around the world - was unpredictable.

As indeed was this programme, recorded in front of an audience at the Arnolfini in Bristol, with John Hegley using both music and verse to make his point.

Geoff Dyer, the author of Out of Sheer Rage, makes the case that Lawrence's unpredictability was a sign of strength, and that his best work lies in his letters and not his books.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Poet John Hegley chooses writer DH Lawrence.

Author Geoff Dyer offers the expert's view.

2403Samuel Beckett2010122120101224

Business guru Sir Gerry Robinson was born in Ireland but moved to England in his teens, and he chooses Samuel Beckett, another Irishman who lived away for much of his life - in Paris.

Gerry, a late convert to Beckett's plays, loves him because he's accepting of the human condition: that we're all locked in this repetitive pattern.

We don't want to keep on doing the same thing over and over again, but we do.

Presenter Matthew Parris is also joined by Jim Knowlson, who was a personal friend of Samuel Beckett for 19 years, and is his authorised biographer.

He reveals that Beckett was far from the dour gloomy figure of popular imagination, and was in fact very good company - as long as you didn't interrupt him when he was watching the rugby on the telly on a Saturday afternoon..

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Business guru Sir Gerry Robinson chooses another Irishman, playwright Samuel Beckett.

2404Sammy Davis Jr2010122820101231

Lionel Blair chooses his friend and dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy described himself as a "one-eyed black Jew" - and he was described by others as one of the greatest all-round entertainers of all time.

Lionel danced and sang with Sammy in a dazzling performance on the stage at the Royal Variety Performance in 1961, and he revisits that memory through an evocative archive recording.

Paul Gambaccini is on hand to help presenter Matthew Parris draw out the contradictions and triumphs of Sammy Davis Jr's great American life.

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Lionel Blair chooses his friend and former dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr.

2405Aneurin Bevan2011010420110107

In his time, Aneurin Bevan was, according to one biographer, "the most colourful and controversial, most loved and most loathed political personality in Britain".

The founding father of the NHS is the choice of Lord Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour Party who, like Bevan, grew up in Tredegar, in the heart of the Welsh coalfields, where he met his hero many times.

Kinnock regards Bevan as a hero on a level with Nelson Mandela and believes it was Nye alone who had the force of personality and political will necessary to get the Health Service established after the war.

But the presenter Matthew Parris and his other studio guest, Bevan's biographer, John Campbell are more sceptical.

Campbell goes so far as to argue that, the achievement of the NHS not withstanding, Nye Bevan's life was essentially a failure because, in his commitment to socialism, he misread the trend of history so completely.

Now, with the NHS facing radical reform, this programme captures some of the passion and debate that surrounded its inception and provides personal insights into the life and character of the man responsible for its creation.

The producer is Isobel Eaton.

Future subjects in the series include Barry Cryer on JB Priestley.

Lord Kinnock chooses the life of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS.

2406J B Priestley2011011120110114

Barry Cryer nods to his Yorkshire roots in choosing JB Priestley, the Bradford born author of The Good Companions and An Inspector Calls.

Barry knew JB for the last ten years of his life, and fondly recalls visiting a man he loved with two members of Monty Python.

Other memories include a trip to the Cafe Royal, and thoughts on Priestley's notorious love of women.

Martin Wainwright, northern editor of the Guardian, presenter of last year's radio documentary about the Postscripts, also brings to life a prolific writer nearly killed in World War One.

Some say he wrote so much to avoid the memories of that war.

Recorded in front of an audience at the Arnolfini in Bristol, the programme includes colourful clips of JB Priestley and also Priestley's son, Tom.

The only discordant note is raised by presenter Matthew Parris: "It's awfully watchable, awfully readable...

but where's the magic ? Is Priestley really very good ?"

The producer is Miles Warde.

Barry Cryer chooses JB Priestley.

Matthew Parris presents.

2407Gertrude Bell2011011820110121

was a British woman who arguably founded the modern state of Iraq.

Explorer, mountaineer and archaeologist, this extraordinarily talented woman travelled widely across Arabia in the years preceding the first world war.

When war came, her knowledge of the tribes, geography and politics of the area made her a vital asset to British intelligence.

In the wake of British victory in Mesopotamia, she became a key figure in the the post-war administration of the turbulent area, as the British grappled with how best to reduce their military commitment while still retaining influence - a situation that was to find strong echoes in post-war Iraq 90 years later.

A woman who rose to the top in a man's world, her personal life was beset with ill-starred romance and tragedy.

Physicist Jim al-Khalili was born in Iraq at a time when Gertrude Bell was still revered as someone who fought for Iraqi self-determination.

With the help of Bell's biographer, Janet Wallach, he explores her remarkable life.

Matthew Parris chairs.

Iraqi-born physicist Jim al-Khalili on the life of Gertrude Bell.

2408Mary Stott2011012520110128

The writer Katharine Whitehorn chooses Mary Stott, the great campaigning journalist and the first editor of the Guardian women's page.

She's the journalist who more than anyone started the revolution in women's journalism since the 1950's.

Matthew Parris presents.

Katharine Whitehorn chooses Mary Stott, the great campaigning journalist.

2409 LASTMarcus Garvey - 22011020120110204

Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah on Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader.

Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah is a passionate advocate of Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader of the early twentieth century.

Long before Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey was trying against all the odds to give black people a sense of pride, and to create the conditions in which they might hope to flourish and prosper.

Kwame Kwei-Armah tells the story of Garvey's incredible rise and fall, and brings this impressive yet flawed man to life.

He's joined by Colin Grant, the author of Negro with a Hat - a biography of Marcus Garvey.

Presenter Matthew Parris contributes his own memories of living in both Jamaica and Africa.

Producer Beth O'Dea.

2501Thomas Edison2011040520110408

Sir Clive Sinclair discusses fellow inventor Thomas Edison with Matthew Parris.

Edison invented sound recording, the electric light bulb and moving pictures, but also had his fair share of duds along the way.

Sir Clive invented the first electronic calculator but also the ill-fated C5 electric car.

Separated by a century, do the two men have anything in common? Joining the discussion is Edison's biographer Neil Baldwin

2502Leonard Bernstein2011041220110415

The conductor Charles Hazlewood chooses the great American composer Leonard Bernstein, music director of the New York Philharmonic and creator of West Side Story, Wonderful Town, and Candide.

The charismatic Bernstein clearly influenced Charles Hazlewood's own choice of career - he's an award winning conductor, made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 2003 and recently presented The Birth of British Music on BBC tv.

Joining him in the studio is Humphrey Burton, friend and professional colleague of Leonard Bernstein and whose documentaries include The Making of West Side Story.

Matthew Parris presents.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Conductor Charles Hazlewood chooses Leonard Bernstein.

2503Simone De Beauvoir2011041920110422

Actress Diana Quick tells Matthew Parris why she believes that existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir lived a great life, despite living in the shadow of Jean Paul Sartre.

Simone de Beauvoir was a brilliant writer and philosopher in her own right.

Her study, The Second Sex, made her an iconic figure for the feminist movement, and she remained true to her intellectual honesty until her death in 1986, aged 78.

Yet despite all of her achievements, she is chiefly remembered as the student of her lover and teacher, Jean Paul Sartre.

Joining Matthew Parris and Diana Quick in the studio is de Beauvoir biographer Lisa Appignanesi.

The producer is John Byrne.

Actress Diana Quick selects philosopher Simone de Beauvoir for Great Lives.

2504Kathleen Ferrer2011042620110429

Kathleen Ferrier's was a British contralto singer who died in 1953 from breast cancer.

Her professional career had lasted just 14 years but in that time she had had become an international star, singing at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne and Carnegie Hall; and had worked with such luminaries of post-war music as Benjamin Britten, Sir John Barbirolli, and Bruno Walter.

Not bad for someone who had no formal training as a singer and who had left school to work in the Blackburn telephone exchange.

Ferrier never lost her common touch, never became a prima donna, and retained her liking for beer, cigarettes, and risque jokes.

In this programme, broadcaster Sue MacGregor tells Matthew Parris why she admires Ferrier's work.

Joining the discussion is conductor Christopher Fifield who edited Ferrier's letters.

Broadcaster Sue MacGregor nominates contralto Kathleen Ferrier, who died tragically young.

2505Lewis Carroll2011050320110506

Matthew Parris and writer Lynne Truss discuss the life of author Lewis Carroll.

Famous for the Alice books, Carroll was also a brilliant mathematician and early photographer.

But his reputation has been clouded by allegations, never substantiated, that he was a repressed paedophile.

With the help of biographer Robin Wilson, Lynne and Matthew try to discover why, despite the millions of words written about him, Carroll still remains a mystery.

Matthew Parris and Lynne Truss discuss the life of 'Alice' author Lewis Carroll

2506Petra Kelly2011051020110513

Green MP Caroline Lucas nominates German Green politician Petra Kelly.

Kelly was one of the first Green parliamentarians to be elected anywhere in the world.

Intense, charismatic and beautiful, she became an international political superstar who rejected the idea of conventional politics.

But she fell out with her colleagues and became reliant on her lover, a former German army General turned peace activist, Gert Bastian.

Bastian, possibly fearing exposure as a Stasi agent, murdered Kelly and himself in 1992.

Joining the discussion is Kelly's biographer and former Green Party activist, Sara Parkin

2507Jack Johnson2011051720110520

It was the fight of the century, July 4th 1910, when Tim Jeffries, the so-called Great White Hope, was stopped by Jack Johnson in the 15th round.

Suddenly white supremacy didn't seem so self-assured.

In America there were riots, while a follow up fight in Britain - between Johnson and the British champion, Bombardier Wells - never took place.

A leader in the Times newspaper had urged the promoter to consider 'the special position of trusteeship for coloured subject peoples which the British empire holds....'

Jack Johnson, also known as the Galveston Giant, has been proposed by Matthew Syed, a recent sports journalist of the year.

His nomination is based not only on Johnson's life, but what he came to represent.

The expert is Kasia Boddy, author of Boxing: A Cultural History.

The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer Miles Warde.

Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, first African American heavyweight boxing champion.

2508 LASTHarold Pinter2011052420110527

Matthew Parris is joined by Diane Abbott MP and biographer and critic Michael Billington to explore the life of playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter.

His name - if you just add an "esque" to it, as in "Thatcheresque or Ortonesque, defines that which is 'marked especially by halting dialogue, uncertainty of identity, and air of menace'.

But today's great life is not an easy man to encapsulate.

He was a polymath - a playwright, poet, screenwriter, actor, director, political activist and Nobel Laureate - whom his biographer describes as 'an instinctively radical poet whose chosen medium is drama.' He was one of Britain's most celebrated writers - the 'master of the pause' - Harold Pinter.

Pinter is said to have 'stamped his mark on the cultural and political scene as an observer of suburban brooding and as an irate iconoclast.' He was also born in Hackney, which may explain in part why he has been chosen by Diane Abbott, Shadow Minister for Public Health, and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

The programme explores Pinter's life and his appeal for Abbott with expert assistance from Pinter's biographer, the writer and critic Michael Billington.

Matthew Parris introduces the life of writer Harold Pinter, chosen by Diane Abbott MP.

2601Graham Greene2011080220110805
20160421 (BBC7)
20160422 (BBC7)

The Third Man, Brighton Rock, Travels With My Aunt - the books of Graham Greene all still have a definite ring.

But the the man himself was an enigma.

He worked both as a spy as well as a foreign correspondent, and wrote endlessly about shady characters and secret affairs.

This programme opens with him talking about his love of playing Russian Roulette - it turns out that Graham Greene was easily bored.

Choosing Greene for Great Lives is Tim Butcher, 20 years a war reporter for the Daily Telegraph and more recently author of Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, a title that suggests the influence of Greeneland.

Tim says that it's his depiction of seedy life that appeals.

The programme also features the voices of Beryl Bainbridge, Christopher Hampton and Auberon Waugh, along with a classic clip of Trevor Howard as Scobie in the Heart of the Matter from 1953.

Matthew Parris is unimpressed with Greene's treatment of his wife, Vivienne, and questions whether the image Greene created was really true.

David Pearce, founding trustee of the International Graham Greene Festival offers a robust defence.

Future programmes in the series include editions on Shakespeare, Kirsty MacColl, and Antonio Carluccio on the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi.

The producer is Miles Warde.

War reporter Tim Butcher chooses an exploration into the strange world of Graham Greene.

The Third Man, Brighton Rock, Travels With My Aunt - the books of Graham Greene all still have a definite ring. But the the man himself was an enigma. He worked both as a spy as well as a foreign correspondent, and wrote endlessly about shady characters and secret affairs. This programme opens with him talking about his love of playing Russian Roulette - it turns out that Graham Greene was easily bored.

Choosing Greene for Great Lives is Tim Butcher, 20 years a war reporter for the Daily Telegraph and more recently author of Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, a title that suggests the influence of Greeneland. Tim says that it's his depiction of seedy life that appeals.

Matthew Parris is unimpressed with Greene's treatment of his wife, Vivienne, and questions whether the image Greene created was really true. David Pearce, founding trustee of the International Graham Greene Festival offers a robust defence.

2602Kirsty Maccoll2011080920110812

Broadcaster Janice Long tells Matthew Parris why singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl led a "great life" despite her tragically early death in a boating accident in Mexico in 2000.

Kirsty MacColl was a supremely gifted singer-songwriter in the "English" tradition, often compared to Ray Davies or Morrissey for her kitchen-sink realism and sardonic wit.

She loved pop but insisted on witty and literate writing, and, whilst sporadically successful in her own right, she was everyone's favourite collaborative artist.

She battled stage-fright and writers block to produce five outstanding albums, and worked with The Smiths, Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, Simple Minds and U2.

She once described her talent as a "one-woman-Beach Boys" for her ability to layer and orchestrate harmonies.

Her father, Ewan MacColl, was a famous folk singer, but Kirsty had no interest in folk music - a clear rejection of the world her father inhabited - and wanted instead to create great, "edgy" pop records.

She died in controversial circumstances when she was hit by a speedboat whilst on a diving holiday in Mexico in 2000.

Broadcaster Janice Long champions the life and work of singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl.

2603Emily Dickinson2011081620110819

's reclusive life has long gripped her biographers, but Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis gives short shrift to any romantic or sentimental readings of her choice of a great life.

Dickinson, she argues, was fiercely independent and passionate, that she "had a bomb in her breast".

Matthew Parris is told by Dickinson biographer Lyndall Gordon how the American poet paradoxically turned her back on the world in order to better engage with it, and how her appeal has only broadened since her death.

She died in the 1880s having only had a handful of poems published, but the boldness of her voice speaks directly to modern audiences.

The reader is Lia Williams.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

The reclusive American poet Emily Dickinson is the choice of fellow poet, Gwyneth Lewis.

2604Eduardo Paolozzi2011082320110826

This week's Great Life, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, hated being tagged as the father of pop art, yet his representations of images from popular culture came almost two decades before Warhol and Lichtenstein.

Prolific and generous, his public sculptures populate many cities across the country, yet his name is not as well known as Moore, Hepworth or Gormley.

The diversity of the forms that he worked in, and his reluctance to be packaged and promoted by agents, accounts at least partly for that.

Paolozzi's personal story is no less complicated.

Born in Edinburgh to Italian parents that sent him back to Fascist summer camp in Italy every year, all the men in his family, including the young Eduardo were interned when Mussolini declares war in 1940.

Eduardo spent three months prison, but his father and grandfather met a far worse fate.

Joining Matthew in the studio are two close friends of Paolozzi's.

Nominating him is the restaurateur Antonio Carluccio, who remembers dining and cooking with Paolozzi, and marvelling at how his 'fatty sausage' fingers could produce artwork of such intricacy.

Cultural historian, Professor Sir Christopher Frayling who taught with Paolozzi for many years also has many anecdotes to tell, and he and Matthew agree to differ on their appraisal of one of Paolozzi's most well known works; the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Produced by: Sarah Langan.

Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates the Scottish artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

2605William Shakespeare2011083020110902

No less a figure than the national bard, William Shakespeare, is nominated for great life status by poetry curator and TV producer, Daisy Goodwin.

Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre joins Matthew Parris to put flesh on the life that is remarkably light on known and verifiable facts.

How and why did this son of an illiterate glovemaker from Stratford on Avon come to bestride the international stage, adopted not only as England's national poet, but even displacing Goethe and Schiller in Germany? Dromgoole argues that more than a sense of the man is conveyed in his 37 plays.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

Poetry curator Daisy Goodwin nominates the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.

2606Hans Fallada2011090620110909

The Fast Show comedian Simon Day tells Matthew Parris why he's fascinated by the life and work of German author Hans Fallada.

Matthew is also joined by Fallada's biographer Jenny Williams.

Hans Fallada (real name Rudolf Ditzen) was an alcoholic, a thief, a morphine addict and, prone to depression, attempted suicide twice.

He lived and worked in the Germany of the 1930's and, although declared an "undesirable author," stayed in his beloved country for the duration of the Second World War.

In and out of prison, sanatoriums and relationships, his volatile personal life often informed his writing (The Drinker, 1950.)

Simon Day achieved fame as "Competitive Dad" and "Dave Angel, Eco-Warrior" in The Fast Show of the 1990's.

More recently he has written of his battles with various addictions, and finds parallels between his own experience of addiction, and that of Hans Fallada.

Fast Show comic Simon Day tells Matthew Parris why he's fascinated by writer Hans Fallada.

2607Edwin Lutyens2011091320110916

If Edwin Lutyens, the architect behind New Delhi, the Cenotaph, and the British embassy in Washington, sounds an austere, imperial figure then think again.

He was fun and almost child-like - he loved to dance and doodle, and he told terrible jokes.

But his great grand daughter, Jane Ridley, believes it was Lutyens' shockingly miserable marriage that inspired his greatest work.

Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times and current head of the National Trust, chooses Lutyens primarily for the quality of his work.

But he also recognises that the grimness of the marriage - Emily Lutyens fell in love with Krishnamurti - spurred the architect onto greater heights.

Presenter Matthew Parris initially questions whether the quality of Lutyens' sex life really needs to play a part in this tale, then declares himself underwhelmed by much of the work.

Expert Jane Ridley is the author of the Architect and his Wife, and the producer is Miles Warde.

Simon Jenkins proposes Edwin Lutyens, architect of New Delhi and the Cenotaph.

2608Hildegard Von Bingen2011092020110923

Cerys Matthews chooses the 12th century nun St Hildegard.

Presented by Matthew Parris.

When the singer Cerys Matthews first played the music of the 12th century nun, Hildegard von Bingen, on her BBC 6 music show, she said she felt she could hear the tumble weed rolling through the listeners' houses.

Matthew unravels Cerys's admiration for the woman who was given by her parents as a 'tithe' to the church at the age of eight and who became one of the most influential people of her time.

She wrote about the visions that she experienced from the age of three, later deemed to have been migraines, but was a true polymath, writing liturgical texts, songs, botanical studies and morality plays.

Despite her religious devotion, she was no demure subject.

Her influence was widespread and she even had the ear of the Pope.

Beatified but never officially canonized, Matthew, Cerys and guest expert (tbc) celebrate the life of the woman who was nonetheless known to millions as Saint Hildegard von Bingen

Producer: Sarah Langan.

2609 LASTGerald Durrell2011092720110930

Former England footballer Graeme le Saux champions the life of writer, broadcaster and conservationist Gerald Durrell.

Graeme and presenter Matthew Parris are joined in the studio by Durrell's widow, Lee.

Gerald Malcolm Durrell (1925 - 1995) was a pioneering conservationist who took on the established "zoo community" by emphasising the need to preserve endangered species, rather than just repeatedly dip in to the natural world for more animals to amuse and entertain.

His work culminated in the creation of his own zoo on Jersey.

It was there that a teenage islander called Graeme le Saux helped out in the gorilla enclosure, before moving on to play at left back for Chelsea and England.

Former England player Graeme le Saux champions the life of conservationist Gerald Durrell.

2701Philip K Dick2011120620111209

Actor Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon; The Queen; Midnight in Paris) explores the life of Philip K Dick with Matthew Parris, and explains why he had such a big influence on his recent production of Hamlet.

Michael first discovered Philip K Dick through the film Bladerunner, and moved onto his short stories which got him thinking about science-fiction in a new way.

Whilst reading about philosophy, quantum physics, and comparative mythology, it struck him how Dick was intuitively weaving narratives around all the most interesting elements that these fields were throwing up.

He talks about Philip K Dick's innate interest in multiples realities, and how they overlap with Sheen's own family experiences of mental health issues.

In fact the more he found out about him, the more he was drawn to this enigmatic writer.

Producer: Toby Field.

2702Ludwig Wittgenstein2011121320111216

, the fascinating and misunderstood genius who changed the course of philosophy, is chosen by writer Raymond Tallis.

With biographer Ray Monk, he brings alive this most enigmatic of men and his singular life.

And to make sure that they don't get lost in Wittgensteinian thought, presenter Matthew Parris brings along a whistle to blow whenever he feels in danger..

Producer Beth O'Dea.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, fascinating and misunderstood thinker, is chosen by Raymond Tallis.

2703Thomas Hobbes2011122020111223

: the writer and psychologist Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great English philosopher.

Noel Malcolm from All Souls College, Oxford provides the expert analysis.

Power and violence are themes of the discussion of Hobbes who, Steven Pinker argues, was "perhaps the first cognitive psychologist." Although he was born in the late sixteenth century, we are fortunate to have some rich biographical description of Hobbes thanks to his contemporary and friend, the writer John Aubrey.

Now, the word Hobbesian is often used to describe a world in which life is "nasty, brutish and short." But Professor Pinker suggests Hobbes was actually "a nice man, despite the fact his name became a rather nasty adjective."

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

2704Ludwig Ii Of Bavaria20111227

Brian Sewell on his long-standing love of "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the ultimate fantasy castle at Neuschwanstein. From his first fateful glimpse of one of Ludwig's palaces, Brian's been fascinated with the eccentric King, and his mysterious death, and has become personally involved in the story of his life. Presenter Matthew Parris and contributor Simon Winder find out more...

Producer Beth O'Dea.

2705Edward Said2012050120120504

(05/08)

Edward Said was a man, who, in his own words, lived two quite separate lives. First there was the scholar and literary critic of Columbia University, and then there was the fierce critic of American and Israeli policies in the Middle East. In the United States he was an academic superstar, but his views - on Palestine in particular - made him an intensely divisive figure. He died of leukaemia in 2003.

In Great Lives, Alexei Sayle explains to Matthew Parris why Edward Said, a man he met twice and described as "very noble and fiercely intelligent", inspired him. Edward Said once described the Palestinians as 'the victims of the victims'. This eloquence, on a subject that in America was taboo, still impresses Alexei Sayle today.

Producer: Toby Field.

2705Lonnie Donegan2012010320120106

Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter tells Matthew Parris why skiffle king Lonnie Donegan is his hero.

Lonnie Donegan is probably best remembered for the novelty hits "My Old Man's a Dustman" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour? " However, early hits like "Rock Island Line" were instrumental in inspiring the likes of John Lennon, Brian May and Roger Daltrey to perform.

Donegan played a decisive role in the development of British popular music. His revitalisation of skiffle provided the inspiration for the whole British beat movement that was to come. Ironically, although Donevan was the catalyst, he was soon eclipsed by the young electric guitar heroes of the mid-sixties, and he was left with the comedy and cabaret circuits.

Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter champions the life and work of skiffle king Lonnie Donegan.

2706John Ford2012050820120511

(06/08)

Eric Pickles chooses the great Hollywood director John Ford.

John Ford had a monumental Hollywood career - over 140 films, Oscars he never turned up to receive, and a blunt way of approaching the business that made him enemies as well as friends. He stood up once at a meeting and said simply, "My name's John Ford, I make westerns."

Eric Pickles makes an unlikely, but extremely knowledgeable guest. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is often depicted as a blunt man himself. But he paints a fascinating picture of his young self sitting cross legged as a boy watching The Searchers, Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He realised even then that these were not westerns but a portrait of America finding itself. "When the legend becomes fact," says a newspaperman at the end of one of Ford's films, "print the legend."

Joining Eric Pickles in the studio are Ed Buscombe, Matthew Parris, and wonderful archive of the tough-talking director John Ford.

The producer is Miles Warde.

2706Joseph Rotblat2012011020120113

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees tells Matthew Parris why his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat, lived a "great life".

Rotblat was a brilliant physicist who was the only scientist to resign from the Manhattan Project once it became clear that Germany would not make an atomic bomb. Rotblat believed that all scientists have a moral obligation to work for the benefit of mankind, and spent his life campaigning against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Joining Lord Rees and Matthew Parris in the studio is Rotblat's friend and colleague Kit Hill.

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees champions the life of his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat.

2707Goya2012051520120518

Episode x07 of 8

Diana Athill joins Matthew Parris to explore the life of the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya with the help of art historian Dr Sarah Symmons and reader Javier Marzan.

Goya was a 'mighty celebrant of pleasure' whose depictions of hell are 'always genuinely frightening'. He has been chosen by the celebrated memoirist and literary editor Diana Athill for his courage in bearing witness truthfully to the horrors of war, for the tenderness of his observations as a painter and for his desire to keep learning all through his life. Goya's letters, most recently edited by biographer Sarah Symmons, reveal a passionate and delightful man, playful, sensual, fascinated by people and every incarnation of human life and behaviour. Caught up in the horrors of the French invasion of Spain, some of his greatest works were produced as an elderly man, including his series of etchings 'The Disasters of War'.

Diana Athill OBE helped establish the publishing company Andre Deutsch and worked with some of the twentieth century's greatest writers in her long career. Her six volumes of memoirs include the 2009 winner of the Costa Biography award 'Somewhere Towards the End', an examination of what it means to be old.

Episode 8 of 08

Episode 07 of 08

2707Gracie Allen2012011720120120
20140828 (BBC7)
20140829 (BBC7)

Matthew Parris is joined by the actress Emma Kennedy to explore the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen.

Actress Emma Kennedy chooses the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen.

Matthew Parris is joined by the actress Emma Kennedy to explore the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen. George Burns and Gracie Allen were a hugely successful stage act who went on to conquer the new media of radio and television. But, unusually for the time, it was Gracie who was getting all the laughs, whilst George played the straight man. For actress and comic Emma Kennedy, Gracie was a pioneering female comic who, with her energy, wit and "illogical logic", paved the way for the likes of Lucille Ball and Roseanne Barr. Professor Brian Ward provides the expert analysis.

2708Vera Brittain2012012420120127

Matthew Parris presents the biographical series.

2708 LASTSebastian Walker2012052220120525

Lynn Barber first met Sebastian Walker at Oxford. "He was the first person I'd ever met who was gay...quite funny looking with a big adam's apple and bespeckled face...he dressed in a very dandy way."

He formed Walker Books in 1978 which, in Lynn's words, "launched a whole new era of children's book publishing." He took every opportunity to reinvent the rules of publishing - he paid the illustrators more money than anyone else, befriending the likes of Maurice Sendak and Helen Oxenbury till they agreed to work for him. He struck a deal to sell books through Sainsbury's supermarkets and justified it in the name of child literacy. Titles like 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' and 'Where's Wally? would establish Walker Books as a major player in children's book publishing. Walker would describe the financial side of business as a "bore" preferring to spend his money on lavish parties for his friends.

Lynn Barber talks to Matthew Parris about why Sebastian Walker remains such a memorable friend. They're joined by Walker's sister and biographer Mirabel Cecil who says her brother "..had very little sense of his own identity", and that his one true love was really the piano.

Producer: Toby Field.

2709 LASTRazia Sultana2012013120120203

Co-chairman of the Conservative party, Baroness Warsi recalls her Pakistani-born father during her Yorkshire childhood telling her about the heroic martial deeds conducted by a thirteenth century Indian princess, Razia Sultana.

Descended from humble stock, the much mythologized Sultana ruled for less than four years in the 1230s, but has long been celebrated as the first female Indian Muslim leader. Sayeeda Warsi explains why she's fascinated by this character whose reign was abruptly brought to an end by the jealous rivalries of the male nobility around her who could not tolerate the fact that she had been chosen by her father above the heads of her brothers. We'll hear whether Sayeeda draws inspiration from Razia's model of bold leadership, and whether she finds parallels with her own experience of British politics today within the senior ranks of the Conservative Party.

Writer and expert on India, William Dalrymple sets the scene, explaining how and why Turkish Muslims had an empire that reached as far as the Himalayas, at a time when northern India was having to withstand the Mongol incursions of Genghis Khan.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

Conservative politician Baroness Warsi nominates a 13th-century Indian princess.

2801Dylan Thomas2012040320120406

Dylan Thomas, arguably Wales's most famous poet, comes under scrutiny on Great Lives. A man famous both for his linguistic exuberance and his chaotic, alcohol-fuelled private life, Dylan Thomas is proposed by another Welsh poet in a specially recorded programme at Bristol's More Than Words Listening Festival.

Owen Sheers is one of Britain's brightest young writers and the author of Resistance, and he is keen to bust some myths about his fellow Welshman's reputation. Joining him on stage is presenter Matthew Parris along with Damian Walford-Davies of Aberystwyth University. The programme includes archive recordings of Dylan Thomas's famous voice, and also Richard Burton reading the opening of Under Milk Wood.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Welsh poet Owen Sheers chooses Dylan Thomas for Great Lives.

2801Henry Cooper20120731

The date is June 18 1963, the final seconds of the fourth round of a boxing match. In the ring, Henry Cooper, eight years older and 26 pounds lighter than his opponent, Cassius Clay. And then Cooper hits Clay, just as the bell rings.

Des Lynam was Henry Cooper's boxing co-commentator for many years. He nominates our 'Enery - or Lord 'Enery as he became - as the representative of a different era of sporting prowess. Winner of three Lonsdale belts, but never world champion himself, Henry Cooper is always remembered for his two fights with Cassius Clay, later Muhammed Ali. The programme features archive of the first of those fights, plus the voice of Cooper's famous manager, the Bishop, also known as Jim Wicks. Expert opinion is provided by Norman Giller, author of Henry Cooper: A Hero For All Time.

The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer Miles Warde.

Des Lynam chooses Henry Cooper for Great Lives.

2802Josephine Bonaparte20120807

, first empress of France, chosen by Janine di Giovanni.

"I get to Milan," wrote Napoleon. "I fling myself into your room. I have left everything in order to see you, to clasp you in my arms.... you were not there." The tale of Napoleon and Josephine is one of history's great love affairs, and while she did not win the battles he fought, she was both present, and perhaps influential, at a great moment in Europe's past. Her own life before then was equally extraordinary - born in Martinique, her first husband was executed and she was in jail too, expecting the madame guillotine at any time.

Reporter Janine di Giovanni champions Josephine with the expert help of her biographer Andrea Stuart, who makes no apology for the methods Josephine employed to ensure her survival and rise. An astonishing life, though presenter Matthew Parris remains unconvinced that she was truly great. The producer is Miles Warde.

2802Oscar Wilde2012041020120413

Oscar Wilde, author of The Importance of Being Earnest and The Ballad of Reading Gaol, is proposed by Will Self, a writer once described as a 'high powered satirical weapon'.

In 1895, and at the height of his success, Wilde began libel proceedings against the Marquess of Queensberry, sparking a disastrous sequence of trials, prison, exile and disgrace. A century later Oscar Wilde is often listed as one of the wittiest Britons who ever lived, but this was a life that ended in tragedy and early death. Joining Will Self and Matthew Parris in the studio is Franny Moyle, author of a biography of Oscar Wilde's wife, Constance, an often overlooked character in Wilde's life. The programme features actor Simon Russell Beale's reading of De Profundis - From The Depths.

The producer is Miles Warde

2803Gertrude Stein2012041720120420

Gertude Stein, American poet, writer and art collector, lived most of her life in France. She was one of the first people to spot the genius of Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse, and she believed she was a genius too.Opinion on that score remains divided.

In Great Lives, Erin Pizzey chooses her because Stein inspired her to live a life without compromise. Since setting up the world's first refuge for battered women in 1971, Erin Pizzey has campaigned and written about domestic violence, publishing "Scream Quietly Or The Neighbours Will Hear" and her autobiography "This Way To The Revolution".Joining presenter Matthew Parris in the studio is Diana Souhami, author of "Gertrude and Alice".

The producer is Isobel Eaton.

Erin Pizzey chooses the American poet and writer Gertrude Stein.

2803Walter Scott2012081420120817

Tory MP, author and adventurer Rory Stewart champions the life of Sir Walter Scott.

Tory MP author and adventurer Rory Stewart champions the life of Sir Walter Scott. Presenter Matthew Parris is joined by Scott's biographer Stuart Kelly. Scott arguably invented the idea of Scottishness and marketed it to the world. But now he is virtually unread and he stands accused of saddling Scotland with tartan tat and Highland kitsch. Rory Stewart argues that Scott's version of Scottish identity represents a valid alternative to today's Scottish nationalism.

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

2804George Lyward2012042420120427

Aged sixteen and struggling with his sexuality, Tom Robinson attempted to take his own life. Following a series of assessments and tests, he was interviewed for Finchden Manor, a therapeutic community which Robinson describes as the "last chance saloon." Under the stewardship of George Lyward, Finchden Manor was an unconventional place that gave boys the freedom to work through their issues and "help them to shape their futures."

In Great Lives, musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson tells Matthew Parris how educationalist George Lyward saved his life. Former Finchden teacher Dr Norman Alm provides expert assistance. Lyward's work is also assessed in the context of last Summer's riots, and Matthew asks what should society do with its troubled teens?

Producer: Toby Field.

Tom Robinson explains how educationalist George Lyward saved his life.

2804Leonard Maguire2012082120120824

Actor Bill Paterson nominates a Scottish actor little known outside Scotland.

Matthew Parris finds out why the actor Bill Paterson would nominate for Great Life status a Scottish actor little known outside Scotland. He is Leonard Maguire, who died in 1997 after a career which took in acting on stage, television, film and radio and included some wonderful writing - not bad going for a man who learned English as his third language as a child.

The expert witness is Leonard Maguire's writer daughter, Susie.

Produced by Christine Hall and Sarah Langan.

2805Edward Said2012050120120504

was a man, who, in his own words, lived two quite separate lives. First there was the scholar and literary critic of Columbia University, and then there was the fierce critic of American and Israeli policies in the Middle East. In the United States he was an academic superstar, but his views - on Palestine in particular - made him an intensely divisive figure. He died of leukaemia in 2003.

In Great Lives, Alexei Sayle explains to Matthew Parris why Edward Said, a man he met twice and described as "very noble and fiercely intelligent", inspired him. Edward Said once described the Palestinians as 'the victims of the victims'. This eloquence, on a subject that in America was taboo, still impresses Alexei Sayle today.

Producer: Toby Field.

Alexei Sayle explains why scholar and literary critic Edward Said inspired him.

(05/08)

In Great Lives, Alexei Sayle explains to Matthew Parris why Edward Said, a man he met twice and described as "very noble and fiercely intelligent", inspired him. Edward Said once described the Palestinians as 'the victims of the victims'. This eloquence, on a subject that in America was taboo, still impresses Alexei Sayle today.

was a man, who, in his own words, lived two quite separate lives. First there was the scholar and literary critic of Colombia University, and then there was the fierce critic of American and Israeli policies in the Middle East. In the United States he was an academic superstar, but his views - on Palestine in particular - made him an intensely divisive figure. He died of leukaemia in 1993.

2805Juvenal2012082820120831

Comic Natalie Haynes nominates the Roman poet Juvenal about whose life we know very little

Matthew Parris invites writer and comic Natalie Haynes to explain why her nomination for a Great Life is a Roman poet about whose life we know very little. Dr Llewelyn Morgan of Brasenose College Oxford helps her explain the enduring appeal of this scurrilous writer.

On the face of it, Juvenal's life is hard to defend as a Great one. In the first place - as Dr Llewelyn Morgan, lecturer in Classical Languages and Literature at Oxford, confirms - we know very little about his life. He may have been a first-generation Roman from a Spanish family; he may have served in army; he may have been sent into exile. None of this can be confirmed. What we do know is that he uses his Satires to rant and rail against women, foreigners, gays and the upstarts who are all ruining Rome - which might make him hard to love. But Natalie Haynes, veteran of the stand-up circuit and now a writer and critic, finds Juvenal an indispensable part of her life and is very happy to explain why.

Producer Christine Hall.

2806John Ford2012050820120511

(06/08)

Eric Pickles chooses the great Hollywood director John Ford.

John Ford had a monumental Hollywood career - over 140 films, Oscars he never turned up to receive, and a blunt way of approaching the business that made him enemies as well as friends. He stood up once at a meeting and said simply, "My name's John Ford, I make westerns."

Eric Pickles makes an unlikely, but extremely knowledgeable guest. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is often depicted as a blunt man himself. But he paints a fascinating picture of his young self sitting cross legged as a boy watching The Searchers, Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He realised even then that these were not westerns but a portrait of America finding itself. "When the legend becomes fact," says a newspaperman at the end of one of Ford's films, "print the legend."

Joining Eric Pickles in the studio are Ed Buscombe, Matthew Parris, and wonderful archive of the tough-talking director John Ford.

The producer is Miles Warde.

John Ford had a monumental Hollywood career - over 140 films, Oscars he never turned up to receive, and a blunt way of approaching the business that made him enemies as well as friends. He stood up once at a meeting and said simply, "My name's John Ford, I make westerns."

Eric Pickles makes an unlikely, but extremely knowledgeable guest. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is often depicted as a blunt man himself. But he paints a fascinating picture of his young self sitting cross legged as a boy watching The Searchers, Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He realised even then that these were not westerns but a portrait of America finding itself. "When the legend becomes fact," says a newspaperman at the end of one of Ford's films, "print the legend."

2806Stan Laurel2012090420120907

Comedian and performer Ken Dodd explains how Stan Laurel inspired him to go into comedy.

In London in 1910, Stan Jefferson was understudy to Charlie Chaplin in comedy impresario Fred Karno's latest production Jimmy the Fearless. Chaplin decided it wasn't up-to-scratch and pulled out, on the eve of the opening. Stan stepped into the breach. The show was a tremendous and immediate hit, and Stan Jefferson emerged as one of the great comedy talents of the twentieth century. Or Stan Laurel, as he became known: the Laurel of Laurel and Hardy.

Ken Dodd, best-known for his marathon live shows, the Diddy men and the jam-butty mines of Knotty Ash cites Stan Laurel as his inspiration for going into comedy. He says that good comedians are admired, really good comedians are revered, but great comedians like Laurel and Hardy are loved. He praises his brilliance as a clown and a creator of gags, but feels that he was financially exploited and unlucky in love.

Producer: Toby Field.

2807Goya2012051520120518

Episode x07 of 8

Diana Athill joins Matthew Parris to explore the life of the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya with the help of art historian Dr Sarah Symmons and reader Javier Marzan.

Goya was a 'mighty celebrant of pleasure' whose depictions of hell are 'always genuinely frightening'. He has been chosen by the celebrated memoirist and literary editor Diana Athill for his courage in bearing witness truthfully to the horrors of war, for the tenderness of his observations as a painter and for his desire to keep learning all through his life. Goya's letters, most recently edited by biographer Sarah Symmons, reveal a passionate and delightful man, playful, sensual, fascinated by people and every incarnation of human life and behaviour. Caught up in the horrors of the French invasion of Spain, some of his greatest works were produced as an elderly man, including his series of etchings 'The Disasters of War'.

Diana Athill OBE helped establish the publishing company Andre Deutsch and worked with some of the twentieth century's greatest writers in her long career. Her six volumes of memoirs include the 2009 winner of the Costa Biography award 'Somewhere Towards the End', an examination of what it means to be old.

Episode 8 of 08

Episode 07 of 08

2807Karel Reisz2012091120120914

Film director Stephen Frears discusses the life of his mentor, Czech-born director, Karel Reisz, with the help of critic and Reisz's friend, John Lahr. Frears is one of Britain's most successful directors, responsible for "My Beautiful Laundrette", "Dangerous Liaisons", and "Dirty Pretty Things", among many others. Reisz is probably best known for "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", and "The French Lieutenant's Woman".

"Karel took me into his life and into his family and he took on the business of turning me into whatever it is I've become," Frears has said. "Without him, I wouldn't have become a film director". Matthew Parris chairs the discussion.

Film director Stephen Frears champions his mentor, Karel Reisz. Chaired by Matthew Parris.

2808George Orwell2012091820120921

Whilst at school, a young Alan Johnson was given some money by a teacher and told to go and buy four copies of any book for the school library. He headed down the Kings Road in Chelsea, stopping only for a sly cigarette along the way. Having already read 'Animal Farm', he picked 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' and yearned for the life of lead character Gordon Comstock.

In conversation with Matthew Parris, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson explains why Orwell was crucial to his education and political development. He's surprised to learn that Orwell is not on the National Curriculum, and insists that Orwell would have hated I.D. cards. They're joined by Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster and Chair of the Orwell Prize.

Orwell was in the news recently when the outgoing Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, turned down a proposal to erect a statue of George Orwell outside BBC Broadcasting House, reportedly telling Joan Bakewell that it was 'far too Left-wing an idea.'

Producer: Toby Field.

Alan Johnson tells Matthew Parris about the impact George Orwell had on his life.

2808George Orwell - Alan Johnson2012052220120918 (BBC7)
20150820 (BBC7)
20150821 (BBC7)

Alan Johnson tells Matthew Parris about the impact George Orwell had on his life.

Whilst at school, a young Alan Johnson was given some money by a teacher and told to go and buy four copies of any book for the school library. He headed down the Kings Road in Chelsea, stopping only for a sly cigarette along the way. Having already read 'Animal Farm', he picked 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' and yearned for the life of lead character Gordon Comstock.

In conversation with Matthew Parris, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson explains why Orwell was crucial to his education and political development. He's surprised to learn that Orwell is not on the National Curriculum, and insists that Orwell would have hated I.D. cards. They're joined by Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster and Chair of the Orwell Prize.

Orwell was in the news recently when the outgoing Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, turned down a proposal to erect a statue of