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Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 130, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, IV$
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P. J. Marshall

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780197263501

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197263501.001.0001

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Isaiah Berlin 1909–1997

Isaiah Berlin 1909–1997

(p.1) (p.2) (p.3) Isaiah Berlin 1909–1997
Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 130, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, IV

Alan Ryan

British Academy

Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997), a Fellow of the British Academy, was an extraordinary obituarist and memorialist. In the 1930s, Berlin was part of a small group of young and iconoclastic philosophers that included John Austin, Stuart Hampshire, and A. J. Ayer. Ayer was an early convert to logical positivism while Austin, Hampshire and Berlin were not. Berlin’s career was first interrupted and then spectacularly accelerated by the outbreak of World War II. The years he spent in Washington brought Berlin into close contact with the makers of American foreign policy and reshaped his sense of what he might do with his life. Even more important were his postwar encounters with Russian poets, novelists, dramatists and other intellectuals in the winter of 1945–1946. During the 1950s, Berlin became an important figure outside academic life in the broader cultural life of Britain. One of his more surprising insights was that the existence of the state of Israel was a necessity for Jews everywhere. He remained a confirmed liberal Zionist and a good friend of Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel.

Keywords:   Isaiah Berlin, logical positivism, Britain, Israel, Jews, A. J. Ayer, intellectuals

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