Following on from Turner Prize winning artists Antony Gormley and Grayson Perry, Atul Gawande a Harvard professor and best-selling author will deliver this year’s BBC Reith Lectures. Dr Gawande will give a series of four four talks this autumn, titled ‘The Future of Medicine’. The 48-year-old said he was “flattered and grateful” to be invited to speak in Boston, London, Edinburgh and Delhi.
“I hope to use the lectures to bring together my thinking on how medicine is changing and must change globally,” he said in a statement. The lectures will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service in November. The first, titled Why do Doctors Fail?, will examine whether failure in medicine is down to ignorance or ineptitude. It will be followed by The Century of the System, in which Dr Gawande will focus on the development of systems from simple checklists to complex mechanisms.
The third lecture, The Problem of Hubris, will explore aging and death, while the fourth, The Idea of Wellbeing, will argue for a shift in medicine’s priorities.
“Atul Gawande is a significant intellectual and practitioner in global health,” said Gwyneth Williams, Radio 4’s controller. “I look forward to the opportunity he will surely provide for us to bring our thinking up to date and perhaps to re-evaluate our approach.”
The Reith Lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John (later Lord) Reith, the corporation’s first director-general.
John Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.
The very first Reith lecturer was the philosopher, Bertrand Russell who spoke on “Authority and the Individual”. Among his successors were Arnold Toynbee (The World and the West, 1952), Robert Oppenheimer (Science and the Common Understanding, 1953) and J.K. Galbraith (The New Industrial State, 1966). More recently, the Reith lectures have been delivered by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks (The Persistence of Faith, 1990) and Dr Steve Jones (The Language of the Genes, 1991).
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