WAISERs: Anthony Smith

One of the most esteemed WAISers is Anthony Smith, CBE, President of Magdalen College, Oxford.  Actually, his name is Anthony David Smith, but, since there is an Oxford Professor by the same name, he is known as Anthony, while the professor is known as David. WAISer Anthony Smith was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, which has a long and distinguished history but a very odd name. There have been several interpretations of it. The most likely is that it refers to a ‘brazen’ (brass or bronze) door knocker in the shape of a nose.  In the 1330s there was a migration of rebellious students from Oxford to Stamford in Lincolnshire, and one of the ringleaders was from Brasenose Hall. In due course the rebellion was suppressed, the king ordering the students to return to Oxford. In 1890 a house in Stamford was offered for sale; it was called ‘Brasenose’, and had an ancient door knocker, dated to the twelfth century. Brasenose College purchased the house for the sake of that door knocker, which was brought to Oxford and now hangs over the high table in Brasenose Hall. The College historians of the 1890s were convinced that the fourteenth century students of Brasenose Hall took the knocker from which they derived their name to Stamford, and that it had been restored to its rightful home at last. Noses have been used as symbols for Brasenose College throughout its history. More than one has been placed over the main door and they can be found in the glass in Hall.

Anthony Smith spent much of his life as a BBC producer and executive, and he has written widely on public affairs; The Shadow in the Cave; The Broadcaster, the Audience and the State (1973, 2nd ed. 1978); British Broadcasting (1974); The British Press Since the War (1976); Subsidies and the Press in Europe (1977); The Politics of Information (1978); Television and Political Life (1979); The Newspaper, an International History (1979); Newspapers and Democracy (1980); Goodbye Gutenberg--the Newspaper Revolution of the1980s (1980); The Geopolitics on Information (1980); The Age of the Behemoths (1991).

He was elected President of Magdalen College in 1988, and has been a most vigorous, engaging leader. He has now reached the obligatory retirement age, a prospect which such an energetic individual must find most discouraging. We would be grateful if he would tell us about his retirement plans.The silver lining is that he may now have more time to contribute words of wisdom to WAIS debates.  We would be delighted to post any reports he wishes to send us about Oxford.  His successor, Professor David Clary, FRS, will take over on  September 1, 2005. To confuse matters, he was a Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge,  At present is is the head of Oxford University's Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Some day, when I pluck up courage, I will try to explain the organization of  Oxford University.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 16, 2005