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Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997)


Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) was born in Latvia. He came to England at the age of 11 and won a scholarship to Oxford. He was the first Jewish person ever to be elected to All Souls College, and in 1966 he became the first President of Wolfson College. His greatest works were on the history of ideas and on Russian thought, and he lectured for the BBC.

Isaiah Berlin’s connection with Headington began in 1956, when he married Mrs Aline Halban (née de Gunzbourg) and went to live in her home, Headington House, with her two sons. Maurice Bowra wrote in a letter in 1960:

I look forward to a House of Gentlefolk in Headington, with Isaiah shooting partridges and lots of indeterminate relations staying in the house for months.

Blue plaque

Sir Isaiah lived in Headington House for 41 years until his death in 1997.

Lady Berlin was President of the Friends of Old Headington from 1968 to 2005, when she left Headington House for the Albany in London. She died on 25 August 2014: Obituary


Right: Blue plaque on one of the gate piers of Headington House, unveiled by Peter Halban on 7 June 2009, a hundred years after Sir Isaiah Berlin’s birth.

Below: Headington House

Headington House
Headington House

There is a full entry on Sir Isaiah Berlin in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB online is available free to many public library users, including those in Oxfordshire:
enter L followed immediately by your library ticket number in the “Library Card Login” box

Wikipedia: Isaiah Berlin

The Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library

© Stephanie Jenkins

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