Cardinal John Henry Newman and The Idea of the University

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During Michael's conversation with Martha Nussbaum earlier in the program we talked about her concerns about the true purpose of the University and its role in society.

Wrestling with the role of the University is an issue that has perplexed thinkers for centuries but when John Henry Newman tackled the problem 162 years ago the result was a study that still resonates to this day, The Idea of A University.

Cardinal John Henry Newman was a man who loved Universities and the university life.

One of the most prominent thinkers and writers in 19th Century England, Newman spent the first half of his life as a prominent Anglican with a position at Oxford University. He often remarked that being esconced in the halls of Academia was a true and deep pleasure.

His writings, essays, works of theology, novels were all testaments to a deeply active life of the mind.

When Newman converted to Catholicism it was a shift in allegiances that shocked England and still reverberates to this day. Though abandoning the Church of England meant being forced to leave Oxford, Newman never lost interest in the point, purpose and raison d'etre of the University.

When the Church was contemplating establishing a Catholic University in Ireland Newman was asked to design the institution. The result: The idea of a university. It was not the first nor the last time Newman's thinking would provoke the world but without doubt the logic of his book still provokes today.

Later this week, Pope Bennedict XVI during his papal visit to the United Kingdom will officiate at the beatification of John Henry Newman. And it is not an occasion without its critics.

John Cornwell knows well the life and work of Cardinal Newman. Cornwell, author of Hitler's Pope, a history of Pius 12th, is the Director of the Science and Human Dimension Project, a public understanding of science and ethics programme at Jesus College Cambridge. His latest book is, Newman's Unquiet Grave - The Reluctant Saint.

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