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Chris Anderson: oration

Read Professor Veronica Hope Hailey's oration on Chris Anderson for the honorary degree of Doctor of Education in December 2019.


Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson

Pro-Chancellor, Chris Anderson is the “curator” and owner of TED, a not-for-profit organization that is devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short but powerful talks of no more than 18 minutes.

TED began in 1984 as a conference where ideas from Technology, Entertainment and Design converged. Today TED covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — and in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities across all continents. As such TED is a global community, one which welcomes people from every discipline and culture with their defining feature being a wish to seek a deeper understanding of the world. The community comprises different groups of people. Many of the world’s most inspired thinkers are working alongside translators and organisers but within that same community are the “curious souls” who choose to listen to and engage with ideas and with each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events all year long. At its heart TED is a community who collectively believe in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

Chris Anderson was born in Pakistan in 1957. His father was an eye surgeon who ran a mobile hospital in rural Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Initially Chris was schooled at Woodstock School in Uttarakhand, India, before moving on to boarding school at Monkton Combe in Bath. He went on to study at Oxford University, initially choosing Physics but then changing to Philosophy, Politics and Economics, graduating in 1978. His professional career began in journalism and in 1984 he became editor of two of the UK’s early computer magazines. In 1985 he founded Future Publishing which expanded rapidly and successfully but whose headquarters remain in Bath to this day.

In 1994 Chris moved to the US to further his business ambitions. However, alongside his growing business concerns, he established the Sapling Foundation as a not-forprofit organisation with the aim of addressing tough global challenges through media, technology and ideas. It was the Sapling Foundation that acquired TED in 2001. TED now employs more than 150 full time staff but Anderson says that its “secret sauce” is its army of around 50,000 volunteers from around the world. The first six TED Talks were posted online on June 27th, 2006 and three months later they had reached more than one million views. Viewership has now grown to approximately 1 billion views per year.

The Financial Times journalist and author Professor Margaret Heffernan commends Chris Anderson’s excellence as an educator and leader: “The very bold decision to film the talks brilliantly with high production values and to put them online for free was, at the time, completely revolutionary and daring. What he has proved, in effect, is that there is a huge and sustainable audience for very serious talk about issues and ideas that matter.” Chris Anderson is known to be both subtle and judicious. In TED he ensures that the focus is on the speakers and the ideas, not on himself. One of his colleagues, Bruno Giussani, describes Chris Anderson as being “One of the most caring and curious persons I’ve ever worked with…. a mix of curiosity and compassion with a capacity to see beyond.” When interviewed about the success of TED, Chris himself said: “Today, if it’s done right, a single human speaking can be seen by millions, casting light on potent ideas and inspiring an intense desire to respond.” In Chris Anderson we see inspiration, vision, courage, compassion and humility mixed with business acumen and optimism. Here is a person who has a fundamental belief that access to knowledge and ideas is vital for all of us but also mobilises that belief by curating a creative entity like TED.

Pro-Chancellor, for outstanding services to publishing, education, technology and business, I present to you Chris Anderson who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Education, honoris causa.


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