Dr James Martin

Our Founder

James Martin has been described as “the man who predicted the future.” His Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1978 book The Wired Society: A Challenge for Tomorrow contained remarkably accurate descriptions of how computerisation, telecommunications and the rise of the internet would change the world.

Throughout his prolific writing career—during which he authored over 100 textbooks, many of them seminal in their field—he foresaw the challenges that modern technology, connectivity and economics would bring. He discussed the fall of printed newspapers and the rise of 24-hour rolling news, he warned against the growing extremes of wealth and income inequality, and even anticipated the ubiquity of mobile phones, online dating and “designer” babies.

One of his major concerns was that people with deep but narrow skillsets were losing the ability to think in the broader contexts necessary to be effective in tackling the big questions confronting us.

James Martin founded the Oxford Martin School in 2005 with the largest benefaction to the University of Oxford in its more than 900-year history.

His vision was that the School should be unique in bringing together teams of researchers from across disciplines to innovate and find solutions to the most pressing global challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

James Martin held honorary doctorate degrees from six continents. He was an alumnus and Honorary Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, an Honorary Life Fellow of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and a Senior Fellow and Benefactor of the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at Monterey, California. He was recipient of numerous awards, including the Sheldon Medal, the highest honour the University of Oxford can bestow, and the Sydney Stokes Medal for outstanding achievement in advancing the ideals and spirit of Thomas Jefferson. As recipient of the Lifeboat Foundation's 2007 Guardian Award, given to one person annually, he joined other honourees such as Prince Charles, Sir Martin Rees and Stephen Hawking.

James Martin believed that “we can make any kind of world we want.” He founded the Oxford Martin School and saw it become globally recognised for the excellence and impact of its research. It is a permanent legacy and fitting tribute to his visionary understanding of the unique challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

He died in 2013.

Charles Godfray

Jim’s optimistic vision of the future, and of the importance of solution-oriented research in making it happen, runs through everything we do at the School.

– Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Director of the Oxford Martin School

Transforming Humankind

This 'Jubilee' lecture, delivered by Dr James Martin in 2013, celebrated 60 years since his matriculation from the University of Oxford.

In this speech, he discusses the extreme paradigm shifts that lay ahead of us to achieve the transformation of humankind.