Isaiah Berlin and Wolfson College, Oxford

An aerial view of Wolfson College
The Founding President, 1966-1975

In 1965 Isaiah Berlin was invited to become President of Iffley College, one of two new graduate Colleges created by the University of Oxford in order to provide more resources for graduate studies and research. The technological and scientific advances of the post-1945 world meant that Oxford quickly needed to embrace the new. It had to move beyond its traditional strengths in the humanities, and Berlin, a philosopher, realized this. He had made frequent visits to the great American universities and saw the direction that higher education was taking. He accepted the headship of Iffley College only so long as he could find funds that would turn this small institution into something really ambitious. Thus was born Wolfson College, a multi-disciplinary institution that has become Oxford's largest graduate college. Berlin devoted more than a decade of his life to Wolfson, and this phase in his life disproves the notion that he was 'a talkerĀ and not a doer'.