BBC World Affairs Editor, Broadcaster, Author and Columnist
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Born in 1944 and educated at St Paul’s School and Magdalene College, Cambridge, John Simpson joined the BBC in 1966 and has stayed there ever since.
From 1969-75 he cut his teeth on the troubles in Northern Ireland, and later became a foreign correspondent in Dublin, Brussels and Johannesburg. He covered the Iranian revolution from start to finish in 1978/9, flying with Ayatollah Khomeini to Tehran on his triumphant return. He covered the Falklands War from Latin America, and was in Buenos Aires to watch the fall of the Argentine junta.
He has reported from 140 countries and interviewed around 200 world leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher and every other British prime minister since Harold Wilson, every German Chancellor since Willy Brandt and every French President since Giscard d’Estaing. Among others he has interviewed Mrs Gandhi, Emperor Bokassa, Colonel Gadaffi, Bashir al-Asad, Nelson Mandela, and Robert Mugabe. He has covered forty-six wars on four continents, not to mention the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania.
John dodged the bullets in the Tiananmen Square massacre, danced on top of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and was on hand for the revolutions in Czechoslovakia and Romania. He stood alongside Boris Yeltsin during the KGB coup which brought down the Soviet Union in 1991, and was the first Western journalist to penetrate the KGB headquarters in Moscow.
In 1994 he reported on the end of apartheid in South Africa, and often met Nelson Mandela. He watched the missiles fall on Baghdad in the first Gulf War, and was in Northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion, where he almost died in an American bombing which killed 18 people.
He reported on the fall of Kabul in 2001, the contested election in Iran in 2009, and the revolutions in Egypt and Libya in 2011. He slipped into Zimbabwe under cover several times, reporting live from Harare, and in 2010 he evaded the Burmese authorities to interview Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon.
John has received most of the broadcasting industry’s main awards, including RTS journalist of the year (twice), three BAFTAs, an Emmy, Monte-Carlo TV Festival’s Golden Nymph, and the Bayeux award for war reporting. He is an honorary fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, a freeman of the City of London, and president of The Chelsea Society. In 1991 he was awarded a CBE.
"He [John Simpson] was a pleasure to work with from start to finish. Thoughtful, interesting, charming and with razor sharp humour to light up even the most depressing story, he talks with passion and genuine enthusiasm about the things he has witnessed over the years, resulting in people hanging on to his every word. In terms of what John provided for our event we could not have asked for anything more." Lee Coleman - Communications Officer, NAAFI
“I am most grateful to you [John Simpson] for visiting the University yesterday and delivering such a wonderful lecture, along with the question and answer session. I have already received many comments from those attending in awe of the breadth of your experience and your ability to communicate clearly the complexities of current world affairs...” Professor Neil T Gorman Vice-Chancellor - Nottingham Trent University.
“Just a note to thank you [John Simpson] very much for chairing our debate ‘The Road Map for peace is leading nowhere’. Our postbag was full the next day and the feedback has been very positive with the audience finding the debate extremely stimulating. We are very grateful that you were able to chair for us and we very much hope there will be a future occasion in which we can work together again....” Intelligence Squared
“I found Mr Simpson a humble, warm, engaging and extremely articulate man. He was able to make a marked impression on the conference's program, its delegates and in his particular session. He spoke with a humility, that was in itself, both humbling and powerful...” HealthTech and Medicines KTN
“A Few days ago I had the honour of presenting John Simpson, the BBC’s world affairs editor, with the Churchillian award. Those who take these risks do so in order to help the rest of us make sense of the crises of our planet. John Simpson was pre- eminent among them. Churchill the war correspondent would have been proud.” Michael Howard (Lord Howard of Lympne, CH, PC, QC)