John Derbyshire

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For the swimmer, see John Derbyshire (swimmer).
John Derbyshire
John Derbyshire (June 2001)
Born (1945-06-03) June 3, 1945 (age 70)
Northampton, Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom
Residence Huntington, New York,
United States
Citizenship United States of America
Alma mater University College London,
University of London
Occupation Programmer, writer

John Derbyshire (born June 3, 1945) is a British-born naturalized American writer, journalist and commentator. He formerly wrote a column in National Review. He has also written for the New English Review. These columns cover a broad range of political-cultural topics, including immigration, China, history, mathematics, and race.[1][2] Derbyshire's 1996 novel, Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, was a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year". His 2004 non-fiction book, Prime Obsession, won the Mathematical Association of America's inaugural Euler Book Prize.[3] A political book, We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, was released in September 2009.

Early life[edit]

Derbyshire attended the Northampton School for Boys and graduated from University College London, of the University of London, where he studied mathematics. Before turning to writing full-time, he worked on Wall Street as a computer programmer.


National Review[edit]

Derbyshire worked as a writer at National Review until he was terminated in 2012 because of an article published on another website in which Derbyshire made offensive statements about African Americans.[4][5]

Derbyshire then worked at VDARE.[6]


He ridiculed George W. Bush's "itty-bitty tax cut, paid for by dumping a slew of federal debt on your children and grandchildren",[7] derided Bush as too sure of his religious convictions and for his "rich-kid-ness".[8] He dismissed small-government conservatism as unlikely to ever take hold (although he is not unsympathetic to it), called for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (but favored the invasion), opposed market reforms or any other changes in Social Security, was pro-choice on abortion, supported euthanasia in a fairly wide range of circumstances, and suggested that he might (in a time of international crisis) vote for Hillary Clinton as president.[9]Derbyshire wrote about American schooling in his book We Are Doomed, "Education is a vast sea of lies, waste, corruption, crackpot theorizing, and careerist log-rolling." He further argued that people "had better brace ourselves for the catastrophe" coming as a result.[10]

Derbyshire said that America would be better off if women did not have the right to vote.[11] In 2005, in a monthly column containing a series of miscellaneous musings, he controversially stated that women's physical attractiveness peaks between ages 15–20,[12][13]

Future of America[edit]

In an August 2012 article, Derbyshire summed up his view of American society by saying that it is "slipping into totalitarianism: into a state of affairs where to hold certain opinions is to be excluded from normal society, to be unemployable". He also stated that "given enough advance warning, I can probably get my own wife and kids out to the comparative sanity and freedom of China." He wrote:

The thought came upon me, as it has done quite a lot this past few years, that I shall likely end up in a labor camp. I can't keep my mouth shut; I can't clap along with the Kumbaya; and I can't pretend assent to propositions that seem to me to be false. In the world we are fast heading into, that makes me camp fodder for sure.[6]

Race and multiculturalism[edit]

In April 2012, Derbyshire wrote an article for Taki's Magazine titled "The Talk: Nonblack Version." The article was a response to reports in the news media of "talks" given by African-American parents to their children warning them to be careful with police and to avoid arousing suspicion.

The article, which he presented in terms of advice he had given his own children on dealing with African Americans, presented some statistics regarding disparities in IQ test scores and rates of violent crime between blacks and whites, but described "about five percent" of black people as being "ferociously hostile" to whites, relying solely on personal anecdotal experience to make the latter claim. He then advised his readers to avoid settling in black neighborhoods, avoid events that draw large numbers of black people, and refrain from helping black people who appear to be in distress. He advised white readers to scrutinize black politicians more heavily than white ones, and to cultivate friendships with the minority of "intelligent and well socialized blacks" for reasons of both "ordinary pleasures of friendship" and for "gain[ing] an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice."[14]

In response to the commentary provoked by his piece, Derbyshire wrote a more extensive explanation of the points made in the article on his home page.[15] Derbyshire also defended his position in an interview with Alex Kurtagić for American Renaissance magazine.[16]

A 2012 statement by him on VDARE attracted more media attention:

Leaving aside the intended malice, I actually think "White Supremacist" is not bad semantically. White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with. There have of course been some blots on the record, but I don't see how it can be denied that net-net, white Europeans have made a better job of running fair and stable societies than has any other group.[17]

He responded to the controversy by arguing that African-Americans implicitly agree, given that they have been willing to live in the majority-white U.S.[18] After 2012, Derbyshire spoke at two American Renaissance conferences.[19][20][21][22]

Vs National Review[edit]

Derbyshire differed from other writers at National Review magazine on many subjects. For example, Derbyshire supported Michael Schiavo's position in the Terri Schiavo case. Derbyshire's views on the Schiavo case attracted criticism from colleagues such as Ramesh Ponnuru.[23] The Derbyshire-Ponnuru dispute arose again over Ponnuru's recently published book, Party of Death. Derbyshire reviewed the book harshly in the New English Review,[24] and Ponnuru replied on National Review Online.[25]

Though Derbyshire broadly agreed with other writers at National Review Online on immigration, he encountered strong opposition from former NRO blogger John Podhoretz, who described Derbyshire's comments on restricting immigration to maintain "ethnic balance" in severe terms: "But maintaining 'ethnic balance' is not fine. It is chillingly, horrifyingly not fine."[26] In response, fellow Corner contributor Jonah Goldberg, who described himself as philosophically "in the middle" of the two, noted:

I should say that I think JPod is getting too hung up on the phrase "ethnic balance" as a codeword for all sorts of unlovely things. It seems to me that if you're going to sit down and have any immigration policy at all, it's unavoidable that you're going to address the issue of ethnic balance in one way or another, no matter what you call it. Ultimately, you have to choose where people come from if you have an immigration policy, even if you emphasize other factors like skills or family unification. So you can either look at it directly or you can skirt around it. But you can't avoid it.[27]


Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics by John Derbyshire

Derbyshire's book, Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics was first published in hardcover in 2003 and then paperback in 2004. It focuses on the Riemann hypothesis, one of the Millennium Problems.[28] The book is aimed, as Derbyshire puts it in his prologue, "at the intelligent and curious but nonmathematical reader..."

Prime Obsession explores such topics as complex numbers, field theory, the prime number theorem, the zeta function, the harmonic series, and others. The biographical sections give relevant information about the lives of mathematicians who worked in these areas, including Euler, Gauss, Lejeune Dirichlet, Lobachevsky, Chebyshev, Vallée-Poussin, Hadamard, as well as Riemann himself.

In 2006, Joseph Henry Press published another Derbyshire book of popular mathematics: Unknown Quantity: A Real And Imaginary History of Algebra.

Role in Way of the Dragon[edit]

Derbyshire had an uncredited role in Way of the Dragon (released in the United States as Return of the Dragon), a 1972 martial arts film directed by, and starring Bruce Lee.[29] Of landing the part, Derbyshire said: "The casting director had obviously just trawled around the low-class guesthouses for unemployed foreigners of a sufficiently thuggish appearance." [30]

Personal life[edit]

In 1986 Derbyshire married Lynette Rose, or Rosie, née Qi ( ; Qi Hongmei), who grew up in the People's Republic of China and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen.[31] They have two children, a daughter and a son. He lives in Long Island, New York.[32] He often recounted observations from his personal life in his former monthly column, "The Straggler", in National Review. Derbyshire said of his family, "our two children are, as they are already tired of being told, half English coal miner, half Chinese peasant, 100 percent American."[33]

In early 2012, he underwent treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.[34]

Published works[edit]

He has also written numerous articles for various publications, including National Review, The New Criterion, The American Conservative and The Washington Times.

Derbyshire records a weekly podcast called "Radio Derb", in which he comments on current events. The podcast was hosted on the National Review website before being moved to Taki's Magazine. It is now hosted on VDARE.


  1. ^ "John Derbyshire archive". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  2. ^ "Articles by John Derbyshire at New English Review". New English Review. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  3. ^ "The Mathematical Association of America's Euler Book Prize". MAA Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  4. ^ LOWRY, RICH (April 7, 2012). "Parting Ways". National Review Online. Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  5. ^ Derbyshire, John (April 5, 2012). "The Talk: Nonblack Version". Taki's Magazine. Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  6. ^ a b VDARE
  7. ^ John Derbyshire (2005-05-10). "Twilight of Conservatism". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  8. ^ John Derbyshire (2006-07-05). "Gone, but Not Forgotten". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  9. ^ John Derbyshire (2005-06-24). "Just Got Back From The Windy City...". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  10. ^ Derbyshire, John (July 7, 2011). "The Credentialed Society". National Review. Retrieved April 8, 2012. 
  11. ^ Shakir, Faiz (September 30, 2009). "National Review’s John Derbyshire: Women Should Not Have The Right To Vote". ThinkProgress. Retrieved April 8, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Northeast Asia heating up?". National Review Online. November 30, 2005. Retrieved April 8, 2012. 
  13. ^ "John Derbyshire fired over racism, but what about his sexualization of 15 year-old girls?". Hugo Schwyzer. April 8, 2012. 
  14. ^ Derbyshire, John (April 5, 2012). "The Talk: Nonblack Version". Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ American Renaissance
  17. ^ "John Derbyshire: Who Are We? – The “Dissident Right”?" VDARE
  18. ^ VDARE
  19. ^ VDARE
  20. ^ Taki's Magazine
  21. ^ VDARE
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ Ramesh Ponnuru (2005-03-23). "Contra Derbyshire". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  24. ^ John Derbyshire (June 2006). "A Frigid and Pitiless Dogma". New English Review. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  25. ^ Ponnuru, Ramesh (2006-06-07). "Unreason John Derbyshire vs. Pro-Lifers.". National Review Online. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  26. ^ John Podhoretz (2006-05-12). "Ethnic Balance?". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  27. ^ Jonah Goldberg (2006-05-12). "Superior Immigrants". National Review Online. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  28. ^ S. W. Graham. "Read This: Prime Obsession". The Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  29. ^ "Twelve questions for John Derbyshire". The Economist. 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  30. ^ John Derbyshire (2003-10-15). "Thug (Uncredited)". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  31. ^ "Family Album". Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  32. ^ "John Derbyshire". John Derbyshire. Retrieved 2013-07-07. 
  33. ^ Derbyshire, John (January 2000). "Thinking About Internment". Chronicles. Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  34. ^ O'Connor, Maureen (9 April 2012). "‘I May Give Up Writing and Work as a Butler’: Interview with John Derbyshire". Gawker. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 

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