The Top 50 Academic Lectures On Podcast

At first, the podcast was like the newsletter of the digital age: sign up and wait for the material to arrive. Today the term has come to mean any audio or video collections that are consistently added to and that can be downloaded for playback later, a capability that has intertwined podcasts with open education. The web is full of outstanding, free academic talks. For your convenience, we lined up 50 of our favorite individual lectures and lectures series by scholars and academicians both past and present.

The Arts

  1. Western Movies: Myth, Ideology, and Genre

    These fun lectures comprise Wesleyan University professor Richard Slotkin's last course before retirement, and with titles like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Three Amigos, you know they're going to be entertaining.

  2. Great Writers Inspire

    Professors from Oxford and elsewhere give short lectures celebrating Dickens, Milton, Shakespeare, Austen, and more in this strong podcast.

  3. The Tolkien Professor

    The titular professor is Corey Olsen of Washington College, whose infectious passion for and knowledge of the creator of The Lord of the Rings will have you seeing the books in a whole new way.

  4. Emory Looks at Hollywood

    In these fun lectures, you'll study “finding spirituality in Avatar” and how to avoid similar fates to the people in Contagion.

  5. The Literature of Crisis

    Yet another entry from Stanford, two profs share their thoughts about values, free will, and “the art of living” with enthusiasm and insight.

Sociology, Anthropology, and Psychology

  1. Human Emotion

    Berkeley psych professor and author of Born to Be Good Dacher Keltner lectures on human emotions as a powerful help, not a hindrance.

  2. Life and Death in the USA

    Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Med teaches this class known as Sociology 190, an important look at medical care as a factor of social classes.

  3. Death

    Respected Yale prof Shelly Kagan tackles this grim subject and manages to turn it into a compelling course on the fate all of us eventually face.

  4. The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin

    Courtesy of the hallowed halls of Oxford, this podcast features a panel discussion among the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Anthony Kenny, and famous atheist Richard Dawkins.

  5. Psychology 137C- “Intimate Relationships”

    UCLA's Thomas Bradbury lectures are full of excellent insights about intimacy, mate selection, and the nature of human relationships.

  6. Introduction to Biological Anthropology

    This lecture series by UC Berkeley's Terrence W. Deacon is continually well-reviewed for both its intriguing subject matter and Deacon's engaging teaching style.

  7. Jennifer Lockett's Classical Archaeology

    Texas Christian University prof Lockett expounds on the Flavians, the Julio-Claudians, Roman mystery cults, and more cool stuff in this ANTH 30923 series.

  8. Environmental Psychology

    One of iTunes' Education Spotlight podcasts, these lectures feature UC Irvine's Daniel Stokols' comments on littering, overcrowding, resource scarcity, and more.

  9. Justice with Michael Sandel

    One of the most popular Harvard classes ever is yours to enjoy for free, although it will mean asking yourself some brutally tough questions.

  10. Arming the Donkeys

    Listen to these short talks in the car as the entertaining Dan Ariely of Duke University interviews some of today's brightest thinkers.

  11. What Great Bosses Know

    Jill Geisler of Florida journalism school The Poynter Institute gives practical, short-and-sweet lectures on what makes the best business leaders.

Math and Science

  1. Calculus Revisited: Multivariable Calculus

    The top-rated MIT podcast on iTunes U consists simply of instructor Herb Gross making calculus simple with only the aid of a chalkboard.

  2. Rupinder Brar on The Impact of Astronomy

    A winner of the Best Ideas podcast series' Best Lecturer award, Brar talks astronomy and how it affects our understanding of the universe.

  3. H. Jay Melosh on What Killed the Dinosaurs

    Melosh, a professor of theoretical geophysics, offers his take on a subject that has long plagued scientists with the help of computer simulations.

  4. Material Marvels

    Yale associate prof Ainissa Ramirez makes engineering cool in these amazing video podcasts about heat-deflection on the space shuttle, quasicrystals, and more.

  5. Physics for Future Presidents

    Richard Muller also has a book with this name, so clearly he's serious about a future Commander in Chief knowing “the most interesting and important topics in physics.”

  6. Frontiers of Science

    A group of Columbia University instructors present one great lecture after another on astronomy.

  7. Medical Detectives

    Inspired by the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, the University of Edinburgh offers these lectures on the continued importance of detective work by today's doctors.

  8. Topics in String Theory

    Leonard Susskind, the “bad boy of physics,” introduces you to string theory, a concept he co-founded, and its impact and implications.

  9. Introduction to Computer Science I

    Not only does this podcast connect you with free Harvard computer science training, professor David Malan makes all his course notes and slides available on his website.

Philosophy and Religion

  1. The Bible – The Book of Job

    This two-part lecture is a great introduction to the oldest book of the Bible and one that has stumped readers and theologians for hundreds of years.

  2. John Locke Lectures

    MIT's Stephen Yablo presents this excellent lecture series in conjunction with Oxford regarding one of modern man's most influential philosophers.

  3. Nietzsche and the Crisis in Philosophy

    Though he passed away in 1980, legendary philosopher Walter Kaufmann discusses Nietzsche, of whose works Kaufmann was a renowned translator and commentator.

  4. Jerusalem: The Holy City

    Part history, part theology, these lectures by Robert Cargill of UCLA are a fascinating look at the religious capital of the world.


  1. Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the most dangerous place on earth

    On the eve of the publication of his book by the same name as the lecture, former Wall Street Journal bureau chief Frederick Kempe takes you back to the heated days before the Cold War.

  2. Howard Zinn on Understanding People's History

    The late, great Zinn “lectures” in his conversational, funny way about the origins of his study of history and his game-changing book, A People's History of the United States.

  3. Ancient Greek History

    One of the most popular classes at Yale, taught by one if its most renowned professors (Donald Kagan), this series is a can't-miss.

  4. Freeman's Top Five Tips for Studying the Revolution

    One of Yale's most-downloaded files is this first lecture from Yale Professor Joanne Freeman's HIST 116 class. If you thought the American Revolution was all about war, this one's for you.

Life in the 21st Century

  1. How Much is Enough? Work, Money and the Good Life

    Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky of the University of Warwick and Dr. Maurice Glasman, author of Unnecessary Suffering investigate why we work so much harder than we used to and suggest we all say enough is enough.

  2. Noam Chomsky 2006 Amnesty Lecture

    The renowned MIT linguistics professor discusses the War on Terror with his trademark insight and grasp of international affairs.

  3. Deer on Autism, Vaccination, and Scientific Fraud

    You can't go wrong with any of the award-winning discussions hosted by George Mason's Russ Roberts, but this one with investigative journalist Brian Deer on the vaccine-autism myth is especially good.

  4. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

    Robert Sapolsky, the Stanford professor and author of a book with the same title, delivers a great lecture on stress that would be funny if it weren't so startling.

  5. The Future of the Internet

    Stanford's Ramesh Johari gets you caught up on Internet jargon and tech you may never have learned and gives you a vision into tomorrow's web.

  6. Noam Chomsky on the State-Corporate Complex

    One more from Chomsky. Here he discusses the alarming relationship between business and government, what he calls “a threat to freedom and survival.”


  1. Max Little: A test for Parkinson’s with a phone call

    In this short video from the TEDTalks podcast, applied mathematician Max Little reveals a 30-second test for Parkinson's disease that's 99% accurate.

  2. Exploring the Evolution of Language

    Eight speakers discuss the amazing journey of the evolution of communication throughout the ages of man.

  3. Stephen Ritz: A teacher growing green in the South Bronx

    A New York teacher explains how he and his students create food, jobs, and hope in their gardens and how the principles can be applied in the greening of America.

  4. Bryan Stevenson on Incarceration and Injustice

    The head of the Equal Justice Initiative delivers an exciting talk on the hidden problems with the American legal system.

  5. Susan Cain on Introversion

    Author Susan Cain overcomes her own introversion to lecture viewers on the potential of fellow introverts, with the scientific data to back it up.

  6. Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight

    The brain scientist shares her incredible story of suffering a stroke and how in her struggle to regain her brain faculties she developed a desire for a world beyond scientific analysis.

  7. Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

    This creativity expert presents a compelling case that our school system is inherently flawed and destined to stifle our young people's imaginations.

  8. Rebecca Saxe

    MIT researcher Saxe delves into the fascinating meta-topic of how our brains think about the workings of other brains based on her cutting-edge lab work.

  9. Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology

    One of the foremost names in wearable computing, Mistry displays the breakthrough tech behind his SixthSense device, as well as his amazing paper laptop.

  10. Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset

    Demonstrating again that the developing world is not so far removed from the First World, the global health professor brings the data to explode myths about poverty and prosperity.

  11. Dean Ornish on the world's killer diet

    UCSF clinical professor Ornish keeps it short and sweet in this lecture about the dangers of cardiovascular disease and how you can keep it from striking.