John Derbyshire

John Derbyshire (born 3 June 1945) is a British-born American paleoconservative[1][2] political commentator, writer, journalist and computer programmer. He formerly wrote a column in National Review before moving to a staff position at the website VDARE, where he continues to work. He has also written for the New English Review. His columns cover a broad range of political-cultural topics, including immigration, China, history, mathematics, and race.[3][4] Derbyshire's 1996 novel Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream was a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year".[5] His 2004 non-fiction book Prime Obsession won the Mathematical Association of America's inaugural Euler Book Prize.[6] A political book, We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, was released in September 2009. [7]

John Derbyshire
(June 2001)
Born (1945-06-03) 3 June 1945 (age 76)
Northampton, Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma materUniversity College London,
University of London
OccupationWriter, commentator, computer programmer

Early lifeEdit

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 ReviewEdit

Derbyshire worked as a writer at National Review until he was terminated in 2012 because of an article published in Taki's Magazine.[8][9]

Derbyshire then worked at VDARE.[citation needed]


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.[10] 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.[citation needed]

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

Role in Way of the DragonEdit

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.[11] 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."[12]


Derbyshire writes in general from a small government conservative perspective. He notably ridiculed George W. Bush's "itty-bitty tax cut, paid for by dumping a slew of federal debt on your children and grandchildren,"[13] derided Bush as too sure of his religious convictions and for his "rich-kid-ness".[14] He has noted that small-government conservatism is unlikely to ever take hold in the United States (although he is personally sympathetic to it), called for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (but favoured the invasion), opposed market reforms or any other changes in Social Security, supported legal access to 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.[15] 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.[16]

Derbyshire once argued that America would be better off if women did not have the right to vote.[17][citation needed] In 2005, in a monthly column containing a series of miscellaneous musings, he controversially stated that women's physical attractiveness peaks between ages 15 and 20.[18][19]

Vs National ReviewEdit

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.[20] The Derbyshire–Ponnuru dispute arose again over Ponnuru's 2006 book The Party of Death. Derbyshire reviewed the book harshly in the New English Review,[21] and Ponnuru replied on National Review Online.[22]

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."[23] 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.[24]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1986 Derbyshire married Lynette Rose, or Rosie, née Qi ( ; Qi Hongmei), who was raised in China and later became a naturalised U.S. citizen.[25] They have two children, a daughter and a son. He lives on Long Island, New York.[26] Derbyshire was, for a brief time, an illegal immigrant.[27] 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."[28]

In early 2012, he underwent treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.[29]

Published worksEdit

  • Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream (St. Martin's Griffin, 1997) ISBN 0-312-15649-9
  • Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics (Plume Books, 2003) ISBN 0-452-28525-9
  • Unknown Quantity: A Real And Imaginary History of Algebra (Joseph Henry Press, 2006) ISBN 0-309-09657-X
  • We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism (Crown Forum, 2009) ISBN 0-307-40958-9, ISBN 978-0-307-40958-4
  • From the Dissident Right (Vdare Books, 2013) ISBN 978-1304001542

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. ^ "Re: Paleocons On Immigration". 19 March 2003. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  2. ^ Matthews, Dylan (6 May 2016). "Paleoconservatism, the movement that explains Donald Trump, explained". Vox. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  3. ^ "John Derbyshire archive". National Review Online. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  4. ^ "Articles by John Derbyshire at New English Review". New English Review. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  5. ^ "Notable Books of the Year 1996". The New York Times. 8 December 1996. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  6. ^ "The Mathematical Association of America's Euler Book Prize". MAA Online. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  7. ^ Nagle, Angela (2017). Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right. John Hunt Publishing. Right wing voices that claim to have been purged from the conservative movement, like Peter Brimelow and John Derbyshire, have formed part of the alt-right.
  8. ^ Lowry, Rich (7 April 2012). "Parting Ways". National Review Online. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  9. ^ Davidson Sorkin, Amy (9 April 2012). "Why the National Review Fired John Derbyshire". The New Yorker. New York City. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  10. ^ S. W. Graham. "Read This: Prime Obsession". The Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  11. ^ "Twelve questions for John Derbyshire". The Economist. 18 July 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  12. ^ John Derbyshire (15 October 2003). "Thug (Uncredited)". National Review. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  13. ^ John Derbyshire (10 May 2005). "Twilight of Conservatism". National Review Online. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  14. ^ John Derbyshire (5 July 2006). "Gone, but Not Forgotten". National Review Online. Archived from the original on 16 February 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  15. ^ John Derbyshire (24 June 2005). "Just Got Back From The Windy City ..." National Review Online. Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  16. ^ Derbyshire, John (7 July 2011). "The Credentialed Society". National Review. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  17. ^ Shakir, Faiz (30 September 2009). "National Review's John Derbyshire: Women Should Not Have The Right To Vote". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  18. ^ "Northeast Asia heating up?". National Review Online. 30 November 2005. Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  19. ^ "John Derbyshire fired over racism, but what about his sexualization of 15-year-old girls?". Hugo Schwyzer. 8 April 2012. Archived from the original on 11 September 2015.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  20. ^ Ramesh Ponnuru (23 March 2005). "Contra Derbyshire". National Review. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  21. ^ John Derbyshire (June 2006). "A Frigid and Pitiless Dogma". New English Review. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  22. ^ Ponnuru, Ramesh (7 June 2006). "Unreason John Derbyshire vs. Pro-Lifers". National Review. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  23. ^ John Podhoretz (12 May 2006). "Ethnic Balance?". National Review. Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  24. ^ Goldberg, Jonah (12 May 2006). "Superior Immigrants". National Review. Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 11 May 2008.
  25. ^ "Family Album". Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  26. ^ "John Derbyshire". John Derbyshire. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  27. ^ "The Straggler 5". Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  28. ^ Derbyshire, John (January 2000). "Thinking About Internment". Chronicles. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  29. ^ O'Connor, Maureen (9 April 2012). "'I May Give Up Writing and Work as a Butler': Interview with John Derbyshire". Gawker. Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2012.

External linksEdit