ABC Radio National presenter Alan Saunders passes away

alan saundersABC Radio National’s long serving presenter Alan Saunders has died suddenly, the broadcaster has announced.

He died this morning, after falling ill yesterday afternoon while working on his program The Philosopher’s Zone.

ABC Radio National’s announcement:

It is with sadness that Radio National confirms Alan Saunders, prominent ABC Radio National presenter passed away unexpectedly this morning.   

While working on his program The Philosopher’s Zone yesterday afternoon, Alan fell ill and was taken to hospital where his condition deteriorated overnight. He died this morning surrounded by colleagues and friends.

“In his 25 years with Radio National, Alan made a substantial contribution to the intellectual discourse in Australia and certainly to the enjoyment of his audiences,” Director Radio Kate Dundas said today.

“He had both a distinctive voice and a distinguished mind – a great combination for a presenter of engaging and thought provoking radio.”

Alan Saunders joined Radio National in 1987 and presented The Food Program, Screen, By Design and most recently The Philosopher’s Zone. His programs have always been popular with audiences, with The Philosopher’s Zone one of RN’s most frequently downloaded programs.

An award winning journalist, Alan received the Pascall Prize for Critical Writing and Broadcasting in 1992 and the Australasian Association of Philosophy’s Special Media Prize in 2007. He is also the author of A is for Apple and Alanna, and holds a PHD in history from the Australian National University.

“Alan Saunders had an extraordinary mind, he was equally at home talking about Plato, the role of vampires in popular culture or the history of the restaurant,” Acting Station Manager Amanda Armstrong said.

“He wrote like an angel, and had a deep knowledge of music among many other areas including philosophy, gastronomy, architecture, design and film.”

Managing Director Mark Scott expressed his sadness at the passing of Alan Saunders today.

“Alan embodied Radio National’s commitment to intelligent, specialist broadcasting. He was a trusted, authoritative voice for so many years. We will miss him as will his many listeners from all around Australia.”

This Sunday at 5.30pm The Philosopher’s Zone will air the final part of Alan Saunders’ Thinking Out Loud series with Stathis Gourgouris, Professor of Classics at Columbia University.


  1. Petra Campbell
    15 Jun 12
    4:11 pm

  2. What a terrible loss to his family and Australian culture.

    My condoleances.

    Petra Campbell
    Pacific Aid Australia

  3. Sheryl Gwyther
    15 Jun 12
    4:40 pm

  4. Saddened to hear of the lost of one of Australia’s great broadcasters. Alan Saunders was a part of our life out here in listener land. I shall miss his mellow voice and his thoughtful, interesting and entertaining programs. Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

  5. Wendy Harmer
    15 Jun 12
    4:42 pm

  6. I have loved listenening to Alan for years. He was the real Renaissance man – food, philosophy and design- all discussed with erudition and insight. Lovely broadcaster. A great loss to the Radio National family. Vale.

  7. Jack Smith
    15 Jun 12
    4:57 pm

  8. Dr. Alan Saunders was as good as any broadcaster gets – and few get this good.

  9. Ian C
    15 Jun 12
    5:29 pm

  10. I have listened to the Philosophers Zone over a some years now and was very much saddened to hear of Alan`s sudden passing.

    Indeed a great lost to Radio National and its listeners alike.

  11. Nic Halley
    15 Jun 12
    5:31 pm

  12. Terrible news. RIP

  13. Fiona
    15 Jun 12
    6:05 pm

  14. What a shock. I always enjoyed Alan’s considered and gentle style of broadcasting. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

  15. Chris Johnson
    15 Jun 12
    6:08 pm

  16. What a shock. We always enjoyed listening to his programs, including the repeats, because they were so interesting and informative. Our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr. Saunders. His distinctive voice will be greatly missed.

  17. Chris Westwood
    15 Jun 12
    6:32 pm

  18. How shocking and sad. Alan was a lovely person and a fantastic broadcaster.

  19. Michael Shafran
    15 Jun 12
    6:50 pm

  20. I got to know Alan when I was chief sub-editor at Delicious magazine, when he was one of our columnists, and easily one of my favourite writers to edit. Alan was a gentle soul, who wrote articles as beautiful and insightful as his better-known work on radio.

    This may sound controversial, but Alan wasn’t a man I expect to live to a ripe old age. I remember getting up on stage with him at a magazine awards event and listening to him wheezing deeply as he climbed the steps, from what seemed like a life enjoying food and wine to the utmost. It was like his amazing strength in mind was matched by an equal weakness in body. In recent years, however, he had slimmed down substantially, and looked remarkably healthier. Still, I wonder if his years of an unhealthy lifestyle caught up with him – but who knows? Life is precious for all of us, and can be taken away just as quickly.

    In any case, today is a sad day for Australian journalism, and for those of us who love deep-thinkers like Alan. They are a rarity, and even fewer did it with as much aplomb as the effortlessly philosophical Mr Saunders. Condolences to his family, devoted friends and colleagues.

  21. Oscar Jones
    15 Jun 12
    9:05 pm

  22. Indeed-often saw Alan around town at foodie shindigs and I was always struck by what a gentleman he was. The Philosopher’s Zone was one of my favourite radio shows. Lovely and calm voice and manner.

  23. Darren Halliday
    15 Jun 12
    9:28 pm

  24. This was a sad way to end a good day at work. RIP Alan! Not going to explain to the family as they don’t listen to ABC, other than to say. “You missed out on listening to Alan Saunders”!

  25. brigid krohn
    15 Jun 12
    10:43 pm

  26. Very sad. I have enjoyed enormously, his programs. He was always thought provoking and had a wonderfully ‘listenable’ voice.
    Will be very, very much missed.

  27. Mike
    15 Jun 12
    10:45 pm

  28. Very, very sad. A man who gave us so much – he will be greatly missed.

  29. Rita Liddle
    15 Jun 12
    11:41 pm

  30. Saturdays without him will be just a little emptier. :(

  31. John Jeffreys
    16 Jun 12
    7:06 am

  32. I can’t add anything to sentiments above.
    Condolences to family, friends, colleagues and everyone who has enjoyed Alan’s broadcasts.
    Simple fact – Alan will be greatly missed.

  33. Sallyann Hall
    16 Jun 12
    9:05 am

  34. I loved listening to Alan on Saturdays – he was unique & will be missed by many – RIP

  35. Graeme Gibson
    16 Jun 12
    10:30 am

  36. A whirlwind of shock, dismay, sadness, anger! Alan Saunders was so often the unexpected pleasant find on Radio National. We listened to him, we listened for him and we longed for more. A wonderful guide, hatever the subject he was an insightful critic, yet respectful & gentle with others. We’ll still be talking about him for years to come. Vale Alan.

  37. Col Greene
    16 Jun 12
    11:31 am

  38. Alan , Your art, your cleverness about what matters, you shared freely and it came into my home . And at the end of the day these good things in life live on.
    Thank you . Well done Dr Saunders .

  39. Nick, Canberra
    16 Jun 12
    11:59 am

  40. Alan’s unhurried style/delivery distinguished him from so many other presenters;
    It helped the listener to understand the subject. You knew he was someone who liked to learn, was amazed with the world and whose reasoning was not rushed.

  41. Lotta
    16 Jun 12
    12:33 pm

  42. There is a tribute page on the ABC Radio National website where people are sharing

  43. Gary Friedman
    16 Jun 12
    1:20 pm

  44. Alan Saunders was the most intelligent and stimulating broadcaster on Radio National. He will be sorely missed by his fans from all over Australia and internationally.

  45. Karl Bahr
    16 Jun 12
    4:13 pm

  46. Alan’s unexpected death is a great shock. He was the shining intellect on ABC radio. I shall miss his clarity of mind and courteous manner. Sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  47. Ann
    16 Jun 12
    7:08 pm

  48. Very sad for ABC and his family. Sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  49. Chris Berkeley
    16 Jun 12
    9:24 pm

  50. The tributes from his peers as exemplified here will surely help his family come to terms with their loss.

    As someone else said here the airwaves will seem emptier without him. A consummate broadcaster.

  51. Ric Pawsey
    17 Jun 12
    7:21 am

  52. I add my voice to the chorus of condolences. Alan was a skilled interviewer with a fine mind, and he led us with his respectful inquiry into so many aspects of “the good life”. Vale Alan Saunders.

  53. Narelle Hanratty
    17 Jun 12
    10:07 am

  54. I will miss Alan Saunders very much. Whenever I’d hear his voice, I knew I could relax and enjoy. Thank you for everything for contributed to our country and our lives.

  55. Petrina Quinn
    17 Jun 12
    1:31 pm

  56. Alan Saunders really did broaden and make contemporary the field of philosophy – making all of us think about daily life in new and interesting ways.

  57. AdGrunt
    17 Jun 12
    2:06 pm

  58. A sad shock. A worthy legacy of excellent radio.

  59. Peter
    17 Jun 12
    2:42 pm

  60. sad to hear, really enjoyed the podcasts.
    my condolences to the family and friends.


  61. Linda Miller
    17 Jun 12
    6:28 pm

  62. What a beautiful man we have lost. The light he shone on the darkness will always shine.

  63. Helen Buckingham
    18 Jun 12
    1:22 am

  64. It was a complete shock to hear such sad and unexpected news at the loss of Alan Saunders. He was a valued part of my week listening to Radio National and one of its best shows, The Philosophers Zone. What will we do without his calm,soothing and intelligent voice each week? I was driving home between visits to my grandchildren and felt a sadness for his family, colleagues and all his devoted listeners. Condolences to his family. So many of us will miss this wonderful man. Thank you Alan for your great contributions to all of us who are trying to understand the issues of life and death.

  65. Ariel
    18 Jun 12
    11:04 am

  66. Alan – we’ll really miss you. A real man of ideas – he personified what RN and ABC should be about –

  67. Libby Buhrich
    18 Jun 12
    11:13 am

  68. I am deeply saddened by Alan Saunders death.About 10 years ago he selected a piece of my writing about picnics for a Comfort Zone program.When he described it as delightful I threw open the kitchen window and yelled with joy.

    The ABC has always been part of my life.Alan Saunders was my favourite broadcaster.I thank you all at RN FOR THE WONDERFUL WORK YOU DO AND SYMPATHISE WITH YOU AT THIS TIME OF LOSS.


  69. Ian & Christine
    18 Jun 12
    2:13 pm

  70. We feel we have lost a dear friend who gave us so much pleasure over the years. How we will miss his beautiful distinctive voice…

  71. Robin Gillmore
    18 Jun 12
    2:20 pm

  72. I will miss Alan on the radio very much: he embodied the very best that public broadcasting can offer

  73. Mike
    19 Jun 12
    6:06 pm

  74. What a shock ! I feel like an old friend has died… I will certainly miss him.

  75. Curt Robison
    2 Jul 12
    10:51 am

  76. It was only two years ago that I first came across Alan Saunder’s wonderful program the Philosopher’s Zone as a podcast that I could download and listen to each week in Connecticut in the USA. Listening to Alan’s interviews and discussions on philosophical topics was always a great pleasure. His impact reached well beyond Australia – and he will be missed. Condolences to his friends and family he was a great thinker and did wonderful work bringing complex and interesting ideas to the general public.