Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 08:51 UK

Jeremy Paxman

After a stint making the tea at Radio Brighton, Jeremy Paxman began his journalistic career covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

After three years in Belfast he had almost learned the language, but then moved to London and became a reporter, first on Tonight and then on Panorama, where assignments took him all over the world.

He then had a few undistinguished months of reading aloud on the Six O'Clock News, before becoming a presenter on the regional news programme London Plus (known within the building as "Sod Off Kent") in the mid-80s, and then on the BBC's Breakfast Time.

For four years Jeremy presented Start the Week on Radio Four before deciding that he didn't like getting up that early in the morning.

Although taken onto a resettlement programme to learn how to become a producer, he proved incapable of even the most basic tasks and in 1989 was given a temporary stint presenting Newsnight. Since then the BBC has been unable to find anything else to do with him.

Jeremy has chaired University Challenge since 1994, where his capacity for mispronouncing Italian has led to frequent complaints.

His books include: The Victorians; Friends in High Places; Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life; The English; The Political Animal and On Royalty, some of which are almost readable.

The scion of a long line of illiterate peasants and benefit scroungers, he was born in Leeds, educated in Worcestershire and took a degree (in English, although it does not sound to be his first language) at St Catharine's College, Cambridge.

Even more unexpectedly, he has some honorary degrees, fellowships and awards.

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