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Pooh bear helps me discover my self-awareness


My father's little black bag
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Certainly my parents... my mother was the more mathematical. My father was a doctor. He'd gone to medical school because the people in his church had actually taken up a collection to help send him off to medical school.

And so he and my mother met in Bartlesville, they married very young, and moved to Baltimore for him to go to medical school where they had me. So I was born in Baltimore where my mother worked as a secretary to help put my father through medical school, and he studied and became a pathologist. But he was a natural healer, too. I mean, he was one of these people who made patients want to get better. And he always had his little black bag. So later when we travelled all over the world, since he was the doctor in the community, people would come knocking at our door at all hours of the night and he would get his little black bag and his stethoscope and he'd go off and take care of people.

And it was funny because of course we would get sick too, but during my whole childhood he never took out his little black bag, no matter how sick we were. And I began to realise this little black bag was really more for show than actually helping him be a doctor.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes George Dyson

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: parents, family history, community doctor, healer, father

Duration: 1 minute, 37 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017