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Communication and books


The Oxford Companion to the Mind
Richard Gregory Scientist
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One of my most recent books is a great tome. It’s called "The Oxford Companion to the Mind" and it’s in the series of Oxford Companions. There are Companions to the Theatre, Companions to lots and lots of things, animals, I think, and so on. "Companion to Philosophy" is a very good book and what it is, it’s multi-authored. I edited it and got lots of people all over the world to write for it. It took ten years to do. It’s a lot of work actually, it’s nearly a million words long and it was quite a success really. It became a book club choice and it went into paperback, it's actually the only Companion in paperback, which I was very pleased with, so you could buy it at a reasonable price although it’s a huge, great book, and I got virtually no money for it after the initial payment, if you like, because it sold cheaply in book clubs and all the rest of it, which is fine by me, it’s absolutely fine. Then I did a second edition, I think that may be have been a bit mad actually, to have to go through that all again, it’s an awful lot of work, and the new edition I’m not so sure about but I’d like to say the following, you see. I changed the philosophy for the new edition. The first one had a tremendous amount about Freud, for example, and psychoanalytical ideas, the sorts of things that appeal to a vast public. I thought when I did the second edition; I’m going to change a bit. I’m going to base it more on what we know about the brain rather than the mind. It’s going to have stuff about brain imaging, what’s called FMRI, magnetic imaging of the brain, to find out which bits of the brain become active according to what you’re doing or seeing or thinking, which is amazingly exciting in research but, of course, it’s not exactly in the public domain. So, in a way I wanted to try to sort of arrogantly push the public along the path that the neuroscientists are now travelling and I don’t know whether that second edition’s going to work because it may be just too scientific quotes and not enough resonating with people’s initial interests. It’s a point about communication, isn’t it? It’s only if you communicate something that people have not already latched onto is probably interesting.

The late British psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, Richard Gregory (1923-2010), is well known for his work on perception, the psychology of seeing and his love of puns. In 1978 he founded The Exploratory, an applied science centre in Bristol – the first of its kind in the UK. He also designed and directed the Special Senses Laboratory at Cambridge which worked on the perceptual problems of astronauts, and published many books including 'The Oxford Companion to the Mind', 'Eye and Brain' and 'Mind in Science'.

Listeners: Adam Hart-Davis Sally Duensing

Born on 4 July 1943, Adam Hart-Davis is a freelance photographer, writer, and broadcaster. He has won various awards for both television and radio. Before presenting, Adam spent 5 years in publishing and 17 years at Yorkshire Television, as researcher and then producer of such series as Scientific Eye and Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers. He has read several books, and written about 25. His latest books are Why does a ball bounce?, Taking the piss, Just another day, and The cosmos: a beginner's guide. He has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. He is a keen supporter of the charities WaterAid, Practical Action, Sustrans, and the Joliba Trust. A Companion of the Institution of Lighting Engineers, an Honorary Member of the British Toilet Association, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Dyers and Colourists, and Merton College Oxford, and patron of a dozen charitable organizations, Adam has collected thirteen honorary doctorates, The Horace Hockley Award from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, a Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Medal from the Institute of Incorporated Engineers, and the 1999 Gerald Frewer memorial trophy of the Council of Engineering Designers. He has no car, but three cycles, which he rides slowly but with enthusiasm.

Sally Duensing currently is involved in perception exhibition work and research on science and society dialogue programmes and is working with informal learning research graduate students and post-docs at King's College, London. In 2000 she held the Collier Chair, a one-year invited professorship in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Bristol, England. Prior to this, for over 20 years she was at the Exploratorium, a highly interactive museum of science, art and perception in San Francisco where she directed a variety of exhibition projects primarily in fields of perception and cognition including a large exhibition on biological, cognitive and cultural aspects of human memory.

Duration: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2006

Date story went live: 02 October 2009