a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.




Sidney Bradford and Mike May
Richard Gregory Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments
Years ago, it’s over 40 years ago now, I studied the case of SB, Sidney Bradford, who was blind, almost certainly from birth, and then he got his sight back actually when he was 52 with operations on his eyes, actually it was only one eye that worked, so one eye really, and he gradually, or, no, sorry, he had immediate vision for things he knew about already from touch. He could really see an amazing amount actually the day after the operation. It was quite extraordinary. But what happened, he was terribly excited because he got his vision of course and he thought he’d be able to do everything, drive a car and all the rest of it, but he was actually quite constrained in what he could do and what was very, very sad, and I think we need to know more about this, is that instead of it opening up a whole new life for him as he’d dreamed of, it actually made him sad, made him depressed, and he went into a real depression. First of all, he often wouldn’t bother to see. He’d wake up in the morning and he wouldn’t bother to put the light on. He’d shave in the dark, he continued to live really as a blind man, but the really sad thing was he got depressed. He felt that the world as he could now see it to some degree, was a lot less perfect than he’d thought. For example, he got really upset if he saw peeling paint, if he saw blemishes on things, and I really think that he believed the world would be a sort of heaven, you know, when he opened his eyes, he’d be in heaven and he found it wasn’t heaven. When the sun set, he got really sad by it becoming dark but then when it rose and everything was illuminated, he saw the imperfections in the world shown up by light and he got a clinical depression in actual fact. Now, there’s a new case called Mike May living in California, he’s completely different. He’s younger, but not all that much younger. He was, I think, 46 when he had the operation and he’s a very, very active, highly intelligent man, much more educated than SB but highly educated man, and an incredible chap. He is a world champion skier, blind skiing, and he could ski at 60 miles an hour down a mountain with his wife shouting right, left, right, left, and this sort of thing, you know, and he really had a full grasp of life in every way, and is he getting depressed? No. The wonderful thing is that I think he’s the only known case actually, recovery from blindness, who’s making a real success of it and is not at all depressed. He enjoys every minute of his life, and I think this is because the people who’ve been handling him, particularly his wife and family perhaps, have understood, helped him tremendously, and it’s successful. But I think that in these cases, it shouldn’t just be handled by scientists interested in the scientific aspects of it. It needs people who are really aware of the clinical problems, the emotional problems associated with both recovery of function and also with loss of function, you know. I think a lot more needs to be thought about the emotional side of these things and very sad with SB, and a great triumph, I think, for Mike May. It’s really great that he’s making a go of it, I think.

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: Sally Duensing Adam Hart-Davis

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.

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.

Duration: 3 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2006

Date story went live: 02 June 2008