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Joining the RAF and investigating mediums in Blackpool


Creativity and the influence your parents have on you
Richard Gregory Scientist
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I think a lot of one’s autobiography and one’s memories are really fiction. I think you re-invent or invent your past with snippets on the whole, of course, you do it to your own advantage. You make yourself come out as a decent, honourable person, amazingly creative, amazingly intelligent, all these different things, but most of it is fiction, to be honest, you know. But I certainly have always tried to have new ideas and to, I don’t say succeed, but, you know, to try to write things and think of things and make jokes and so on, that’s perfectly true. And I think it was partly from my father but I also think it was partly a way of rebelling against him because he was a very authoritarian character so this is a paradox, isn’t it, that one’s father, who was an incredibly dominating factor in one’s early life, I think all fathers are, certainly in my case, my father rather than my mother actually who was completely different, inspire one partly to be the opposite of what they are. It’s not that you follow them so much. Now, I think my early background was really a mixture of being a bit dominated by my father even rather afraid of him, and actually trying to have ideas that he hadn’t thought of, and we might get to this later but the idea, one of the ideas I’m most fond of actually, is my system for reducing the effects of atmospheric turbulence in telescopes and, to be honest, I think part of the fun of that when I first thought of it was that my father hadn’t thought of it, and he was an astronomer, you know what I mean? It’s a dreadful thing to say but I think one’s parents set one up in their image and in a way one breaks the image as you grow up, I think, and I found this with my grandson. He doesn’t always do what I want him to do and I think he’s exactly the same; he’s really rebelling against me, his grandfather, and possibly his father at some stage, wanting to be his own thing. So this is a problem about education or bringing up in a family, isn’t it, that you both absorb the values of the family or the school and at the same time you say to yourself, that’s the last thing I want to be, I want to be something completely different. So I think creativity, in a way, comes from this sort of conflict but to be effectively creative, you’ve absolutely got to have optimal confidence or, if you like, optimal arrogance, over arrogance and you’re completely useless. If you don’t have any arrogance, you don’t do anything. You’re not alive really, mentally. So I think this is it. And I think my school was very good actually for giving one optimal arrogance.

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 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2006

Date story went live: 02 June 2008