Sir Colin Blakemore

Category: 1960s /  All Harkness Stories /  Health & Social Care /  Higher Education /  Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths / 

Sir Colin Blakemore (HF 1965-67) , after studying medical sciences at Cambridge, won a Harkness Fellowship to go to the University of California at Berkeley, where he worked with Horace Barlow, a leading British neurophysiologist. What was meant to be a single year turned into just over 2 years and a PhD; and it changed the direction of Colin’s career. He gave up clinical medicine and returned to teach at Cambridge. He has worked on many aspects of vision and brain development, and was one of the first to demonstrate the importance of ‘plasticity’ in the brain. In 1979, he moved to the Waynflete Chair of Physiology in Oxford, where he also directed the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience. From 2003-7 he was Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, and in 2012 he moved to a personal Professorship in the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where he collaborates with art historians and artists, including David Hockney and Patrick Hughes, in research on visual perception. He has 10 honorary degrees and is a member of 12 academies, including the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Academia Europaea. In 2014 he was knighted for service to scientific research, policy and outreach. He was the youngest person to give the BBC Reith Lectures. He has given the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, he has made nearly 1,000 broadcasts (including a 13-part series for BBC television), and he writes for national and international media. (This was written in 2018. Sir Colin passed away in June 2022)