The artist Rebecca Salter RA was elected Keeper of the Royal Academy in 2017. In this podcast we discuss her fascination with drawing, her time as a Leverhulme Scholar in Japan, the differences between Eastern and Western artistic cultures and her role at the Royal Academy of Arts
Sir Terence English carried out the UK’s first successful heart transplant in 1979 and established the transplant programme at Papworth Hospital which revolutionised clinical care. In this podcast we discuss the events of that extraordinary time, looking back to the world’s first heart transplant in 1967 by Christiaan Barnard and forward to new horizons for cardiac transplantation today.
One of the UK’s leading close-up magicians, with a international reputation as performer and teacher, Will Houstoun was Magic Circle Magician of the Year in 2015. Will is renowned for his extraordinary skill in manipulating coins and cards. Alongside his career in magic, Will studied mechanical engineering before completing a PhD in Victorian conjuring. In this podcast we discuss parallels and differences between our approaches to practical skill, scholarship and performance.
Roger and Will discuss connections between medicine and magic in Roger's Gresham College Lecture as Visiting Professor of Medical Education on 5 December 2018 at the Museum of London
Roger Highfield is Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group. A physical chemist by training, he honed his journalistic skills while a postdoctoral researcher before becoming Science Editor of the Daily Telegraph for the next 20 years. After a spell as Editor of the New Scientist he joined the Science Museum, where he works at an intersection between scientists, historians, curators and multiple publics. In this extended conversation we explore tensions between depth and breadth, ask whether medicine is a science or a practice and talk about the craftsmanship that underpins the performance of laboratory science.
Sarah Angliss defies conventional definition. A multitalented creator of musical scores and an expert performer, she describes herself as a composer. With degrees in electroacoustics and robotics and a fascination with musical automata, Sarah’s interests cut across orthodox categories.
Malcolm Love’s career has included being a Baptist minister in London’s Battersea, a freelance journalist in Nicaragua and El Salvador, a producer and presenter for the BBC, a leading science communicator and a mentor and coach in the changing landscape of public engagement. In this conversation we explore how our varied paths intersect, and discuss our shared fascination with making connections.
Andrea Sella is well known as a chemist, a teacher, a science communicator and broadcaster. In this podcast we discuss the nature of contemporary chemistry, talk about its development over the last couple of decades and explore issues of uncertainty and risk.
Aaron Williamon started his career as a trumpeter before changing direction and studying psychology. As one of the world’s leading conservatoires, the Royal College of Music (RCM) attracts performers with extraordinary skill but who also work under extraordinary pressure. In this podcast we discuss our shared interests in expert performance, whether in music, medicine or the arts, and talk about the RCM-Imperial Centre for Performance Science which we jointly lead.
After a law degree at Oxford and an MA in Renaissance Studies at Birkbeck, Ian Blatchford trained as an accountant and worked at the Bank of England, the Arts Council and the Royal Academy of Arts. After a spell as Finance Director at the Victoria & Albert Museum he became its Deputy Driector. In 2010 he moved across the road the Science Museum as its Director. In this conversation we discuss Ian’s fascination with science and scientists and how the various strands of his career have intertwined.
Saagar Patel and I discuss the technical, aesthetic and human challenges of dentistry and medicine. We explore how dentists carry out delicate work in a confined space using mirrors; how they combine dexterity, craftsmanship and a sensitivity to the subtleties of materials; and how they meet the challenges of ensuring that each patient has the best possible experience.
The distinguished couture hattist Susie Hopkins describes how she became entranced by hats while an art student in Vienna. After becoming a Master in Austria she moved to a Paris fashion house as their creative designer. Her subsequent career in London has included teaching at the London College of Fashion. Susie is not only a gifted designer and maker but an expert in creating bespoke hats for weddings and special occasions. This requires high levels of interpersonal skill, and her expertise has interesting parallels with my own experience as a clinician working with the complex family relationships and tensions of my patients. In this podcast we explore similarities and differences between our perspectives.
Andrew Garlick is one of the UK’s leading harpsichord makers and has been creating instruments for 45 years. In this conversation we explore what drew him to this specialised field, and how his skills as a craftsman, an artist and a creator of sound worlds have come together to create over 250 instruments.
Vicki Ambery-Smith is one of the country’s leading silversmiths, with work in major collections around the world. She specialises in creating tiny, exquisitely beautiful sculptures of buildings that can be worn as jewellery. We discuss how she designs and creates these tiny works of art and explore how her skills in the workshop are an expression of the human relationships she develops with those who commission her work. In the process we uncover unexpected similarities with the world of medicine.
Simon Chaplin’s varied career has included studying history and philosophy of science, directing the Museum and Special Collections at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, heading the Wellcome Library and becoming Director of Culture and Society at Wellcome Trust and Director of the Wellcome Collection. We explore our different perspectives on anatomical museums and their contents, drawing on Simon’s engagement with the physicality of anatomical specimens and my experience of dissection and prosection. The conversation ranges from the disciplines of close observation to the skills of maintaining old tractor engines before exploring what has prompted us both to take unexpected directions in our careers.
Katharine Coleman is one of the country’s leading glass engravers. She moved from being a hispanophone historian of sixteenth century Spanish American history to a fascination with the ancient craftsmanship of glass and a painstaking mastery of her craft. In our conversation we explore how a deep knowledge of this extraordinary material allows Katharine to exploit its instabilities as she creates her exquisite work.
In this podcast, Jeremy and I explore how his ability to manage judges and clients is as important as his knowledge of the law. Jeremy describes his unusual upbringing and the many influences that have shaped his interests and career. We discuss parallels between law and medicine, and how each has important elements of performance.
Kathrin Altwegg’s career has moved from solid state physics to physical chemistry and then to space science. For 20 years she has worked with the Rosetta mission as principal investigator of the Rosina project, gathering spectroscopic data from Comet P67 at a distance of 600 million kilometres. Kathrin is fascinated not only by the ‘how?’ of space research but also by the ‘why?’, and her research group in Bern, Switzerland brings together scientists and technicians with philosophers, theologians and scholars of science fiction literature.
Richard Reznick is well known internationally for his groundbreaking ideas in medical education and his work on assessment of surgical skills. Now Dean of the Faculty of Healthcare Sciences at Queen’s University in Ontario, Richard is testing a revolutionary approach to clinical education based on competency rather than time which will be adopted throughout Canada. Richard and I are both fascinated by the intersection between surgery and education. In this conversation we discuss how our personal histories have enabled us to develop new ideas.
Brigid Edwards works at a nexus where science, art and craftsmanship are inextricably linked. We explore how her images of the natural world capture an essence of the plants and animals she works with, and how her awareness of colour and texture infuses her work.
Jane Smith has been making hats for over forty years, working with some of the country’s leading actors, directors and designers in film and theatre. In this podcast we explore how theatrical hat-making demands detailed knowledge, three-dimensional thinking, craftsmanship and the ability to improvise under pressure - characteristics of clinical practice too.
Actor and voice coach Caroline Kilpatrick and I explore how good actors ‘don’t know what they are going to say’ until they say it, even though they have learned the words they will speak. In the conversation we exchange our perspectives on the voice in the consulting room and on the stage, discussing the roles of emotion and empathy in drama and clinical practice.
John Selborne has many roles, including apple farmer, Fellow of the Royal Society, past chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee and current chairman of the Foundation for Science and Technology. In this conversation we discuss what it is to lead discussions with disparate groups of experts and the value of asking the ‘idiot question’
Valerie Jamieson initially trained as a particle physicist. As a postdoctoral scientist she became fascinated by the challenges of explaining science to those outside her field. Her career moved into science journalism, and for the past fifteen years she has been at New Scientist. She now leads New Scientist Live, a major annual event in London which brings together scientists from every field with members of the public to explore the excitement and curiosity of discovery. In this podcast we discuss similarities and differences between our approaches to communication and engagement.
Isabella Kokum studied gilding and frame conservation in Switzerland before going to America to train in classical ballet and modern dance. A gifted artist whose work defies orthodox disciplinary distinctions, Isabella’s expertise in wood-carving, ceramics and frame-making underpins her work at the National Gallery and beyond.
Phil Abel studied biology at university. After reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance he underwent a radical change in direction, becoming one of the country’s leading letterpress printers and establishing Hand & Eye Letterpress. More recently he has been Master of the Art Workers Guild. In this conversation we discuss similarities and differences between our experiences and explore issues of craftsmanship and embodied knowing.