One of America’s most distinguished actors, Alan Alda is widely known for his roles as Captain Hawkeye Pierce in the American TV series M*A*S*H, as Arnold Vinick in The West Wing and for many films throughout his career. He has a longstanding fascination with science and for 14 years hosted the television show Scientific American Frontiers.
Alan brings these interests together to help scientists communicate about their work, drawing on techniques and insights from improvisational theatre. In this conversation, he and Roger discover unexpected parallels between their worlds and explore how communication underpins science, medicine and theatre.
Recorded in New York before the publication of Alan’s latest book If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?, the podcast explores the inseparable nature of art, science and communication.
My friend and colleague Dr Steve Rowlands recently retired after spending much of his career as a general practitioner in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. Diagnosed a few years ago with a rare cancer in an even rarer form - mycosis fungoides, a cutaneous T-cell lymphoma - Steve’s condition remained quiescent for years but has suddenly flared up. Now affecting most of his skin, it is exceptionally painful and distressing. Steve is currently having experimental chemotherapy at Guy’s Hospital. Drawing on our personal experience of serious illness, we discuss how being a doctor can help and hinder coping with disease.
Since recording this podcast, Steve’s funding for the next stage of his treatment has been confirmed.
Steve died at home on 17 November 2017.
Monica Carbone’s first language is Italian. Equally at home in English and French, Monica is a leading simultaneous and consecutive interpreter who works across multiple domains of expert practice and has a special interest in medical simulation. Based on Roger’s recent experience of leading a three day workshop in Sardinia at the invitation of the Sardinian Ministry of Health and interpreted by Monica, this conversation explores resonances between conference interpretation and the clinical consultation.
Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, science writer and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science. An editor at the science journal Nature for many years, Adam crosses boundaries between science, journalism and the media.
Clare Matterson played a leading role at the Wellcome Trust for 18 years, most recently as Director of Strategy. She was responsible for some of Wellcome’s most spectacular innovations around engagement - founding the Wellcome Collection, transforming the Wellcome Library, establishing the National STEM Learning Centre in York and leading the Our Planet, Our Health programme.
At various points in his career Ed has been a commodities broker, a professional street juggler and an executive coach with a special interest in leadership, motivation and productivity. He is Co-founder and Senior Partner of Next Action Associates. An accomplished linguist, he is at home in multiple cultures. The conversation ranges widely across our shared interests.
Rachel Warr is a dancer, dramaturg, theatre director, puppeteer and puppet maker who uses puppetry in innovative ways. In this podcast we discuss puppetry and surgery as instances of performance where participants have to read and respond to one another’s bodies as they perform.
Magdalena Bak-Maier is a neuroscientist, educator, writer and coach. In our conversation we explore the idea of coaching and discuss its parallels with the clinical consultation and other forms of encounter.
The jazz pianist Liam Noble and I explore how improvisation and creativity are as important in the operating theatre and the medical consulting room as on the stage of a jazz venue.
Piers Plowright was a highly respected BBC radio producer between 1968 and 1997. A pioneer of radio drama and documentary, Piers has won numerous plaudits and awards. In this podcast we explore the idea of conversation.
Daniel Glaser is a neuroscientist and the Director of Science Gallery London. Before moving to King’s College he was Director of Engaging Science at the Wellcome Trust. He writes widely, has a regular column in The Guardian and was one of the judges for the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
The distinguished harpsichordist Sophie Yates is well known for her interpretations of early keyboard music, through live performances, radio and recordings. Sophie combines an explorer’s fascination for finding new repertoire with a passion for teaching and for performance. In this conversation we find unexpected similarities between music and medicine.
Alex Julyan is a visual artist and creative producer, responsible amongst many things for the official opening event of the Crick Institute. She’s also a Welcome Trust Engagement Fellow. I first encountered her work through Lost in Translation, a collaboration with a musician in Zurich which explored how two people in different places negotiated issues of drawing and description.
Plucked string instruments run through Bill Badley’s career. As a lutenist he founded and toured with the Dufay Collective, a mediaeval ensemble. Fascinated by the music and cultures of the Arab world - especially the oud, forerunner of the European lute - he travelled extensively in the countries of the Middle East. Bill has worked in theatre, film and television as a documentary maker and producer. In a further career switch, he is now teaching children and young people.
Fleur Oakes is one of the UK’s leading needle lace makers. We discuss her path from art school to fashion design, and from being a bespoke corset-maker to becoming entranced by the beauty and precision of lace. Fleur’s work is inspired by natural forms, and now she is lace-maker in residence in the vascular surgery unit at St Mary’s Hospital in London.
Ian Lush trained as a musician, spending several years as a professional viola player before moving to arts management. After being marketing director at the Barbican he managed the London Mozart Players before taking up his present role as Chief Executive of Imperial College Healthcare Charity. In our conversation we explore similarities and differences between our careers and the changes in direction we have both experienced.
Barry Smith is Professor of Philosophy at the University of London's School of Advanced Study and Leadership Fellow at the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Barry is a philosopher of language and mind who now works mainly on the multi sensory perception of flavour. A wine connoisseur himself, he is also a wine columnist and has been a ‘super taster’ on BBC 1’s Masterchef.
Kevin Buzzard has been obsessed by pure mathematics since he was a child, winning the International Mathematical Olympiad with a perfect score at the age of 19. Now Professor of Pure Mathematics at Imperial College London, Kevin is fascinated by modular forms. In this conversation we discuss the challenges of communicating with non-mathematicians about this unique conceptual world.
Timandra Harkness is well known as a radio presenter, comedian and science journalist. She is fascinated by mathematics and statistics and has recently published Big Data: Does Size Matter? Her career has taken many swerves, from her early days in clowning, physical theatre and the flying trapeze to stand-up comedy and broadcasting. Our conversation uncovers unexpected parallels between her experience and mine.
Dr Dougal Goodman has combined a lifelong passion for polar exploration with careers as a laboratory scientist, a member of the BP group, an expert on marine insurance and a Deputy Director of the British Antarctic Survey. He is Chief Executive of the Foundation for Science and Technology. In this conversation we explore ideas of exploration, risk and change.
The art historian and philanthropist Nicholas Fox Weber runs the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and leads a non-profit organisation to improve medical care in Senegal. A prolific writer, he is the author of fourteen books, on topics ranging from the Albers to the Bauhaus and the art of Babar the Elephant.
Richard McDougall is one of the UK’s leading close-up magicians and a Gold Star member of the Inner Magic Circle. In this conversation we explore unexpected parallels between magic and medicine, framing the clinical consultation as a ‘close-up live performance with a very small audience’ and discussing the relationship between dexterity, body language and touch.
As Head of Public Programmes at the Wellcome Collection, Ken Arnold established an international reputation for creating ground-breaking exhibitions which bridge medicine and art. Now the Creative Director of Copenhagen’s Medical Museion, Ken’s ideas continue to challenge, provoke and inspire.
The potter Prue Cooper trained initially as a visual artist and came to making slipware after a varied career in other directions. We discuss how changes in direction can bring interesting perspectives, and explore how visual imagination, attentive observation and a willingness to take risks are characteristics of medicine and bioscience as well as of pottery.
With the writer Aifric Campbell I explore how language is shaped by its context. Aifric’s career has ranged from linguistics to investment banking, and now she teaches creative writing at Imperial College London. In this podcast we compare the language of the operating theatre, the clinical consulting room and the trading floor and explore how our personal perspectives intersect.