Colin Blakemore, PhD, ScD, FMedSci, FRS
Member, Berkeley Optometry Hall of Fame
Colin Blakemore (1944-2022), PhD was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1944. Educated at King Henry VIII School in Coventry, he received a first-class degree in medical sciences from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, England. He completed his PhD in Physiological Optics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1968. Dr. Blakemore also holds Doctor of Science degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge, and all told, ten honorary degrees.
Even a partial list of Dr. Blakemore’s academic appointments is impressive. In 1968–79 he was a Demonstrator and then Lecturer in Physiology at the University of Cambridge, and Director of Medical Studies at Downing College. In 1978–79 he served as Lethaby Professor at the Royal College of Art. Appointed Waynflete Professor of Physiology and Fellow of Magdalen College, University of Oxford in 1979, he was Director of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience in 1990–2003. Now Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, he also holds three other Emeritus Professorships. Most recently, in 2012, Dr. Blakemore became Professor of Neuroscience & Philosophy and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Colin Blakemore’s research has focused on many aspects of vision, development, plasticity of the brain, and neurodegenerative disease. He has sought to define the developmental errors that underlie cognitive disorders, such as autism, dyslexia, and schizophrenia. Another area of research analyzes the brain’s capacity to reorganize sensory areas of the cortex during selective attention, information integration, and after the onset of blindness. He has also investigated the cellular pathogenesis of Huntington’s disease.
Dr. Blakemore’s devotion to public engagement has been widely recognized and highly valued. He was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and Medal (1989) for his exemplary ability to communicate science to the public, and is described by the Royal Society as “one of Britain’s most influential communicators of science.” His books for general readership include Mechanics of the Mind (awarded the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science). He is also the author of Images and Understanding, Mindwaves, The Mind Machine (runner up for the Science Book Prize), Gender and Society, and The Oxford Companion to the Body. He has made more than 700 radio and television broadcasts, including the 1976 BBC Reith Lectures on the brain and the mind for BBC2. He has written for most British national newspapers and has a regular opinion column in The Times. Since 1983 Dr. Blakemore has been Honorary President of the World Cultural Council and is Honorary President of the Association of British Science Writers.
Colin Blakemore’s service to the profession has been exemplary, serving as President of the British Neuroscience Association, the Physiological Society, and the Biosciences Federation (now the Society of Biology). He was President (and remains a Fellow) of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the British Science Association) in 1997–98 and Chair of Council 2001–03. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the British Pharmacological Society, the Society of Biology, and the Royal Society of Medicine.
Dr. Blakemore’s honors and awards include the Royal Society’s Ferrier Prize & Lecture, Robert Bing Prize for Neurology and Neurophysiology (Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences), Prix du Docteur Robert Netter (Académie Nationale de Médecine, France), Osler Medal (Royal College of Physicians), Baly Gold Medal and Harveian Oration (Royal College of Physicians), and Ralph Gerard Prize “for outstanding contributions to the field of neuroscience” (Society for Neuroscience). In 2012 he won the People’s Republic of China Friendship Award, China’s highest honor for a foreigner. Dr. Blakemore died in 2022.