I was born in England in 1945, and spent the first eleven years of my life in the town of Ipswich in East Anglia. From this time, I retain fond memories of green fields and bicycles, and an accent that is difficult to place. My family emigrated to Canada in 1956, crossing the blustery North Atlantic on the SS Homeric.
We entered our new country through the large echoing immigration hall in Quebec City. We then journeyed by train to Toronto, traveling in a few hours over a distance further than was ever possible in England. I went through high school in Toronto, learning about both mathematics and girls but never really understanding either.
At the University of Toronto, I studied medicine, played rugby and became interested in the brain. After a long canoe trip down the George River in Northern Quebec, I decided to become a citizen of this lonely and beautiful country. Having renounced the Queen of England, I was then required to swear allegiance to the Queen of Canada. My medical internship was in Vancouver. With my beard and long hair I became known as the “hippie doctor,” loved by some patients and vilified by others.
I then went to the University of California at San Diego to study in their new Department of Neurosciences. I body-surfed the waves outside the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and learned about brain waves. My thesis dealt with the effects of attention on the responses of the human brain to sound. In 1973, I became the second student to gain a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCSD.
In 1974, I returned to Canada to join the Department of Medicine in Ottawa. My clinical work involved electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyography (EMG): reading the rhythms of the brain, and listening to the sounds of muscles. My research involved the study of the “event-related potentials,” small electrical changes that are generated in the brain in response to sensory stimuli or in association with behavioural responses. My research interests included determining how the human brain processes sounds, evaluating the mental deterioration that occurs with aging, investigating the intracerebral sources for scalp-recorded electrical activity, and evolving new electrophysiological tests of hearing.
In 1994, I moved to a full-time research position at the Rotman Research Institute of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto. I continued my research in hearing and cognition, becoming the Anne and Max Tannenbaum Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience 1997, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006.
My scientific work (curriculum, research papers and chapters) is documented on the Science page.
In 2008 I closed my laboratory and became Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. Now I have time to read, to think and to write. My first book Human Auditory Evoked Potentials was published in 2010, and my second Creature and Creator in 2013. In 2016 I began teaching at the LIFE (learning is for ever) Institute at Ryerson University. Materials from this teaching are available on webpages about the Human Brain, Brain and Mind, and Voices that Matter (Twentieth Century Poetry).