Susan Greenfield

Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE (born 1 October 1950) is a British scientist, writer, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords. Greenfield, whose speciality is the physiology of the brain, has worked to research and bring attention to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Greenfield is Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford. On 1 February 2006, she was installed as Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Until 8 January 2010, she was director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, but following a review, she was made redundant.

Baroness Greenfield was born in the west London borough of Hammersmith to Doris (Thorp) and Myer Reginald Greenfield, a machine operator, whose parents were Austrian and Russian. Greenfield attended the private Godolphin and Latymer School, and was the first member of her family to go on to university, at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.


Greenfield’s research is focused on brain physiology, particularly the etiology of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, but she is best known as a populariser of science. Greenfield has written several popular-science books about the brain and consciousness, and regularly gives public lectures, and appears on radio and television.

Susan Greenfield portrait - Oil on Linen by Tess Barnes

In 1994, she was invited to be the first woman to give the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, then sponsored by the BBC. Her lecture was titled “Journey to the centre of the brain”. She was appointed Director of the Royal Institution in 1998 and Adelaide’s Thinker in Residence for 2004 and 2005. From 1995 to 1999, she gave public lectures as Gresham Professor of Physic.

Greenfield created three research and biotechnology companies: Synaptica, BrainBoost, and Neurodiagnostics, which research neuronal diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. She is a Patron of Dignity in Dying and a founder and trustee of the charity Science for Humanity, a network of scientists, researchers and technologists that collaborates with non-profits to create practical solutions to the everyday problems of developing communities. The idea of matching scientific capability with the needs of poor communities came to her while writing Tomorrow’s People, a book in which she imagined a future world of “techno haves and techno have-nots”. She felt that the democratization and dissemination of science through organizations like Science for Humanity was a way to avoid such a future.

Political affiliation

Baroness Greenfield sits in the United Kingdom Parliament in the House of Lords as a crossbencher, having no formal political affiliation. Records of Baroness Greenfield’s activity in the House of Lords indicate abstention on a range of issues.


As well as several honorary degrees, Greenfield has been awarded the Royal Society’s Michael Faraday Prize, and in January 2000, received the CBE for her contribution to the public understanding of science. Dimbleby Lecturer 1999. Hon Australian of the Year 2006. She is a Patron of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.  In 2003, she was appointed a Chevalier Légion d’Honneur by the French Government, and in June 2001, she was created a Life Peer, as Baroness Greenfield, of Ot Moor in the County of Oxfordshire.


Greenfield has expressed concerns that modern technology, and in particular social networking sites, may have a negative impact on child development.

In this respect, she has been criticised by Ben Goldacre for claiming that technology has adverse effects on the human brain, without having undertaken any research or properly evaluating available evidence. Goldacre called on her to “[formally] write up her concerns about computers damaging children’s brains”, to which she replied that he is “like the people who denied that smoking caused cancer”. Dorothy Bishop, a neuropsychology professor at Oxford, has made similar criticisms of Greenfield.

A warts an all profile here at the Sunday Times

Personal life

Greenfield was married to an Oxford University Professor of Physical Chemistry, Peter Atkins; they divorced in 2005.

Edited from  Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield by Deskarati

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3 Responses to Susan Greenfield

  1. alfy says:

    An excellent post, Jim. The Sunday Times biography points up the main reservations I mentioned during our earlier conversation.
    (1) She had a very weak training in science, switching at undergrad level from classics to psychology, and did not achieve the grade of degree expected of a potential researcher.
    (2) Her record of actual research is weak, according to those well-qualified to judge.
    (3) Being made a Prof at Oxford is not a guarantee of a distinguished research career when they may have been looking for a “front man/woman” to attract funds.
    (4) She was awarded the Faraday Medal, not for research, but for “popularising science. While popularising is an important aspect of science I am curious to know if the Medal has ever been awarded in this way before.
    (5) She was removed from the Royal Institution, (made redundant, according to the Sunday Times). I am curious to know if any of the previous holders of this office have ever been subject to this process. One opinion was that she spent a great deal of the RI’s money on frivolous things like needless refurbishment and ran the organisation into debt.
    (6) Election to the Royal Society should be dependent on one thing only; a distinguished research contribution to the sum total of scientific knowledge. It must not be based on ephemeral ideas like popularising or fashionable presentation. We can do without the dumbing down of the concept of an FRS.
    So many hard-working researchers fail, year after year, to achieve an FRS despite their efforts, that it would outrage them to see the election of people who had achieved so much less.

    Vibrant, sassy, energetic she may be, but her response to valid criticisms that her opinions lack any research basis, indicate someone who places her ego ahead of scientific proof.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Due to a recent algorithm on facebook, the German band, recently on tour: was introduced. After the exemplification of the bird in Science world 2011 this is after all worthwhile to be communicated. Unfortunately the fb fan-page for Baroness Prof. Dr. Susan seems to be deleted. Best regards.

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