Richard Gregory

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For the editor of Nature, see Sir Richard Gregory, 1st Baronet.
Richard Gregory
CafeWall.jpg
Richard Gregory standing outside the café on St Michael's Hill, Bristol, which inspired his (re-)discovery of the "café wall illusion", February 2010.
Born Richard Langton Gregory
(1923-07-24)24 July 1923
London, England
Died 17 May 2010(2010-05-17) (aged 86)
Bristol, England
Nationality British
Fields Psychology, Neuropsychology
Notable awards Michael Faraday Prize (1992)

Richard Langton Gregory CBE FRS FRSE (24 July 1923 – 17 May 2010) was a British psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol.

Life and career[edit]

Richard Gregory was born in London, the son of Christopher Clive Langton Gregory and his first wife Helen Patricia (née Gibson). His father was an astronomer and the first Director of the University of London Observatory.[1]

Gregory served with the Royal Air Force's Signals branch during World War II, and after the war earned an RAF scholarship to the Downing College, Cambridge.[2] One of Sir Frederic Bartlett's last pupils at Cambridge, Gregory admitted to having been inspired by him.[3] He was made an Honorary Fellow of Downing in 1999.

In 1967, with Prof. Donald Michie and Prof. Christopher Longuet-Higgins FRS, he founded the Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception, a forerunner of the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh. He was Head of the Bionics Research Laboratory, Professor of Bionics, and Department chairman 1968–70. Gregory was founding editor of the journal "Perception" (1972),[4] which emphasized phenomenology and novel percepts produced by new stimuli .

He was a founding member of the Experimental Psychology Society and served as its President in 1981-2.

He collaborated with W. E. Hick for the latter's influential paper "On the rate of gain of information". In fact, he commented "... I was the only subject for his gain of information experiment to complete the course, as he was the only other subject and he packed it in when the apparatus fell apart".[5]

In 1978, he founded The Exploratory, an applied science centre in Bristol. This was the first of its kind in the UK. In 1989, he was appointed Osher Visiting Fellow of the Exploratorium, a similar scientific education centre in San Francisco, California.

Gregory suggested Hermann von Helmholtz as his hero from past psychology, describing him as "... the modern founder of the science of perception".[3]

He appeared on, and been an advisor to, numerous science-related television programmes in the UK and worldwide. His particular interest was in optical illusions and what these revealed about human perception. He authored and edited several books, notably Eye and Brain and Mind in Science. His hobby was punning (making puns) and he was also a guest on Desert Island Discs.

He died on 17 May 2010 at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, having suffered a stroke a few days earlier, surrounded by family and friends.

Lectures[edit]

In 1967 he delivered the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on The Intelligent Eye.

Contribution[edit]

Gregory's main contribution to the discipline was in the development of cognitive psychology, in particular that of "Perception as hypotheses", an approach which had its origin in the work of Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) and his student Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920). Between them, the two Germans laid the basis of investigating how the senses work, especially sight and hearing.

According to Gregory, Helmholtz should take the credit for realising that perception is not just a passive acceptance of stimuli, but an active process involving memory and other internal processes.[6]

Gregory progressed this idea with a key analogy. The process where by the brain puts together a coherent view of the outside world is analogous to the way in which the sciences build up their picture of the world, by a kind of hypothetico-deductive process. Although this takes place on a quite different time-scale, and inside one head instead of a community, nevertheless, according to Gregory, perception shares many traits with scientific method. A series of works by Gregory developed this idea in some detail.[7][8][9]

Gregory's ideas ran counter to those of the American direct realist psychologist J.J. Gibson, whose 1950 The Perception of the Visual World was dominant when Gregory was a younger man. Much in Gregory's work can be seen as a reply to Gibson's ideas.

Works[edit]

  • Recovery from Early Blindness: A case Study (1963), with Jean Wallace, Exp. Soc. Monogr. No.2. Cambridge: Heffers. {C & M of P. pp. 65–129}.
  • Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing (1966), London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. [in twelve languages]. Second Edition (1972). Third Edition (1977). Fourth Edition (1990). USA: Princeton University Press; (1994) Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fifth Edition (1997) Oxford University Press and (1998) Princeton University Press.
  • The Intelligent Eye (1970), London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. [in 6 languages].
  • Illusion in Nature and Art (1973), (ed with Sir Ernst Gombrich), London: Duckworth.
  • Concepts and Mechanisms of Perception (1974), London: Duckworth. [collected papers].
  • Mind in Science: A History of Explanations of Psychology and Physics (1981), London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson; USA: CUP. Paperback, Peregrine (1984). (Macmillan Scientific Book Club choice). Transl. Italian, La Mente nella, Scienze, Mondadori (1985).
  • Odd Perceptions [essays] (1986), London: Methuen. Paperback (1988) Routledge. (2nd edition 1990–91).
  • Creative Intelligences (1987), (ed with Pauline Marstrand), London: Frances Pinter. ISBN 0-86187-673-3.
  • Oxford Companion to the Mind (1987), (ed.) Oxford: OUP. [translated into Italian, French, Spanish. In TSP Softbacks, and other Book Clubs]. Paperback 1998.
  • Evolution of the Eye and Visual System (1992), (ed with John R Cronly-Dillon), Vol 2 of Vision and Visual Dysfunction. London: Macmillan.
  • Even Odder Perceptions (1994), [essays]. London: Routledge.
  • The Artful Eye (1995), (ed with J. Harris, P.Heard and D. Rose). Oxford: OUP
  • Mirrors in Mind (1997), Oxford: W. H. Freeman/Spektrum. (1998) Penguin.
  • The Mind Makers (1998), London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  • Seeing Through Illusions (2009), OUP.
  • Main journal publications

Degrees[edit]

Year Degree
1950 M.A. (Cantab)
1983 D.Sc. (Bristol)

Honorary Degrees[edit]

Year Honorary degree
1990 D. Univ. (Open)
D. Univ. (Stirling)
1993 LL.D (Bristol)
1996 D.Sc. (East Anglia)
D.Sc. (Exon)
1998 D.Univ. (York)
D.Sc. (U.M.I.S.T.)
1999 D.Sc. (Keele)
2000 D.Sc. (Edinburgh)

Family[edit]

In 1953, he married Margaret Hope Pattison Muir, one son, one daughter (marriage dissolved 1966). In 1967, he married Freja Mary Balchin,[10] the daughter of novelist Nigel Balchin, (marriage dissolved 1976). Gregory is survived by two children (Mark and Romilly Gregory), two grandchildren (Luutsche Ozinga and Kiran Rogers) and his long term companion Priscilla Heard.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brennan, J. (2010), "Richard Gregory (1923–2010)", in The Psychologist, Vol 23. No 7, July 2010, p. 541.
  2. ^ "Richard Gregory: experimental psychologist". The Times. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "One on One with Richard Gregory", The Psychologist, Vol 21, No 6, June 2008, p 568
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Experimental Psychology Society: Past Perceptions
  6. ^ Gregory R.L. (ed) 1987. Oxford Companion to the Mind: see essay on 'Perception as hypotheses', p608. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 0-19-866124-X
  7. ^ Gregory R.L. 1966. Eye and Brain: the psychology of seeing. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 5th edition 1997, Oxford University Press/Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04837-1
  8. ^ Gregory R.L. 1970. The Intelligent Eye. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-00021-7
  9. ^ Gregory R.L. 1974. Concepts and Mechanisms of Perception. London: Duckworth. [collected papers] ISBN 0-7156-0556-9
  10. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: JUN 1967 5d 1808 ST PANCRAS – Richard L. Gregory = Freja M. Balchin

External links[edit]