Harold Hillman

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Harold Hillman (16 August 1930 – 5 August 2016) was a British scientist and expert in the neurobiology of execution methods. He was born in London.[1][2]


Hillman caused controversy in biological fields with his insistence that structures seen in cells under the electron microscope were little more than artefacts. He maintained that up to 90 percent of the brain is made up of "a fine, granular material that is virtually liquid" and that the brain only has two cell types, as opposed to four.[3]

Mainstream scientists maintained that as fixation techniques have been compared with other analysis techniques, and that there is no explanation for why all the different techniques should produce identical artifacts.[2]

Hillman's main field was neurobiology and resuscitation, in which his work was largely uncontroversial.

Charitable work[edit]

Hillman was a founder member of Amnesty International, and later produced research for the charity.[4]


Hillman was Reader in Physiology at the University of Surrey from 1965 until 1989, when he took early retirement after being threatened with loss of tenure. He wrote in 1996 that "I believe that I am the only tenured academic in Britain who has lost his tenure because of his or her scientific views."[5]

In 1997 he was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for his report "The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods."[6]

Harold Hillman died peacefully on 5 August 2016 of heart failure. He was survived by his wife, their children and grandchildren.[7]



  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b Richard Stevenson, Good Scientists, Bad Science? Clinging To A 'Dubious' Position Can Destroy A Career, The Scientist, July 25, 1988
  3. ^ Hillman, 1996, p.71: "The greatest proportion of the central nervous system is a ground substance consisting of a fine granular material with ‘naked nuclei.’"
  4. ^ Stun guns for police `can harm health' | Independent, The (London) | Find Articles at BNET.com
  5. ^ Hillman, 1996, p.73
  6. ^ Hiliman, H. (1993). "The possible pain experienced during execution by different methods". Perception. 22 (6): 745–821. doi:10.1068/p220745. 
  7. ^ Hillman, Dr.: Obituary, Surrey Herald