Jill Bolte Taylor

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Jill Bolte Taylor
Jill Bolte Taylor - observing a stroke from within.jpg
Bolte Taylor at TED, 2008
Born (1959-05-04) May 4, 1959 (age 62)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materTerre Haute South Vigo High School, B.A. Indiana University, Ph.D. Indiana State University, Postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School (Depts of Psychiatry and Neuroscience)
Known forWork in neuroanatomy
External video
Human brain.png
video icon "A blood vessel exploded in the left half of my brain...", Jill Bolte Taylor, TED Talk

Jill Bolte Taylor (/ˈbɒlti/; born May 4, 1959) is an American neuroanatomist, author, and inspirational public speaker.

Taylor began to study severe mental illnesses because she wanted to understand what makes the brain function the way it does and the cause between her dreams being distinguished from reality while her brother cannot disconnect his dreams from reality, making them a delusion. Taylor began working in a lab in Boston where they were mapping out the brain to figure out which cells communicate with which cells. On December 10, 1996, Taylor had a stroke — a blood vessel had erupted on the left side of her brain. She had been able to witness her own brain begin to shut down. Within a span of four hours, she could not speak, read, walk, write or remember anything from her past. Taylor compares her stroke to being like an infant again.

Her personal experience with a massive stroke, experienced in 1996 at the age of 37, and her subsequent eight-year recovery, influenced her work as a scientist and speaker. It is the subject of her 2006 book My Stroke of Insight, A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. She gave the first TED talk that ever went viral on the Internet, after which her book became a NY Times bestseller and was published in 30 languages.

Taylor's training is in the postmortem investigation of the human brain as it relates to schizophrenia and the severe mental illnesses. For her book and public outreach related to strokes, in May 2008 she was named to Time Magazine's 2008 Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.[1] "My Stroke of Insight" received the top "Books for a Better Life" Book Award in the Science category from the New York City Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on February 23, 2009 in New York City.[2]

Taylor at the 2016 Butler University commencement, where she received an honorary degree

Taylor founded the nonprofit Jill Bolte Taylor Brains, Inc., she is affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine, and she is the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center.


On December 10, 1996, Taylor woke up to discover that she was experiencing a stroke. The cause proved to be bleeding from an abnormal congenital connection between an artery and a vein in the left hemisphere of her brain, an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Three weeks later, on December 27, 1996, she underwent major brain surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to remove a golf ball-sized clot that was placing pressure on the language centers in the left hemisphere of her brain.

My Stroke of Insight[edit]

Following her experience with stroke, in 2006 Taylor came out with the initial edition of her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey,[3] about her recovery from the stroke and the insights she has gained into the workings of her brain because of it.

Taylor's February 2008 TED Conference talk[4] about her memory of the stroke[5] became an Internet sensation, resulting in widespread attention and interest around the world. It became the second most viewed TED talk of all time.[6] The next edition of the book quickly emerged as a best-seller.

After Taylor's representative, transmedia agent and attorney Ellen Stiefler, conducted an auction for worldwide publishing rights to "My Stroke of Insight," Penguin won the book.[7] and it was published in hardcover in May 2008, debuting near the top of the New York Times Non-fiction Hardcover Bestseller list. "My Stroke of Insight" spent sixty-three weeks on the New York Times Bestseller Lists, reaching number 4.[8] My Stroke of Insight is also available in paperback, large print, audio book, and for some tablets.

My Stroke of Insight is available in over 30 languages. [9]

Subsequently, Taylor appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 21, 2008.[10] In her later commencement address at Duke University on May 10, 2009, Oprah Winfrey quoted Taylor's assertion that "You are responsible for the energy that you bring" in encouraging the students to assume this same responsibility in their future lives.[11] Taylor was the first guest featured on Oprah's Soul Series[12] webcast on Oprah.com and Satellite radio show.


Cedar Lake Ballet Company made a ballet about My Stroke of Insight called "Orbo Novo." Deborah Jowitt from the Village Voice writes: "The piece's title, Orbo Novo, is drawn from a 1493 reference to North America by Spanish historian Pietro Martire d'Anghiera. The "new world" that Cherkaoui is exploring, however, is current theories about the brain, and the text that the seventeen dancers speak during the first moments of the 75-minute work comes from My Stroke of Insight, neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor's uncanny recollection of her stroke. The choreography is based on the ramifications of a single resonant idea: the duality between rationality (the left brain) and instinctive, sensual responses (the right brain); between control and the lack of it; between balance and instability, solitude and society."[13] A review in Los Angeles Times said: "Thus were the dancers speaking Dr. Taylor's words ('My spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria'), while they physically embodied brain waves and misfiring synapses, with a nod, perhaps, to the double helix: rubbery splayed limbs; über-arched backs; ever-rippling torsos."[14] Lauren Roberts of the Daily Brun wrote: ""'Orbo Novo' is a humorous and insightful take on [Taylor's] story," said dancer Jubal Battisti. "It has a lot to do with the hemispheres of the brain switching between left and right and what that reveals.""[15]


The book My Stroke of Insight and Taylor's life rights were optioned by Imagine Entertainment to be made into a feature film with Ron Howard directing, Jodie Foster starring, Columbia Pictures distributing and Semi Chellas writing the script.[16][17][18] Later, after Ron Howard's option expired, Winfrey optioned My Stroke of Insight and Taylor's life rights for Harpo Films.

You Are Responsible For the Energy You Bring[edit]

Oprah Winfrey names Jill Bolte Taylor as one of her favorite guests on her eponymous television show.[19] In her later commencement address at Duke University on May 10, 2009, Oprah Winfrey quoted Taylor's assertion that "You are responsible for the energy that you bring" in encouraging the students to assume this same responsibility in their future lives, citing her favorite phrase from My Stroke of Insight (minute 13:40 of the Commencement Address [20]).

The Cecilia Chorus of New York[edit]

On May 3, 2019, on the occasion of Taylor's 60th birthday, the Cecilia Chorus of New York under the direction of The Brothers Balliett presented the world premiere of Fifty Trillion Molecular Geniuses at New York City's Carnegie Hall setting text from My Stroke of Insight to the music of Johannes Brahms and Edgar Elgar.[21] [22]


  1. ^ Clark, Dick (2008-05-12). "The 2008 Time 100: Jill Bolte Taylor". Time Magazine. Vol. 171, no. 19. Archived from the original on May 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  2. ^ "Chapter announces Books for a Better Life". February 24, 2009. Archived from the original on February 6, 2010.
  3. ^ Bolte Taylor, Jill (2008). My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02074-4.
  4. ^ Taylor, Jill Bolte. "Jill Bolte Taylor - Speaker - TED". ted.com.
  5. ^ "Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight". Technology entertainment design. 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  6. ^ Kaufman, Leslie (2008-05-25). "A Superhighway to Bliss". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  7. ^ "Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor Explains Her Stroke of Insight". Oprah.com. 2008-10-21. Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2020-02-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ My Stroke of Insight is available in over 30 languages including Portuguese in Brazil and Portugal, Ediouro Publicacoe S.A.; Editorial Presenca; Bulgaria, Janua '98 LTD; Chinese, Hainan Publishing House; Croatian, Planetopija; Danish Borgen Forlag; Estonian Pilgrim Publishing; Finnish, Otava Publishing; French in France, Editions Jean-Claude Lattes; German in Germany, Droemer; Greek in Greece, Livanis Publishing Organization S.A.; Hungarian in Hungary Agykontroll Kft.; Indonesian in Indonesia, PT Elex Media Komputindo; Hebrew in Israel Modan Publishing House; Italian in Italy, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SPA; Japanese in Japan, Shincho-Sha Co. Ltd; Korean in Korea, Will Books; Mandarin Chinese in Mainland China, Hainan Pub House; Marathi and other Indian dialects and languages in India (Marathi), Mehta Publishing House,;Dutch in the Netherlands, Kosmos Uitgevers BV; Norwegian in Norway, Cappelen Damm A/S; Polish in Poland, Galaktyka; Romanian in Romania, Curtea Veche; Russian in Russia, Atticus Publishing Group LLC; Slovene in Slovenia, Mladinsk Knjiga; Spanish in Spain, Random House Mondadori; Swedish in Sweden, Bra Bocker; Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese in Taiwan, Commonwealth Publishing Co. LTD.; Thai in Thailand, Saengdao Publishing House Co., LTD.; Turkish in Turkey, Kuraldisi Yayincilik; British English in United Kingdom, Hodder Headline Ltd., Vietnamese in Vietnam, Viet Nam AZ C and American English in the United States, Penguin Books.
  10. ^ "Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor Explains Her Stroke of Insight". Oprah.com. 2008-10-21. Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  11. ^ Oprah Winfrey, commencement address May 10, 2009 http://news.duke.edu/2009/05/winfrey_address.html
  12. ^ "Oprah.com". oprah.com.
  13. ^ "Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Tries Getting In Our Heads".
  14. ^ "Cedar Lake Ballet at UCLA – Review". Los Angeles Times. 2010-05-09.
  15. ^ "Not The Typical Ballet Show".
  16. ^ Mark Bennett (October 4, 2010). "Ron Howard to direct movie about Terre Haute native Jill Bolte Taylor's life". Retrieved 2014-12-29.
  17. ^ Mike Fleming Jr (October 1, 2010). "Ron Howard Wants To Direct Jodie Foster". Retrieved 2014-12-29.
  18. ^ Jordan Raup (October 1, 2010). "Ron Howard To Direct 'My Stroke of Insight,' Wants Jodie Foster To Lead". Retrieved 2014-12-29.
  19. ^ Oprah Winfrey (October 21, 2008). "Jill Bolte Taylor on Oprah Show". Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  20. ^ Oprah Winfrey (May 10, 2009). "Oprah's Graduation Speech at Duke University". Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  21. ^ BWW News Desk (April 3, 2019). "The Cecilia Chorus of New York Appears in Concert May 3 at Carnegie Hall". Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  22. ^ Peter Dorfman (June 25, 2019). "At Carnegie Hall: Jill Bolte Taylor's TED Talk Plays as a Choral Composition". Retrieved 2019-06-26.

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