Roger Highfield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Roger Highfield

Dr Roger Highfield.JPG
Roger Highfield in 2014 at Cabo da Roca
Roger Ronald Highfield

July 1958 (age 64)[1]
EducationChrist's Hospital
Alma materUniversity of Oxford (MA, DPhil)
Julia Brookes
(m. 1992)
Childrenone son, one daughter[1]
AwardsWilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture (2012)
Scientific career
ThesisNeutron scattering from chemical species (1983)

Roger Ronald Highfield OBE FRSB FMedSci[2] (born 1958 in Griffithstown, Wales)[1] is an author,[3] science journalist, broadcaster and Science Director at the Science Museum Group.[4][5][6]


Highfield was educated at Chase Side Primary School in Enfield and Christ's Hospital in Horsham.[1] He read Chemistry at Pembroke College, Oxford and was awarded a Master of Arts degree in Chemistry in 1980 followed by a Doctor of Philosophy for research on neutron scattering from chemical species.[4][7]

During his research career, he was the first to bounce a neutron off a soap bubble while he was working at the Institut Laue Langevin.[8]


Highfield served as the Science editor of The Daily Telegraph for more than 20 years.[9] During that time he set up a long running science writing award for young people,[10][11] a photography competition,[12] the 'scientists meet the media' party,[13] and organised mass experiments from 1994 with BBC's Tomorrow's World, called Live Lab and Megalab,[14] such as the 'Truth Test' with Richard Wiseman.[15]

He was the editor of the British magazine New Scientist from 2008 to 2011, where he redesigned the magazine and introduced new sections, notably Aperture and Instant Expert.[4][5]

As of 2011, Highfield became the Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group.[9]

In 2012, he published the results of a mass intelligence test[16][17][18] with Adrian Owen.

In 2016 he launched a critique of Big Data in biology with Ed Dougherty of Texas A&M and Peter Coveney.[19]

In 2019, Highfield became the Science Director at the Science Museum Group.[20] For the group, he wrote a series of long-form blogs about the science of Covid19[21]

Highfield is a Visiting Professor of Public Engagement at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.[22] He is also Visiting Professor of Public Engagement at the Department of Chemistry at UCL[23] and a Member of the Medical Research Council.[24]

Popular science books published[edit]

Highfield has written or co-authored eight popular science books, and edited two written by Craig Venter, including:

The Dance of Life[edit]

In 2020, his book The Dance of Life: Symmetry Cells and How We Become Human, co-authored with Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, was published in the UK[25] and US.[26] The first-person account of trailblazing research on the first artificial embryo-like structure, extending the time embryos survive in the laboratory and the dawn of human life was described by Alice Roberts as 'the best book about science and life that I have ever read'.[27] The book was positively reviewed in Nature and Science, for example.

The Mind Readers[edit]

In 2014 he wrote a 10,000-word article The Mind Readers in Mosaic,[28] published by the Wellcome Trust. His account of the efforts to communicate with brain damaged patients that suffer disorders of consciousness was reproduced in other media worldwide, such as Gizmodo,[29] The Week,[30] The Independent[31] and Pacific Standard.[32]


In 2011 his book Supercooperators: The Mathematics of Evolution, Altruism and Human Behaviour (Or, Why We Need Each Other to Succeed)[33] was published, co-authored with Martin Nowak. A review published in Nature by Manfred Milinski describes the book as "part autobiography, part textbook, and reads like a best-selling novel."[34] David Willetts, in the Financial Times, described the book as an "excellent example" of using the nexus of evolutionary biology, game theory and neuroscience to understand the development of cooperation in society[35]

After Dolly[edit]

In 2006 his book After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning[36] was published, co-authored with Ian Wilmut. Steven Poole in The Guardian describes the book as "an extremely lucid and readable explanation of the history of cloning and biologists' ideas for the future."[37]

The Science of Harry Potter[edit]

In 2002 his book The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works[38] was published. Christine Kenneally in The New York Times describes the book as "an enjoyably indirect survey of modern science."[39]

The Physics of Christmas[edit]

In 1998 his book The Physics of Christmas: from the aerodynamics of reindeer to the thermodynamics of turkey was published.[40] The British edition, Can Reindeer Fly?,[41] got the world's shortest book review ('No')[42]

Frontiers of Complexity[edit]

In 1996 his book Frontiers of Complexity: the search for order in a chaotic world[43] was published, co-authored with Peter Coveney.[44] The Nobel Laureate Philip Warren Anderson commented that 'I believe firmly, with Coveney and Highfield, that complexity is the scientific frontier.'[45][46]

The Private Lives of Albert Einstein[edit]

In 1993 his book The Private Lives of Albert Einstein[47] was published, co-authored with Paul Carter.

The Arrow of Time[edit]

In 1991 his book The Arrow of Time[48] was published, co-authored with Peter Coveney, which became a Sunday Times top ten best-seller and New York Times notable book of the year.

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2014, he gave the Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture for Save the Rhino with Simon Singh.[citation needed]

Highfield is a member of the Longitude Committee,[49] for the Longitude Prize 2014,

Highfield wrote for a time for Newsweek.[50] and continues to write for The Daily Telegraph and The Evening Standard[51]

After testing a treadmill desk in 2006,[52] Highfield uses one at work in the Science Museum and has advocated their widespread adoption.[53][54] He often invites his visitors to take it for a spin, including Heston Blumenthal, Craig Venter, Samira Ahmed, Al Jean, Ben Miller and Dame Gail Rebuck[55][non-primary source needed]

He has been listed on the Evening Standard Progress 1000 in 2012[56] and 2016.[57]

In 2012, Highfield gave the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture, on Heroes of Science, at the Royal Society.[58]

In 2020, Highfield was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences[2]

Highfield was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to public engagement with science.[59]

Personal life[edit]

Highfield married Julia Brookes in 1992 and has one son and one daughter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Anon (2015). "Highfield, Dr Roger Ronald". Who's Who. (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U246732. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b "50 leading biomedical and health scientists elected to the prestigious Academy Fellowship | the Academy of Medical Sciences".
  3. ^ Roger Highfield's author page on Amazon,
  4. ^ a b c "Roger Highfield biography". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Roger Highfield on science writing: 'Grab them with your first sentence'". The Guardian. 20 March 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  6. ^ Roger Highfield's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  7. ^ Highfield, Roger Ronald (1983). Neutron scattering from chemical species (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford.
  8. ^ Highfield, R.R; Humes, R.P; Thomas, R.K; Cummins, P.G; Gregory, D.P; Mingins, J; Hayter, J.B; Schaerpf, O (1984). "Critical reflection of neutrons from a soap film". Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. 97 (2): 367–373. doi:10.1016/0021-9797(84)90307-2. ISSN 0021-9797.
  9. ^ a b "The Royal Institution – Roger Highfield". The Royal Institution. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  10. ^ Highfield, Roger; Derbyshire, David; Uhlig, Robert (7 September 2000). "Young science writers pick-up awards". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  11. ^ "Why you should enter science writing competitions". 13 May 2011.
  12. ^ Highfield, Roger (20 September 2001). "The world as you've never seen it before". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 December 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Highfield, R. (2000). "ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: Selling Science to the Public". Science. 289 (5476): 59. doi:10.1126/science.289.5476.59. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17832963. S2CID 153667872.
  15. ^[bare URL PDF]
  16. ^ Hampshire, Adam; Highfield, Roger R.; Parkin, Beth L.; Owen, Adrian M. (2012). "Fractionating Human Intelligence". Neuron. 76 (6): 1225–1237. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.06.022. ISSN 0896-6273. PMID 23259956.
  17. ^ Hampshire, Adam; Parkin, Beth; Highfield, Roger; Owen, Adrian M. (2014). "Response to: "Higher-order g versus blended variable models of mental ability: Comment on Hampshire, Highfield, Parkin, and Owen (2012)"". Personality and Individual Differences. 60: 8–12. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2013.10.032. ISSN 0191-8869.
  18. ^ Hampshire, Adam; Parkin, Beth; Highfield, Roger; Owen, Adrian M. (2014). "Brief response to Ashton and colleagues regarding Fractionating Human Intelligence". Personality and Individual Differences. 60: 16–17. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2013.11.013. ISSN 0191-8869.
  19. ^ Coveney, P. V.; Dougherty, E. R.; Highfield, R. R. (2016). "Big Data need Big Theory too". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 374 (2080): 1373–1386. Bibcode:2016RSPTA.37460153C. doi:10.1098/rsta.2016.0153. PMC 5052735. PMID 27698035.
  20. ^ "Director and Group Executive".
  21. ^ "Coronavirus".
  22. ^ "University of Oxford Gazette" (PDF).
  23. ^ "Centre for Computational Science website at UCL".
  24. ^ "UK Research and Innovation website". 14 April 2021.
  25. ^ "The dance of life UK".
  26. ^ Zernicka-Goetz, Magdalena; Highfield, Roger (5 March 2019). The dance of life US. ISBN 9781541699069.
  27. ^ "Penguin Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz".
  28. ^ "The mind readers".
  29. ^ Mosaic, Roger Highfield- (22 April 2014). "Mind Readers: The Scientists Setting Coma Victims Free". Gizmodo. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  30. ^ "Trapped between life and death". 8 June 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  31. ^ "Communication with locked-in coma patients". The Independent. London. 20 April 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  32. ^ Highfield, Roger. "A Measure of Consciousness". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  33. ^ Supercooperators: The Mathematics of Evolution, Altruism and Human Behaviour ISBN 1847673368
  34. ^ Milinski, M. (2011). "Biology: A revolution in evolution". Nature. 471 (7338): 294–295. Bibcode:2011Natur.471..294M. doi:10.1038/471294b.
  35. ^ The invisible hand that binds us all by David Willetts Financial Times 24 April 2011
  36. ^ After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning ISBN 0316724696
  37. ^ Poole, Steven (23 September 2006). "Et cetera: Sep 23". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  38. ^ The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works ISBN 0142003557
  39. ^ Kenneally, Christine (5 January 2003). "Books in Brief: Nonfiction". The New York Times.
  40. ^ The Physics of Christmas: From the Aerodynamics of Reindeer to the Thermodynamics of Turkey ISBN 0316366951
  41. ^ Can Reindeer Fly?: The Science of Christmas ISBN 0753813661
  42. ^ Singh, Simon (1 December 2002). "Observer review: The Science of Harry Potter by Roger Highfield". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  43. ^ Frontiers of Complexity: The Search for Order in a Chaotic World ISBN 0449910814
  44. ^ Coveney, Peter; Highfield, Roger (1991). "The arrow of time". Nature. 350 (6318): 456. Bibcode:1991Natur.350..456C. doi:10.1038/350456a0. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 2014048. S2CID 43532317.
  45. ^ More And Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon ISBN 9814350125
  46. ^ Anderson, Philip W. (2011). More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon. ISBN 9789814350143.
  47. ^ The Private Lives of Albert Einstein ISBN 0312302274
  48. ^ The Arrow of Time: The Quest to Solve Science's Greatest Mystery: The Quest to Solve Science's Greatest Mysteries ISBN 0006544622
  49. ^ "Longitude Committee | Longitude Prize". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  50. ^ "Roger Highfield". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 25 May 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  51. ^ "Roger Highfield - London Evening Standard". Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  52. ^ Highfield, Roger (19 September 2006). "I've seen the future: it's a hamster wheel". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  53. ^ "Walking while I work has been a big step forward". The Independent. London. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  54. ^ "Treadmill desk: bring the gym to your office". The Daily Telegraph. London. 5 September 2014.
  55. ^ "Roger Highfield". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  56. ^ "London's 1000 most influential people 2012: Innovators, Scientists". London Evening Standard. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  57. ^ "The Progress 1000: Science". London Evening Standard. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  58. ^ Heroes of Science at the Royal Society on YouTube, 26 September 2012
  59. ^ "No. 63571". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 2022. p. N12.