Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield

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The Baroness Greenfield
Born (1950-10-01) 1 October 1950 (age 64)
Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Nationality British
Alma mater St Hilda's College, Oxford
Thesis Origins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid (1977)
Doctoral advisor Anthony David Smith[1]
Notable awards


Chevalier Légion d'honneur
Spouse Peter Atkins (m. 1991–2005)
Susan Greenfield's voice
Recorded February 2011 from the BBC Radio 4 programme Four Thought

Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE,[2] HonFRCP (born 1 October 1950) is a British scientist, writer, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords. Her research has focused on the treatment of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. She is also interested in the neuroscience of consciousness.[3]

Greenfield is Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford University and formerly Fullerian Professor of Physiology[4] and Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology.[citation needed] From 2005 to 2012, she was also Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. From 1998 to 2010, she was director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.[5] In September 2013, she co-founded the biotech company Neuro-bio Ltd, where she is Chief Scientific Officer.[6][7]


Susan Adele Greenfield was born to a Jewish father[8] and a Christian mother in Hammersmith, London. Her mother, Doris (née Thorp), was a dancer, and her father, Reginald Myer Greenfield, was an electrician.[9]

She attended the Godolphin and Latymer School, where she took A levels in classics and maths. The first member of her family to go on to university, she was initially admitted to St Hilda's College to read classics, but became interested in philosophy and graduated with a first degree in philosophy and psychology.[9][10] As a Senior Scholar at St Hugh's College, Oxford,[11] she completed her DPhil degree in 1977 under the supervision of Anthony David Smith on the Origins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid.[1]


Greenfield's research is focused on brain physiology, particularly on the brain mechanisms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, but she is also known as a populariser of science. Greenfield has written a range of books about the brain, regularly gives public lectures, and appears on radio and television.[12]

Since 1976, Greenfield has published some 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including studies on the basic brain mechanisms involved in addiction and reward,[13][14][15][16][17] i.e. relating to dopamine systems and related neurochemicals.[18][19]

She investigated the brain mechanisms underlying ADHD[19][20] as well as the impact of environmental enrichment.[21]

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".[22] She was appointed Director of the Royal Institution in 1998,[23] until her post was abolished in 2010 amid claims that there was almost no other way to get rid of her.[24] The Royal Institution had found itself in a financial crisis following a £22m development programme led by Greenfield, which included refurbishment of the institution's main Albemarle Street building, and the addition of a restaurant and bar with an aim to turn the venue into a "Groucho club for science". The project ended £3 million in debt.[25][26] Greenfield subsequently announced that she would be suing for discrimination,[27] but later dropped the case.[28]

Greenfield's two main posts at Oxford were as Fullerian Professor of Physiology,[4] and Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology.[citation needed] From 1995 to 1999, she gave public lectures as Gresham Professor of Physic in London. Greenfield was Adelaide's Thinker in Residence for 2004 and 2005.[29] As a result of her recommendations, South Australian Premier Mike Rann made a major funding commitment, backed by the State and Federal Governments and the private sector, to establish the Royal Institution of Australia and the Australian Science Media Centre in Adelaide.[30]

Greenfield created three research and biotechnology companies: Synaptica, BrainBoost, and Neurodiagnostics, which research neuronal diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

She has explored the relevance of neuroscience knowledge to education[31] and has introduced the concept of "mind change",[32] an umbrella term comparable to "climate change", encompassing the diverse issues involved in the impact of the 21st-century environment on the brain.[33]

In 2013 Greenfield published a dystopian science-fiction novel, 2121: A Tale from the Next Century, telling the story of videogame-playing hedonists and their conflict with "Neo-Puritans".[34]


Baroness Greenfield sits in the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the House of Lords as a crossbencher, having no formal political affiliation.[35] Records of Baroness Greenfield's activity in the House of Lords indicate abstention on a range of issues.[36]

Impact of digital technology controversy[edit]

In press interviews, at public speaking events,[37] as well as in her writing,[38] Greenfield has expressed concerns that modern technology, and in particular social networking sites and video games,[37] may have a negative impact on child development, leading to conditions including dementia and autism.[37][39][40][41]

In 2011, Greenfield was criticised for explicitly linking the increase in internet usage to a rise in autism, with the National Autistic Society describing her statements as "unhelpful speculation". Greenfield responded by saying, "I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That's all."[42]

In an 2015 article in the BMJ, clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell, developmental psychologist Dorothy Bishop and psychologist Andrew Przybylski took Greenfield to task for her statements that video gaming triggering autism, writing that Greenfield's notion had "no basis in scientific evidence" and was "entirely implausible in light of what we know of autism as a neurodevelopmental condition", and had not been published in any peer-reviewed literature. They expressed concern that her work was misleading parents and potentially stigmatising to people with autism.[43] Greenfield had already been criticised by Ben Goldacre in 2011 for failing to publish any research into her theories of technology's impact on child development. Goldacre suggested that "A scientist with enduring concerns about a serious widespread risk would normally set out their concerns clearly, to other scientists, in a scientific paper."[37] Greenfield responded to the 2015 article by saying that her claims "only applied to disproportionate time online" and that her 2011 book You & Me: the Neuroscience of Identity had been "described by several reviewers as the most extensively referenced book of its kind".[44]


Greenfield has 32 honorary degrees,[45] and has received awards including the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Prize. She has been elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians[46] and the London Science Museum.[47] In 2006 she was made an Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association[48] and was the Honorary Australian of the Year.

In January 2000, Greenfield received the CBE[49] for her contribution to the public understanding of science.[2] Later that year, she was named Woman of the Year by The Observer. In 2001, she became a Life Peer under the "People's Peers" system,[50] as Baroness Greenfield, of Ot Moor in the County of Oxfordshire.[2][51]

In 2003, she was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur by the French Government.[46] In 2010 she was awarded the Australian Society for Medical Research Medal.[52] She received the British Inspiration award for Science and Technology.[53]


She is a patron of the Alzheimer's Research UK[54] and of Dignity in Dying. She is 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.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Greenfield was married to University of Oxford Professor Peter Atkins from 1991 until their divorce in 2005.[55]


  • Greenfield, Susan (1995). Journey to the Centers of the Mind: Toward a Science of Consciousness. San Francisco, California: W.H. Freeman. pp. 236 pages. ISBN 0-7167-2723-4. 
  • Greenfield, Susan (1997). The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (Science Masters Series). New York: Basic Books. pp. 160 pages. ISBN 0-465-00726-0. 
  • Greenfield, Susan (2002). The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science). London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 272 pages. ISBN 0-14-100720-6. 
  • Greenfield, Susan (2003). Tomorrow's People: How 21st Century Technology is Changing the Way we Think and Feel. London, UK: Allen Lane. pp. 304 pages. ISBN 0-7139-9631-5. 
  • Greenfield, Susan (2006). Inside the Body. London, UK: Cassell Illustrated. pp. 288 pages. ISBN 1-84403-500-X. 
  • Greenfield, Susan (2008). ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century. London, UK: Sceptre. pp. 320 pages. ISBN 0-340-93600-2. 
  • Greenfield, Susan (2011). You and Me: The Neuroscience of Identity. London, UK: Notting Hill Editions. ISBN 978-1907903342. 


  1. ^ a b Greenfield, Susan (1977). Origins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford. 
  2. ^ a b c House of Lords (2001). "Minutes and Order Paper – Minutes of Proceedings". UK Parliament House of Lords. Retrieved 27 October 2007. 
  3. ^ Private Life of the Brain (2000)
  4. ^ a b University of Oxford > Department of Pharmacology > Baroness Susan Greenfield Accessed 12 June 2015.
  5. ^ The Times (9 January 2010). "Baroness Greenfield loses her job in Royal Institution shake-up". London, UK: The Times. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Team". NeuroBio. Retrieved 2014-02-18. 
  7. ^ Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier.
  8. ^ "Interview: Susan Greenfield". 24 November 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Radford, Tim (30 April 2004). "The Guardian profile: Susan Greenfield". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Bell, Matthew (30 June 2013). "Susan Greenfield: After the science, the fiction". The Independent on Sunday. 
  11. ^ British Council on Science (2007). "Baroness Greenfield". British Council on Science. Retrieved 27 October 2007. 
  12. ^ Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield at the Internet Movie Database
  13. ^ Cragg, S. J.; Hille, C. J.; Greenfield, S. A. (2002). "Functional domains in dorsal striatum of the nonhuman primate are defined by the dynamic behavior of dopamine". The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 22 (13): 5705–12. PMID 12097522. 
  14. ^ Cragg, S. J.; Hille, C. J.; Greenfield, S. A. (2000). "Dopamine release and uptake dynamics within nonhuman primate striatum in vitro". The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 20 (21): 8209–17. PMID 11050144. 
  15. ^ Cragg, S. J.; Clarke, D. J.; Greenfield, S. A. (2000). "Real-Time Dynamics of Dopamine Released from Neuronal Transplants in Experimental Parkinson's Disease". Experimental Neurology 164 (1): 145–53. doi:10.1006/exnr.2000.7420. PMID 10877925. 
  16. ^ Cragg, S. J.; Holmes, C; Hawkey, C. R.; Greenfield, S. A. (1998). "Dopamine is released spontaneously from developing midbrain neurons in organotypic culture". Neuroscience 84 (2): 325–30. doi:10.1016/s0306-4522(97)00657-x. PMID 9539208. 
  17. ^ Dickie, B. G.; Holmes, C; Greenfield, S. A. (1996). "Neurotoxic and neurotrophic effects of chronic N-methyl-D-aspartate exposure upon mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in organotypic culture". Neuroscience 72 (3): 731–41. doi:10.1016/0306-4522(95)00611-7. PMID 9157319. 
  18. ^ Threlfell, S.; Greenfield, S. A.; Cragg, S. J. (2010). "5-HT1B receptor regulation of serotonin (5-HT) release by endogenous 5-HT in the substantia nigra". Neuroscience 165 (1): 212–20. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.10.005. PMID 19819310. 
  19. ^ a b Threlfell, S.; Exley, R.; Cragg, S. J.; Greenfield, S. A. (2008). "Constitutive histamine H2receptor activity regulates serotonin release in the substantia nigra". Journal of Neurochemistry 107 (3): 745–55. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05646.x. PMID 18761715. 
  20. ^ Dommett, E. J.; Henderson, E. L.; Westwell, M. S.; Greenfield, S. A. (2008). "Methylphenidate amplifies long-term plasticity in the hippocampus via noradrenergic mechanisms". Learning & Memory 15 (8): 580. doi:10.1101/Lm.1092608. 
  21. ^ Devonshire, I. M.; Dommett, E. J.; Grandy, T. H.; Halliday, A. C.; Greenfield, S. A. (2010). "Environmental enrichment differentially modifies specific components of sensory-evoked activity in rat barrel cortex as revealed by simultaneous electrophysiological recordings and optical imaging in vivo". Neuroscience 170 (2): 662–9. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.07.029. PMID 20654700. 
  22. ^ RI. "List of Lecturers" (PDF). RI. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  23. ^ profile on Royal Institution website
  24. ^ Gammell, Caroline; Alleyne, Richard (12 January 2010). "Baroness Greenfield's redundancy 'only way to get rid of her'". The Daily Telegraph (London, UK). 
  25. ^ "Baroness Greenfield's redundancy 'only way to get rid of her'". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  26. ^ Robin McKie and Rajeev Syal. "Top scientist Susan Greenfield told to quit her job – and her flat | Science | The Observer". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  27. ^ BBC (9 January 2010). "Royal Institution former chief suing for discrimination". BBC. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  28. ^ "Baroness Greenfield drops legal action against the Royal Institution". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  29. ^ "Adelaide Thinkers in Residence – Susan Greenfield". Govt. of South Australia. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  30. ^ $15m to form Royal Institution of Australia The Advertiser, 15 May 2009. Accessed 10 September 2014.
  31. ^ Dommett, E. J.; Devonshire, I. M.; Plateau, C. R.; Westwell, M. S.; Greenfield, S. A. (2010). "From Scientific Theory to Classroom Practice". The Neuroscientist 17 (4): 382–8. doi:10.1177/1073858409356111. PMID 20484219. 
  32. ^ Khalili, Mustafa; Smith, Elliot; Oltermann, Philip (15 August 2011). "Susan Greenfield: "Mind change is 'an issue that's as important and as unprecedented as climate change"". London: Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  33. ^ Greenfield, Susan. "You And Me: The Neuroscience of Identity". Notting Hill Editions. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  34. ^ Little, Reg (9 August 2013). "Susan Greenfield: Tale of a terrible reckoning". Oxford Times. 
  35. ^ "Baroness Greenfield". UK Parliament Website. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  36. ^ "Baroness Greenfield profile at". TheyWorkForYou. mySociety. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  37. ^ a b c d Goldacre, Ben (21 October 2011). "Serious claims belong in a serious scientific paper". The Guardian (London, UK). 
  38. ^ and Me: The Neuroscience of Identity
  39. ^ Derbyshire, David (24 February 2009). "Social websites harm children's brains". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 March 2009. 
  40. ^ "Social websites: bad for kids' brains?". BBC Newsnight. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  41. ^ Arthur, Charles (25 February 2009). "Age Concern backs social networks but Ben Goldacre's blood pressure still rising". (London, UK). Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  42. ^ Tracy McVeigh (6 August 2011). "Research linking autism to internet use is criticised". London: Guardian. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  43. ^ Bell V, Bishop DV, Przybylski A (2015). "The debate over digital technology and young people". BMJ (Editorial) (351). doi:10.1136/bmj.h3064. 
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b "Bio on the Royal Institution website". Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  47. ^ "Fellows – About us". Science Museum. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  48. ^ "Current Honorary Fellows". British Science Association. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  49. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55710. p. 9. 31 December 1999.
  50. ^ "The people's peers: seven knights, a lord's wife and three professors". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  51. ^ The London Gazette: no. 56252. p. 7343. 21 June 2001.
  52. ^ "MRW". Australian Society for Medical Research. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  53. ^ "2010 Awards". British Inspiration Awards. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  54. ^ "Patrons". Alzheimer's Research UK. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  55. ^ Moreton, Cole (11 May 2008). "Susan Greenfield: The girl with all the brains". London: The Independent on Sunday. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Anne McLaren
Fullerian Professor of Physiology
Succeeded by
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Peter Day
Director of the Royal Institution
Succeeded by
Post abolished