“A jolly good collaboration”

On the Web of Stories website, Professor Richard Gregory (1923-2010) talks about his “jolly good collaboration” with Sir Ernst Gombrich (1909-2001) on the Illusion in Nature and Art exhibition at the ICA, London in 1973. It was initiated by the Surrealist artist, Sir Roland Penrose. Gregory praises his art historian colleague’s rare integration in his work of the study of perception and, specifically, what is going on in the brain and the mind.

Richard Gregory himself was between 1970-88 Professor of Neuropsychology, and Director of the Brain and Perception Laboratory of the Medical School, University of Bristol. You can hear him talk about his life and career to Sue Lawley, on an archived 1993 edition of the radio programme Desert Island Discs, via a BBC podcast.

His sixth choice (of the regulation eight) of recorded sound is the Shepard Tone, from his friend Roger Shepard’s “Auditory Illusions and Experiments”. Christopher Hooton wrote about it for The Independent on 27th July, 2017 (complete with link to the Vox explainer video):

“Super composer Hans Zimmer used the Shepard tone extensively in the Dunkirk score and it is also found in several other (Christopher) Nolan films.

He is clearly fascinated by it (its illusory nature feeling akin to his general obsession with the non-linearity of time and space) and even influenced how he wrote the screenplay for Dunkirk (2017), a film which consists of three storylines that you could think of as three octaves.”.

On his website, Carl Gombrich pays tribute to his grandfather Ernst. In April this year, Carl joined a new university, the London Interdisciplinary School, as Academic Lead and Head of Teaching and Learning. He writes: “I don’t think he would have liked the word (interdisciplinarity) much; perhaps he might even have gone along with the idea that the degree is “dumbing down” in some way. But if that were the case it would be ironic because in some ways he was one of the great (and early) interdisciplinarians of the 20th Century.”.

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