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Roger Highfield

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Roger Highfield
Roger Highfield in 2014 at Cabo da Roca
Roger Ronald Highfield

July 1958 (age 65)[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 studied 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 for 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] and in 2021 organised a special Covid19 issue of the Royal Society journal Interface Focus.[22]

Highfield is a visiting professor of Public Engagement at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.[23] He is also a visiting professor of Public Engagement at the Department of Chemistry at UCL[24] and a member of the Medical Research Council.[25] In April 2023, he was made the honorary president of the Association of British Science Writers, taking over from the veteran BBC correspondent Pallab Ghosh.[26]

Popular science books

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

  • Virtual You, coauthored with Peter Coveney. The Financial Times listed it as a book to read in 2023.[27]
  • The Dance of Life (2020), co-authored with Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz.[citation needed]
  • The Mind Readers (2014). 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,[28] The Week,[29] The Independent[30] and Pacific Standard.[31]
  • Supercooperators (2011), 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."[32] 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[33]
  • After Dolly (2006), 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."[34]
  • The Science of Harry Potter (2002). Christine Kenneally in The New York Times describes the book as "an enjoyably indirect survey of modern science."[35]
  • The Physics of Christmas (1998); Can Reindeer Fly? (title in England). Received the world's shortest book review ("No").[36]
  • Frontiers of Complexity (1996), co-authored with Peter Coveney.[37] Philip Warren Anderson commented that "I believe firmly, with Coveney and Highfield, that complexity is the scientific frontier".[38][39]
  • The Private Lives of Albert Einstein (1993), co-authored with Paul Carter. J. G. Ballard commented in a review: "In their lucid and scrupulously researched biography, Roger Highfield and Paul Carter reveal a very different Einstein. To their great credit, these startling revelations never diminish the man but only increase our sense of wonder."[40]
  • The Arrow of Time (1991), , co-authored with Peter Coveney.

Awards and Honours

Highfield is a member of the Longitude Committee.[41]

Highfield wrote for a time for Newsweek.[42] and still makes occasional contributions to The Sunday Times,[43] the Evening Standard,[44] The Guardian[45] and Aeon magazine.[46]

He has been listed on the Evening Standard Progress 1000 in 2012[47] and 2016.[48]

In 2012, Highfield gave the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture, on Heroes of Science, at the Royal Society.[49]

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.[50]

Personal life

Highfield met his wife, Julia Brookes, at the University of Oxford. They married in 1992 and have 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. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U246732. (Subscription or UK public library membership 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". 6 April 2023.
  22. ^ ""COVID-19: science, history, culture and imagination"". the Royal Society.
  23. ^ "University of Oxford Gazette" (PDF).
  24. ^ "Centre for Computational Science website at UCL".
  25. ^ "UK Research and Innovation website". 14 April 2021.
  26. ^ "BBC's Pallab Ghosh to step down as ABSW Honorary President, Science Museum's Roger Highfield proposed as his successor".
  27. ^ Battle, Laura; Studemann, Frederick (9 January 2023). "The books to read in 2023". Financial Times.
  28. ^ Mosaic, Roger Highfield- (22 April 2014). "Mind Readers: The Scientists Setting Coma Victims Free". Gizmodo. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  29. ^ "Trapped between life and death". 8 June 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  30. ^ "Communication with locked-in coma patients". The Independent. London. 20 April 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  31. ^ Highfield, Roger (14 June 2017). "A Measure of Consciousness". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  32. ^ Milinski, M. (2011). "Biology: A revolution in evolution". Nature. 471 (7338): 294–295. Bibcode:2011Natur.471..294M. doi:10.1038/471294b.
  33. ^ The invisible hand that binds us all by David Willetts Financial Times 24 April 2011
  34. ^ Poole, Steven (23 September 2006). "Et cetera: Sep 23". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  35. ^ Kenneally, Christine (5 January 2003). "Books in Brief: Nonfiction". The New York Times.
  36. ^ Singh, Simon (1 December 2002). "Observer review: The Science of Harry Potter by Roger Highfield". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ More And Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon ISBN 9814350125
  39. ^ Anderson, Philip W. (2011). More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon. World Scientific. ISBN 9789814350143.
  40. ^ "A Mind Firmly Set on the Universe: Review of The Private Lives of Albert Einstein by Roger Highfield and Paul Carter, and Einstein: A Life in Science by Michael White and John Gribbin". The Daily Telegraph. "Weekend" section. 4 September 1993.
  41. ^ "Longitude Prize". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  42. ^ "Roger Highfield". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 25 May 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  43. ^ Highfield, Roger (29 May 2023). "Roger Highfield". The Times.
  44. ^ "Roger Highfield – London Evening Standard". Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  45. ^ Highfield, Roger (18 January 2021). "Roger Highfield". The Guardian.
  46. ^ "Roger Highfield". Aeon.
  47. ^ "London's 1000 most influential people 2012: Innovators, Scientists". London Evening Standard. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  48. ^ "The Progress 1000: Science". London Evening Standard. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  49. ^ Heroes of Science at the Royal Society on YouTube, 26 September 2012
  50. ^ "No. 63571". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 2022. p. N12.
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Roger Highfield
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