Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist and writer who practised in London, but now lives on the Isle of Skye, where he continues to write and make a living by lecturing.
He is committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise – the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains.
He was a late entrant to medicine. After a scholarship to Winchester College, he was awarded a scholarship to New College, Oxford, where he read English. He won the Chancellor’s English Essay Prize and the Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize in 1974 and graduated (with congratulated 1st Class Hons) in 1975 (MA 1979). He was awarded a Prize Fellowship of All Souls College, Oxford in 1975, teaching English literature and pursuing interests in philosophy and psychology between 1975 and 1982. He then went on to train in medicine, and during this period All Souls re-elected him to a further Fellowship (1984-1991), and again in 2002 (to 2004).
He was formerly a Consultant Psychiatrist of the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley NHS Trust in London, where he was Clinical Director of their southern sector Acute Mental Health Services. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a former Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Stellenbosch. He trained at the Maudsley Hospital in London, working on specialist units including the Neuropsychiatry and Epilepsy Unit, the Children’s Unit and the Forensic Unit, as well as, at Senior Registrar level, the National Psychosis Referral Unit and the National Eating Disorder Unit. During this period he also worked as a Research Fellow in neuroimaging at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA. His clinical experience has been broad-based, and he has run a busy Community Mental Health Team in an ethnically diverse and socially deprived area of south London.
He has published original research on neuroimaging in schizophrenia, the phenomenology of schizophrenia, and other topics, and contributed chapters to books on a wide range of subjects, as well as original articles in papers and journals, including the British Journal of Psychiatry, American Journal of Psychiatry, Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology, Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, BMJ, Lancet, TLS, London Review of Books, LA Review of Books, Listener, Literary Review, Essays in Criticism, Modern Language Review, English Historical Review, Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph, on topics in literature, medicine, psychiatry and philosophy. He has taken part in nearly twenty radio and TV programmes and documentaries, including The Moral Maze, Start the Week, and Today, and a Canadian full-length feature film about his work is in production.
His books include Against Criticism (Faber), The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale UP), The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning; Why Are We So Unhappy? (Yale UP), and Ways of Attending (Routledge, in press).
He is currently working on a number of further books: There Are No Things, a book of epistemology and metaphysics, to be published by Penguin; some reflections on the humanities and sciences commissioned by OUP; a critique of contemporary society and culture from the standpoint of neuropsychology; a study of the paintings of subjects with psychotic illnesses; and a series of essays about culture and the brain with subjects from Andrew Marvell to Serge Gainsbourg.