Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Consultant Emeritus of the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, London, a former research Fellow in Neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, Baltimore, and a former Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Stellenbosch. He now lives on the Isle of Skye, off the coast of North West Scotland, where he continues to write, and lectures worldwide.
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, in particular the mind-body relationship, between 1975 and 1982. As a result he 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 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, Religion, Brain and Behavior [a special issue on his work], Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, The BMJ, The Lancet, The TLS, The London Review of Books, The LA Review of Books, The Listener, The Literary Review, Essays in Criticism, The Modern Language Review, The English Historical Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times on topics in literature, medicine, psychiatry and philosophy. He has taken part in many radio and TV programmes and documentaries, including the BBC’s The Moral Maze, Start the Week, and Today, as well as their series In Doubt We Trust, NPR’s The Hidden Brain, WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, ABC’s All in the Mind, TVO’s The Agenda, the BBC’s Soul Searching by David Malone, and his Heart vs Mind, Angel TV’s Animate Earth, Pat Collins’s What We Leave In Our Wake, the feature film Innsaei – The Sea Within by Hrund Gunnsteinsdóttir, Bruce Parry’s feature film, Tawai: A Voice from the Forest, and recently a Canadian full-length feature film about his work, The Divided Brain. He has numerous podcasts, and interviews on YouTube, among them dialogues with Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, David Fuller of Rebel Wisdom, Rowan Williams, John Cleese and philosopher Tim Freke, as well as lectures, seminars and commentaries.
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).
His latest publication is the two-volume work, The Matter with Things which was published in November 2021 by Perspectiva Press. This is a sustained critique of reductive materialism, and concerns such questions as ‘Who are we? What is the world? What is the nature of time and space? What do we mean by purpose, value and the divine? And how do we most reliably set about finding out?’ He has also been commissioned by Oxford University Press to write a book of reflections on the humanities and sciences; and plans to write a critique of contemporary society and culture from the standpoint of neuropsychology, as well as a study of what is revealed by the paintings of subjects with psychotic illnesses.