I couldn’t live without… a photo of my dad

Baroness Susan Greenfield, 61, is professor of pharmacology at Oxford University. A writer and broadcaster, she is appearing at the Bath Literary Festival on 6 March

Who’s in the photo?

The smaller man in the photo is my father, Reg Greenfield, who died last year, and the larger chap is Michael Black, the sculptor who carved the new emperors’ heads on Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. I love the difference in their sizes in this picture, which captures my dad perfectly; he’s sharing a joke with a good friend and has a glass of wine in one hand and a sausage in the other. It looks as though he has everything he could possibly want.

Did you receive your first inklings of science from your dad, who was an electrician by trade?

Dad, who was born in 1915, left school for technical college at 14 but I think he was a natural scientist who loved finding out how things worked. When I was 15, I bought a rabbit from a butcher and tried to cut open its brain. I was fascinated by what I might find.

What else did he give you?

My parents were good at making sure I didn’t get, as the Australians say, “up myself”. No matter how many awards or positions you get, the most important thing is having a decent set of values and being consistent as a person. That still stands me in good stead. I once introduced Mum and Dad to a very rich, well-known member of the establishment and Dad whispered, “He’s a bit of a show-off, isn’t he?”

What was your childhood ambition?

To run a riding school. I loved ponies; I remember reading things like Pony Jobs for Jill and Jill’s Gymkhana. Jill was everything I wanted to be in terms of pony ownership.

What are you working on at the moment?

Two books – one is a novel set in the future dystopia. The other one is about cyber culture and the impact of technologies on how young people think and feel.

Interview by John Holt

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