Professor Russell Foster is head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, professor of circadian neuroscience and the director of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology. An expert in sleep, he describes it as 'the single most important health behaviour we have'.
Born in 1959, as a child he loved his toy microscope and digging up fossils. Despite being labelled “entirely non-academic” by his headmaster and attending remedial classes for some years, he achieved three science A levels which won him a place at the University of Bristol.
There, he developed an early interest in photo-receptors - cells which convert light into signals that can stimulate biological processes. This eventually led to his post-doctoral discovery, in 1991, of a previously unknown type of cell – photosensitive retinal ganglion cells – in the eyes of mice. His proposition that these ganglion cells – which are not used for vision, but to detect brightness – exist in humans too initially met with scepticism from the ophthalmological community.
Russell’s research has made a significant impact, proving that our eyes provide us with both our sense of vision and our sense of time, which has changed the clinical definition of blindness and the treatment of eye disease. He has published several popular science books.
Russell is married to Elizabeth Downes, with whom he has three grown-up children.
DISC ONE: Ode to Joy from the 4th movement of Symphony No. 9, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, performed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Höngen, Hans Hopf, Otto Edelman and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
DISC TWO: Die Walkϋre Act 3, Finale, from Der Ring des Nibelungen, sung by Hans Hotter and performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera Chorus
DISC THREE: Don Giovanni, K. 527: Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata by Kiri Te Kanawa
DISC FOUR: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics
DISC FIVE: (Nimrod): Adagio by BBC Symphony Orchestra
DISC SIX: Title: Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds by The Michael Nyman Band
DISC SEVEN: The Mikado, Act II: The Sun Whose Rays by The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
DISC EIGHT: Let’s Misbehave by Irving Aaronson
BOOK CHOICE: The collected works of Adrian John Desmond
LUXURY ITEM: A mask, snorkel, flippers and underwater camera
CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Die Walkϋre Act 3, Finale, from Der Ring des Nibelungen, sung by Hans Hotter and performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera Chorus
Presenter: Lauren Laverne
Producer: Cathy Drysdale
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