Richard E. Cytowic, MD, MFA is best known for returning synesthesia back to mainstream science after decades of disbelief. When he rediscovered it in 1979 his neurology colleagues dismissed the trait as bogus, warning that it was “too weird and New Age,” and would “ruin” his career. His fourth book about it won The Montaigne Medal.
Today, synesthesia is recognized as fundamental to understanding human perception and people who are not like us. How do non–synesthetes understand cross–sensory metaphors like “loud color” or “sweet person?” These are just some questions this captivating trait raises.
Dr. Cytowic speaks to cultural institutions and performance venues worldwide. Past invitations include the Library of Congress’s “Music and the Brain” symposium, NASA, IBM’s brain–inspired computing, the Smithsonian Institution, the Istanbul Biennale, and the Hirshhorn museum. Three BBC documentaries chronicle his pioneering work.
He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from American University and is an alumnus of Duke, Wake Forest, and George Washington Universities, along with London’s National Hospital for Nervous Diseases. He is currently Clinical Professor of Neurology at George Washington University.
Honors and Awards:
- Artist Fellowship, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities 2015, 2017, 2018
- The Montaigne Medal (with David Eagelman) for Wednesday is Indigo Blue, 2011
- Pulitzer Prize Nomination 1982
- The Long Ordeal of James Brady, NY Times Magazine Cover Story
- Irwin Brody Award for History of Neuroscience, Duke University
- Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award awarded by Marquis Who’s Who, 2019
Artist Colony Fellowships
- Southampton Writers Conference with Emily Mann (playwriting), Roger Rosenblatt (essay), and Matthew Klam (nonfiction), 2009-20011.
- Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Artist Colony Fellowship.
- Ten-time Fellow, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Amherst, VA, 1991–2018
- Hambidge Center for Creative Arts, Rabun Gap, GA, 1987–1989