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, too New Age” and would “ruin” his career — a typical reaction of orthodoxy to whatever it cannot or does not wish to understand.
Today, synesthesia is recognized as fundamental to understanding the human mind and the human condition. How do we understand people who are not like us? How do non–synesthetes understand cross–sensory metaphors like “loud color” or “sweet person?” These are just some of the questions this captivating perceptual 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, 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
- Aphasia in Maurice Ravel 1978
- 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