A Breath Of Fresh Air!!!

Tonight I wanted … nay, I needed … to write about something other than … well, you-know-who.  So I spent some three hours searching for a story that had nothing to do with U.S. politics.  You wouldn’t believe how hard that was!!!  Even the European news sites had all you-know-who … every single bloomin’ story!  But I knew I had found my story when I saw this picture …Milner-1This woman’s office is the first I have seen that looks worse than my own!  The woman is one Dr. Brenda Milner, a professor of psychology in the department of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal, best known for discovering the seat of memory in the brain, the foundational finding of cognitive neuroscience. Now, if I knew what all that meant …

Milner-3Dr. Milner is 98 years old and still going strong!  Dr. Milner continues working, because she sees no reason not to. Neither McGill nor the affiliated Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has asked her to step aside. “People think because I’m 98 years old I must be emerita,” she said. “Well, not at all. I’m still nosy, you know, curious.” 

In 2014 she won three prominent achievement awards, which came with money for research. She has a project: a continuing study to investigate how the healthy brain’s intellectual left hemisphere coordinates with its more aesthetic right one in thinking and memory. (Perhaps I should travel up to Montreal, because I am fairly certain that my left and right hemispheres do not coordinate with one another at all!!!)

She has made some concessions to her age … she only goes into the office about three days a week now.  “And I have some rules,” she added. “I will take on postdoctoral students, but not graduate students. Graduate students need to know you’ll be around for five years or so, and well” — she chuckled, looking up at the ceiling — “well, it’s very difficult if they have to switch to someone else, you know.”

Dr. Milner changed the course of brain science for good as a newly minted Ph.D. in the 1950s by identifying the specific brain organ that is crucial to memory formation. I will leave out the technical detail, as I do not understand it myself, but for any interested, this New York Times article gives more detail about her work and is quite fascinating.

Milner-2Dr. Milner was born in Manchester, England, and was homeschooled until age 8 by her father, a music critic and piano teacher. By the time she was 6-years-old, she was fluent in German as well as English.  She fell in love with mathematics and science and earned a scholarship to Cambridge University.  She has over 20 honorary degrees and many distinguished awards, far too numerous to list here.

Though she does not drive, Dr. Milner did once pass her driving test …

The driving instructor wiped his brow with a handkerchief, and not just because of the heat. His student — a grown woman, squinting over the dashboard — was ramming the curb in an effort to parallel park.

“We reached an agreement, right then and there: He let me pass the test, and I promised never to drive,” Brenda Milner said, smiling to herself at the decades-old memory. “You see, my spatial skills aren’t so good. That’s primarily a right-brain function.” – New York Times, 15 May 2017

Fortunately, she doesn’t need to drive to work.  “I live very close; it’s a 10-minute walk up the hill, so it gives me a good reason to come in regularly.”

I admire this woman very much!  She is dedicated and has a sense of humour, and most important, she isn’t letting age slow her down, but just keeps on giving of her time and talents.  I am 23 years younger than she, and I suspect her energy levels far exceed my own.  I am so glad I stumbled across Dr. Milner tonight!

27 thoughts on “A Breath Of Fresh Air!!!

  1. Dear Jill,
    I am in love with this Dr. Milner. She is so accomplished and yet, you can tell, she looks like she would be great company. What a great life she leads.
    Isn’t it amazing that folks in their 70’s look so much younger at this time in our lives. It is distressing to hear about someone at age 77, passing away, like another, you know who.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had the exact same thought … I LOVE this woman! And yes … age is so relative. I remember in my 20s and even 30s, thinking of people in their 50s as old, and 70s as downright geriatric. But now that I am here … why, this isn’t old at all!!! At least my mind doesn’t feel old … now, when I walk into the bathroom, I sometimes get a shock at the image in the mirror and think, “who is that old hag and how did she get in here?” 😀


      Liked by 2 people

  2. eh and yes, psychology, my area!
    Love this woman, she is an inspiration. So much is not understood about memory. I also love Dr. Elizabeth Loftus’ work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you would like this one! I thought of you when I chose the title, because I wanted you to know by the title that it was apolitical. This woman is just amazing! Made me go to bed with a smile on my face. One shouldn’t have to dig so hard to find stories like this …

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great find, Jill, and I bet if you looked hard enough into the history of people who lived and/or still live there , you would find many more interesting stories. The first one that comes to my mind is Dr. Henry Morgantaler, who championed women’s right to a safe abortion, taking his cause right up to the House of Commons (= House of Representatives in the USA), in 1967, and a year later started a series of abortion clinics even while they were still illegal. I don’t know how many times he was arrested for providing this service, and though his actions were illegal, he was acquitted almost every time, including appeals, and a case before the Supreme Court of Canada, where he spoke so brilliantly the Court said the Abortion Law was unconstitutional, and struck down the law. When he died at the age of ninety he was still involved in directing his clinics. I guess, like Dr. Milner (who is still kicking, as you mentioned), he preferred to “go out kicking,” having fought the Province of New Brunswick law against using public funds to pay for abortions, and won yet again. He is almost folk-loric in his accomplishments.
    Unfortunately, not all stories from Montreal are about heros. There are also tragedies, probably the most infamous being the Dec.6/1989 killing of 14 women in an engineering school in Montreal. Marc Lépine, a frustrated engineering wanna-be felt it was the presence of female engineering students that kept him from being accepted into the school. He bought a 22 rifle and went on a shooting spree, injuring many more than he actually killed.

    Don’t know why I had to add that last story, but it seemed to be necessary to add the bad along with the great. I would hate to brag about Montreal without showing its dark side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for those stories! I shall look into Dr. Morgantaler … maybe another post there. I’m always looking for suggestions, so send me any you have! As for Lépine, I don’t recall ever hearing that one. Not a happy story, for sure, but also not a complete aberration. Think Dylan Roof. Some people simply cannot accept that their own actions or choices have led them to the place they exist, and they believe somebody must be to blame. I think there is such a person in the White House today. 😉


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