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Prof Oliver Zangwill

A blog about Prof Zangwill


  1. Previously published on an older version of the OZC Website I have over the years gathered a few snippets and written the occasional paragraph to make links with Prof Zangwill's work: I have kept the dates from when I wrote each of the paragraphs as they were written eg on a specific date such as the 60th anniversary of founding of the NHS
  2. Why did we name the Centre after Oliver Zangwill?

    When the Centre was founded by Professor Barbara Wilson in November 1996 we were keen that it took the name of an influential neuropsychologist. We were delighted that we were given permission by Mrs Shirley Zangwill for us to make this tribute to her late husband.

  3. Who was Oliver Zangwill?

    Oliver Zangwill was Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge for 30 years. Further information can be found in a biographical memoir that was published in 2001 and is now available from the Royal Society for free
    Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 2001 vol 47 pp 515-524

  4. He has made valuable contributions to the localization of function in the cerebral cortex, to the changes in memory following brain damage, and to the vexing problem of "developmental dyslexia".With several collaborating teams he has played a part in the description of spatial disabilities after right parietal injury more severe than, and qualitatively different from, those seen after injury on the left side; and in showing the insufficiency of the long standing idea that language and handedness are necessarily localized together. He has also made valuable contributions to the study of amnesia in retrograde amnesia, Korsakoff's syndrome, and dementia. In addition to rejecting the once orthodoxholistic concept of cortical function, he has influenced brain research extensively by broadening the base of neurological research to include experimental psychological techniques, as well as providing a solid base forpsychology within biological science.

    Further information

    An obituary of Oliver Zangwill by L. Weiskrantz was published in: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, Volume 40, Issue 1 February1988 , pages 1 - 4 )Now published as: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology)
    There is also an entry in wikipedia...
    OliverZangwill. (2006, November 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.Retrieved 22:39, March 10, 2007, from 
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    On 60 yearsof solving questions about brain injury rehabilitation
    The NHS 60th anniversary prompted me to search for an article by Professor Oliver Zangwill,whom this Centre is named after. I couldn't find a relevant & open access article from 1948 ....but in 1947 he wrote an article entitled "Psychological aspects of rehabilitation in cases of brain injury". In the abstract available on the PsychInfo website, the following point is made
    "As regards resettlement in ordinary life, not only the negative aspect of the patients' defects must be considered, but also the positive aspect of their other abilities and the occupations to which these are suited" (Zangwill,1947).
    ProfessorZangwill made a difference to the NHS by bringing psychologists and psychology theories to the treatment of individuals who had suffered brain injury. He wrote extensively about his observations. Sixty years on, we are seeking at OZC to continue this tradition of rebuilding lives through seeking for positive strengths of individuals whose lives have been wrecked by brain injury. I am delighted that we continue to have successes, standing on the shoulders of those who came before. Individuals show a resilience and resourcefulness in finding with their therapists, ways of compensating for loss of memory, new ways to plan or pay attention. In psychological therapy they discover ways ofovercoming low mood and anxiety and regain hopefulness for the future. We wish that we weren't necessary, that reduced incidence of road traffic accidents and other causes of brain injury would make us obsolete. Sadly this is not the case, and trends do not suggest this is likely in the forseeable future. So we have a challenge for the next 60 years, to build on these foundations and establish yet more reliable procedures for effective assessment, formulation and rehabilitation. We hope too that we can continue to inspire others to carry on with this mission.
    Our team's benefit to the NHS is to systematically conduct research into how to assess these problems, innovate therapies, evaluate the benefits of such therapies and provide education for clinicians throughout the UK. For example, our founder, Professor Barbara Wilson, devised and standardised assessments that have been translated into many languages, there have been many therapeutic advances, for example in the use of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy,and perhaps most well-known has been our research into rehabilitation of memory problems that has been translated into a nationally available clinical service(NeuroPage) that runs from this Centre. This is all in a field where there are scarce other clinical & research teams working in this way. Thus the team at OZC have demonstrated by working together over the years since our opening in 1996 that it is possible to deliver high quality research and clinical activity that has solved individuals' problems as well as having shaped national and international practice of neuropsychological rehabilitation as part of a wider community service.

    Reference: Zangwill, O.L., Psychological aspects of rehabilitation in cases of brain injury. British Journal of Psychology, 1947, vol./is.37/(60-69), 0007-1269
    Abstract: The psychologist can make a valuable contribution to the rehabilitation of brain injury cases by assessing the patients' residual disability. Their spontaneous compensation for loss of function can often be carried further by psychological guidance. Re-education can substitute new methods of response to replace those irreparably damaged, e.g. building up substitute methods of reading based on kinaesthetic and tactile patterns formed by tracing words. In some cases, e.g. of speech disorder, direct training by speech therapy is effective. As regards resettlement in ordinary life, not only the negative aspect of the patients'defects must be considered, but also the positive aspect of their other abilities and the occupations to which these are suited.

    Andrew Bateman, July 2008
    reviewed Dec 2015


    On assessment of visual spatial perception.
    I spotted recently that Zangwill's work has been cited in passing in a paper published this year: Kerkhoff and Bucher (2008) write:

    "In modern neuropsychology the opposite, ipsilesional line bisection error is well known in patients with hemispatial neglect (Halligan and Marshall, 1988, 1991a,1991b). In contrast, the contralesional line bisection error in hemianopic patients without neglect after posterior brain lesions was contemporaryknowledge some 100 years ago. This is a surprising double dissociation ofneuropsychological facts in different temporal contexts. How and why did itoccur, that line bisection as a tool to investigate spatial perception sankcompletely into oblivion after 1930 (with a few exceptions, i.e. Paterson andZangwill, 1944) until its rediscovery as a tool to assess visual neglect somefive decades later (Bisiach et al., 1976, reintroduced line bisection inneglect patients)?"
    Kerkhoff, G and Bucher, L. (2008) Line bisection as an early method to assess homonymoushemianopia CORTEX, 4 4, 2 0 0 – 2 0 5

    Paterson A and Zangwill O. Recovery of spatial orientation in the post-traumatic confusional state. Brain, 67: 54–68, 1944.

    To this day we are using at the Centre line bisection as a task to evaluate spatial processing problems.
    Andrew Bateman, Oct 2008
    I have had my attention drawn to a paper in the journal "History of Psychology"(2006, Vol. 9, No. 2, 89–112) entitled "An Intimate Connection: Oliver Zangwill and the Emergence of Neuropsychology in Britain" by Alan F.Collins (Lancaster University)
    In this article, the author argues that a number of conditions conspired to place theCambridge psychologist Oliver Zangwill in a pivotal position for pursuing and promoting neuropsychology in Britain after World War II.
    This is a fascinating article in which Collins seeks to avoid writing a "Great Man History". He outlines the context of Zangwill's life and work.
    "Although Zangwill is celebrated at the University of Cambridge through the Zangwill Club, which names a series of talks, it is significant that the major symbolicrecognition of his contribution is associated with care: a rehabilitation center for patients with brain damage in the Princess of Wales Hospital, Ely,Cambridgeshire, that was opened as the Oliver Zangwill Centre in 1996. (page99)"
    Collins concludes that "Zangwill did not make any major theoretical or methodological innovations, the usual units of measurement in accounts of Great Men in science. As this account should have made clear, it is certainly true that Zangwill did not contribute as significantly in these respects as, for example, Luria or Lashley. He also never published an extensive and well worked out justification for neuropsychology".
    In my view,there is much more history to write about Zangwill and his work and I'd be interested to know if anyone would like to undertake this? I thought it would be interesting to look at his clinical papers and see how much theory has developed since (if it has!). However, meeting with Mrs Zangwill recently, it is also clear that an account of his colourful life outside of academia is also there for the telling.
    Andrew Bateman, Jan 2010.

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    Examining the body of work produced by Professor Zangwill has just been made easier by the Google Scholar profile system. Here is a link to a page that lists 115articles and books by Zangwill with his co-authors. I found it interesting to see the ongoing citation of his work. 

    Andrew Bateman, Feb 2012
  7. Concluding comments

  8. As mentioned above this page was previously published on our website. I was prompted to find this collection because we have had several emails recently asking about Prof Zangwill. Further interest and correspondence on this topic is cordially invited! Andrew Bateman, November 2015

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