Dr. Dorothy Bishop is the Wellcome Principle Research Fellow and a Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at Oxford University. Her influence is broad after having spent much of her career investigating neurological disorders that affect language development in children. Consequently her contributions to Psychology are theoretically important for models of linguistic and cognitive development and clinically important for an understanding of reading and speech impairments. Educators, neurologists, speech-hearing theorists, and many others draw on the findings from Dr. Bishop and her colleagues to bring insight to their work.
Dr. Bishop introduces herself and provides some background to her interests (1 min):
Dr. Bishop’s early life was fairly modest, but she recalls a happy and stable childhood. Her mother’s family had been academics and intellectuals in Germany with two daughters. One daughter grew to be a scientist, an early feminist, and lived her life in Germany. This was Dorothy’s aunt who would visit their family in England most summers. The other daughter was a bit of a black sheep who bore an early child out-of-wedlock and didn’t pursue higher education. Rather, that young woman (later Dorothy’s mother) acted as an interpreter for the British troops at the end of WWII where she met and partnered with a young English private — he from a modest family involved in the manufacture of furniture. The three of them, Dorothy’s father, mother, and the mother’s young child, returned from WWII to his family’s suburban home in Ilford, Essex, England — much to the surprise of the family! They hadn’t previously known him to date, much less express his readiness to marry, and more surprising was that his new bride already had a child from before they met. Nonetheless, together they made their home in Ilford. They welcomed and loved new children (Dorothy and her siblings) and he worked with his family’s furniture business.
In this next excerpt Dr. Bishop recalls some of her happy life growing up in Ilford (1:30 min):
During her primary schooling, Dorothy was a good student with academic interests in literature, maths, and the sciences. She was an avid reader and a regular at the Ilford library. In this next excerpt Dr. Bishop recalls how she came to apply to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge despite encouragement to consider less lofty goals. She eventually came to attend Oxford University (1970-1973) to earn her bachelors (and later a masters at University of London and doctorate at Oxford in 1978) in Psychology. As she recalls, at the start she was set on studying other topics (and decidedly would not have opted for Psychology after reading a bit of Freud!).
In this excerpt she describes with great humor some of her schooling, her application process to Cambridge and Oxford and eventually becoming a Psychology student (5:00 min):
With a strong interest in studying the brain and aphasias (i.e., neural disorders created by an insult to the brain), Dr. Bishop had not planned on investigating children and language disorders. Nonetheless, with the facilitation of her doctoral mentor, Dr. Freda Newcombe at Oxford University, she was connected to a local school that specialized in children with language disorders. Dr. Bishop describes getting involved with that school and her efforts to develop appropriate tools and theoretical descriptions to understand the children she began to encounter there (4:00 min):
Dr. Bishop started to notice some interesting cases and a set of symptoms associated with an extremely rare and severe language development disorder: Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (LKS). She describes some of those cases and how that informed her understanding of a biological model for LKS in this next excerpt (2:50 min):
Dr. Bishop has been active investigating the development of the communication systems and has seen, very directly in her studies, how different aspects of the auditory and linguistic systems are behaviorally and neurally integrated. Disturb one part of the communication system and it can directly alter a whole set of related systems. This is important because, as she recalls in this final excerpt, a prevailing idea from communication and hearing was that those processes were made up of modular/independent systems. Here she recalls an “Ah-hah!” moment in her theoretical approach and her efforts to find parallels between child and adult models of communication impairments:
Dr. Bishop has had a brilliant career that has produced critical assessments and theoretical developments. There is much more to tell and I look forward to sharing this with you in the book!
For the moment, you can learn much more about Dr. Bishop, her research and even read some of her mystery novels using the links below…
Dr. Bishop’s academic website is: https://www.psy.ox.ac.uk/team/dorothy-bishop