Updated Listing for History of Medicine
Selected Events and Documents for West Archive
National Library of Medicine, NIH
New Short Version, August 30, 2021
Working Draft, in Process
First 13 Listings
Short Sample Listings of 13 Significant Events and Documents
Archive Introduction and Guide in the Following Section
(Total of 72 listings, to date, available on request.)
(1) Thomas G. West was invited to be the main speaker in June 2006 at the first “Diversity Day” for the staff of GCHQ, descendants of Bletchley Park in Cheltenham, England. (World War II code breakers and the source of “Ultra,” the extremely secret intelligence source for Winston Churchill, never revealed to the public until the 1970s).
According to one employee at GCHQ, “while people with neuro-diversity may be viewed as ‘odd or weird,’ they are ‘fully accepted’ at GCHQ.” Cyber experts and officials at GCHQ make it clear that their dyslexic employees are highly valued workers. As one spokesperson said, they can crack complex problems because they are dyslexic and see patterns that others do not see: “most people only get to see the jigsaw puzzle when it’s nearly finished while the dyslexic cryptographists can see what the jigsaw puzzle looks like with just two pieces.” See section on GCHQ in West’s book Seeing What Others Cannot See, 2017, pp. 147-150, “Seeing the Puzzle with Only Two Pieces -- Learning Differences at GCHQ.”
The GCHQ diversity program included an informal gathering of employees the following Saturday with a nearby village walk and pub lunch -- where one teen-aged son said, “Now I finally begin to understand my father.” At one point, after an around the village walk, West found himself sitting with a group of seven at the edge of our host’s garden, gradually realizing that all of those with him had recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Among other things, they discussed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and connections with a Sherlock Holmes story (the significance of “the dog that did not bark”). More is to be provided about this most important meeting. It is apparent that GCHQ and similar organizations would be excellent places to investigate and better understand extraordinarily high performance in the rapidly changing modern world, seeking positive links between visual thinking, dyslexia, autism and other forms of different thinking, learning and working.
(2) An annual meeting of 50 Max Planck Institutes in Göttingen, Germany. See chapter in the book compiled from the proceedings of this conference: West, Thomas G., 1994. “A Return to Visual Thinking,” Proceedings, Science and Scientific Computing: Visions of a Creative Symbiosis. Symposium of Computer Users in the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, edited and translated by P. Wittenberg and T. Plesser. Göttingen, Germany, November 1993. Published as a book in 1994, in German: “Ruckkehr zum visuellen Denken, Forschung und Wissenschftliches Rechnen: Beitrage anlasslich des 10. EGV-Benutzertreffens der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Göttingen, November 1993.” Invitation initially based on a short article by West in Computers and Physics. The separate article in English along with the German language proceedings volume have already been donated to the archive collection. (To be confirmed. -- TGW.)
During informal discussions after his talk, West was told of dyslexia and other learning differences within the families of famous German physicists. It is noteworthy that this large high-level meeting in November 1993 was dominated by conventional “main frame thinking” and remarkably antiquated technologies. For example, we had to move to a small conference room to show video clips on a TV; this was not possible in the large lecture theater. (This is, in fact, shown in one of the photographs provided in the printed proceedings book; West is shown looking at a computer graphic image on a TV screen in the conference room.) In dramatic contrast, in the conference in Amsterdam, in October of that same year, the designers, artists, architects and computer professionals had already adopted and were using the latest technologies in all the presentations. West was told that most of the Max Planck institutes were build around one leading or famous scientist -- and as these scientists would age there was less incentive to adopt new methods and technologies. (See item 4 below.)
(3) A small, high-level, visualization, science and technology conference at MIT. Program description: “IM: Image and Meaning Conference, MIT, June 2001, Envisioning and Communicating Science and Technology. Who We Are: In late spring of 2001 we have come together at MIT to consider images in science to learn from each other to add something of our own, We are shown here in name and image.” Attendance was by invitation only. Each attendee was asked to provide an image that represented their work -- to be worn as part of their nametag -- for discussion with other attendees. The conference handout (to be provided separately for the NLM archive) includes 210 images with names and organizations.
Speakers and attendee participants included Benoit Mandelbrot (his image was the famous “Mandelbrot Set”), E.O. Wilson (an image of a tree) and Victor Spitzer (an image from the Visible Human Project; he was one of the developers of the Visible Human Project for NLM). The image for West was the first x-ray crystallographic image produced by Sir William Lawrence Bragg, used to discover Bragg’s Law, which is basic for the determination of crystal atomic structure, and later, the discovery of the structure of DNA. (The image was supplied to West by Bragg’s daughter, Patience Bragg Thomson, former head of a school for dyslexic students in London. This family includes, over five generations, many visual occupations, many dyslexics and four winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics.)
West had several conversations with Dr. Mandelbrot at this conference. Dr. Mandelbrot talked about the hostility he encountered from most conventional mathematicians, especially at Harvard University, where he had been teaching at the time. He had moved on to Yale University where they showed respect for Mandelbrot’s highly innovative approach to mathematics. West mentioned his own interest in highly talented visual thinkers and dyslexics and asked whether Dr. Mandelbrot had ever encountered any dyslexics among his work associates. He laughed and said: “If you ask my wife, she is convinced that I am dyslexic myself.” Later, West heard of several additional reports from others where Mandelbrot had spoken elsewhere of his own dyslexia. West was not surprised by this revelation because Dr. Mandelbrot’s work is extremely visual in nature and extremely original in orientation and approach, successfully employing the most modern computer graphics technologies (starting with the most primitive early forms of computer graphics, available to in-house IBM researchers, well before others). These aspects are seen as signature indictors of the work of a classic visually-oriented dyslexic approach.
(4) The Netherlands Design Institute in Amsterdam: “Doors of Perception,” October 30-31, 1993, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, organized by The Netherlands Design Institute and Mediamatic magazine. West was one of several invited speakers. Program description: “DoP is a ground breaking conference for which leading thinkers from the fields of graphic and industrial design, architects, information technology, philosophy, computer science, business and media will assemble . . . to consider the cultural and economic challenges of interactivity + the role of design in turning information into knowledge, for example through the visualization of complex scientific data. . . .”
Other speakers included Louis Rossetto, the founding editor and publisher of the first Wired magazine (published in Europe well before beginning publication in the US; later sold to a major magazine publisher in the US, condenast.com). West was recruited to speak at this first conference of the newly formed Netherlands Design Institute based on a talk he had given at the ACM SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in Los Angeles only two months earlier. (This is the only time West observed an unusual Dutch practice: He was paid his speaker’s fee in cash, using crisp US bills of $100.)
Please see a letter (to be provided separately) from a designer met at this Amsterdam conference. An excerpt: “It was a pleasure to have met you at the ‘Doors of Perception’ seminar in the Netherlands. I enjoyed listening to your talk on visual thinking. It was inspiring and was very appropriate in that particular forum. I found your talk of particular relevance to my work with LEGO. . . . I work for LEGO in a capacity as a designer visualizer. I’m sure you understand how your talk and book was a great inspiration. In the Minds Eye is a real eye opener. Your book has given me a detailed insight into the way my mind works and why it behaves the way it does. The book is well researched and it is edited in such a way that it becomes a useful reference book. In the Minds Eye should be read by teachers and parents alike who have children in their care that show traits of dyslexia. It will enlighten them all about the gift of dyslexia and its many advantages that it can provide the individual and possibly society. As we discussed during our meeting in the Netherlands, the Vice President of my research department at LEGO . . . is a cofounder of a school for dyslexics in Brande, Jutland. It is the first school of its type in Denmark and has a campus of 50 students.” K.B., Lyngby, Denmark, 21st April, 1994.
(5) Invited speaker at Director's Colloquium for scientists and staff of NASA Ames Research Center (at Moffett Field in California’s Silicon Valley). Standing room only, at sides and back of the large, steeply sloped, lecture theater, at this large organization with many, many visually-oriented scientists, technologists, mathematicians and engineers. As part of our associated visitor tour, we were shown massive wind tunnels and many scientific exhibits -- including new raw data on a large wall of flat screen TVs indicating possible planets orbiting hundreds of stars fresh from the Kepler satellite. When asked whether there might be life on other planets, we were treated to wave after wave of stars and planets washing across on the large wall of TV screens -- so, hundreds and thousands of possibilities (and these were only the planets that happened to be “in front” of it’s star at the time of observation).
(6) Invited speaker for the Learning Disability Association of Taiwan. Three day-long presentations in three different cities. Three different translators -- from English into Mandarin Chinese language, alternating, not simultaneous. One formal professor was the last of the three translators. She seemed initially reserved about the content of the talks. However, in time, she warmed to the topic and began to elaborate and provided her own related examples and commentary along with the Mandarin translation of the talk. During a break, the organizer requested that the professor stay within the translations alone. (West, however, was greatly pleased to see the new interest and support from this previously rather reserved professor.)
Travel to Taiwan was linked to a prior conference in Hong Kong conducted in English and Cantonese. The organizer of the Taiwan talks, Wei-Pi Hung, PhD, over 12 months, translated West’s book, In the Mind’s Eye, into Chinese, with traditional (old form) characters. A copy of this book is to be provided to the archive along with the Japanese and Korean translations. Discussions of dyslexia in Taiwan were especially interesting since the larger culture puts extreme pressure on all students. They should look pale and sleep deprived -- or they are not studying hard enough.
(7) In November 2014, West was invited to visit Singapore to give five talks for the Dyslexia Association of Singapore as part of their effort (“Embrace Dyslexia”) to take advantage of the distinctive talents exhibited by dyslexic children and adults, as a form of economic competitive advantage. Long a leader in technology and commerce, Singapore is leading the world in this effort as well. Several publications and web videos are available for the NLM West archive. (Among others, please see the invited article for the then new journal: West, Thomas G., 2014. “Amazing Shortcomings, Amazing Strengths: Beginning to Understand the Hidden Talents of Dyslexics,” Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences, vol. 1, no. 1, January 2014, pp. 78-89.)
(8) Markle Scholars in Academic Medicine, Fifty-Year Reunion, September 17-19, 1998, Arizona Biltmore Resort. Speakers included, among others: Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD, Director, National Library of Medicine; Gerald M. Edelman, Scripps Research Institute (Nobel Prize winner); Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education (MacArthur Prize winner); and Thomas G. West, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University.
Markle Scholar award winners were identified by their medical school deans as the best medical school professors in the US and Canada during several decades after WWII. Dr. Lindberg suggested that West provide a brief proposal for a talk at the gathering. Indeed, as it turned out, the organizers were interested. In his talk, West spoke primarily of visual thinking among creative scientists and recent developments in visual technologies and computer graphics. However, West also spoke of how visual thinking and associated innovation were sometimes linked to dyslexia and other related learning differences.
Remarkably, during the course of the three-day conference, roughly one half of the attendees and their spouses spoke to West about their own dyslexia (two surgeons from Johns Hopkins, for example) or told stories of dyslexia among their coworkers or the more creative and innovative members of their own families. (See a highly supportive letter from a Canadian physician, to be provided for the archive. -- TGW)
(9) The Orton Dyslexia Society, 47th Annual Conference, Boston, Mass., November 6-9, 1996. West was selected as one of four symposium speakers along with Albert M. Galaburda, MD, and Gordon Sherman, PhD, both of Harvard Medical School. The title of West’s talk was: “ ‘Strephs,’ Tumbling Symbols and Technological Change: The Implications of Dyslexia Research in a World Turned Upside Down.”
The program booklet for this Boston Dyslexia Conference included an article by West which was reprinted with permission from Computer Graphics, August 1996 issue: “Images and Reversals, Talking Less, Drawing More.” This article was introduced by the conference booklet editor: “The following article was prepared by Thomas G. West as part of the series of articles requested by the editor of Computer Graphics magazine, a publication of the International Association of Computer Graphics Professionals, ACM SIGGRAPH. Mr. West says that he sees himself as often serving as a bridge between worlds that know virtually nothing of each other -- such as those dealing with the brain and dyslexia on one side -- and those dealing with advanced computers, film animation, scientific data visualization and rapid technological change on the other.
“This particular article addresses the possible great changes in education and work that might be expected from the spread of new computer graphic technologies. However, you will note that Mr. West introduces to this technological audience the ideas of nonverbal talent and dyslexic gifts by referring to quotations from the German poet Goethe and the modern British science writer Nigel Calder. He says that he meets many individuals with dyslexia within the highly creative computer graphics community. Perhaps we can help our students with dyslexia have a more positive attitude about their own talents and future prospects through the ideas presented here in this column.”
[An excerpt from the article:] “ ‘We should talk less and draw more. I personally would like to renounce speech altogether, and, and like organic nature, communicate everything I have to say in sketches.’ These are indeed strange and remarkable words to be coming from a famous writer -- the great German poet and author of Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe’s words are quoted by the essayist Stephen Jay Gould, who explains it is quite notable that words occupy such an important place in human culture, in spite of the fact that we are highly visual by nature.
“ ‘Primates are visual animals,’ explains Gould. ‘No other group of mammals relies so strongly on sight. Our attraction to images as the source of understanding is both primal and pervasive. Writing with its linear sequencing of ideas, is an historical afterthought in the history of human cognition. Yet traditional scholarship has lost this route to our past. Most research is reported by text alone, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. Pictures, if included it all, a poorly reproduced section gathered in the center, divorced from relevant text, and treated as little more than decoration.’ (Eight Little Piggies, Norton, 1993)
“Gould touches on a matter that I expect will become more and more important in the near term and the long term. It seems inevitable, as new visualization tools are applied effectively in more and more fields, that visual talents and skills will have greater and greater value in the economic marketplace, as well as the scientific laboratory. However, during the transition, I would expect a lot of debate about the proper roles of visual versus verbal ways of thinking.”
[End of excerpt. The Orton Dyslexia Society was later renamed The International Dyslexia Association in Memory of Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton.]
(10) National Dyslexia Research Foundation, The Extraordinary Brain Series, Hawaii, June 27-July 2, 1998. Thomas West and Maryanne Wolf (Tufts University) spoke on “The Abilities of Those with Reading disabilities.” Other speakers included: Glenn D. Rosen, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston; Drake D. Duane, MD, Institute for Behavioral Neurology, Scottsdale, AZ; Daniel Geschwind MD, PhD, UCLA School of Medicine; Sally Shaywitz, MD, Bennett Shaywitz, MD, Yale University Medical School; and Frank B. Wood, PhD, Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
The conference talks were collected into a book: Reading and Attention Disorders: Neurobiological Correlates, Drake D. Duane, MD, editor, York Press, 1999. West’s talk is Chapter 11, “Focusing on the Talents of People with Dyslexia.”
(11) Wadsworth Center, Albany, New York, May 31, 2018. West gave talk titled: “Seeing What Others Cannot See -- Visual Thinking, Different Thinkers and Scientific Discovery.” For the state of New York, the Wadsworth Center is similar to the U.S. Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indeed, it was established long before the Federal level CDC and has a similar broad range of responsibilities and missions. (Details of mission and programs to be provided.)
West was invited to speak by the Head of the Center, a virologist, who he met at a dinner of the Friends of the National Library of Medicine. The visit included an extensive tour of the Center facilities, programs and missions -- along with several Q&A discussions with Center staff.
(12) The New York Branch of The Orton Dyslexia Society, Twentieth Anniversary Conference, Language & Medical Symposia on Dyslexia, March 18-20, 1993. As the economy moves from a primarily verbal orientation to one that is visual-spatial, the talents of dyslexics will be increasingly needed as various visual technologies are adopted. Presentation title: “Dyslexic Talents in a Changing Technological Context.” Speaker: Thomas G. West, MA. Chair: Anne Ford, Chairman of the Board, National Center for Learning Disabilities, New York, N.Y. It is noteworthy that West was invited to give this talk only two years after his first book was published in 1991 -- and that he was introduced by the Board Chair of NCLD, a major organization in the field. At this time, the conference of the New York Branch was often as big as or bigger than the annual national conference of the Orton Dyslexia Society (that later became the International Dyslexia Association, as noted).
Many of the major figures in the field at the time spoke at this three-day meeting. This included Patience Thomson, Head of Fairley House School, London, England -- who Thomas West and his wife Margaret later came to know well through several conferences and visits in the US and the UK. Patience Bragg Thomson is daughter of the famous Sir Lawrence Bragg, who received the Nobel Prize, with his father, for their work with x-ray crystallography -- and who later was the boss for Watson and Crick when they discovered the structure of DNA using his techniques (both of whom also received the Nobel Prize).
The Bragg Thomson family over five generations includes many visual thinkers, many dyslexics and four winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics. (See item 44 and Appendix B.) Other speakers at the New York meeting were major figures in the field: Martha B. Denckla, Bennett Shaywitz, Albert Galaburda, Frank B. Wood, Roger Saunders, Edward Hallowell, Wilson Anderson, Barbara Wilson, Drake D. Duane and Diana Hanbury King. (Full program listing to be provided.)
(13) Nortel UK Business Leaders Conference, 1994. (Excerpt from posting July 19, 2021. Needs further editing. With UK spellings and punctuation style; without additional quotation marks.)
You can imagine West’s surprise when he read during a background search earlier today, an article in the UK magazine, Computer Weekly, on the life and work of Harry Renwick -- a man West came to know during several UK visits as one who shared his strong interest in dyslexic strengths as well as the longer-term impact of computer systems, especially computer graphics.
West was pleased to be asked to speak at the small 1994 conference of UK business and government leaders, sponsored by the former Canadian telecom company, Nortel -- and he was honored to be remembered in Philip Virgo’s recollection of that conference.
Below is an excerpt from the article: “Lord Harry Renwick -- Tech Visionary and Catalyst” by Philip Virgo in Computer Weekly, October 28, 2020. (Lord Renwick passed away in August of 2020. The rest of the article provides fascinating information about Harry Renwick’s dyslexia and computer work and his father’s work in WWII. His war work was considered so valuable that he was awarded the last of the hereditary titles ever given.)
“Lord Harry Renwick had the dyslexic gift of envisioning complex technologies and grasping their implications, long before others, without offending those who could not understand how he did so. As chairman of the British Dyslexia Association from 1977 – 82 and subsequently a Vice President he also helped a generation of those at the cutting edge of technology to appreciate the need to identify and harness the talent of potential Faradays, Einsteins, Teslas, Edisons, Churchills, Pattons (and Bransons) rather than exclude them from mainstream education -- as too expensive to diagnose and then too disruptive.
“His maiden speech in the House of Lords in 1975 cannot be bettered as an introduction to the plight of those . . . who are still, today, more likely to end up in Feltham Young Offenders than have their talents recognised and harnessed.
“Envisioning the Future
“My own favourite memory of Lord Renwick is from 1994 when he persuaded Nortel, then leading the world into the future, to host a short residential conference on “Envisioning the Future”. Thomas ‘In the Mind’s Eye’ West introduced discussions which ranged from the past, present and future of deep-fakery (both analogue and digital), through techniques of using technology to display complexity (including that based on big data) to the way the industrial tectonic and geo-political plates were changing, with the resurgence of those who had been running complex civilisations for several millennia longer than Western Europe or North America. I plagiarised the material for my entry for the Conference to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Leo, the world’s first business computer.”
End of excerpt. TGW
Introduction and Guide to the Archive and Listings -- May, July 2021
From 1991 to 2021, Thomas G. West has given hundreds of presentations in the U.S. and 19 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Over time, West has come to measure the significance of these invited talks, seminars and workshops by the extent to which the simple but powerful ideas he learned from two prescient neurologists have been received and given serious consideration by those interested in the strengths and talents of individuals with dyslexia and other learning differences -- together with the related major cultural changes being brought about by advances in computer graphics, computer simulation, visual thinking and advanced information visualization technologies.
Throughout his research, West has relied heavily on the extensive primary sources made available by the collections and archives of the National Library of Medicine and the Library of Congress. Conventional biographers and historians sometimes do not understand the significance of the details and life patterns of highly visual innovators and other different thinkers.
This listing of selected events and documents, with informal brief descriptions addressed to archive users, is intended to show evidence of the gradual development and effectiveness of these perspectives and efforts -- as well as provide researchers, advocates and other archive users with a guide to available resources along with models for future efforts.
West is the author of three books, In the Mind’s Eye (with editions in 1991, 1997, 2009 and 2020), Thinking Like Einstein(2004) and Seeing What Others Cannot See (2017).
The first book, In the Mind’s Eye, was awarded a gold seal and selected as one of the “best of the best” for the year out of some 6000 reviewed books by the Association of College and Research Libraries of the American Library Association(one of only 12 books in the broad “Psychology” category, including books on neuroscience, intelligence testing, language impairment, mental health and psychiatry).
The book has been translated into Japanese, Chinese and Korean -- and West has provided presentations for scientific, medical, art, design, computer and business groups. The interest in these topics, across many different fields and disciplines, has been an indicator, much to West’s surprise, of the timeliness and broad impact of these research findings and publications -- largely based on the original work by the neurologists Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton in the 1920s and Dr. Norman Gechwind and his students in the 1980s.
The second edition of In the Mind’s Eye includes a Foreword by the late Oliver Sacks, MD, who said “In the Mind's Eyebrings out the special problems of people with dyslexia, but also their strengths, which are so often overlooked. . . . It stands alongside Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind as a testament to the range of human talent and possibility.”According to one early reviewer: “Every once in a while a book comes along that turns one's thinking upside down. In the Mind's Eye is just such a book.”
A broad and enduring interest in these topics is further indicated by the reissue in July 2020 of a Third Edition (first time in paperback) of West’s first book, In The Mind’s Eye. Now with over 29 years in print, the book continues to be what they call in the trade an “evergreen” -- a book that never stops selling. The two previous revised and expanded editions (updated edition and second edition) each contain Epilogues with some 40 to 50 pages of new material.
Another indicator of continuing interest is that in recent months, West has been asked to join a global network, based in Stockholm, Sweden, of those with high interest in the strengths and talents of dyslexic children and adults. This network includes researchers, advocates and academics from Oxford, Cambridge and Sheffield universities in the UK as well as individuals associated with the Nobel Prize Foundation in Stockholm and a former advisor to the Swedish Royal Family (where three of five are dyslexic). The 9th meeting of the group is to be held (via Zoom) on June 7, 2021 -- including network members from Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and the US.
This network provides evidence that the interest in dyslexic strengths is global and continues to be a main focus for many researchers and practitioners (although these views continue to be debated by certain conventional groups).
West has given additional talks (via Zoom and related technologies, recorded and/or live) in October and November 2020 for groups based in Amsterdam, Holland, Cairo, Egypt, and a group associated George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia -- as well as the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) annual conference based in the U.S. (previously planned for Denver, Colorado, later made virtual). On June 24th, 2021, West is scheduled to speak via Zoom as part of a panel for a dyslexia and talent conference organized by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore.
On June 9, 2020, West gave the commencement address (via Zoom) for graduates of Siena School, Silver Spring, Maryland, a high school for college-bound dyslexic students. (A copy of this address is provided in Appendix C, below -- providing a brief overview of current considerations for young adults, among others.)
Over the years, West’s investigations have led him to look beyond dyslexia to a wider range of learning differences. In his third book, Seeing What Others Cannot See, West investigates how different kinds of brains and different ways of thinking can help to make discoveries and solve problems in innovative and unexpected ways -- ways of thinking often quite different from conventionally trained experts. With this book, West focuses on what he has learned over some 30 years from a group of extraordinarily creative, intelligent and interesting people -- strong visual thinkers and those with dyslexia, Asperger’s syndrome, or other different ways of thinking, learning and working.
The numbered items below provide a listing of some of the more significant presentations, events and publications -- showing the broad range of institutions and organizations that have become increasingly interested in understanding the creative and innovative styles of thinking exhibited by dyslexics and other different thinkers. An additional section with selected reviews and comments is also provided (Appendix A).
Accordingly, this listing serves as a checklist of some of the associated materials not to be missed in the boxes and binders donated to the NLM History of Medicine permanent archive during recent mouths. In each case, the related documents might include drafts of talks and research papers, printed programs with topic descriptions, speaker bios, newspaper clippings and other publicity, conference proceedings, associated drafts, chapters, books, journal articles and other materials.
Related websites, videos, blogs, audio recordings, photographs, overhead transparency sheets, 35 mm film slides and Power Point images have been (or will be) provided separately. The West blog (below) has already been incorporated into the NLM History of Medicine digital archive system, with over 90 articles and commentaries to date. Additional information is to be provided from time to time for the numbered items and events below where only a name or brief description is currently listed.
A Cultural Shift and Time of Fundamental Change:
“A Return to Visual Thinking”
It should be noted that with his early publications and talks (based on the work of Orton and Geschwind, along with what he had learned from those working with the most advanced computer graphics technologies), West found that he was swept up in an important cultural shift -- a wave of fundamental change in thinking about visual thinking.
He found that he was invited to participate and provide presentations for a highly varied group of high-level institutions and organizations around the world as part of a new awareness of fundamental change with respect to visual thinkers, visual technologies, scientific data visualization as well as new ways of thinking about the distinctive capabilities of dyslexics and other different thinkers.
This new awareness was partly based on the rapidly emerging power of the new visual technologies during this period. But it was also based on a renewed awareness of the power of the visual thinking used by earlier scientists, engineers and inventors, such as Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, Tesla and others. (Thus “A Return to Visual Thinking” was already selected as the main theme for of the 1993 annual meeting of the 50 Max Planck Institutes in Germany -- long before West was invited to speak. West’s previous talks and writings on historical visual-thinking scientists were seen as well targeted for their annual program.)
In most cases, the high interest in these topics and trends was from those who were observing these capabilities in actual operation and use “in the real world” of scientific discovery, medical innovation and entrepreneurial business.
At the same time many specialist academics seemed to have found it difficult to understand and appreciate these capabilities, employing their conventional tests and measures and a conceptual framework that favored conventional verbal and numerical academic capabilities over visual thinking and “thinking in pictures” in 3D space.
In addition, West noticed over time that when he spoke of these learning differences in highly positive ways, with credible positive examples, some in his audience felt free, often for the first time, to talk about considerable strengths and hidden weaknesses in themselves, their family members and their co-workers.
As noted in item 8 above, the Markle Scholars in Academic Medicine, the Fifty-Year Reunion, provided a striking and unexpected example. During the course of the conference, among these highly praised, award-winning physicians and medical school professors, roughly half of those attending spoke to West of their own dyslexia or the dyslexia of highly creative co-workers or members of their own family.
Accordingly, the events and documents listed in the archive can sometimes serve, in part, as a reflection of a significant cultural shift -- as well as the development these fundamental ideas in various industries and various parts of the world over three decades.
To Resist a Regressive Counter Trend
Indeed, it is becoming apparent that many of the activities and trends documented in this archive are becoming increasingly important since a counter trend is taking place: conventionally trained researchers are falling back on conventional tests and measures in an effort to prove that dyslexics and other different thinkers have no distinctive capabilities -- or that their special strengths are unimportant, rare or only randomly distributed as in any large population.
In contrast, the events and high-level interest documented in this archive provide important evidence that the world has changed and new perspectives and measures need to be adopted. Now machines have largely taken over (as long predicted) the low-level clerical, memorization, fact recall, rapid mental calculation and the other academic skills that are so highly valued by conventional education.
Consequently, the high-level capabilities often seen in dyslexics, such as true innovation, pattern recognition, mental modeling and big-picture thinking, need to be understood and valued. Many parts of the world of business and science are already aware of these new trends. However, the world of conventional education seems to resist these new developments. New measurement scales are needed for newly understood and appreciated capabilities, especially in the age of “deep learning” and AI.
For some of the best examples of how these changes in perspective were recognized, adopted and promoted by organizations such as MIT, NASA Ames, GCHQ in the UK, the Max Planck Institutes and related institutions, see especially items 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 12.
Selected recent summary presentation text slides of this basic approach are provided in Appendix E. Listed in Appendix F, Acknowledgements, are the names of some of the people who did so much to move these ideas and insights forward by organizing the presentations, publications and events listed above and below.
Note: Full listing of 72 archive items, to date, available on request. Also, see on Google, listings under the search term “Thomas G. West, dyslexia.” (There are others with the same names and middle initial but, of course, entirely different fields and publications.) -- TGW
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mobile: 202 262 1266
West, Thomas G., 1992. “A Future of Reversals: Dyslexic Talents in a World of Computer Visualization,” Annals of Dyslexia, vol. 42, pp. 124-139.
West, Thomas G., 1994. “A Return to Visual Thinking.” In Proceedings, Science and Scientific Computing: Visions of a Creative Symbiosis. Symposium of Computer Users in the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, edited and translated by P. Wittenberg and T. Plesser. Gottingen, Germany, November 1993. (Published as a book in 1994.) (Paper published in German: Ruckkehr zum visuellen Denken, Forschung und Wissenschftliches Rechnen: Beitrage anlasslich des 10. EGV-Benutzertreffens der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Gottingen, November 1993.)
West, Thomas G., 1999. “The Abilities of Those with Reading Disabilities: Focusing on the Talents of People with Dyslexia.” Chapter 11, Reading and Attention Disorders: Neurobiological Correlates. Edited by Drake D. Duane, MD, Baltimore, MD: York Press, Inc.
West, Thomas G., 2004. Thinking Like Einstein: Returning to Our Visual Roots with the Emerging Revolution in Computer Information Visualization. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
West, Thomas G., 2005. “The Gifts of Dyslexia: Talents Among Dyslexics and Their Families,” Hong Kong Journal of Paediatrics (New Series), 10, 153-158.
West, Thomas G., 2009. In the Mind’s Eye: Creative Visual Thinkers, Gifted Dyslexics and the Rise of Visual Technologies. Second edition. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, distributed by Penguin Random House. (The second edition of In the Mind’s Eye includes a Foreword by the late Oliver Sacks, MD, who said “In the Mind’s Eye brings out the special problems of people with dyslexia, but also their strengths, which are so often overlooked. . . . It stands alongside Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind as a testament to the range of human talent and possibility.” A third edition was published in July 2020. )
West, Thomas G., 2014. “Amazing Shortcomings, Amazing Strengths: Beginning to Understand the Hidden Talents of Dyslexics,” Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences, vol. 1, no. 1, January 2014, pp. 78-89.
West, Thomas G., 2017. Seeing What Others Cannot See: The Hidden Advantages of Visual Thinkers and Differently Wired Brains. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, distributed by Penguin Random House.