I am an Adjunct Research Fellow at LaTrobe University, Australia. My ongoing field of research is the memory methods used by those who depended on their memories for everything they knew: oral cultures including Australian Aboriginal, Native American, Pacific and African societies. I explore the memory techniques used as literacy slowly spread, especially in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Europe as well as glorious mnemonic art forms used across Asia.
In the 2022 Australia Day Honours, I was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for “significant achievement in science education through writing and research”.
I am the author of 19 books, all with a focus on science. I was a teacher for over 40 years and loved my time in the classroom, mainly because I always had such wonderful students. Mostly I taught Physics, Mathematics, Information Technology and General Science. Although my focus was on senior secondary years, I have taught classes from year 3 to tertiary level.
Since completing my doctorate nearly a decade ago, I have been a full time academic and author.
I have written 10 books for education and a Young Adult novel and numerous articles. I wrote a number of science titles for a general adult audience before returning to university and completing my PhD on Indigenous memory systems and the application to archaeology. That was not my original topic, but once I stumbled across the vast amount of scientific and cultural knowledge stored in memory by Indigenous cultures, I asked the question which changed my life: how the hell do Indigenous elders remember so much stuff?
My current research focus is the application of these mnemonic technologies in four areas:
1. Education – Indigenous memory systems are being included in formal curriculum at high school and university level, with planned teacher training to expand that range.
2. Ageing – Looking at the benefit of memory technologies for the ageing brain, and practical methods to enhance long term memory and identity.
3. The use of memory techniques for learning foreign languages, in particular comparing the differences in implementation for French and Chinese (Mandarin).
4. Extending the implications of understanding the knowledge systems of oral cultures way back before the Neolithic, where my work had stopped until now. A very exciting research project with American academics, Dr Andrea Alveshere and Dr Vincent Riccardi, potentially takes these techniques back to the very early stages of human evolution through analysis of the mutations of the NF1 gene.
Despite no longer competing formally, I continue to follow Memory Sports closely, especially through Memory League, training only to compete against myself and maintain the skills which earned me the title of Australian Senior Memory Champion in 2017 and 2018. I also look forward to developing a new strand practicing the mnemonic arts in multiple formats.
An academic monograph of my doctoral research was published by Cambridge University Press. Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies gives the full academic justification for my theories about indigenous memory systems and archaeology.
I then wrote The Memory Code to share these ideas with a general audience. I explored the necessity of memory methods to prehistoric cultures. This offers radical new interpretations for their ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, the Nasca Lines and the moai of Easter Island. It is published in Australia by Allen & Unwin, by Atlantic Books in the UK , Pegasus Books in the US and as an audio book by Audible. It is now available in Traditional Chinese (Good Publishing Co., for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) and Czech (Anag Spol). It is currently being translated into Simplified Chinese for Mainland China (China Worker Publishing House).
In Memory Craft, I look at how all these techniques can be applied in every day life in contemporary society, including the implications for education and ageing. These are memory methods everyone can use – and there are lots of them! It is published in Australia by Allen & Unwin, the US by Pegasus Books and in audio by Wavesound. It is now in Russian (Portal, imprint of Labirint Holding). Memory Craft is currently being translated into Simplified Chinese for Mainland China (Cheers Publishing Company).
Wavesound Audiobook listeners – these are the images from MEMORY CRAFT: The PDF for the images can be dowloaded here.
My most recent book, Songlines: the power and promise, is co-authored with Margo Neale, Head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges at the National Museum of Australia. It offers Margo’s Indigenous (the power) and my non-Indigenous (promise) perspective on Songlines. It is published by Thames & Hudson with the National Museum of Australia. Songlines is the lead book in the First Knowledges series. Songlines was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.
I practice all the memory methods discussed to ensure I really understand how they work. Given my pathetically poor natural memory, I am constantly shocked by how effective they can be. Through working on my 40 memory experiments, I am committing vast amounts of information to memory. I competed in the Australian Memory Championships, taking the Senior (over 60) title in the two most recent events.
In Memory Craft I talk about the two memory aids I use daily, The Bestiary for memorising names and anything using words. I use The Visual Alphabet for anything which needs sequence, such as a speech, shopping list, to-do list or my bird list when out in the field. The images for the Visual Alphabet and the first two pages of the Bestiary are in Memory Craft. I have now published the full Bestiary as a small book. I have included the Visual Alphabet as I often use the two together.
Grounded: Indigenous Knowing in a Concrete Reality is an academic essay on Indigenous knowledge systems and the implications for education.
Both The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet and Grounded: Indigenous Knowing in a Concrete Reality are available as e-books. All details in the Memory Whisperer Shop.
My previous books include the popular science titles of Spiders: learning to love them and Crocodile. My lighthearted scientific analysis of pseudoscientific claims, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal is published in The US (Basic Books), Australia (Allen & Unwin) and translated into Russian. I have one novel published, Avenging Janie, and ten books for education.
I have ventured into the world of memory athletes. Competing in the 2017 and 2018 Australian Memory Competitions, I took out the Australian Senior Memory Champion title for both events.
With a background in engineering, physics, mathematics, information technology and gifted education, I have spent decades in teaching. A full Curriculum Vitae can be found here.