Here’s a quick interview with Russell Foster, who is co-presenting our family concert on 27 June, which is taking place as part of See Further – the festival of science and arts, 10 days of events celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society. The family concert is inspired by Haydn’s Creation and combines the world’s of music and science to produce an engrossing and fun event for families. More information on the event, which is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at 4pm, is here.

Russell Foster

What do you fear the most?

For the safety of my children – Charlotte, William, Victoria.

Which mobile number do you call the most?

My Wife’s mobile – Elizabeth. She rarely answers!

What – or where – is perfection?

Perfection is subjective and so cannot exist in any substantive way. There is the illusion of perfection and one might feel that some person, object or event is perfect at one moment in time – but alas nothing is truly perfect. Indeed the realisation that nothing can be perfect represents the end of adolescence and the beginning of the management of expectation.

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?

Book:              Sherlock Holmes – Awesome powers of Reason

Comic:             Superman –Awesome powers – and appropriately used

TV:                  Dr. Who – Awesome powers – and with a sense of humour

Film:                James Bond – Awesome powers – and likes a dry martini

Opera:             Don Giovanni Awesome powers – very inappropriately used

What’s your favourite ritual?


Which living person do you most admire (and why)?

In Public Life: The Queen – Life of dedication and personal self-sacrifice when it would have been so easy to have sat back and abused a privileged position. Has used position for good.

In My Private Life: My wife Elizabeth for putting up with me and being the most honest and decent person I know.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?

Effortless and masterful skill with the violin or in mathematics.

Tell us about a special memory you have of Southbank Centre (Royal Festival Hall/Queen Elizabeth Hall/Purcell Room/Hayward Gallery)?

Attending – what I think was the first live performance of-  “Noises, Sounds and Sweet Airs” by Michael Nyman and then meeting him briefly after the event. The energy of the music performed live by the Michael Nyman Band was remarkable.

What’s your favourite website?

The Royal Society –

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

That the power of reason usually triumphs over our emotions – along with the appreciation that most of us respond emotionally in most situations! Also that humour is the glue of a civilized society. An individual, group, society or civilization that cannot laugh at itself is lost.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?

All four operas of The Ring of the Nubelung by Richard Wagner

What do you regard as the most important scientific discovery made so far this century?

In this the 21st Century it is far too early to say. In the 20th Century it is without doubt the understanding of how DNA encodes life and the central dogma of Gene > mRNA > Protein.

Russell Foster is a professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2008