David Eagleman is about as close to a rock star that a neuroscientist can be.
Exuberantly youthful yet simultaneously deeply wise, he speaks about his brain research at high-profile, non-academic events such as South by Southwest and Pop!Tech - energetically swooping across the stage. In front of packed audiences, he talks in a sonorous voice, translating key findings on how the cerebellum or our frontal lobes operate and affect our behavior.
He’s stylish enough to appear on the cover of an Italian fashion magazine; intellectually influential enough to have been profiled in the New Yorker; culturally aware enough to serve as the scientific advisor for the TNT television show “Perception”; recognized enough to have been a Guggenheim Fellow. Oh yeah, and here’s the kicker, he’s also a bestselling fiction writer. His book Sum, a series of 40 short stories that imagine the afterlife, has been published in 27 languages.
Plus he’s an exceptionally affable, approachable, genuinely humble guy. (Okay, that was the real kicker.)
We recently met up at a coffee shop in Camden, Maine, where Eagleman was presenting at the Pop!Tech conference. He joked about how self-conscious he was about clumsily bumping into tables while holding a mug filled with a decaf soy latte, and about how it’s important for scientists to constantly be “asking dumb questions.”