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Professor Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience

Professor Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience, chooses the eight tracks, book and luxury he would take if cast away to a desert island. With Lauren Laverne

Professor Russell Foster is head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, professor of circadian neuroscience and the director of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology. An expert in sleep, he describes it as 'the single most important health behaviour we have'.

Born in 1959, as a child he loved his toy microscope and digging up fossils. Despite being labelled “entirely non-academic” by his headmaster and attending remedial classes for some years, he achieved three science A levels which won him a place at the University of Bristol.

There, he developed an early interest in photo-receptors - cells which convert light into signals that can stimulate biological processes. This eventually led to his post-doctoral discovery, in 1991, of a previously unknown type of cell – photosensitive retinal ganglion cells – in the eyes of mice. His proposition that these ganglion cells – which are not used for vision, but to detect brightness – exist in humans too initially met with scepticism from the ophthalmological community.

Russell’s research has made a significant impact, proving that our eyes provide us with both our sense of vision and our sense of time, which has changed the clinical definition of blindness and the treatment of eye disease. He has published several popular science books.

Russell is married to Elizabeth Downes, with whom he has three grown-up children.

DISC ONE: Ode to Joy from the 4th movement of Symphony No. 9, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, performed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Höngen, Hans Hopf, Otto Edelman and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
DISC TWO: Die Walkϋre Act 3, Finale, from Der Ring des Nibelungen, sung by Hans Hotter and performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera Chorus
DISC THREE: Don Giovanni, K. 527: Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata by Kiri Te Kanawa
DISC FOUR: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics
DISC FIVE: (Nimrod): Adagio by BBC Symphony Orchestra
DISC SIX: Title: Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds by The Michael Nyman Band
DISC SEVEN: The Mikado, Act II: The Sun Whose Rays by The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
DISC EIGHT: Let’s Misbehave by Irving Aaronson

BOOK CHOICE: The collected works of Adrian John Desmond
LUXURY ITEM: A mask, snorkel, flippers and underwater camera
CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Die Walkϋre Act 3, Finale, from Der Ring des Nibelungen, sung by Hans Hotter and performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera Chorus

Presenter: Lauren Laverne
Producer: Cathy Drysdale

Available now

42 minutes

Music Played

  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Ode to Joy from the 4th movement of Symphony No. 9

    Singer: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Singer: Elisabeth Höngen. Singer: Hans Hopf. Singer: Otto Edelmann.
    • Beethoven: Symphonie No.9 Furtwängler.
    • EMI Records Ltd.
    • 4.
  • Richard Wagner

    Die Walkϋre, Act 3, Finale

    Performer: Hans Hotter. Conductor: Georg Solti. Choir: Chor der Wiener Staatsoper. Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic.
    • Wagner: Walkϋre - Highlights.
    • Decca.
    • 4.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Don Giovanni, K. 527: Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata

    Singer: Kiri Te Kanawa. Orchestra: Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Paris.
    • A Portrait of Kiri Te Kanawa.
    • CBS Inc.
    • 6.
  • Eurythmics

    Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

    • Eurythmics: Greatest Hits.
    • RCA Records.
    • 2.
  • Edward Elgar

    (Nimrod): Adagio

    Conductor: Leonard Bernstein. Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra.
    • Elgar – Enigma Variations BBC Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Bernstein.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
    • 1.
  • Michael Nyman Band

    Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds

    • Michael Nyman: The Draughtsman's Contract.
    • Virgin Records Ltd.
    • 1.
  • The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company

    The Mikado, Act II: The Sun Whose Rays

    • Mikado: Yeoman of The Guard.
    • Pearl.
    • 3.
  • Irving Aaronson

    Let's Misbehave

    • The Words And Music Of Cole Porter.
    • Past Perfect.
    • 19.

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