When you consider the fields of behavioural neuroscience and neuropsychology the impact of Ian Q. Whishaw is unparalleled. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2000, was the first Board of Governors Research Chair at the University of Lethbridge, and has received honourary degrees from Thompson Rivers University and the University of Lethbridge.
Ian was born in South Africa but grew up in the Kootneys of British Columbia. He obtained his first two degrees at the University of Calgary and completed his PhD at the University of Western Ontario, working with Case Vanderwolf. Following his PhD Ian was hired in 1970 by the U of Lethbridge before there was an actual campus – it was housed in what was then called Lethbridge Junior College. There were about 600 students and no labs. The teaching load was 5 different semester courses, a load that did not get reduced to 4 until about 1980. In order to do research Ian left his family in Lethbridge for the summers of 1971 and 1972 to work at the University of Calgary with Warren Veale, which constituted a de facto postdoc. In 1972 the U of L moved to its new campus and Ian had a very small and ill-equipped lab. He had no colleagues in physiological psychology and none of his colleagues in Psychology actually did research at that time. His early work was an extension of his PhD work on EEG-behaviour correlations in freely moving rats. He did a sabbaticalwith Philip Teitlebaum in 1976-77, who was at the time one of the leaders in physiological psychology. This experience had a profound impact on Ian as he began to develop his observational skills of behaviour – a talent that would eventually lead to a Globe and Mail article in about 2005 in which he was called the "rat whisperer." There is today likely no behavioural neuroscientist with a better-honed skill in studying the behaviour of laboratory animals and human beings. By the time that the U of Lethbridge offered its first MSc, Ian had over 200 publications with an unbelievable number of different collaborators across North America and Europe.
Perhaps the one thing that characterizes Ian's research career is its breadth of topics and its ingenuity. It is this breadth that makes it difficult to point to what Ian actually studies! He has studied EEG, hypothalamic organization, feeding and drinking, the effects of complete decortication, the effect of intracerebral grafts, the evolution of grasping in rodents, spinal cord organization, timing, hippocampal functioning, dead reckoning, development of finger movements in children, dance therapy in Parkinson's, learning disabilities, schizophrenia, and many other topics. Perhaps the two that he is best known for are the analysis of skilled forelimb movements in mammals and the analysis of spatial navigation. He has dozens of papers on each of these topics.
In addition to his amazing research record, he is also the co-author of two successful textbooks. The best known, Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology, is now going into its seventh edition in English and has been translated into several languages. For most academics just having two successful books would be a career but for Ian, this has been a side project. He has now published over 400 papers and has over 25,000 citations.