John Grierson

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John Grierson (26 April 1898 – 19 February 1972) was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film. In 1926, Grierson coined the term "documentary" to describe a non-fiction film.[1]

Contents

Early life

Grierson was born in Deanston, near Doune, Scotland. His father was a schoolmaster, his mother a suffragette and ardent Labour Party activist. From an early age, both parents steeped their son in liberal politics, humanistic ideals, and Calvinist moral and religious philosophies, particularly the notion that education was essential to individual freedom and that hard and meaningful work was the way to prove oneself worthy in the sight of God.

After service on minesweepers in the Royal Navy during World War I, Grierson entered the University of Glasgow, where he spent a good part of his academic career enmeshed in impassioned political discussion and leftist political activism.

In 1924, after graduating from the university in English and Moral Philosophy, he received a Rockefeller Research Fellowship to study in the United States at the University of Chicago, and later at Columbia and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research focus was the psychology of propaganda--the impact of the press, film, and other mass media on forming public opinion. Grierson was particularly interested in the popular appeal and influence of the "yellow" (tabloid) press, and the influence and role of these journals on the education of new American citizens from abroad.

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