Grierson, John

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Grierson, John Gender: M
born on 26 April 1898 at 07:00 (= 07:00 AM )
Place Stirling, Scotland, 56n07, 3w57
Timezone GMT h0e (is standard time)
Data source
Quoted BC/BR
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Wright
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_taucol.18.gif 06°03' s_mo.18.gif s_cancol.18.gif 05°32 Asc.s_gemcol.18.gif 25°49'


Scottish founder of the British documentary-film movement and its leader for almost 40 years. He had the foresight to see that motion pictures would shape the cultural and moral attitudes of the future and the humanitarianism to encourage the use of film for educational purposes. He was a frequent contributor to U.S. periodicals, writing on problems of education and public information. He specialized in the psychology of propaganda and made a study of the development of newspaper and film media.

The head of a schoolmaster, Grierson earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Glasgow, 1923 with an interim of service on a British minesweeper during WW I. He lectured at Durham University until 1924, when he was granted a Rockefeller Research Fellowship to study the effects of media on public opinion in the U.S. After study at the Universities of Chicago, Wisconsin and Columbia, he returned to his homeland in 1928 where he directed his first and only movie, "Drifters," a story of herring fishermen in the North Sea. The film's popularity encouraged him to gather together an elite cadre of talented filmmakers who made 100 documentaries before the Empire Film Library dissolved in 1933.

Actually, the film marked the beginning of the documentary movement in Britain. He then solicited financial support from business and industry and enlisted the participation of artists interested in realistic filmmaking.

Remaining bi-continental, Grierson assisted in the formation of the National Film Board of Canada in 1939 where he worked until 1945, supervising training films for the Canadian government during WW II. During the Second World War, the film board churned out hundreds of films, many of them propaganda for the war effort. But it also produced documentaries that helped create a sense of Canada as a nation.

Post-war during the McCarthy era, he was blacklisted in the U.S. on ludicrous allegations of being a communist

but he went to work directing mass communications for UNESCO in 1946 to 1948, when he became controller for Britain’s Central Office of Information. In 1957, he hosted the Scottish TV show, "This Wonderful World" and was a consultant on documentaries. Indeed, it was he who first coined the word "documentary," taken from the French word to describe travelogues. From 1968-71, he taught and lectured at McGill University in Canada. He died on 2/19/1972, Bath, Somerset, England.

Link to Wikipedia biography


  • Social : End a program of study 1923 (Degree in Philosophy)
  • Social : Begin a program of study 1924 (Rockefeller Research Fellowship)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1928 ("Drifters")
  • Social : Left group 1933 (Empire Film Library dissolved)
  • Social : Joined group 1939 (National Film Board of Canada, six years)
  • Work : New Job 1946 (Directed mass communications for UNESCO, two years)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1957 (Host of "The Wonderful World")
  • Work : New Job 1968 (Taught and lectured at McGill University, three years)
  • Death, Cause unspecified 19 February 1972 at 12:00 noon in Somerset, England (Age 73)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Paul Wright collection, B.C.


  • Passions : Criminal Perpetrator : Civil/ Political (Blacklisted as a Communist)
  • Vocation : Education : Public speaker (Lecturer)
  • Vocation : Education : Teacher (McGill University)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : TV host/ Personality ("The Wonderful World")
  • Vocation : Entertain/Business : Director (Documentaries)
  • Notable : Famous : Founder/ originator (British documentary-film movement)