Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS









 
. Web Feature .
Knowledge Boys 3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

Photo of a London CabbieIn "Grow Your Own Brain" science confirms what many London cab drivers already suspected - that portions of the drivers' brains are actually larger than that of the average person. The exhaustive training required to obtain a taxi license makes London's classic black cab drivers unique in the world. To build this mental map of London's roundabouts and one-way streets, hopeful cab drivers must participate in a venerable institution called "The Knowledge."
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Origins of the Knowledge
Prospective London cabbies have been struggling with The Knowledge since 1851. That's the year the Public Carriage Office (PCO), a branch of the Metropolitan Police Department, first established the standards for horse-drawn hackney carriages. The Knowledge then, as now, encompassed the 1,242 square miles within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross, the center of the city of London. The last horse-drawn carriage was licensed in 1947. Today, there are some 23,000 black cabs on the road.

Obtaining the Knowledge

Photo of Cabbies Training on BIkes
Perspective cabbies learn The Knowledge on bikes in 1947  

Learning the roughly 25,000 streets and 1,400 landmarks of London can be a full time job and take two to four years. Students of The Knowledge, self-proclaimed "Knowledge Boys," must first master the 400 routes in the PCO's infamous Blue Book. Then, the Knowledge Boys (and some Knowledge Girls) must pass a series of written and oral tests, by which they prove they can always find the shortest and therefore cheapest routes between any two London landmarks. George Harper, a 27-year-old Londoner who has studied The Knowledge for two years says the best and most common way to study is on a bike or moped.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

return to show pagePhotos: Corbis

 

The Sight of Touch Grow Your Own Brain True or False? What's in a Dream? Monastery of the Mind The Power of Half Teaching guide Science hotline video trailer Resources Contact Search Homepage