Who is Brandon Broll, who is Doctor Electric?
We've all heard of portfolio careers, but Brandon Broll's career is ridiculous! It's one thing to change careers mid-life, or juggle work-hobby-sport, but to be quite honest I'm stumped. Experts profess that to become an expert at anything, you require total dedication over a lifetime. If you look at Brandon's life, it's as if the central tenet of being a writer has underpinned everything while careers spin around him, often two or three at a time, as he achieves heights in all. Yet he comes from humble beginnings: his father went to work aged 14, his mother scraped a school GCSE, neither of his sisters attended university. According to the dictionary, a maverick - if that's the best word for him - is a free spirit, an independent-minded person, a non-conformist. Incongruous as it sounds, and the image of 'Doctor Electric' (above) is genuine, Brandon Broll is a sparky (electrician) with a PhD! And that's only the start...
Brandon shrugs off the word 'maverick'. "If that's what you want to call me, why ever not?" he challenges. "Imagine you can do anything in life you set your mind to. It's important to try not to get boxed into one dimension. People often aspire to living their life in just one dimension. Isn't life bigger than that?"
It may be an unbelievable aspiration, or just the non-plussed penetrating and passionate way he views the world, that Brandon mentions Leonardo da Vinci as an example of who to aspire to be. The great Renaissance scientist, medical mind and anatomist, engineer, architect, inventor, poet, musician, writer, artist and sculptor extraordinaire.
The extraordinary thing is that like Leonardo, Brandon has become a recognized expert in almost everything he has put his mind to. That image at the top of this page of Dr Electric (a customer nickname) is genuine. Incongruous as that sounds, you see a sparky with a PhD! And not just one PhD... And he wasn't a fully qualified electrician before he earned his doctorate. He became an electrician afterwards...
That doctoral gown you see is a Birkbeck College, University of London doctorate in history. When Brandon entered the examination room to take his viva in this doctoral degree, two full Professors of History stood up, shook his hand, and announced he'd passed. Without corrections needed. Both of them knew that his background was actually in science!
Yet they did not know that as a poet his biography appeared regularly in the International Who's Who in Poetry and Poet's Encyclopaedia. And if they heard he was the author of the international bestselling science book Microcosmos, he kept very quiet about giving up a successful career in medical journalism to earn his money as a certified electrical engineer. "People don't like you revealing too much. So I keep quiet and get on with it!"
Brandon always imagined himself as a wildlife biologist in South Africa, the place of his birth, and it wasn't a dream, he made it a reality from a young age. Chameleons were his favourite pets. He attended the same school as Elon Musk. Graduating with distinction in Zoology and Botany from the University of Cape Town, he was fast tracked into postgraduate studies, researching the reasons why the eusocial naked mole-rat has such an advanced society.
But just as he was about to complete his doctorate in science, a long simmering disagreement between him and his supervisor got him expelled. It was at the height of apartheid and by then he was chairman of the Civil Rights League of South Africa, publishing political poetry and journalism against racism and injustice. When the apartheid army demanded he join them, he fled to London as a political exile with a novel in hand titled The Unseen Genius. The title originates from a poem by Milton.
"I understand how Leonardo da Vinci was misunderstood," says Brandon. "Some of his works appeared in his own time, but much, like his scientific and philosophical notebooks and sketches were kept private, hidden from others doubly through his mirror writing."
So how much do we know about the works of Brandon Broll? "Hah," he laughs. "Most of it, especially my notebooks, you don't!" It seems as if, every time a work of his becomes public, there is an impact. Without ever publishing a book of poetry he was recognized in the international biographical encyclopaedia for world poets, but as a poet he remains unknown. Likewise, his science book Microcosmos received rave reviews in America, UK, Europe. He stayed silent.
"It's better that the maverick goes by unseen until he's ready," says Brandon. "Or else it can get you into a lot of trouble." For Brandon, his life remains largely anonymous in London. "That's good. It helps me focus on my work." He is married with two sons. As a landlord he owns and manages a number of properties, and he is winding down his electrical work to concentrate on his writing academy. All of his direct family still live in South Africa and his mother occupies a property in Cape Town he bought for her.
On the horizon is his writing academy, set up while spending a year studying business, after he founded his publishing company Riols Quarter. The inspiration for the founding of Riols Quarter was the book Still-life of a Pandemic which he wrote in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Riols is the name of a mountain village in the south of France where Brandon owns a home. Three further books of his have been published through Riols Quarter: two volumes of short stories and the novel he clasped under his arm when fleeing apartheid those many years ago, The Unseen Genius.