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Work on phage with Hinshelwood in Oxford

Sydney Brenner

Scientist

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University must not produce matriculated sponges!

Norman Greenwood - Scientist

So, the ideas of teaching, the fact that inorganic chemistry was an equal third of the syllabus, should be taught in all years, and that it was broader than just the factual basis and the current theory were, I think, innovations which I was beginning to bring into the teaching of chemistry. And it also went further. I realised that the teachers of chemistry at school had a difficult time, particularly as chemistry was increasing, and if you put more and more into a syllabus it becomes sterile, it becomes memory. In fact to my undergraduates – and Brian you might remember this in Nottingham but it was the same in Newcastle – I said in my first lecture to the beginning students, ‘Chemistry at a university is different from chemistry at school. You’re not here just to learn the facts, you’ll learn to gain understanding and to apply it’. And I said, ‘What you must not become is matriculated sponges’ – that was the phrase that I used. ‘If you are a matriculated sponge, you come in, you absorb the re-distilled knowledge and understanding of your lecturer, and at an examination you are squeezed and it all comes out again, and at the end you leave just as empty as when you came in – it’s much more than that’. And I was trying to get that broader perspective over.

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