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Web of Stories offers you the chance to listen to some of the greatest people of our time telling their life stories.
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My mathematical growth

Michael Atiyah


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Developing an early interest in science

Dorothy Hodgkin - Scientist

Well, I really started chemistry, of course in a little class in England, in the course where the children were introduced to chemistry... to one science a term and chemistry was the first one, and it began with a session in which we grew crystals, and I just liked doing this ever afterwards. The... our kind of operations followed from that, where I set up a lab at home where I could grow crystals in, just with a certain amount of glass apparatus and crystals bought from the chemist, who didn't seem to have any particular rules about what he shouldn't spend... allow 10-year-old children to have. And, and from this time forward in Sudan, our parents were working... my father actually was the Director of Education at the time, so I went there and started the medical school amongst other projects. We had the 12 first students to tea on the lawn in our house, and we children carried round cakes for them, and one of them asked me, why were his fingers so yellow, but I hadn't unfortunately done the organic chemistry which would have told me the correct answer, at that stage so I had to be told that. The... that class was a very distinguished class, one member of whom became the first Minister for Health when they set up the independent country of the Sudan.

[Q] Was your father interested in chemistry or science particularly?

No, not at all, not at all. He thought it rather a pity that I wanted to do it. My mother was more sympathetic and more actually interested. She was a really good botanist herself, and... and a lot of the time, our time in Sudan, I used to go around with her, helping her collect flowers, and then she would spend days drawing them very carefully to illustrate the flora of the Sudan.

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