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James Rendel


People at UCL: JBS Haldane
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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He sat in an office in the Department of Zoology. He was Professor of something else; I think it was Biometry or- I think that's right. And, he had very little in the way of responsibilities, but he did, in fact, teach a course of genetics which I went to. And I thought that was wonderful. I loved it. The first lecture I will never forget. He passed round the skins of cats and asked us to- what- what bits of the cat- why all the cats skins were different from one another, and which bits might be genetic or not. And he also said, you know, he talked about apples and pears and there were Worcester apples and Pippins and different kinds of pear. Then he asked the class, you know, which of these things are within the species and which of them are across species. That was great lecture and it went on like that, so it was super. So, he was a terrific teacher. But there was lots of other entertainment. He sat in his office and, mostly I think, he was even writing, or editing, the journal Genetics, which he had invented and, as he said, that was going to provide for Helen Spurway, who was becoming his wife at that time. And, Helen and Jack were quite touchy about the whole relationship. They didn't want it, sort of, trespassed around, or gossiped, or anything. And well they knew that everybody in the department was terribly interested in this Professor going on with Helen, who was then a graduate student. And, when they finally did become engaged, I recall waltzing up to Helen and giving her a great big kiss, which I thought I was entitled to do, and Jack got absolutely furious about it. What was I doing insulting his- his betrothed- I can't remember what term he used, but anyway, his woman, kissing her in public. And I was- I shivered in my boots because he could be very fierce, and he really- that was one of the things he really liked to do was losing his temper. And nobody took him seriously, because they knew that he was enjoying it, and it all blew over before long. And, around him there were already- well there were always people, as there is with any interesting university teacher, particularly Jim Rendell.

Avrion Mitchison, the British zoologist, is currently Professor Emeritus at University College London and is best known for his work demonstrating the role of lymphocytes in tumour rejection and for the separate and cooperative roles of T- and B-lymphocytes in this and other processes.

Listeners: Martin Raff

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 2 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008