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JBS Haldane: writing popular science


JBS Haldane: going to India
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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He went to India, but I don't really remember when. Perhaps around, in the middle 1950s, or maybe like towards the end of the '50s. And nobody exactly knew why he went to India. But I think there were probably positive and negative feelings, and it was probably that the negative feeling was that science was getting organised into groups and laboratories and all that, and he didn't quite fit into that picture. He was more somebody who liked to move around in science and look at what was going on. And, to begin with, people were very interested and, in the mathematical biology and the genetics people still were. He was a serious figure in- in population genetics. But perhaps more of the 1930s than the 1940s. So there were- his sort of science was drifting away. He had, I was told, he never explained this to me, that he had very warm memories of India from the time of the '14-'18 war- he'd spent time there and he'd loved the colours and the warmth. He was a bit rheumaticky. So that was an attraction. And, I think above all, the Indians made it clear that they'd really like to have him, particularly his friend, Mahalanobis, who was running the ISI, the Indian Science Institute in Calcutta, which he'd invented. And India, at that time, was a sort of socialist dream. Nehru, first of all, you know, the colonial power had been thrown out and it was replaced by a Government which wasn't going to fall into the clutches of the Soviet Union. It was going to lead a life of its own, but they were going to be Socialists and they were going to have their five-year plans which they went on to have. I don't know whether India still has five-year plans. I think they've given up that nonsense. It was very much part of part of it at the time and Mahalanobis was a friend of Nehru, and I'm sure he told Jack that that could be influential in the development of India. Which perhaps it was, up to a point. Up to a point. But, I think what he really liked doing was going around Indian- talking to Indian scientists and being appreciated by them, and well, going on the ways sort of professors do.

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, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008