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Magdalen College, Oxford


Peter Medawar: background
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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Peter's father was of Lebanese extraction, but had migrated to Brazil where he engaged in- no, excuse me, I take that back. To the Argentine, but he was- his work was on the Argentine/Brazilian border. I'm not actually sure actually if it was between Brazil and the Argentine where he established. But he married an English woman there. So Peter's mother was English and they lived in Buenos Aires I think. But his father was-made his money by collecting stones, some precious stones, some semi-precious stones, like agate, on the Brazilian/Argentine border. And there was a big export trade of that and he became, I think not very wealthy, but quite wealthy enough to send his son, no doubt at his wife's insistence, or between the husband and wife, sent their son to Marlborough School, which was a big influence on Peter. He had- he was taught by a master whose name I've forgotten, but it came up in his tutorials. He talked about his master a bit; the schoolmaster who'd influenced him. And that was an old fashioned Public School, as distinct from a Quaker school. And he then went on to take a degree in zoology. At Oxford? At Oxford. He did not take a Ph.D., D. Phil it would've been at Oxford. He didn't particularly encourage me actually. You don't need to take a D Phil. If you don't want to. He was out of date about that- you did need to by the time I was taking it but he hadn't done so. He had started, as I say, as an embryologist. The- the smartest thing that Peter Medawar ever did was not just start working with Gibson on the homograph reaction, but to marry Jean, his wife. At the time I first knew her, a stunningly good-looking young woman. Already with a flock of little children. I suppose sort of fell in love with her completely at the time and I always- I always think- I have the greatest admiration for her. She managed Peter's life successfully and she turned it into a- helped turn him into a respectable English professor, British professor, and by the time I finished in Oxford, he'd already been away for a year, taking his first Chair as Professor of Zoology in Birmingham. And he went on and he came back to University College. He completed- was going on working homograph reaction and he, with his colleagues, Billing and Brent discovered immunological tolerance, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. But that was terrific research. And then he went on to become Director of the National Institute of Medical Research.

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: 3 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008