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Science, politics and religion


The Weizmann Institute
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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Almost the first generation of biologists in the Weizmann Institute included two eminent immunologists, Michael Sela and Michael Feldman, and they were- they have been around in immunology for as long as I have. I found them extraordinarily attractive and interesting people, very communicative, very interesting in ideas and they were one of the reasons why, I think- there's a kind of a special contribution to science from Judaism, which is to do with- perhaps it is to do with the Talmud as my uncle JBS thought, which teaches you whatever the question is you have to turn it over and look at the other side, so theories, all theories, are up for grabs. So they were- it was lovely having Michael Sayer and Michael Feldman around and meeting them at meetings and talking to them a lot. So then, you know, I happened to be around in the Weizmann Institute for- I used to visit when there were- there were some people from the UK end of the Weizmann Foundation in Britain who were there and they said, well, perhaps you would like to- I think I offered myself to them, I said I would love to help in any way I could and they said oh, well, come and join our- join our committee, which I did, and I have been a member of it ever since. And whatever you think about Israel and its place in the world, in science its contribution is quite disproportionate to its size. Its scientific community has always tried to reach out to and include Arabs in the Arab component of Israel and the rest of the Arab world. Politics has got in the way of that and the contributions which one feels that Israeli science should be making to, for example, the biology of arid zones, it can't make because of the politics. How important has the Weizmann been for the politics of Israel in general, has it had an impact, do you think? I can't answer that question. I have never met an Israeli who isn't proud of the Weizmann Institute. It's possible that that shows the sort of Israelis that I know rather than the state of public opinion in Israel.

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, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008