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Decision to study chemistry


Decision to go into research
Christian de Duve Scientist
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And so in 1941 I got my MD degree. But by then, of course, it was almost impossible to conduct any sort of research because we couldn't get the chemicals, we couldn't feed the animals and so on, so I was left to... doing library research. But in the meantime there was a problem of getting a job, making a living. '41... I was an MD so what was I going to do? And so I went to see my professor, Bouckaert and I said to him, well, I don't want to become a physician, I want to do research, so I'd like to try and find a job to do research. He said, well, that's quite impossible and I think that's very stupid of you because you will never get a professorship at this university because you are not the son of a professor, you're not the nephew of a bishop and therefore there is no way for you to get a job. I said, but I don't really need to have a job at this university, there are other universities in the world, the war will be over one day and I'm a citizen of the world. Well, that's the way I felt when I was young, with the kind of background I had. And he said, yes well in any case, you can't do that now and I think you should not forget that you have an MD degree and that is probably the way you will be able to earn your living. And so I suggest that you try and take a job at the hospital as an assistant in one of... Well, two jobs were available for... two assistantships were available, one in internal medicine.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: 1941

Duration: 2 minutes

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008