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Enjoying academe


Gaining an education thanks to my parents' hard work
Eric Kandel Scientist
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I should tell you a bit about my parents in this time, because it was really quite remarkable. So here’s my father, a person with limited education, who ran a very nice toy store, and found that when he came to the United States, the kinds of toys he specialized in were of no interest to people. He actually had collaborated with a woman, and they developed Puppenschachtel.  They developed doll boxes in which you got the complete works. You got the doll, you got clothing to change the doll, a bed for it to sleep, and this all came. And she made it for him, and he sold it.

Came to the United States, none of that was of any interest to somebody, so he began to sell haberdashery from door to door, carrying a suitcase. And he did this for several years, and he made enough money to rent a store on 411 Church Avenue. After a while, we rented the apartment above it, so we could live in the same building, which was very nice for my mother who worked… she could go upstairs, fix lunch, blah, blah, blah. Worked very well. And ultimately he was able to buy the building he was in, and they supported us through, you know, high school, college, and actually supported me in medical school. So in Erasmus I really found myself, and then it opened up Harvard for me.

Eric Kandel (b. 1929) is an American neuropsychiatrist. He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. Kandel, who had studied psychoanalysis, wanted to understand how memory works. His mentor, Harry Grundfest, said, 'If you want to understand the brain you're going to have to take a reductionist approach, one cell at a time.' Kandel then studied the neural system of the sea slug Aplysia californica, which has large nerve cells amenable to experimental manipulation and is a member of the simplest group of animals known to be capable of learning. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He is also Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. Kandel's popularized account chronicling his life and research, 'In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind', was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: parents, family life, toys, dolls, Puppenschachtel, toy store

Duration: 1 minute, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016