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Going to school in America

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Sailing to Hoboken
Eric Kandel Scientist
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In March, end of March, beginning of April, our number came up. My grandparents left in February. We left at the beginning of April. And in order to get…

[Q] That was you and Lewis?

Lewis and [I] left in… that’s right. Lewis and [I] left in April. And I remember this vividly as yesterday, going to the train station to take a train to Antwerp… I’m sorry, to Brussels, where my aunt and uncle, who were from Vienna but much more affluent than us, had escaped to. They had a small apartment there, and we stayed with them for a day or two until we were ready to leave to Antwerp from where the ship left.

As we got onto the train, my parents, particularly my mother, had such confidence. I was never in any way frightened. I had the feeling everything would work out all right. I would soon see her. On the train officers came through, and asked whether we had any jewelry with us. I knew that they were going to come through, I’d been told that, and had a small ring that my parents had given me, with my initials on it and I had hidden it in my pocket. And when they came through, I did not reveal this, but I was terrified. I was sure they would somehow realize that I was hiding something, but fortunately they didn’t. So I quaked quietly, and survived.

We then took the SS Geroldstein, and I still have the list of all the passengers in that ship in this room. And it was like a nine-day voyage to the United States. And I remember I quite enjoyed the trip, but my brother was terribly seasick, was below deck most of the time. And when we came here, we were met both by - we arrived in Hoboken - we were met both by my grandparents, and by my uncle and aunt. And my grandparents had a small apartment on 1119 Coney Island Avenue and we stayed with them. And when my parents came they also joined us in that apartment.

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: USA, voyage, emigration, ring, seasickness

Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016