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Adam and Eve: myth-busting


Charles Darwin's career path
Francis Crick Scientist
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At one point he was considering becoming a clergyman. Then he considered becoming a doctor. And then almost by accident, he got this invitation to go on this… the voyage of The Beagle. And… it’s a very interesting case of a… of a man who didn’t go through what you might call the formal academic ladder. And then, of course, he had financial independence from his father. People don’t realise he had six or seven servants living in his house, you see. And that… he did get some money from his books, and certainly he was shrewd with his investments, but essentially he didn’t have to… he did have a job, I think, as a secretary in one of the societies, for a time, but once he moved out into the country, he was… he was self-supporting financially.

[Q] Why do you mention that? What’s the significance of that?

Well, I… I think because it was such an unusual career. He didn’t go through… be a professor and go through the academic thing and… and be paid. He certainly didn’t have to get grants, there weren’t any grants, and… and so on. So, it’s not something you’re likely to find nowadays. Very unusual. Even if you do find a rich man who wants to work, he usually works… goes and works in a lab as Victor Rothschild did, for example, till he was 50 – worked in the zoological lab at Cambridge.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

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: Cambridge University, HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin, Victor Rothschild

Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 08 January 2010