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My interest was science with a human application


Nurturing my fledgling interest in science
Harold Lambert Physician
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[Q] What started your interest in science then?

Well, I think it probably started when I went to the main school at 12, which was St Paul's Boys' School, then in Hammersmith and then in the country when the war started and I don't exactly know why but I got grabbed by science very early. And I suppose the main time was the years between what was then called school cert and getting... and going to Cambridge. When I... I read hugely, absolutely totally indiscriminately; I think I read books about things which I didn't know anything about just to keep reading but the... one of the central things was science and I think I was really very influenced by my reading about science. There were a lot of... I suppose there were the earlier equivalents of people like Richard Dawkins and so on: James Jeans, Arthur Eddington, above all JBS Haldane and they made me feel how very interesting science was and I think that there were probably other ones. I think I read Inquiries into Human Faculty by Galton, a rather weird thing to read.

[Q] And what did that... I don't know that, what...

Well, it was really a first attempt at finding out how people's minds worked, I think. And another one was The Grammar of Science by Karl Pearson... even then would have been a much older figure. I mean, I can't now remember what they were all about actually but they influenced me a lot and especially Haldane and things like Lancelot Hogben Mathematics for the Million and Science for the Citizen. They all... many of the authors had a very strong left wing agenda, which I didn't actually kind of register on or appreciate at those times but they thought very much of the social function of science and popularising it.

British doctor Harold Lambert (1926-2017) spent his career tackling infectious diseases, helping in the development of pyrazinamide as an effective treatment for tuberculosis. He also published work on the rational use of antibiotics and was a trustee and medical advisor for the Meningitis Research Foundation.

Listeners: Roger Higgs

Roger Higgs was an inner city GP for 30 years in south London, UK, and is Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Kings College London, where he set up the department.

He gained scholarships in classics at Cambridge but changed to medicine after a period of voluntary work in Kenya in 1962. He was Harold Lambert's registrar for 18 months in the early 1970s, the most influential and exciting episode in his hospital training. He set up his own practice in 1975. He helped to establish medical ethics as a practical and academic subject through teaching, writing and broadcasting, and jointly set up the 'Journal of Medical Ethics' in 1975.

His other work included studies in whole person assessment and narrative in general practice and development work in primary medical care: innovations here included intermediate care centres, primary care assessment in accident and emergency departments, teaching internal medicine in general practice and establishing counselling services in medicine.

He was made MBE in 1987 for this development work and now combines bioethics governance, teaching and writing with an arts based retirement.

Tags: St Paul's School, Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, The Grammar of Science, Mathematics for the Million, Science for the Citizen, Karl Pearson, Richard Dawkins, James Hopwood Jeans, Arthur Stanley Eddington, John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, JBS Haldane, Francis Galton, Lancelot Hogben

Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008