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'I'm among the people who cannot live without nature'


An early interest in botany and love for nature
Jan Klein Scientist
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I think that the first stimulus that made me interested in science was a textbook... botany textbook that I found in the attic. It was actually only a fragment of a textbook because there were pages torn out already and it was in a bad condition but I could realize that some of the plants that were depicted there were growing in our garden or somewhere around our village and so I became interested in identifying them and this was my first approach to actually learning that plants have scientific names and that there are some interesting stories about it... interesting stories about them. But I think that... well I actually don't know why I became interested in natural history, I just know that as long as I remember I was interested in nature. Plants, especially, but birds, mammals and all fish and all other kinds of natural things. It could not have been just the environment, you could say I was born in a village, I was surrounded by nature all the time, others were exposed to the same environment and they didn't develop this feeling. For me it must have been, I think, in the combination of our genes that, for some reason, I inherited from my ancestors, although again there is no indication that anybody in my... among my ancestors was interested in natural history. But somehow it appears that it was wired in... in my brain and it was a feeling that I think only people who have similar feeling will understand. I could... I think there are two kinds of people; some have that relationship... the nature wired in and others that do not understand that at all. I just... I remember once hearing on the radio someone talking with some businessman and they were talking about yards and gardens and so on, he would say, 'I don't know why these people bother to have anything green around their house, I just feel that with concrete I'm quite happy with it'.

Born in 1936, Jan Klein is a Czech-American immunologist who co-founded the modern science of immunogenetics – key to understanding illness and disease. He is the author or co-author of over 560 scientific publications and of seven books including 'Where Do We Come From?' which examines the molecular evolution of humans. He graduated from the Charles University at Prague in 1955, and received his MS in Botany from the same school in 1958. From 1977 to his retirement in 2004, he was the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology at Tübingen, Germany.

Listeners: Colm O'hUigin

Colm O'hUigin is a senior staff scientist at the US National Cancer Institute. He received his BA, MSc and PhD at the Genetics Department of Trinity College, Dublin where he later returned as a lecturer. He has held appointments at the Center for Population and Demographic Genetics, UT Houston, and at the University of Cambridge. As an EMBO fellow, he moved in 1990 to the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen, Germany to work with Jan Klein and lead a research group studying the evolutionary origins of immune molecules, of teeth, trypanosomes and of species.

Duration: 3 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008