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Competing for a place to study for a PhD


Saved from a teaching post on the Czechoslovakian border
Jan Klein Scientist
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I graduated from the gymnasium, I went to the university for four years, became a teacher with specialisation in biology and chemistry and got a job in Prague. Actually it was not so... it didn't look like this would happen. When you finished the university there were positions sent to the university which were available, they were all over the country. Of course everybody wanted to stay in Prague. I wanted to go back to Silesia but there was nothing, no position, so I also said I want to stay in Prague. Everybody else got it... I didn't. So I got a position which was at the border of Czechoslovakia and Germany.  It was a wild country. It is to this day. I will not name the place, because I could be sued maybe for it, but it was known to be the worst that you can get. Again, if I would have gone there, would have been Not Smoking, it would have been going my life in completely different direction, we would not be sitting here. But as I was in the final years at the university, we had to practice teaching and I was teaching for short times at different... even elementary schools we had to practice and then high schools and then gymnasium. And the professor who was responsible for that liked... thought I was a talented teacher and so he insisted that I should get a position in Prague in the model school where the other university students were practising and where I was actually practising. So it was on his... and there was a position available and he got me into that school. So again there was deus ex machina that means decision that came out of the blue which I had no influence on and which would have... would change my life.

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.

Tags: Prague, Smoking/No Smoking, Alain Resnais

Duration: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008