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Lucky to be a scientist


The lottery of life
Jan Klein Scientist
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I would like to return to the point at which I started with the Smoking/Non Smoking [sic] metaphor. In my life, there have been numerous occasions on which the metaphor could be applied. Some were very obvious, some less and some probably I was not even aware of, but the obvious ones were whether I would stay alive or not. There were several occasions when it could have gone into the 'not' direction, whether I would study or not study, whether I would become a teacher or not a teacher, whether I would be a botanist or some other scientist, whether I would defect or return to my home country, whether I would study H2 and non-H2, not H2, et cetera, et cetera. This session is in fact... is indeed the result of an incredible series of improbabilities, but I don't think it's anything... excuse me... I don't think it's anything unusual. Everybody's life is probably like that, and this is just that... I think that this is just one example of what many others have experienced. It is an example of a lottery that we are always playing the whole life and actually before we even become anything resembling human beings, the largest lottery actually occurs when one egg is selected to encounter another sperm... one sperm, and from that moment on until another lottery, the final lottery, our death, it ends the series of Smoking/Non Smoking [sic] events in our 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: Smoking/No Smoking

Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008