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Meeting Father Time


How far down does a blush go?
John Bonner Scientist
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Two things that I remember about that was that I forced [my father] to go to Professor Parker's evening lecture and which is the kind of lecture that could only be given 100 years ago. And that is, Parker is famous for having shown that nerves in the skin produce substances which effect their surrounding cells. So you have these lizards which can change their colour, and they do that by these nerve processes that terminate in producing little chemical signals. And his lecture, this is what he said. 'Well', he said, 'you know, when I was working on this', he said, 'I was dying…' It's the same thing as a blush; blush is the same principle. And so he said, 'When I was working on this, I wondered how far down then neck a blush went'. And he said, 'So I decided to look into the matter'. And he said, 'And I couldn't get the answer!' He said, 'And the reason was that all the women, when I first started, wore their clothes right up to their neck, and then, the next step was, you could see everything'. And he said, 'And then, they didn't blush anymore'.

John Tyler Bonner (born in 1920) is an emeritus professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He is a pioneer in the use of cellular slime molds to understand evolution and development and is one of the world's leading experts on cellular slime molds. He says that his prime interests are in evolution and development and that he uses the cellular slime molds as a tool to seek an understanding of those twin disciplines. He has written several books on developmental biology and evolution, many scientific papers, and has produced a number of works in biology. He has led the way in making Dictyostelium discoideum a model organism central to examining some of the major questions in experimental biology.

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: nerves, skin, chemical signals, blush

Duration: 1 minute, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: February 2016

Date story went live: 14 September 2016