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Cracking calculus


The biddies of Harvard
John Bonner Scientist
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Harvard was a very different place then it is now. It's amazing what… when we were there as an undergraduate, there were waitresses in the dining hall. The idea of such a thing just seems incredible now. We had all sorts of perks. We had biddies who came to clean our rooms, and make our beds. It's hard to believe, but it's of course, left over from 19th century way things were done. And biddies were great. They were all Irish women, and we loved them. One day I was going out to some big exam and a biddy said, have a good day, or something of that sort. And I said, 'I'm terrible'. I said, 'I have to take this exam. And I'm not so sure I'm going to do too well'. 'Oh', she said, 'you'll do all right'. And I said, 'How do you know?' And she said, 'I lit a candle for you last night'. So we were very well taken care of by the biddies.

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: Harvard

Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: February 2016

Date story went live: 14 September 2016