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A memorable meal


Notable scientist friends
John Bonner Scientist
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[Q] Do you remember how you felt or what you thought when you first heard about Crick and Watson?

Oh, I just immediately saw that they had their Eureka moment in a big, big, big way. Because the implications were so enormous. And it seemed to me, obviously the case is that was so. And I must confess that I'm one of those people who love the novel that came out - actually, not the novel, but the writing up of it. What was it called?

[Q] The Double Helix.

The Double Helix, I loved it. A lot of people didn't like it because they felt it demeaned great science. But I didn't think so at all. I thought it was just human and nothing could shake down their discovery.

[Q] I thought it was a wonderful book, a really brilliant book, yes.

I knew Naomi Mitchison quite well.

[Q] Who?

Naomi Mitchison.

[Q] Oh, did you, oh, yes, yes. Yes, do you… you stayed…

Excuse me?

[Q] You stayed with them.

Oh yes, a number of times.

[Q] Talk about that.

Well, going there was always a great…

[Q] Can you say where?

Yes, it's on the West Coast of Scotland, on Kintyre. And it's very remarkably wild, and not only the weather, but the scenery is so. And the Mitchisons bought, way back, a Victorian mansion. And one doesn't think of that as being necessarily nice. But it was lovely. And they're very keen on gardening and so their gardens were just fantastic. And they always had interesting people there. So the first time we went, when Dick, who's a Member of Parliament was there, and Naomi, we had about 20 people. And no servants, or anything of that sort. Everybody pitched in. I don't think I pitched in enough, but however. And it was really quite extraordinary, and Murdoch, and in fact, the whole family would come up. So Av would come up, and Laura, his wife, and it was a big, big family and there was a big, big house. And it was very, very nice

[Q] Did you talk about science?

Well, I did primarily with Murdoch, actually, more than anybody else partly because, Av was never there very long. But Av was good to talk about science because he would pick at what you were doing in a way, which made you a little nervous because he's so, perhaps, in it more than you could say, extraordinary mind.

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: The Double Helix, Francis Crick, James Watson, Naomi Mitchison, Avrion Mitchison

Duration: 3 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: February 2016

Date story went live: 14 September 2016