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Being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society


Left-right asymmetry
Lewis Wolpert Scientist
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We did, of course get involved in… in other things. I was, for example, quite involved in left-right and… left-right asymmetry, and one… one of the things, you know, your body is symmetrical, but your heart is on the left and one of the problems is, how do… how do you specify left from right? And that’s really quite a funny story because I was at one stage an editor of… of a journal called Developmental Biology and they asked each editor to write a little review and I wrote a little review about left-right asymmetry. And they rejected it on the grounds… they said, ‘Why should we publish a review on a topic that no one has the slightest interest in?’ so they rejected my review. Peter Lawrence — a friend of mine then — persuaded me, looking at the review, that I really ought to come up with a model. I came up with a model with Nigel Brown as to how you could specify left-right asymmetry with an asymmetrical molecule, that if you had an asymmetrical molecule — an F-shaped molecule — and if that F-shaped molecule was oriented along the axes of the embryo, then you could see how left and right could be established and we published this as a review in Development and it’s a widely-quoted paper, I’m delight… I’m delighted to… to say. So there have been other aspects of… of development that I’ve been involved in.

Lewis Wolpert (1929-2021) CBE FRS FRSL was a developmental biologist, author, and broadcaster. He was educated at the University of Witwatersrand (BSc), Imperial College London, and at King's College London (PhD). He was Emeritus Professor of Biology as applied to medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at University College London. In addition to his scientific and research publications, he wrote about his own experience of clinical depression in Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression (1999).

Listeners: Eleanor Lawrence

Eleanor Lawrence is a freelance science writer and editor, and co-author of Longman Dictionary of Environmental Science.

Tags: Developmental Biology, Development, Peter Lawrence, Nigel Brown

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2010

Date story went live: 14 June 2010