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Salk Institute: Architect Louis Kahn


Fiona growing up
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
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And then Maureen started to worry, she would say, 'Now, how can we bring this child up in this environment?' You know, at the end of the 1960s, there was this whole movement, etc. This worried many of us, all of us and especially Maureen and we decided that we had to leave the USA and so I got in touch with an acquaintance of mine, a friend in London, who... who was a very influential person, so, because he was the director of the laboratory of...

[Q] In Imperial? Is that right?

... of the laboratory... What was it called? The Imperial Cancer Laboratory in London, and so I... well, he called me, he said, 'Come and work with us', so he gave me a position there and I went to London to work. And this, from the point of view of our daughter, was wonderful for her, because we went there when she was two years old, and... I don't know how, Maureen knew someone who had... a rather old person who had one of these small... a type of... what's it called... Where they look after children... a nursery school, informal so...

[Q] Almost in a house?


[Q] A little home, perhaps?

No, there were a few children and then these children would have things to play with, but they were also able to do practical things, for example, reading, writing, seeing how things work, doing all this... Yes, learning. So Fiona, grew up... it was wonderful. So when she reached the age in England when children can go to school, when they have passed four and a half years old, we took her to a well-known school in the neighbourhood and there they tested her and decided she was very clever and that perhaps we shouldn't put her in the first class but in a higher class, because...

[Q] Just like her Dad!

So, then in the end, the result was that she was advanced two years. You see, this is the significance that I talk about of childhood education... sending children to school at six years old, this is too late, you need to send them a lot earlier, because then children learn a whole load of things.

[Q] And then this happened 30 years ago or even earlier with you. But think nowadays children that you have... it is important not to leave them like that.

But now an episode that I remember very well... on questions, precisely, of how children learn and despite us we are not aware of it. So I remember, when my daughter was born, one of our friends sent a package where there was a type of book that said 'to create an active mind'; and what it was, was a series of boxes with the name written in large letters and there were two that were bigger these boxes and one said 'mummy & daddy', and the others were all English words. So, out of curiosity, we, every so often, when we took these and we showed them, our daughter looked at them and didn't seem to be interested at all. I realised soon with time that she was learning something, because after a little time, when the larger boxes were taken out, she immediately said 'mummy or daddy', because she knew that they were there, but she wasn't able to read for the time being. But then the definitive proof it was beautiful when she was, I don't know, about a year and a half, I'd say...

[Q] Very young then.

Very young. We were... when a friend came to visit... this was when we were still in the USA, we were at 'La Jolla'. We were all gathered around a round table, there was me, Maureen and our friend, and Fiona who was not quite walking properly, but moving from one knee to the other... and there was this thing on the table, this book, this collection of things. Then I was explaining, he asked me what it was and I explained what it was. And he took one of these and showed it to her. She was watching him and said 'elbow' and it was perfectly right. Perhaps she read all these things already, but she didn't let us know. And in fact we tried afterwards, subsequently, but nothing, she didn't respond. You see that it's strange, this is the aptitude. But the fact is that they learn in a fantastic way.

E poi Maureen ha cominciato a preoccuparsi, dice, 'Adesso, questa bambina, come facciamo a farla crescere in questo ambiente?. Sai, alla fine degli anni '60, c'era tutto questo movimento etc. Questo preoccupava molto noi, tutti noi e specialmente Maureen- e abbiamo deciso che dovevamo lasciare gli Stati Uniti e allora mi sono messo in contatto con un mio conoscente un mio amico di Londra, che era una persona molto autorevole, insomma, perché era direttore del laboratorio del...

[Q] All'Imperial? No?

Del laboratorio... come si chiama? Dell'Imperial Cancer Laboratory di Londra, e così sono insomma lui mi ha chiamato, dice, 'Vieni a lavorare con noi', così mi ha dato una posizione lì e sono andato a Londra a lavorare. E questo, dal punto di vista di nostra figlia, è stata una cosa estremamente utile, perché lei siamo andati lì che aveva due anni, e... non so come, Maureen ha avuto modo di conoscere una persona che aveva... una persona piuttosto anziana che aveva uno di questi piccolo una specie di... come si chiama... per far crescere... per i bambini, insomma... un asilo, informale cosi...

[Q] Quasi in casa, anche?


[Q] Un piccolo nido, forse?

No, c'erano parecchi bambini e poi questi bambini avevano modo di giocare, ma avevano anche modo di essere esposti a questioni pratiche, per esempio, a leggere, a scrivere, a vedere le cose giocando, facevano tutto questo... Sì, per imparare. Perciò lei, Fiona, insomma è cresciuta... è stata benissimo. Percui quando ha raggiunto l'età in Inghilterra quando i bambini possono andare a scuola, quando hanno passato i 4 anni e mezzo, e quando aveva passato i 4 anni e mezzo, l'abbiamo portata a una scuola molto ben nota nelle vicinanze e lì l'hanno messa sotto esame e hanno deciso che era molto brava e che forse dovevano metterla non in prima, ma magari più avanti, perché...

[Q] Come il papà!

Insomma, poi alla fine, il risultato è che anche lei ha avuto un'accelerazione di due anni. Vedi, questo è il significato che io dico dell'educazione infantile... che si mandano i bambini a scuola all'età di 6 anni, questo è troppo tardi, bisogna mandarli molto prima, perché poi imparano un mucchio di cose i bambini.

[Q] E poi questo succedeva 30 anni fa o anche prima con te. Ma pensa oggigiorno i bambini quello che hanno- bisognerebbe non lasciarli così.

Ma, adesso, un episodio che mi ricordo molto bene... su questioni, appunto, di come i bambini imparano e magari noi non ne siamo coscienti. Perciò mi ricordo, quando la bambina è nata, un nostro amico ha mandato un pacco dove c'era una specie di libro che dice 'per fare una mente attiva'; e quello che era, era una serie di cartoni con il nome scritto in grossi caratteri e c'erano due che erano più grandi questi cartoni e uno diceva 'mummy & daddy', papà e mamma, e gli altri erano tutte parole in inglese. Così, per curiosità, noi ogni tanto, quando prendevamo questi e glieli facevamo vedere, la bambina li guardava e sembrava non interessarsi affatto. Mi sono accorto presto con il tempo che lei qualcosa imparava, perché, dopo un po' di tempo, quando si tiravano fuori i cartoni più grandi, immediatamente lei diceva 'mummy' o 'daddy', perché sapeva che erano lì, ma anche non leggeva per il momento. Ma poi la prova definitiva bellissima è stata quando lei aveva... non so... un anno e mezzo, direi, insomma così...

[Q] Piccina, proprio.

Molto piccina. Eravamo... quando è venuto a trovarci un amico... questo ancora eravamo negli Stati Uniti, eravamo a 'La Jolla'. Eravamo tutti radunati attorno a un tavolo rotondo, c'era io, Maureen e questo nostro amico, e Fiona che, insomma, non camminava proprio, ma da un ginocchio all'altro, si spostava, così... e c'era questo affare sul tavolo, questo libro, questa collezione di cosi... allora gli spiegavo, mi domanda cos'è e gli spiego cos'è. E lui prende uno di questi e glielo fa vedere. Lei lo guarda e dice 'elbow' ed era perfettamente giusto, capisci? Lei forse leggeva già tutti questi affari, ma non lo faceva sapere. E difatti abbiamo provato dopo, successivamente, niente, non rispondeva. Si vede che... che strano, insomma, questa è l'attitudine. Ma il fatto è imparano in maniera fantastica.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Tags: daughter, family life, growing up, childhood, education

Duration: 5 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008