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'Just bring me back some soil from holiday'

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Martini's with Lord Rothschild leads to Nichol Thomson joining the team
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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I was very fortunate at the time, Lord Rothschild was a good friend of mine and I used to go and drink martinis with him every weekend. And he was for many years a scientist in the zoology department, and when he stopped doing science he had a technician - Nichol Thomson - who worked for him for many years, and whom he was anxious to find a job for. And he talked to me about it, and I said, this is ideal, I'd love to - Nichol was an electron microscope technician - and I said, I will get Nichol a job. And of course I wanted him, so he came and joined me. I have to say we had a lot of problems at the time because Nichol hadn't had a... a higher education in his life, having been born in a small... a small town in Scotland and not... had not completed much of... of higher education, let alone school education. And of course this was still... this was just in the days where people began to worry about qualifications and so on, which I think's completely nonsense. And of course we had to have... have a lot of arguments with administrators. We finally got Nichol a... a decent appointment, and he came in and began to tackle the problem... of these little beasts.

South African Sydney Brenner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. His joint discovery of messenger RNA, and, in more recent years, his development of gene cloning, sequencing and manipulation techniques along with his work for the Human Genome Project have led to his standing as a pioneer in the field of genetics and molecular biology.

Listeners: Lewis Wolpert

Lewis Wolpert is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London. His research interests are in the mechanisms involved in the development of the embryo. He was originally trained as a civil engineer in South Africa but changed to research in cell biology at King's College, London in 1955. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1980 and awarded the CBE in 1990. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999. He has presented science on both radio and TV and for five years was Chairman of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science.

 

 


Listen to Lewis Wolpert at Web of Stories

 

 

Tags: Nichol Thomson

Duration: 1 minute, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 29 September 2010