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Falling in love with a mistake


The rewards of being a scientist
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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It also turns out that I think now there are other views about science which I think are wrong. I mean... people... if you ask young people today what it is... what it is... what are the rewards of being a scientist. Well, you know, you could get many people today think the rewards are to win a lot of prizes and get a lot of money, perhaps have a piece of a company, and... and get promotion and have grants and have a big group and have all the material things. But nobody thinks... and have publications and have them all in the proper journals and people will fight and scream in order to get their publication into journals, that you know, have somehow got into the... fashionable accolade, you see. But I think that if you were to say, well, isn't the great thing about science that you can actually solve a problem? You can actually take something which is confused, a mess, and not only find a solution but prove it's the right one. Now, I mean, that to me is really what I think drives us, I mean, should drive us. And if there's other things, then I think it ought to be dismissed, you know, and maybe we ought to just put, you know, commercial in front of all the other things; The Journal of Commercial Molecular Biology, or the... The Journal of Commercial Neurobiology, and let people publish there. So I think that... and of course since these institutions are teaching young people... by virtue of the fact that they are working in them, that they are being socially assimilated into them, that's exactly what I think is the bad face of biology.

South African Sydney Brenner (1927-2019) 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



Duration: 2 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 29 September 2010