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Scientific work undertaken during medical school


Being the best in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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However, I got the top first-class in obstetrics and gynaecology, and that was simply because you had to go and do this in residence, and at the time there was… you had to go into residence in a maternity hospital, and at the time of course all the students were trying to get into the white maternity hospital, Florence Nightingale, and be in the professor's firm to further their careers, and I didn't care where they sent me, and so I got a hospital right at the bottom of the list. It was a hospital in Durban, it was a black hospital and it was just on the Congella docks, and the four medical students who were all the kind of… you know, the leftovers, had this hotel room in this hotel where… let me just put it this way: amoebic dysentery was the mildest disease you could catch there. The rest of the hotel, as far as I could work out was taken up by ladies who entertained the sailors from the ship, and we had a telephone that connected us to the black hospital. There was nothing else to do except learn how to deliver babies and study obstetrics. So, since I had to do it, I managed to do it extremely well, and I learnt a lot about life that way and… being stuck out there. So that's part of the thing.

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



Tags: Florence Nightingale Hospital, Durban, Congella

Duration: 1 minute, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 24 January 2008