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Going to South Africa


The decision to join the Cavendish Laboratory
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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So I returned to South Africa in December of that year – it's '54 – with the idea that I would start to work on the genetics of cofactor requirement in order to prepare the way for a full gene protein analysis, and that is something that I could do in South Africa. And so I was extremely depressed when I left America, because at that time I thought: I'll never see it again. You know, that was the end of the… the end of everything. But of course there were already conversations, when I came back to South Africa on the way I went to England, and there I talked to Francis, and there… there we had this discussion on degenerate coding and templates, and there we had the idea that I would come to join them in the Cavendish because we were talking the same language. However, I had to go back to serve my bondage, and all the wheels would be done to try and bring me back as… as soon as possible.

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: South Africa, 1954, USA, UK, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University, Francis Crick

Duration: 1 minute, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 24 January 2008