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Never more than top six in high school


The early books that inspired me to do chemistry
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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But one of the early books… there are two early books that I read while I went through school which were in the field of science and which I remember very clearly. One was called The Young Chemist, and this was a book by a man called Sherwood Taylor, and it gave wonderful recipes for how to do chemistry experiments, and I lost my copy of that unfortunately, but I'd started doing chemistry at the age of 10. By this time we had changed our houses and had moved into the house in the southern parts of Germiston – so that was 1937 – where there was a garage and which… we didn't have a car, and that's when I started to do chemistry in a serious way. It was very difficult of course to get apparatus and… and this, but I saved my money and bought a test-tube every two weeks or some reagent and of course went to buy these at the pharmacist. And… so those experiments there which were involved… you know, in making pigments and so on. I started doing biochemistry shortly after that, which was extracting pigments from leaves and petals and so on, and actually discovering that anthocyanin pigments actually responded to pH and, needless to say, that was not an original discovery.

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: The Young Chemist, Germiston, 1937, Sherwood Taylor

Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 24 January 2008