… the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

The interesting thing is, nowadays my career would have been impossible in the sense that I did classics, ancient Greek and Latin, all my school time and then had to switch to science. My poor parents had to pay an extra year of private tuition to get into science. In those days they were actually short of students in Oxford, and so I received a curious letter from the admissions tutor in Oxford that said they would accept me on two conditions. One was that I came into residence immediately, in a week’s time, and the second was that I did not study the subject in which I had been examined. This is unimaginable!

So, you were being ordered not to become a classicist!

Absolutely. They said I’m not suitable for that. I later met the person socially. He was the man, [Hugh] Trevor-Roper, who later became Lord Dacre, very involved in the last days of Hitler, and he told me privately that his mind was on greater things and he’d realized he hadn’t filled the places in the college, and so he looked down the list of unsuitable people.

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One Response to “Steps along a path to…”

  1. Bernard Carroll Says:

    Professor Gurdon was indeed fortunate to have such a mentor as he describes, for mentoring is an altruistic activity, nowadays often undervalued by universities. Mentoring is not a role for the narcissistic or the insecure. Good mentors do not compete with their trainees or exploit them, much less claim credit for the trainee’s work. Mentors are role models for good laboratory practice, for good data management, for ethical standards, and for interactions with support staff and colleagues. The mentor-trainee relationship is different from a teacher-pupil relationship. It is an evolving relationship, the goal of which is independent development.

    Speaking of what is needed for success in science, a past Nobel Laureate Bernard Katz put it this way, “I cannot give a prescription, but it needs a combination of intelligence, willpower to overcome setbacks, readiness to follow unexpected leads, plus a good mentor and a great deal of luck!”

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