And now for something completely different

Yesterday we were privileged to visit the new Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, opened by the Queen last month.

It is a very impressive building indeed, designed to look like a chromosome from the air. (I of course would not recognise one from any angle!) Our names and car registration had to be provided in advance and we were issued with visitors’ ID at reception and warned not to stray from our host. Scientific espionage is presumably prevalent.   The money for the building was provided by the Medical Research Council from its income from patents.  Many of these discoveries were made in the LMB on its old site.  “A Nobel Fellow on every floor” is the title of a book about the nine Nobel prize winners from this one laboratory, though most are now dead or retired.  The spaciousness of the whole place, not just the atrium, was beautiful.  There are even spaces for people to meet and sit and think and talk about science – or have parties, as empty wine bottles testified.  There are rows of cupboards full of equipment to be used as required.

Outside wild flower seeds were scattered, now providing beautiful natural meadows to cover the bare earth and builders rubble.  The most impressive thing to me was that not a penny of tax payers’ money was used to build this.  Britain should be proud of what its scientists can achieve and I hope the Open Day on Saturday will be well attended.


14 thoughts on “And now for something completely different”

  1. I am glad you enjoyed your visit, Sheona.

    Last week, I attended an Alumni Reunion Weekend at the jolly old Alma Mater, Kings College London. Amongst all the goodies and events on display was the famous original Photo 51, the X-ray diffraction photo taken by Rosalind Franklin that Wilkins showed to Crick and Watson and from which they all deduced that the DNA molecule was in the form of a double helix. A fascinating piece of history from which much has evolved.

  2. FEEG, we moved on to The Eagle, the pub where Crick and Watson came in to announce they had discovered “the secret of life”. I always feel that poor Rosalind Franklin never got the credit she deserved.

  3. Good for them, but if they accepted govt money they would be obliged to accept their dictums re research.
    This way they keep their autonomy. Just look at the global warming scam and how the govt has jerked the strings of the academics.

  4. sheona :

    FEEG, we moved on to The Eagle, the pub where Crick and Watson came in to announce they had discovered “the secret of life”. I always feel that poor Rosalind Franklin never got the credit she deserved.

    Sounds like fun. I have been to the Eagle as well, while attending various conferences in Cambridge. 🙂

    As for Rosalind Franklin she was, by all accounts, a very difficult person to deal with. The reason that she was not awarded the Nobel Prize with the others, was that it cannot be awarded posthumously, and she died prematurely, probably due to over-exposure to X-rays.

  5. Be very careful, Janus! The MRC is of course totally separate from the university.

  6. Looking at the list of team leaders it appears to be depressingly short of what one might describe as typically British names. I am guessing that only a third have been living in Britain for more than one generation. I wonder if that says anything about the abilities of Britons and their education system.

  7. OK, I’ve just worked out that by “team leaders” you are referring to the list of “group leaders” on the MRC website, Sipu. There seems to be a fair few AS names, but any top-notch research institute will recruit the leaders in their fields. Much of the MRC’s money comes from the patents on products derived from César Milstein’s work on monoclonal antibodies. Milstein was an Argentinian, but political persecution of intellectuals there drove him back to Cambridge. So Britain has its own reward for providing the freedom for scientists to do their work, even if some of them are not “britannique de souche”.

  8. It’s hardly a phenomenon that the leading institutions everywhere employ the world’s best. I’m thinking of Wittgenstein, Einstein and von Braun. And many of the brightest Brits have decamped abroad too.

  9. I take your point Sheona, but one wonders if one would find an appropriate proportion of Brits in other foreign institutions. Of course I use the Royal One.

  10. There is definitely a continuing ‘trade’ in scientists moving all over the globe. Our
    British scientists go everywhere, sometimes to stay and some return to the UK after a few years.Several of my family have done so and returned to prestigious positions in the UK in due course.
    Had the boy lived he would have gone to Stanford, he had been corresponding for several years on a project with one of their senior staff who wanted him to come over after he had his doctorate. The general public only hear about the tip of the iceberg and the Nobel winners which is all a bit of lottery anyway.
    There are a hell of a lot of British in Silicon Valley earning fortunes no one has ever heard of except on PBS TV science programmes!

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