Peter Medawar with colleagues at the NIMR
Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate and Director of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in the 1960s, was born 100 years ago on 28 February. Here Frank Norman, Head of Library Services at the NIMR, looks back on how his research into skin grafts led to modern organ transplants, and his significant role in encouraging and supporting young scientists.
It was in 1940 that transplantation sparked the interest of the young Peter Medawar. While working as a researcher at the University of Oxford, an RAF plane crashed near to his home and one of the airmen suffered severe burns.
Through his experience of trying to help the airman, Medawar became interested in treating burn victims with skin grafts – a risky and often unsuccessful intervention. He prepared a review of the literature, Notes on the problem of skin homografts, which he sent to the War Wounds Committee of the MRC. Read more
(Image copyright: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology)
We published an article last week about the central place of the tea or coffee break in scientific progress. In this linked post we’ve raided the photo archives once again to find this picture of Gisela Perutz, who was responsible for setting up the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology’s canteen, the site of many a fruitful conversation.
This photograph, taken in 1979, shows Gisela Perutz, wife of MRC LMB scientist and Chairman Max Perutz, receiving a bouquet of flowers upon her retirement from the institute’s canteen. This was the site of many celebrations — including a few ‘Nobel parties’ — in its more than 50 years of feeding and watering the institute’s staff.
Gisela was central to the canteen in its first two decades. When the LMB was established in 1962, the researchers moved over from the pre-existing ‘Unit for Research on the Molecular Structure of Biological Systems’ in the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Lab closer to the centre of Cambridge. As well as having the Cavendish coffee room, researchers could more easily nip out together for a bite to eat at places such as The Eagle pub (where Watson and Crick announced in February 1953 that they’d discovered the structure of DNA). Read more
(Image credit: Flickr/JenK)
Tea rooms and canteens have long been popular places for scientists to mingle and swap ideas. Katherine Nightingale explores how a chat over a coffee can lead to unexpected discoveries.
In the bright and airy canteen of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology’s new building, Dr Richard Henderson is demonstrating his habit of drawing on saucers, taking a — water soluble — pen from his pocket and sketching a neat blue graph on a saucer’s rim.
He’s not doodling but rather trying to get across the idea that the canteen, while a place to get a cup of tea or coffee, is also a place to share ideas, sometimes on the very crockery provided.
It’s not a new concept. The tea room in the Physics Department at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge inspired Max Perutz to persuade the MRC to build a canteen open to everyone when the MRC unit moved to the ‘old’ LMB building in 1962. As the LMB’s chairman, he was keen to create a space where people from different disciplines and career stages could get together. Read more