Is science boring? Last month, I became involved in a discussion on Twitter as to whether that statement was true. In some cases it is – experimental work isn’t all about mixing chemicals to make explosions, or smashing atoms together in a particle accelerator. It can be monotonous, repetitive and downright dull – but it’s a means to an end with an outcome hopefully more interesting than the journey.
It’s 1945, and Alexander Fleming is giving his Nobel Lecture. He tells the story of the accidental discovery of penicillin with humbleness and poise, and just before handing over to Sir Howard Florey with whom he shared the prize, he utters words which have come to hold a particular poignancy.
A long time ago, in a laboratory not far from here, a scientist sat in his lab pondering his latest results. This scientist inhabited the mysterious realm of “celebrity” – held in high regard for his magical discoveries. Fast forward to the present day and celebrity status is reserved for sportsmen, supermodels and singers – why did scientists fall from grace?
In this modern age of research where ‘interdisciplinary’ and ‘translational’ are the watchwords of the fund givers – a recent piece of work has struck me as particularly germane. It has turned something utterly destructive into something potentially ‘miraculous’.