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’.
Definitions of nanotechnology have been in an almost constant state of flux since the ‘birth’ of the discipline in the late 80s. I say birth, but perhaps ‘coalescence’ is a more correct term. When a new scientific field comes into being, it draws on previous work and expertise – often from disparate sources – as it finally fuses into a bona-fide discipline of its own.
An incredibly well-preserved fossil of two duelling dinosaurs is set to go under the hammer this month, fetching as much as $10m – but at what cost to science?