May Brenner on Raising a Family Earning PH.Ds
  May Brenner     Biography    
Recorded: 14 Jun 2005

I find this very difficult because after I was ill my children insisted that I have somebody here every evening with me for a little bit. She was a very nice woman, but she is a very quiet woman. So either we sat and stared at each other or I told her stories. So I seem to have had my fill of telling stories. Well, I think if I wanted to tell stories, my mind is going back to South Africa. Well, there early days in Oxford when it rained every single day and there was still rationing food and we used to send my eldest son out to buy face meat which is the meat of the face of the cattle and that was off ration. That was where Sydney’s first son, Stefan, was born in Oxford. Sydney was writing his D.Phil. I had just got my PhD. I got the news that I had passed my PhD in the Radcliff hospital at Oxford and then came back and he was doing his D.Phil. The baby cried all night and he just sat writing his paper with the baby over his shoulder so I could get some sleep. It was prior to that I had morning sickness. So all over my PhD paper was what I’d eaten the meal before. Then he would come in and clean up the mess and I’d say, I’m not going to do this PhD. I’ll just forget the PhD. And Syd would say, yes, it’s alright. I’ll do the grass again. What were you writing? What was that first sentence again?” And he would get me going again and then I would get the strength to go on and write. As I say, after that, he was finishing his D.Phil with a baby on his arm. He worked in the evening in the labs and my son Jonathan and I packed the baby with hot water bottles and we packed the supper and we took the pram—it was always cold in Oxford, down to the lab. Jonathan washed all the lab dishes for the experiments while Sydney had his supper and Stefan screamed away. Then we made the return journey and that was a very great contrast. It was after that we went—I went back with the boys to South Africa and he went to California to work with Francis Crick in California. South Africa was such a different world.

May Brenner was married to Sydney Brenner from December 1952 until her death in January 2010. She was engaged in doing a Ph.D. in Psychology in London.