May Brenner on Sydney Brenner’s Nobel Prize
  May Brenner     Biography    
Recorded: 14 Jun 2005

When I first heard I simply didn’t believe it. My older daughter phoned me and I said, yes, Linda, she’s got all things muddled up again, never mind, poor child. About the third phone call I was saying somebody’s muddled things up and when Stockholm phoned me I thought, okay, I’ve muddle things up. In a way I was pleased for him because I was pretty sure that he deserved it. I wouldn’t call a ____ but from everybody said I thought—but people had said long ago; I said, does it matter to you. Inn a word, he said no. And I really, really believe that it didn’t matter. By the end of 24 hours of phone ringing, I began to get more cross than happy. Then a horrible—but most of the phone calls came from journalists that wouldn’t let go; kept asking why and how.

Later on when he did finally come home because I knew before he did and half the world knew before I did, I heard him talking to some of the same journalists and being as rude as I was which is very rude indeed because we felt quite battered. I’ll say the ceremony was much more impressive and much more fun and much more exciting and enjoyable than I expected, and I wasn’t looking forward to going.

He was in Germany. Somebody, I believe somebody came to him to meet him and said, probably in German, I’m sorry I’m late I’m meeting a Nobel Prize winner. Sydney thought he was later because he met a Nobel Prize winner and had to come over to Sydney and said, oh, who got it this year. This poor man just stood around with his mouth open and Sydney didn’t know. So that was—I know I would have loved to have get hold of him. It was about three days before we spoke to each other. But it wasn’t—I mean it wasn’t the first prize that he got. He got things. I remember the Mendel Medal. That one stands out in my mind. We were both sort of shiny-eyed because of who Mendel was and to link his name and a South African honor. Even he made a remark, very unlike him, saying—I can’t remember, but it was very touching, very heartwarming experience.

We took our eldest grandson who had lived with us for quite a while. We took our youngest daughter. The other children would say, well, she was always the favorite. I don’t know if she was, but she was the youngest anyway. I have this grandson—the son of our older daughter and took his stepson because he had been a tower of strength all the time the children were growing up. He was there, but older. He could be a real help to me. He was and still is very sensible, very good organizer, very there and strong and steady. Sydney felt it was only right because the work was done when the children was little. The children used to go out with their matchboxes and collect worms for Daddy. Late on they didn’t go out and collect fish. So that’s where it started. They were all part of it.

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.