David Lane on History in Science
  David Lane     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

We don’t use our history enough as a tool. I find that in teaching students, if you can give them historic context it’s very helpful. The problem with molecular biology now, [in] the way it’s taught is that it’s sort of delivered as if it arrived from Mars in perfect form. That’s the style of current writing, they say the Molecular Biology of the Cell, and these kinds of books are very didactic. They say, the cell is composed of a nucleus and a membrane, a whole series of things, which either way is fine, and when they first came out I think they were great, but there’s something about reading how somebody understood something that’s very inspirational, an historic discussion of something can be enormously important. I remember as an undergraduate being absolutely riveted by lac operon and the whole story of [Francois] Jacob and [Jacques] Monod and how it worked out. That is a wonderful story of science and understanding. It’s got genetics and biology, the race to identify the repressor, the mysterious repressor. It’s very romantic actually, and a beautiful story. I think science is like that and people should teach it that way at least part of the time. So having real historic documents about things like that is, very important. People, we, should be more romantic about science. I think people assume scientists are dried up old fossils. I’ve never met a wilder group of people, a crazier group of people than scientists. It selects for crazy people, they’re fun people as well.

David Lane, immunologist, is the Director of the Cancer Research UK Transformation Research Group at the University of Dundee, Department of Surgery and Molecular Oncology at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, Scotland. Lane founded the Department of Surgery and Oncology in the University’s Medical School with Alfred Cucheiri, one of the pioneers in minimal access ("keyhole") surgery. Currently on leave from the University of Dundee, he the Executive Director of the IMCB in Singapore. Lane is also the founder and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Cyclacel, a Dundee based biotechnology company now listed on the NASDAQ. Shortly after receiving his Ph.D., he was recruited by Joe Sambrook to work at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with the Tumor Virus Group in the 70’s, where he also completed one of his books on antibodies. In 2000, Lane was knighted by Queen Elizabeth of England for his many contributions to science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the University College London.