Arsenal 2 Juventus 0. A masterly display by the London soccer team left the team from Torino reeling as the Italians had two men sent off for foul play in the last five minutes. Such was the speed and movement of the former English Champions that the Italian league leaders resorted to ugly lunges and wild kicks as the Arsenal forwards sailed by them. A real triumph for England.
Except that there were no Englishmen in the London team. Plenty of players from France and Spain and the Ivory Coast, and one from Germany and one from Holland and even one from Belarus. The coach, too, is French. Mind you, the Torino team only had four Italians.
It got me thinking about our laboratory which contains Chinese, Russians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Mexicans, Canadians, Australians, Belgians, Dutch, Germans, Italians, Irish, Indians and Pakistanis. Any achievements will be credited to the Welsh charity that supports us.
If you go into the Jardin des Plantes in Paris through the entrance nearest the Gare d’Austerlitz.you will see a statue of the “Father of Evolution”. How generous, I thought, of the French to so honor an Englishman. But the statue bore not the bearded visage of Charles Darwin, but the bewigged features of Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet Chevalier de Lamarck, the Frenchman who went down the blind alley of inheritance of acquired characteristics.
Chauvinism meaning “bellicose patriotism” derives from Nicolas Chauvin a highly decorated veteran of Napoleon’s army, and the French are particularly good at it. You can read about him at http://www.chauvin.org.uk/story.htm .
We often hear arguments about the superiority of this of that economic system and this or that health service. I remember president Clinton trumpeting American achievements in science. He included in his list the splitting of the atom, which every school child knows was achieved at the Cavendish laboratory, Cambridge (that’s England not Massachusetts) by Sir Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealander.
Now New Zealand has a lot to feel chippy about. Apart from Rutherford there is a whole list of famous New Zealanders who are generally assumed to come from somewhere else, especially (perish the thought) Australia. The first man to climb Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, was from New Zealand. Film directors Jane Campion and Peter Jackson (remember Lord of the Rings) as well as actors Sam Neill and Anna Paquin are well known. Golfers will know Bob Charles, the left-hander and Michael Campbell, and equestrians, Mark Todd. Kiri Te Kanawa is one of the world’s greatest opera singers. The first surgeon I worked for, Harry Espiner, was a New Zealander and so are Myf Spellerberg and Adrian Copplestone who appear as a co-authors on some of my papers. Bruce Maclaren founded the Maclaren racing car company, Ngaio Marsh is a well known author though Katherine Mansfield is more important. Jack Lovelock was the first record breaking runner, but he was followed by Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and John Walker. William Pickering from Wellington was the man behind America’s first space satellite, Explorer 1. Keith Park, the RAF commander at the Battle of Britain was from New Zealand, as was Charles Upham, one of only three soldiers to win the Victoria Cross twice. We all know about Crick and Watson, the discoverer of DNA, but there was a third member of the team who won the Nobel Prize with them. Maurice Wilkins was a New Zealander. Harold Gillies was the maestro of plastic surgery who repaired the burned faces of Battle of Britain fighter pilots. He was from New Zealand. Robert Burchfield, the Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary was from New Zealand. Oh, and Xena, the Warrior Princess is from New Zealand. I believe there is also a promising young actor called Russell Crowe. However, he has moved to Australia, perhaps trying to emulate the actor who appears to be his hero, who hailed from there, one Errol Flynn.
The thing is that many of the above were New Zealanders when New Zealand was a British colony and were this British subjects, as were Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and WB Yeats, though the Irish claim them all. So, of course, were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson before they rebelled. So was Ghandi, whether in South Africa or India. Just as all Pakistanis were once Indians. Thought for the Day this morning on Radio 4 was taken from the Hindu scriptures and warned us of the danger of assuming that we all see things from the same viewpoint. The speaker also warned us about assuming that today’s historical assumptions applied when the events were taking place. I am sure Keith park thought of himself as both British and New Zealander. To suggest that Paul Revere’s message was “The British are coming” is crass. They were all British at the time. His message was “The regulars are out” or something similar.
It is an interesting question of where we get our drugs from. Monoclonal antibodies, for example, were developed by an Argentinean and a Swiss working in a British laboratory and funded by the British government which declined to patent them, reasoning that such a discovery should be for the whole world. The development of rituximab began with an Australian working in a British laboratory and funded by a Welsh charity who then passed the idea on to a Californian who also picked up a discovery of a man from Boston. A small biotech company in California was set up to develop the drug which is marketed in the rest of the world by a giant Swiss company.
Campath was originally developed in the same British lab that discovered monoclonal antibodies. It was originally developed and marketed by a British company before that company was taken over by another British company that wasn't interested in developing it further because it was more interested in AZT for AIDS which the first company had also developed, so it was sold to a German company that now markets it in America through its wholly owned subsidiary, but is currently fighting a take-over by the German subsidiary of an American pharmaceutical company.
One of the biggest sellers among drugs is Viagra which was discovered by British scientists working in the laboratories of the British subsidiary of an American company. Chlorambucil is British, but cyclophosphamide was discovered by an Austrian Jew who had escaped to Australia where he was working on a chemical to put a permanent kink in wool. He was invited to England and there pursued an illustrious career in cancer research. He was my friend.
My point is that we shouldn't get too Chauvinistic about scientific discoveries. Science is international and knows no boundaries. Though I sometimes joke that according to the Japanese 55% of all useful discoveries were made in Britain, I have to admit that like Arsenal we have often employed foreign mercenaries, and now that America has more money the mercenaries are playing for America.