Sir John Gurdon remembers his school report


Only after Prof Sir John Gurdon won 2012 Nobel prize for his stem cell research did we learn of the comments that his science teacher gave him 64 years ago when Gurdon was 15 years old.

“I believe Gurdon has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous; if he can’t learn simple biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who would have to teach him.” by Mr Gaddum in 1949.  He made this comment after he learned that Gurdon was interested in doing science and thought that he was “too stupid” for science at school.

At age 15, Gurdon was at the bottom among the 250 boys in his Eton year group in biology and nearly in every other science subject.

Upon learning of his award in London early October, he made public his school report which he has kept in a frame above his desk at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, the Institute being thus named in his honor.

Normally we show off our honor and reward instead of a negative comment like this. The guy must take it really hard each time he sees it and tries to prove the opposite is true. On the other hand, doesn’t it tell us something about the crucial role of the teacher in students’ lives? The world must be grateful that Gurdon had not listened to Mr Gaddum and gave up his passion.


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