Category Archives: People

The flawed brilliance of J.B.S. Haldane

TOWARDS the end of his life, J.B.S. Haldane was inseparable from a pebble that had been found in the Valley of Elah in Israel, where David felled Goliath with a similar projectile. A king-size man who towered over British biology for several decades in the middle of the 20th century, Jack Haldane—the “half-Dane”—was a more obvious Goliath, but he always took the side of the underdog…

Haldane in Spain during the civil war

This story first appeared in The Economist  on 18 July 2020. To continue reading, click here.

 

 

‘It’s not over’: intimate diaries from the eye of the UK’s coronavirus storm

WHEN the Oxford team working on a Covid-19 vaccine first started holding weekly catchups in early February, Christina Dold, a 35-year-old senior postdoctoral researcher, jokingly referred to them as “Cobra” meetings. But it was in one of these early sessions that she found out how many volunteers they would be immunising daily, once the vaccine was ready to be tested. “I remember looking at a colleague. We were either going to cry or laugh, because the huge number of samples we’d have to process – potentially more than 100 a day – scared the living daylights out of us…”

Christina Dold, vaccine scientist. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Guardian

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 4 July 2020. To continue reading, click here.

The coronavirus slayer!

ON 20 January, KK Shailaja phoned one of her medically trained deputies. She had read online about a dangerous new virus spreading in China. “Will it come to us?” she asked. “Definitely, Madam,” he replied. And so the health minister of the Indian state of Kerala began her preparations…

KK Shailaja, aka Shailaja Teacher, Kerala’s health minister

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 14 May 2020. To continue reading, click here.

 

Closed borders and black weddings

PLAGUES – or, to use a more modern term, epidemics of infectious disease – pluck at our most primal fears. We have lived with them for at least 10,000 years, ever since our ancestors took up farming and built the first semi-permanent settlements. And they have always had the upper hand. They know us intimately, preying on our strengths – our sociability, our love of gossip – and turning them into weaknesses. They are always a step ahead, and once they are out, like the genie, we can’t get them back in. All we can do is limit the damage. So here we are again…

Poor advice

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11 March 2020. To continue reading, click here.

 

The drift of humankind

FOR a man who spent his career illuminating the vast, dim migrations of people in prehistory, Luca Cavalli-Sforza’s life was remarkably circular. He first became interested in his major field, genetics, in the house of the geneticist Adriano Buzzati at Belluno, in the hills north of Venice. There he helped to collect thousands of flies in search of mutant Y chromosomes; and though he subsequently travelled the world to study the makeup of its tribes and populations, it was in Belluno that he died…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 13 September 2018. To continue reading, click here.