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Open Book Interview

Robert Winston | Professor & Scientist

DK recently caught up with Robert Winston to talk boiled eggs, single cells and the surprising benefits of cling film. A Professor of Science and Society, and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, Robert is an author and broadcaster and regularly writes and hosts popular science programmes, many of which have been shown around the world.

 

Your favourite science demonstration?

My favourite demo is getting a hard-boiled egg into a glass bottle or decanter, having first exhausted the oxygen in the decanter with a lighted match. There is a very satisfying plop as the intact egg is sucked in – but, golly it’s hard to get it out again.

The best part of your day?

Midnight, when it is completely quiet and I can start thinking.

Three objects you couldn’t do without?

My shoelaces, my garden summer house and – oh, boring - my MacBook Air.

The most difficult thing about your work?

The packed diary.

The strangest experience you’ve had working as a scientist?

Finding that cling film, wrapped around a tiny rejoined blood vessel, stopped the blood clotting. Equally strange (40 years ago) was my observation that Trichomonas, a microscopic, single-celled parasite, could coalesce with neighbouring trichomonads and form large, multinucleate organisms which could just be seen with the naked eye. Sadly, I never followed this up, but now with modern cell biology techniques we could investigate what is happening.

Something you never expected you would learn?

To listen better.

What you’re reading right now?

I always read three books simultaneously depending which room I am sitting in; currently Sebag-Montefiore’s The Romanoffs, The Kaiser’s Holocaust by David Olusoga and Caspar Eriksen, and re-reading The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare.

The thing you’re excited most about for the future of science?

The thought that more and more young people are going to be scientifically literate in a way that never happened in my generation.

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