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Baruch Blumberg

Further to yesterday's obituary of the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Baruch Blumberg, Tam Dalyell writes:

In 1990, the undergraduates of the Cerberus Society, an intellectual grouping at Balliol, invited me to be their speaker after dinner in Hall. In that capacity, I was asked to stay the night at the Master's Lodge, where Baruch Blumberg welcomed me for a nightcap. I asked him why he had come to England, given his prestigious position and busy life in the United States. He reeled off four reasons.

First, 35 years previously, Balliol had given him a warm welcome as a foreign postgraduate, "providing me with the confidence, which may come naturally to graduates of Harvard and Yale, but which came less naturally to a young man from the Columbian Presbyterian Medical Centre." Secondly, he had the greatest respect for colleagues in the department of biochemistry at Oxford. Thirdly, he said it was good for a scientist to be transplanted for a five-year period into a totally different environment. He told me that he never forgot his friend Max Perutz recollecting that he could not have achieved what he did had he remained in an Austria spared the Nazi invasion. A comfortable life is not necessarily a recipe for the best work.

Lastly, Blumberg was contemplating a career change from Hepatitis-related issues to astrobiology. Was there a better perch than the Master's Lodge to reflect on and map out "my future"? In doing so Blumberg also gave full value to undergraduates and fellows.