On Surpassed Expectations and Nobel Prizes

On Surpassed Expectations and Nobel Prizes

Science October 14, 2012 / By Rebecca McMillan
On Surpassed Expectations and Nobel Prizes

Nobel Laureate John Gurdon's high school report card declares his dreams of pursuing science "quite ridiculous . . . a waste of time."

Last week, Dr. John Gurdon learned that he had won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work demonstrating that each cell in a body contains the same genes. He shares the award with Japanese stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka.

To say that John Gurdon exceeded early expectations would be a gross understatement. Nick Collins, science correspondent for The Telegraph reports,

"At the age of 15, Prof Sir John Gurdon ranked last out of the 250 boys in his Eton year group at biology, and was in the bottom set in every other science subject."

Here is the assessment high school biology teacher, Mr. Gaddum, offered of Gurdon's work and prospects in 1949.

After learning of the award, Gurdon revealed that the disparaging report card is mounted above his desk at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge. It is, he says, the only item he has ever framed.

This year's Nobel Prize is not the first major award Gurdon has won for his scientific work. In 2009, Gurdon and Yamanaka shared the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their discoveries in nuclear reprogramming.

Sometimes the desire to prove our critics wrong is exactly the motivation we need to succeed.

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