To hear Oliver Smithies tell it, there was a direct line from one of his first lab projects to the experiments that won him a Nobel Prize. Smithies showed that it was possible to target genes for disruption in mice, a technique that has revolutionized genetics and provided information relevant to human health.
You wouldn’t have guessed it based on the first slide of his talk at the Lindau Nobel Laureates meeting taking place this week in Germany. The slide showed an early page from Smithies’ lab notebook of a failed attempt to isolate insulin, an experiment that he had dragged himself into the lab to perform on New Year’s Day.
By showing page after page of his notebook to the audience, Smithies gradually told the tale of how failing to purify insulin eventually led him to a successful scientific career.
This sounds like a fascinating talk on a really interesting topic. I’m hoping it will be online soon at the Lindau site soon. This is a researcher who lived and worked from the very beginnings of modern biology through all the revolutions of molecular biology to provide us with invaluable tools that may yet change the definition of human disease.
Plus I love looking at other guy’s lab notebooks. Mine were always like some weird form of da Vinci’s – totally illegible to almost anyone without me there to interpret the ‘code.’ I have a theory that anyone with an exceptionally legible notebook is spending too much time writing down their experiments and not enough time doing them.