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Family influences: A scientist in a humanities-orientated family


Choosing a career: The decison to become a physician
Christian de Duve Scientist
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So, came the moment where I should choose what I was going to do with my life. And what attracted me most at that time was what had been taught best by the Jesuits, that is literature, including old languages, I just loved Greek, more than Latin, philosophy, mathematics, those were the branches that I liked. Science was taught so badly that I was not attracted at all, I mean chemistry and physics, I found repulsive. Biology was a little more, but it was taught so badly that it wasn't really worthwhile. So, at first sight I thought I would follow, maybe in my father's footsteps and study law or... some branch of the humanities. But the studies attracted me but not the careers that went after the studies. I didn't want to become a lawyer, I didn't want to become a notaire, I didn't want to become an attorney, I didn't want to become a businessman, and so finally I decided that what I really wanted to be was a physician. I was attracted by the, sort of, man in white picture with a stethoscope coming out of one pocket and a hammer from the other and doing... good work, trying to heal the... sick and so on. So I was attracted by the rather romantic image of the physician. And so, yes, this meant I had to study physics, chemistry, biology, but those were the... that was the price... I was... I had to pay to become a physician.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: career, physician

Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008