I was always interested in how the world fits together, and in putting a crowbar into it to take it apart. Sport and girls just seemed a bit less interesting, and I was short, shy and asthmatic.
Science fiction certainly inspired me. By the age of 15, I had read every science fiction book in our local library, and the scientific essays of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, which brought the same sense of wonder to the real universe. Then there was the space programme, especially the moon landings. I collected the models, read loads of pop astronomy, and drew endless pictures. And there were chemistry sets and explosively dangerous experiments in the garden.
By the age of 14, I simply assumed that I would do science at O-level, A-level and degree level. It was just a question of whether I would do chemistry or biology. In the end I could not decide, and did biochemistry. I had some good science teachers, which helped, but I was a willing vessel. Even the bad teachers could not deflect me.
Two things moved me to get involved in science beyond reading. The first was my extreme annoyance, at the age of 12, at the realisation of my own mortality. What a bummer – surely you could do something about that? The second was learning about the Krebs Cycle at the age of 17. All that chemistry interlocking – it was so cool, it was like art but ‘real’. I had to find out more, and if possible build my own. (It isn’t built – yet.)
There is always something amazing to learn. How could one fail to be inspired, when the world is weird and exciting beyond imagining?
William Bains is author of Biotechnology from A to Z (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and Genetic Engineering for Almost
Everybody (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.