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Vivian Moses
chair of CropGen, director of The Centre for Genetic Anthropology, and visiting professor of biotechnology at King's College London


As early as the age of seven, I was lugging astronomy books from the local public library – The Stars in Their Courses by James Jeans, and books by the astrophysicist Arthur Stanley Eddington. During the Second World War, a friend and I bought the optics and built a 4½in Newtonian reflector, mounted on a short stepladder and a wobbly gramophone motor. The wartime blackout made the nights very dark, and many a freezing hour was spent with planets and nebulae.

That was for outdoors. Indoors, there was chemistry. I did endless qualitative analyses in the back bedroom, while a copy of the Periodic Table – then just 89 chemical elements, with three doubtfuls – was pinned to the wall above my bed. Chemistry at home came to an abrupt halt after a flask of hydrogen blew up, but biology was more innocuous. Frogs, worms and other candidates for dissection were just a short walk away.

Putting two and two together, I went for biochemistry. Between school and university, a nine-month job in a food laboratory as assistant to a microbiologist steered me towards the microbial perspective, and – many years later – to biotechnology. Why did it all start? Probably in the genes.

Vivian Moses is coauthor of Exploiting Biotechnology (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and coeditor of Biotechnology: The Science and the Business (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.