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professor of plant biology at the University of Warwick, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology


With rather distant hindsight, I can only say that I simply found experimental, evidence-based science – particularly the amalgamation of chemistry and biology – absolutely fascinating.

I was also very fortunate to have inspirational and rigorous teachers in high school, who engendered an insatiable intellectual hunger for factual knowledge, and who encouraged observation and deductive thinking. My peer group was also highly competitive, and we spurred each other on, some to very great achievements.

In the 1960s and 1970s, biochemistry and molecular biology were preeminent – they were the in thing. Major exciting discoveries, and an improved understanding of the evolution and fundamental processes of life, were happening all around, and I wanted to become part of this. Astronomy, astrophysics and the vastness of the universe also fascinated me, but I recognised the limitations of my numerical skills. Chemistry and unravelling living systems – plant molecular virology, eventually – became my focus and fulfilment in science.

At that time, UK society and the media seemed to respect and applaud discovery, and the pursuit of evidence-based truth. It was a vocation. Sadly, and to our great shame, those who chatter and manipulate opinion without training, evidence or accountability have been permitted to stigmatise much good science, for their own self-interest and aggrandisement.