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David Colquhoun
research professor of pharmacology at University College London, editor of the Improbable Science Page, and pioneer in the understanding of ion channels


Since I showed no talent at school, I went to work as an apprentice in a pharmacy.  There I discovered William Martindale’s Extra Pharmacopoeia, which I read avidly. It was more interesting than the work. I soon realised that the homoeopathic pills that were made up in the shop were junk, and that I did not want to work in a shop forever.  That developed in me an interest in how one could distinguish truth from fiction – that is, in science.

After that I started to work, and I got into pharmacology. As an undergraduate at Leeds, I was influenced as much by a statistician – BL Welch – as by the pharmacologists.  Statisticians, not philosophers, seemed to be the people who knew about scientific inference.  That interest bore fruit when I became interested in single ion channel biophysics, and met a brilliant statistician – Alan G Hawkes – with whom I collaborated on the stochastic theory that was needed for my science.

As a postgraduate in Edinburgh, I was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and became interested in distinguishing truth from fiction in politics as well as in medicine.  In the 1960s, rationalism was fashionable. But in the post-1980 age of endarkenment, the distinction between myth and reality has become ever more urgent.

See David Colquhoun‘s website.