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What inspired me to take up a lifetime of virology was a childhood roaming the woodlands and hedgerows of wartime Britain; two marvellous books given to me for my tenth birthday by my uncle, Paul Brown, an artist and potter. They were called The Countryside Companion and The Nature of Life, and later the marvellous New Naturalist Fleas, flukes and cuckoos by Miriam Rothschild; and several inspiring science teachers at school.

The group of parasites that seemed most interesting at the time that I graduated were viruses, time has shown that I was correct. The single most important invention for understanding the evolution of viruses was gene sequencing, closely followed by the computers that enabled even biologists to explore the mysteries of their origins and evolution.