For the past 13 years UCL has been organising a prize lecture in clinical science. This year, the prize lecture was to be given by Professor Barry Marshall, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005.
Professor Marshall courageously infected himself with a microscopic corkscrew-shaped organism called Helicobacter pylori in order to prove this bacteria was the cause of many chronic, painful and often disabling stomach ailments (such as ulcers and gastritis)
A few days ago I received an e-mail about registration for this event, and I promptly signed up. The lecture sounded interesting, and even better, accessible, so yesterday saw me making my way to the lecture location to eagerly await what was to come.
I was not disappointed! Both the person introducing Prof Marshall, as well as Prof Marshall himself (and the provost who awarded him with the medal) made sure to keep the event light but highly informative. We learnt that stress does not cause peptic ulcers…though up to a few years ago people were retiring early for just this reason! Also, we learnt that you need to wait quite a long time to get the Nobel prize: be sure to make your big discovery young! We also learnt to keep our rejection letters…they will come in handy for lectures when we become famous
On a more serious note, I was quote impressed by his dedication though! He found something which went against what others believed. However he persisted and time proved him right! He was so sure of himself that he actually ingested the bacterium to prove it!
You can also see a video of the lecture here.
I will leave you with a quote Prof Marshall kept on repeating yesterday:
The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge (Daniel J. Boorstin)