The Scientist’s Survival Guide
used for beer production; I could also watch the yeast ferment in open fermenters, which was my first contact with what microbes can achieve in the service of man. Many good smells are connected with these fond childhood memories. Kaltenberg, where grandfather’s brewery was located, is about thirty miles west of Munich and we visited there at least once a month, when we could tear ourselves away from Bernried. Most about nature I learned from my father. We had many unusual books about plants and animals including Brehm’s Tierleben, an encyclopedia in many volumes that contained most of what was known about the animals of the world. Not only did we have these books, but we used to look at them quite frequently and it was the connection between printed knowledge and practical application which I absorbed at an early age. Father was an enthusiastic surgeon and doctor, and shared some of his medical knowledge with his family. He explained the surgical procedures, drawing sketches of the anatomy and explaining the physiological implications and sometimes he had to design unusual operations to mend unusual lesions. He explained anesthesia and X-ray, current knowledge as well as past histories of these developments. He had a human skeleton in his study in our apartment and this was especially useful for orthopedics. (Father was a general and orthopedic surgeon). Father also recounted to us some of his early medical experiences—the difficulty in fighting infection in those pre-antibiotic days. He told us about the boy who caught a splinter in the bowling alley resulting in a tetanus infection from which he died, and the case of the gamekeeper who was scratched by an owl and had a terrible streptococcal infection, and almost lost his limb, but was finally cured. So early life showed the power of natural phenomena and underlying science, and how it is related to all life on earth. Father would have liked for both his children—my sister and myself—to go into medicine and it was a big disappointment to him that this was not to be. While I became a scientist my sister Lotte became a “wordsmith” and technical writer.
Published on Aug 19, 2010