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InternationalBad grades to Nobel Prize

November 1, 2012

Sir John Gurdon of Britain won the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine, along with Japan’s Shinya Yamanaka. This may shock Gurdon’s former teacher at Eton College.

In 1949, Gurdon, 15, was doing poorly in his classes, especially biology. His teacher wrote, “He will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way.” His report card also said that his idea to become a scientist was “quite ridiculous.”

Bad grades do not usually bring success, but Gurdon was not discouraged. He followed his own path and studied zoology at Oxford. Then in 1962, he discovered how to make tadpoles from the DNA of a frog’s skin cells. His work led to the world’s first successful animal clone, Dolly the Sheep. Now, it is helping researchers develop treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Over Sir John’s desk at Cambridge University hangs the bad report card. He says, “It is the only thing that I have ever framed.” However, on Dec. 10, Sir John will receive a cash award, a gold Nobel medal and a diploma from the King of Sweden. Maybe there is a place next to the report card for the diploma!

To see a photo of his report card, click here.

Published November 2012

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