One of the world's leading medical researchers, Lord Robert
Winston, yesterday warned secondary school pupils against
excessive ''hype'' among scientists.
And in his talk at Otago Boys' High School's Maurice Joel
Auditorium, he urged the senior pupils to consider careers in
science and public health.
Addressing about 500 pupils from secondary schools in Dunedin
and beyond, Lord Winston said man's most influential
invention overall had been the stone axe.
Through evolution, human brain size had since greatly
increased and knowledge and technology were now developing
There had been excessive ''hype'' over some aspects of
science, including genomics, which remained a promising
field, but about which excessive claims had been made.
There was a positive future for both young women and young
men in scientific research, and he exploded the myth that
researchers had to be at the Nobel Prize-winning level.
''Most good science is not done by Nobel Prize winners. The
odd Einstein comes along every 50 years.''
In a talk lit by flashes of humour, he said he was ''no more
intelligent than most of the rest of you in this room''.
The key to scientific success was not simply having
individual genius but in building groups of fellow
researchers - ''several people working together in a family
He also emphasised the wider social accountability required
of science in a democracy, and the need for citizens to
understand science better.
Despite some big scientific advances, he warned that much
less progress had been made in some aspects of public health.
In one suburb in a deprived area of Glasgow, Scotland, men
had an average life expectancy of only about 54 years - lower
than that of some developing countries.
In another Glasgow suburb, the average lifespan was several
More study was needed to clarify exactly what was causing
such disparities, he said.
• Lord Winston is professor of science and society, and
emeritus professor of fertility studies at Imperial College,
He is also a prominent science communicator, having presented
many BBC television series, including the Bafta-award winning
The Human Body.
Lord Winston lunched yesterday with Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull
and Otago University vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne, and
also addressed postgraduate genetics students on campus.