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Cambridge University Science Magazine
Sticks and Stones

As long as there have been scientists there has been conflict. From the denial of supernatural diseases by Hippocrates to the open clashes between Stephen Hawking and Leonard Susskind about the nature of black holes, arguments seem to be an inevitable part of scientific progress. Even such enigmatic figures as Newton and Einstein have been drawn into public feud. Newton famously headed an investigation into the dispute between himself and Leibniz as to who was the first to discover calculus and declared himself to be the sole and true discover, proclaiming Leibniz to be a fraud.

Often conflict within science can be seen to be more underhand than open, particularly in the partitioning of credit for scientific discoveries. It seems almost a common occurrence for key figures in the development of a technology or theory to be dismissed in favour of other individuals whose input is questionable at best. Alexander Fleming, known by many as the ‘Father of Antibiotics’, was a gifted bacteriologist but was not the first to describe the action of Penicillin and though he contributed to the knowledge of the fungus, he had long since abandoned the study of Penicillin by the time its antibiotic properties were established successfully by a team in Oxford. Following the joint success of Florey, Chain, Heatley, and others at Oxford in isolating and purifying penicillin, Fleming re-emerged in the media, credited as the sole discoverer of penicillin. The work of the Oxford lab remained relatively unknown, at least in the public eye. In 1945, after much internal debate, Florey, Chain, and Fleming were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

Conflict also presents itself in terms of conflict of interest. In 2008, Harald zur Hausen was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering that the Human Papillomavirus is responsible for certain forms of cervical cancer. Whilst this was an important discovery, the award was overshadowed by controversy as parts of the Nobel Foundation were sponsored by a company that produced HPV vaccines.

In this issue of BlueSci, we look at the life of Craig Venter who continues to court controversy and conflict with many in the scientific world. We also explore the nomenclature of the chemical elements and the history of disputes over naming rights. We examine conflicting views on the publication of material that could benefit terrorism and on the ethics of mitochondrial replacement therapy. Conflict is the basis of developing scientific knowledge as one model, supported by new evidence, is debated and often supersedes that which went before. Scientific disputes are important in engaging public interest, gaining media coverage and bringing emotion to what can be an otherwise a rather dry and formal area. I hope the following articles capture your imagination. As always, if you would like to get involved please get in touch. Nathan Smith
Issue 26: Lent 2013

Editor: Nathan Smith

Managing Editor: Felicity Davies

Business Manager: Michael Derringer

Second Editors: Jonathan Lawson, Philipp Kleppmann, Jannis Meents, Luke Burke, Nicola Love, Rebecca Buckley, Vicki Moignard, Luke Burke, Oliver Marsh

Copy Editors: Jonathan Lawson, Luke Burke, Jannis Meents, Theodosia Woo, Robyn Cooper

News Editor: Joanna-Marie Howes

News Team: Chris Creese, Milly Stephens, Ruth Waxman

Reviews: Oliver Marsh, Graham Prescott, Laura Pearce

Focus Team: Zac Kenton, Matt Dunstan, Hinal Tanna

Weird and Wonderful: Laura Burzynski,Laura Pearce, Jonathan Lawson

Pictures Team: Robin Lamboll, Philipp Kleppmann, Jannis Meents, Robyn Cooper, Laura Pearce, Theodosia Woo, Laura Burzynski

Production Team: Robin Lamboll, Philipp Kleppmann, Jannis Meents, Robyn Cooper, Laura Pearce, Theodosia Woo,Laura Burzynski

Illustrators: Alex Hahn, Aleesha Nandhra, Christos Panayi, Nicola Kleppmann

Cover Image: Dr Jim Haseloff



Living in Fear -

Senses in Symphony - Cytowic, R. (2002). Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses. MIT Press.

The Journey of the Bicycle -

One to Another - Song, K., et al., Heart repair by reprogramming non-myocytes with cardiac transcription factors.Nature, 2012. 485(7400): p. 599-604.

Digging for Dinosaurs -


Babies with Three Parents -

Anything but Elementary -

HMS Challenger - Report on the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76 : under the command of Captain George S. Nares, R.N., F.R.S. and Captain Frank Turle Thomson, R.N. (1887)

Craig Venter vs The World -

Art, Maths and the Universe - Penrose, R. (2006). The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe.Vintage.