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Part XIII: Walter Scott

IMG_7295This MWS History is written in remembrance of Walter Scott.

Walter was a valued member of the Foundation Trustees, and very creative as a MWS organizer. He planned the first MWS on gene technology, in 1977. It was then that the MWS became truly international. Walter was also the chief editor of the 1977 MWS proceedings, which we used to publish with Academic Press. 1977 was a best seller.

Here we display a Polaroid from 1982,in the houseboat dock at Flamingo, at the bottom of the Everglades National Park, on the Gulf of Mexico.

Left to right, Walter, Gwendolyn Scott, Celia Milstein, research associate and wife of Cesar (monoclonal antibodies) Milstein (MWS Lynen Lecturer), Margaret Whelan, in whose memory the student poster prizes will be named on Scott Day next week. And Bill Whelan.

This was at the end of a Friday to Monday houseboat trip after the MWS, which used to end at Friday noon in those days. It has to be the end of the trip, because we arrived at Flamingo on Friday evening, too late to set off in the dark.

So we spent the night in dock and left on Saturday morning up the Buttonwood Canal into Whitewater Bay.

The boat had one outboard motor and in narrow channels was difficult to steer. It would begin to circle uncontrollably, like an invention of the devil. The previous year, with Gobind Khorana, he realized that by putting the engine into reverse, the boat could easily be driven backwards.

Whitewater Bay is very expansive. The guideposts are far apart and fieldglasses are needed to see them .

Cesar seemed to have an inbuilt GPS. In addition, he insisted on being the cook . He had devised a diet to improve his lifestyle. Excellent food. Cesar could have embarked on a new career. On these trips it was necessary to take all the food and drink needed. No supermarkets or liquor stores out there. But a stove , refrigerator and shower. Sleeping arrangements very cosy.

Am sure more people have been to the North Pole. Might see only two other boats the whole weekend. Always something to do. Bird watching, navigating, watching dolphins chase the boat. Sunbathing on the top deck.

At night we would anchor in Lostman’s Creek or Shark River. The mosquitos would be attracted by the light behind the screens and die on the deck. In 1980 we had Fred Sanger, who came on deck the next morning to find them inches deep. He rolled them into balls and threw them to the alligators lurking nearby.

Fred navigated that time, and each morning at 1100, he dropped the anchor and announced that we were stopping for elevenses. By this he meant tea or coffee. He told us that in the MRC lab in Cambridge where he worked , this was the most important time of the day . In the canteen, he met his colleagues and shared his latest results and got advice. The director and past director were always there. Same in mid-afternoon. Fred was to win his second Nobel Prize later that year.

We once anchored near an island shaped like a green sugarloaf. At dusk, the birds settled on it for the night, and as darkness fell, the island had turned white, covered by thousands of birds.

Cesar was from that same MRC lab, from which so many of our awardees have hailed, beginning with Watson and Crick. It was in 1984 that Cesar got his Nobel Prize. He was an awardee again, in 1900, and took the houseboat trip again.