Barbara McClintock: Mentor
I remember two times I gave a seminar in James Laboratory. And one time, Guenther Albrecht-Buehler, a physicist who never had genetics training, a very bright fellow, but he kept on asking basic questions about genetics. Question after question, and people were getting frustrated because they wanted to hear what I was going to say. He was discovering Mendelism and biology from the beginning in the middle of my seminar! Barbara interrupted Guenther and said, "I'll explain it to you later." (Laughter) Nobody else could say that to Albrecht. And the second time I gave a talk, Barbara was sitting in the front row because she really loved this kind of weird chromosome mechanics that we were doing. She had done those things. And Gerry Fink, in the usual way, gave me, not a hard time but he was teaching a course, and he wanted to teach a bit too much on the Pombe experiment that I was talking about. When everybody left, Gerry was there and she [Barbara McClintock] made a point to me. "Amar, I don't want you to change no matter what anybody else thinks." (Laughter) Gerry probably won't remember it. So she would step in at the right time only. One on one discussion with her was pretty hard, but I benefited greatly from her. I wrote in her birthday book that my interaction with her was just amazing. She was right on to the next step, one after the other in these discussions. "If so, Amar," she would say, "then we should be doing this," suggesting the next logical experiment. I said, "We've done it." "If so, then we should be doing that." All the way to the end. I went that day to a party in the Watson's house. I was sitting right next to Jim and I said about Barbara, "That's the smartest person I ever met." And Jim said, "Are you sure?" (Laughter) Despite this, the dinner party went fine for me.