Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Watty's had an unexpected treat:

We're looking to buy some new remote backup software. Hardly stirring stuff, but - well, OK, it's not remotely interesting to anyone but me, but bear with this. I asked if we could go and see it in use somewhere; a perfectly normal request, and one which usually ends up with me driving to Peterborough or Bracknell, and wandering around a draughty shed for half a day. Not this time, though. We - Simon and I - were invited to go and see how they do things at the Wellcome Trust in Euston Road. Now, the product demonstration was excellent, and very useful; the people we met could not have been more friendly or helpful, and we were allowed to go and gasp in wonder at the robotic tape library doing its thing. And all that was well and good, and I was more than happy just to have had the experience of being in this wonderful Art Deco building, when it was suggested that we might like to visit the library.

Now, you might not be all that excited by libraries (so what are you doing reading this, then?), but even the cynic amongst us could not fail to be impressed by the exhibition of Francis Crick's lab notes. There, under glass, was real, legible, history. One sheet holds a primitive sketch of the DNA helix - possibly the first time it had been put down on paper in that way. Over there is the Nobel Prize telegram. Another notebook is open at the first page (amusingly, it's been started from the back, so the book is displayed upside down. On the first page, a confident hand has written D.N.A., and underlined it. Beneath that, the pencil marks are readable but faint, but it's that first line which stops you. Was that the first time Crick had written it down like that? It certainly felt like it. An astonishing document, in a wonderful library.

And then, after viewing some of the wonderful art in the Wellcome collection, we were ushered out by means of a quiz question answer - the tunnel under Euston Road which links the two parts of the Trust; it's owned by London Underground, leased to the Wellcome Trust, and has wonderful LU posters along its length. At the midpoint, you pass quite obviously over the platforms at Euston Square, and under the Euston Road. Eventually, you emerge on the other side of the street.

Far more interesting than my usual Tuesday morning. I must go and organise sending those guys some chocolate...

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