Catching the Worm: Examining the motivation behind scientific research

Book review: Nobel laureate William Campbell’s memoir is interspersed with vignettes and insights wrought from a long, expansive life

Dr William Campbell  at his home after the announcement that he won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine, in North Andover, Massachusetts, US. Photograph: CJ Gunther/EPA

Dr William Campbell at his home after the announcement that he won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine, in North Andover, Massachusetts, US. Photograph: CJ Gunther/EPA

Towards the close of his new memoir, Dr William Campbell, who in 2015 won the Nobel Prize for his part in the discovery of a drug that can cure river blindness, reflects on the human impact of research in science.

Recalling the decision of US pharmaceutical giant Merck, where he worked as a researcher for more than 30 years, to make the drug ivermectin freely available to those suffering from the disease, the now nonagenarian writes: “It was the right thing to do . . . built on the heroic tropical field-work of those who established the human safety and effectiveness of the drug . . . an undertaking that led to a transformation in individual lives.”

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