Jeffrey Strathern - About Barbara McClintock

My explanation for Barbara is that she had the genetic observations prior to having a physical concept onto which to drop those observations. Controlling alleles before there was DNA, okay. So what that meant was that she created a language that didn't transpose very well onto that physical structure. So, and that she was steeped in that language and frankly she required you to converse with her in that language. So when we came here, I mean I was really enamored of her work. I loved that observations and I finally, you know, sort of coming to understand that was one of the key features in being enamored of gene rearrangements as a developmental mechanism and, which I finally got after she came to Oregon. But what I wanted to ask her some questions about that it took me five years once to ask her a question. Because I would ask the question and I would get halfway through the question and she would say, you know, no that's not what you mean or you have to relearn a piece of the languages she wanted asked. She actually knew the nature of the question that I wanted to ask the first time I asked it. But she didn't want to answer it until I had asked it in the language, in her language describing specifically that her alleles and her cross and her, you know, when I finally got it, then she described in fact the control for the experiment that I wanted to understand. And I think that was not uncommon that that language which was brilliant in terms of presaging what was happening. Also was an activation barrier for communicating with other people.