The careful reading of this multidisciplinary resource will allow you — a high-school student and a custodian of the only known habitable planet in the Universe for the species Homo sapiens — an opportunity to initiate a lifetime of intellectual, practical, and humanitarian experiences worthwhile to yourself, to your loved ones, and to our species. ... Shall we start at the beginning?


HISTORICAL DATA: 1 (Christmas Day 1957)

1. In early 1953, an illegitimate boy, aged about 7 or 8 months, was placed in a children's home.

2. Since his adoption in spring 1958 — by which time he knew how to read, write, calculate, recite the Lord's Prayer, say Grace, use cutlery, tie his shoelaces, and much else besides, without having any recollection of when, how, or from whom he learnt these skills — this individual's few memories of this children's home have remained constant:
a housefather and a housemother, who insisted that lying was always bad, wrong, evil;
an image of sitting on a long, low bench with a book-shaped object placed on his knees;
and the following unique incident, which highlights the limitations of the Nature versus Nurture dichotomy with respect to Homo sapiens.

3a. There was an air of excitement in the dormitory of about 18 boys during the last few days of Advent 1957: everybody [the housefather and housemother] had informed the boys that Father Christmas would bring them presents. Each boy could barely contain his excitement on Christmas Eve about the prospective visit by Father Christmas, whoever he be. Upon waking up on Christmas Day morning, at the end of each bed in the dormitory, which contained no curtains and no decorations, was a bulging, clean coal-sack.

3b. Each boy expected that he would not be allowed to open his coal-sack of presents until after breakfast: but on entering the dormitory at 8 o'clock, the housefather, accompanied by the housemother, exclaimed, "Happy Christmas, boys! ["Happy Christmas, Sir."] You may open your presents now, before breakfast." ["Thank you, Sir."]

3c. Each boy withdrew each present from his coal-sack and placed it carefully on his bed.

3d. The boy, whose bed was virtually opposite the centrally-positioned door, observed that all his toys were second-hand and that about half of them were broken: by contrast, all the other boys' presents were new.

3e. The boy thought, "Why had Father Christmas brought all the other boys new presents and not me?"

3f. The boy then thought, "Have I lied or been naughty recently? ... ... No. ... ... This doesn't make sense.", and started to cry.

3g. On observing the boy cry, the housemother approached him and asked very gently, "What's the matter, Roger?"

3h. The boy asked, through his tears, "Why have all the other boys got new presents and not me?"

3i. The housemother replied very gently, "They've all got aunties, Roger." The boy nodded in a benumbed manner at this answer.

3j. The boy thought, as the housemother walked away, "Why did everybody [the housefather and housemother] tell me Father Christmas brought presents when they knew he did not?"

Note that: firstly, the boy would not have thought his first question, 3e, if either his presents were all new, or some of the other boys' presents were second-hand and broken, or all the other boys' presents were second-hand and broken; secondly, had the boy asked this first question, the housemother might have provided a completely different answer (e.g., 'Oh dear, Father Christmas must have got his sacks mixed up.'); thirdly, the housemother's reply is in the plural; and fourthly, the boy now had no irreproachable source for any truth, whatever it be.

Nature, Nurture, Chance

HISTORICAL DATA: 2 (Spring 1958 to Spring 1963)

1. In spring 1958, the boy was adopted by a warm-hearted couple, henceforth referred to as Mum and Dad, who were some 45 years or so older than him and who had both left school at 14.

2. Despite Mum and Dad not understanding me, nor I them, we rubbed along well together. Most importantly, for the next ten years or so, they both fulfilled the principal responsibility of any parent: that of ensuring the mental and physical safety and well-being of his or her child in the present and the foreseeable future — no one could have been more fortunate than I in this respect. During this period, my principal occupations were being a scallywag outdoors, reading in my bedroom, and obtaining funding for the «essentials of life» [sweets (candy), comics, chips (fries), and the cinema].

3. On my 6th birthday, most of Mum's relatives arrived bearing toys as presents; I thanked them dutifully. Then arrived two maiden aunts, Auntie Pinkie and Auntie Bim, each bearing treasure: a book! I thanked them effusively, went to my bedroom, read each book cover to cover, then planned my first campaign: dutiful «thank-you letters» to nearly one and all; effusive but polite letters to these two aunts; and finding a method to stay in their good books.

4. Well before Advent 1958, I had determined that, from the «highest» to the «lowest» in the land, each adult appeared to tell children that 'Father Christmas brings presents': and, as such, made no sense.

5. During the next 18 months, I discovered that the lie about Father Christmas was ostensibly justified by introducing a second lie: 'Father Christmas makes Christmas magical'; the ninth Commandment states, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." ... Christmas Day is the birthday of Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary and whom three Wise Men [Magi] would soon visit, and was the one day in the year when there appeared to be peace and good will to all men: "How more magical can it get?"

[My judgement here — "How more magical can it get?" — was wildly astray because I was having the greatest difficulty deciding which was the more miraculous: the Resurrection or the Crucifixion. The former, involving the ascent of the deceased body of Jesus into Heaven, and self-consistent with the Creation as described in Genesis, was truly miraculous: but the latter, involving Almighty God's sacrifice of his one and only son, Jesus, required me resolving the paradox of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).]

6. Though I did not realize it until I was in my mid-50s, I made my first great mistake in life during my 8th year. One day, I announced rather grandly to Mum and Dad that I wanted to "Read History at Oxford"; an expression that I would use intermittently over the next several years: but one which would have been almost meaningless to the overwhelming majority of people in the 1960s. The expression means to 'Study the subject of history at Oxford University'. Mum and Dad's most reasonable interpretation of my announcement would have been: 'That for some reason or other, Roger wants to read history books in the city of Oxford, rather than in his bedroom.'

7. My plan of campaign for the well-being of my favourite aunts, Pinkie and Bim, reached its zenith early in my 9th year. I had been reasonably rewarded for running errands, collecting wayward golf balls, and «gardening» (a euphemism for the back-breaking task of removing weeds growing in flower beds): but these chores were time-consuming and tiresome. Then I found out that they played bridge after their round of golf, and had been doing so for donkey's years. The public library was awash with self-teaching books for this four-handed card game — which, fortunately, had a three-handed version; and, within two shakes of a lamb's tail, yours truly was fleecing his belovèd aunts — at «threepence a hundred» — in exchange for teaching them how to improve their play on the 19th green.

[Deus ex machina: a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.]

8. Reading was my favourite hobby; I read pretty much anything that I could lay my hands on. My penchant was for history and geography books, because they allowed me the best opportunity to make sense of the world, but a close third were novels (aside from those in the fantasy and science fiction genres, which I regarded as trivial nonsense). I thought Treasure Island to be the most exciting book I had read; my view remains unchanged over 50 years later. I loathed Alice in Wonderland and failed to understand, firstly, why adults failed to distinguish between the words imagination and imaging, and secondly, why the term 'A Children's Classic' was synonymic with 'A Children's Favourite'; my incomprehension remains. I loathed Through the Looking Glass even more, because the title and the first few pages (falsely) promised an opportunity to examine a mirror world; in my opinion, the sole saving grace of this book is that it has provided each and every student with the model for a foolproof deus ex machina to end their essays in the fiction genre submitted as English coursework.

[Fee-paying public school, Years 7-13 (Br.) ≈ Fee-paying private school, Grades 9-12 (Am.); Public or high school, Grades 9-12 (Am.) ≈ State school, Years 7-11 or 7-13 (Br.)]

9. Auntie Pinkie and Auntie Bim both worked in the London administrative offices of Christ's Hospital, a «major» public school. Now, my modest proficiency in bridge had convinced Auntie Pinkie that I was "bright", prompting her to suggest to Mum that I should be entered for their two-part scholarship entrance examination in spring 1962 (aged 9¾); Mum did not share her younger sister's conviction, but was rather taken with their natty uniform of blue coat, knee-breeches, and yellow socks (Who wouldn't?); and I, as usual, was busy with my principal occupations. Be that as it may, I sat Part I; Auntie Pinkie informed Mum of my success; and I had a very brief career change in order to study for Part II. Two days before the examination, Auntie Pinkie informed Mum that I was a year too young: and, for the first and last time, Mum and I were almost on the same wavelength — 'If he's good enough ...' — but I had grave doubts about attending a school where any adult struggled to count up to ten.

10. Since 2010, I have had the privilege of watching The Big Bang Theory, an American comedy series, created and executively produced by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, whose scientific advisor is David Saltzberg. Several of the characteristics of Sheldon Cooper, [Ph.D., (at 16!), Sc.D.], portrayed by Jim Parsons, resonate with me; for example, and in particular here, when Sheldon exclaims, in The Griffin Equivalency, "I'm not insane! My mother had me tested." In the early 1960s, I would have said, "Me too, Brother Smut."; the equivalent idiom today would probably be, "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt."

My success in Part I of the entrance examinations for Christ's Hospital had convinced Mum and Dad that Auntie Pinkie had been right in her conviction that I was "bright": ... but how bright? One morning, Dad, who should have been at his ledger books in a bank in the City, asked me to come downstairs; the disuse of the imperative tense was music to my ears. Then Mum said that she would like me to speak to someone, and that if I did "well" I would get some sweets; from my perspective, this offer was one which would be termed today as a «no-brainer». An hour or so later, with Mum and Dad waiting expectantly outside an office, I was sitting inside, opposite a middle-aged lady, who, for reasons that escaped me then and now, asked me to rearrange objects and whatnot; I had the greatest difficulty throughout in restraining myself from suggesting to her, that her time would be better spent if she rearranged these objects herself: but my eyes were firmly fixed on the prize. After about three-quarters of an hour, I left the office, Mum and Dad entered same briefly, and exited same with smiles on their faces because I had done "very well"; from my perspective, again, «mission accomplished». I found out subsequently that, for all intents and purposes, the good lady had merely informed Mum and Dad that I was "very bright". Now, given that, for most parents, "bright" was merely shorthand for «good at sums and spellings», the addition of the intensifier "very" was not very illuminating; in an analogous manner to Sheldon's mother in The Rhinitis Revolution, Mum and Dad would deny themselves even the slightest of possibilities to hear the intensifier "exceedingly".

11. Since the 18th century, following the flat-racing season for yearlings, owners and trainers have, during the close season, carefully considered which races their colts and fillies should enter as two-year olds, in preparation for one or more of the five Classic races as three-year olds (2,000 Guineas Stakes, 1,000 Guineas Stakes, Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger Stakes). Now, in 1950s and 1960s Britain, in preparation for entry into the Old Universities (Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham), the scholastic equivalent was the parents' careful consideration of public schools for the apple of their eyes; otherwise put, «The Public School Scholarship Stakes», which required parents to determine answers to arcane questions of the following ilk: 'For the headmaster's interview, should we buy him his first pair of long trousers, ... or might that be tempting fate?'; ... 'Collar-detached shirts! They have been démodé since the war, surely?'; ... 'Why is playing the recorder considered to be infra dignitatum?'; ... 'Should he learn to use a fountain pen, given that his primary school teacher has failed to realize that a longish piece of wood attached to a twisted bit of iron masquerading as a nib is only a marginal improvement over a feather quill and none whatsoever over slate?'; ... 'Do you think, peut-être, our use of the phrase "san-ne-fairy-an" at home will prevent him recognizing the phrase "ça ne fait rien", should le professeur decide to exercise his fading mastery of medieval French?'; ... and, most baffling of all, 'What, for goodness sake, is Latin Unseen!?'

During the «close season» of winter 1962-1963 for this «apple», when Mum and Auntie Pinkie were studying the standard edition of the «form guide» for this «blot on the landscape», Mum recollected that, at our previous home, I had warbled in the church choir sufficiently well to progress from a white-cassocked chorister to one wearing a blue ribbon; indeed so, I had closely followed the choirmaster's instructions because the blue-ribboned choristers were paid more — I was most miffed that we moved home, because I had my heart set on wearing a red ribbon. Well, the upshot of Mum's recollection was that she and Auntie Pinkie studied the deluxe edition of the «form guide», which included the choir-public schools; these provided high-quality academic, music, and voice teaching — and were therefore the earliest examples of «buy one, get two free».

12. During this same «close season» I read Oliver Twist, which I found deeply disquieting for three reasons. First, I could find no dramatic purpose for ascribing Fagin as Jewish; in much the same way as, later, I failed to see why Shylock should be Jewish in The Merchant of Venice or Othello should be black in Othello. Second, the heart of the novel is Fagin's relationship with Oliver; the latter, who knows that stealing is wrong, but expedient for an orphan, is allured by Fagin into believing that stealing is right: this was surely corruption of the innocent mind? And third, Fagin's insidiousness paralleled the behaviour of parents who, having discovered that their eldest child has finally realized that Father Christmas is truly a figment of one and all's imagination, have persuaded him or her not to tell a younger child for fear of 'spoiling the magic'.

Cf., Sheldon exclaims, in The Shiny Trinket Maneuver [Chuck Lorre et al. (2012)], after Howard states his intention of presenting magic tricks at a children's birthday party, "This is how you're going to entertain your little cousin and his friends, by lying to them? [...] If we poison the critical thinking faculties of children, [...]."

Caveat 1. If — I repeat, if — there is any point at all in reading The Lord of the Flies, written in 1953 by William Golding, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, it is that one fully understands how Piggy — who can make no sense of the past, who can make no sense of the present, and who has no hope for the future — feels just before he commits suicide: not — I repeat, not — to write some ephemeral piece of coursework. Moreover, the arrival of the naval captain on the island is a truly outrageous deus ex machina ...

Piggy's mother is on the mainland, yet to grieve for her belovèd son; grief that will be with her, for the rest of her life.

Simon's father is on the mainland, yet to grieve for his belovèd son; grief that will be with him, for the rest of his life.

Ralph's mother is on the mainland, no need to grieve for her belovèd son; he will be with her, for the rest of her life.

Jack's father is on the mainland, no need to grieve for his belovèd son; he will be with him, for the rest of his life.

But when the boys reach the mainland, one must fear for their minds: because all will be damaged, for the rest of their lives.

[J.D. Zelenka (Lamentation, 1722): Quomodo obscuratum est aurum, ... (How the gold has grown dim, ...)]

Caveat 2. The archetypal «true man» in British history is Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor, who was executed on 6th July 1535, and the archetypal «false man» is King Henry VIII, the first supreme governor of the Church of England via the 1534 Act of Supremacy, who reigned from 21st April 1509 until his natural death on 28th January 1547. The archetypal «true» and «false» men in French history are, respectively, King Louis XVI, who was guillotined on 21st January 1793, aged 39, and either François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, who died a natural death on 30th May 1778, aged 83, or Charles de Talleyrand-Périgord, who died a natural death on 17th May 1838, aged 84.

Voltaire, ostensibly an enlightened intellectual, who is enshrined in Le Panthéon national (Paris), writes in a letter, dated 21st October 1736, to Nicolas-Claude Thiériot, his intimate friend from 1714 until the latter's death in 1772, "One must lie like the devil: not timidly, not for a while, but brazenly, and always." In another, dated 19th March 1766, to Étienne-Noël Damilaville, an intimate friend of six years standing, he writes, "It is apposite that the people be guided: but not educated, for they are not worthy of being so." In another, following the «Calas Affair» (1763-1765), dated 28th October 1766, to the Duc de Richelieu, an intimate friend since their school days together at the Collège Louis-le-Grand, he writes, "I agree with everything you've told me about these obsequious Huguenots and their impertinent assemblies." In another, dated 21st November 1766, to Mme du Deffand, a French patron of the arts and close friend of the Whig politician Horace Walpole, he writes, "I believe him [Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of On the Social Contract, Principles of Political Right, 1762] to be descended in a straight line from the coupling of Diogenes' dog with one of the snakes of discord." In another, dated 11th August 1770, to Catherine the Great, he writes, "Without my humanitarian principles, I would say that I would want [to see the Turks of Mustafa III] all exterminated or at least driven so far away that they never return." In another, dated 26th February 1776, to the bibliographer Nicolas-Toussaint Lemoyne des Essarts, he writes, "All I know is that if I were the judge, I would write on the Jew's forehead: Man to be hung." Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera: ad nauseam [see Jean Sévilla (2003) and Xavier Martin (2006)].

Caveat 3. The second section of the historical data, Parts 3-6 below, is presented with the precision, clarity, and principal intention of ensuring that your interpretation is identical to that of the author of a learnèd paper in an academic journal; i.e., 2 + 2 = 4: no more, no less. As such, it shares one Achilles' heel of all texts forwarded as a contribution to the advancement of knowledge, factual disinformation, because it fails to include all raw data, which almost invariably results in an irretrievable loss of same. This particular Achilles' heel was avoided in my three-volume doctoral thesis, Studies in Tetraazamacrocycles — formally published with its deposition in the British Library — by designating all the laboratory data and all the numerical data as appendices, in the second and third volumes, respectively. Now, given that, to date, its number of readers has reached the grand total of four (the external examiner, the two internal examiners, and yours truly), my thesis might be regarded as the quintessence of human folly. However, mirroring what is presently a universal truth, nothing is quite what it seems. This thesis represents the first published fruits of an epigenetically-modified mind born on 25th December 1957: not the mind of the individual born on nth July 1952, who, unbeknownst to his biological parents, had passed away that Christmas Day; if there be an Almighty God, I hope He received his spirit into Heaven: the only resting place for each innocent individual, who is conceived and born without original sin.

[Homeostasis: the maintenance of a constant internal environment despite changes in the external environment. Genome: the entirety of an organism's hereditary information; it is encoded in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), and includes both the protein coding sequences (genes) and the non-protein coding sequences. Epigenetic modification: the temporary or permanent deposition of an endogenous substance on the genome and its associated proteins, which results in changes in the activation or inactivation of one or more genes, but which does not change the genome itself; i.e., no mutation of the DNA sequence. Epigenome: all the epigenetic modifications on the DNA genome and its associated proteins.]

100-d% of epigenomic raw data has been irretrievably lost on the death of each living organism since the creation of life on this planet, regardless of whatever the evolutionary mechanisms are or are guesstimated to be. Now, accepting four-square that biology is the study of living organisms, including and in particular the planet's custodial species Homo sapiens, the prompt and universal recognition of epigenomic lacunae should, on the one hand, irreversibly shatter the (deadening) paridigm that evolution is the explanatory thesis for biology, and on the other, obligate the acceptance of this proposal forthwith: Homeostasis and epigenesis should be the framing, explanatory, and pragmatic theses for biology — the study of living organisms in the immediate past, the present, and the foreseeable future — via the complementary scientific disciplines of ecology, epigenetics, genetics, genomics, and statistics.

[Incidentally, or otherwise, 100-d% of historical raw data has been irretrievably lost on the death of each custodian since time immemorial, where d is an infinitesimally small amount.]

HISTORICAL DATA: 3 (June 1963; Headmaster's study)

1. Shortly after the successful completion of the scholarship entrance examination to Kent College, Canterbury, a «minor» public school, I returned there for the headmaster's interview.

2. I knocked on the door of the headmaster's study, ["Come in."], then opened same. As my eyes swept the room, from left to right, to face the Headmaster standing in front of the right-hand window, I observed a framed picture on the left wall by his desk that I was certain I had seen before; I thought, "It shouldn't be there!"

3. The Headmaster said, in a warm and welcoming tone, "Hello. ... Roger, is it?" I replied, "Yes, Sir." Waving gracefully to a chair, he continued, in the same warm and welcoming tone, "Take a seat, please, Roger." I said, "Thank you, Sir."; and thought, "Ooh, I'm going to have a nice chat with this lovely old gentleman."

[Mea culpa: Mr. David E. Norfolk, the headmaster from 1960 to 1977, was, in fact, a youngish-looking man, aged about 36, in rude health; in the «prime of life», one might say.]

4. After we had sat down opposite one another, I presume that I answered his questions politely, whatever they were. But, without moving my head, I kept glancing at the picture — which was in my peripheral vision — whilst rooting through my mind to determine where I had seen the picture before.

5. After no more than a couple of minutes, he gently leaned forward and, in a warm but purposeful tone — devoid of accusatory, artificial, condemnatory, condescending, judgemental, patronizing, sarcastic, or whimsical elements — he asked, "You keep on looking at that picture?"

6. I immediately replied, in an intense manner, "Yes, Sir. I've seen that picture before; I don't know where: it must be in something I've read."

7. I don't recall the rest of the interview, save that I did not look at the picture again.

Note that: firstly, I would not have given the picture a second glance if I had not seen it before; secondly, I would not have kept glancing at the picture had it been hung almost anywhere else in the study, because I would have been all too conscious of my apparent rudeness to my host; and thirdly, had I consciously distinguished any one of the tonal elements stated above, I would have provided a completely different answer to his question (e.g., 'Oh! I'm so sorry, Sir.').

A. On arriving back home in Whitstable (5 miles or so distant from Canterbury), Mum asked me, "How did the interview go?" As I dashed upstairs, I replied, "I did alright, I suppose." I rooted through a pile of issues of Look and Learn, a weekly educational magazine for children that Mum and Dad bought for me, to find the picture; when I had done so, a photograph of same, I realized something I had never been cognizant of before: that one could copy a picture. Hitherto, I had assumed that each framed picture or painting that I had seen was an original; I had been in very few private houses or public buildings and rarely watched the television.

B. Very shortly thereafter, Mum and Dad received a letter informing them, firstly, that I had been awarded a scholarship for the full tuition fees, and secondly, that Kent County Council had, on the advice of the Headmaster, awarded me a grant for the full boarding fees. Accordingly, I arrived bag and baggage at Kent College in September 1963 as a boarding scholar.

[Ordinary or O-level, an externally assessed qualification nominally equivalent to the present GCSE in a subject. Advanced or A-level, similarly an externally assessed qualification nominally equivalent to the present A-level in a subject.]

C. Immediately following the sitting of the final O-level examination in June 1968, each boy in the Fifth (Year 11) was required to submit his chosen combination of three A-level subjects for study in the Lower & Upper Sixth (Years 12 & 13); providing there were no unresolvable clashes on the time-table, the boy's chosen combination was approved.

D. A few days after the boys' submissions, the Headmaster, in his study, read through a list — which had the names of three approved A-level subjects alongside the respective boy's surname for 37 boys, and the word "leaving" alongside the surname of 3 boys, whose parents had informed him that their son would be withdrawn from the school at the end of term — then proceeded to walk from his study to a classroom, in order to share a «rites of passage» moment with those boys whose futures would irreversibly begin to take shape by their approved choice of A-level subjects.

HISTORICAL DATA: 4 (June 1968; Headmaster's study)

1. All 40 boys of the Fifth stood up from their seats in near unison as the Headmaster opened the door of the classroom; he entered, closed the door, walked to the centre of the room, stood about three feet in front of the double-blackboard, then said, "Good afternoon, boys. Please sit down." 38 of the 40 seated boys, who invariably appeared to «hang on the Headmaster's every word» in the school's daily Assembly, as good manners required, «hung on the Headmaster's every word» in a much more literal sense. Then, in alphabetical order, though the boys were not sitting as such, he proceeded to read out each boy's surname followed by the names of the three approved A-level subjects.

2. I had no other expectation than he would read out, "Peters: History, Geography, and Biology.", as the necessary prerequisite to my sitting the Oxford scholarship examinations in the Upper Sixth during late autumn 1969.

3. He read out, "Peters: leaving." The feeling of betrayal by Mum and Dad was instantaneous and absolute: 'Nothing, ... absolutely nothing makes sense, ... except the Headmaster, ... but I haven't spoken to him for five years. ... I stare at him in utter despair, praying with every fibre of my being that he won't leave the room without saying something to me, ... anything. ... I'll be dead within five minutes if he doesn't. ... My eyes never leave him as his eyes successively focus on each of the other boys as he continues to read from the list. ... [Then he reached the surnames beginning with T.] ... I begin to panic, my heartbeat begins to rise rapidly. ... Please, ... please, ... please don't leave me, ... please I beg you, don't, don't, ... please don't, ... etc., etc.' [Then he stopped reading the list.]

4. He returned my terrified stare of utter despair for the first time, then said loudly and very forcefully, "Peters, see me in my study straight afterwards!" I tried to speak, but because the sense of temporary relief was so overwhelming, I merely mumbled, "Yes, Sir." He left the classroom immediately.

5. From this point on, I tried to focus on his study and being in his presence there. When the bell rang, I walked from the classroom to his study; I just wanted him to take away my absolutely unbearable pain of loneliness and incomprehension.

6. I knocked on the door of the headmaster's study, ["Come in."], then opened same, to be greeted by, in truly compassionate tones, "Roger, ... I'm so sorry." The sense of permanent relief was truly overwhelming; I felt absolutely safe: no harm could come to me in his presence.

7. After a distinct pause, he pointed to the picture by his desk and exclaimed forcefully, "Remember the picture, Roger! ... That's why I gave you the scholarship! ... That's why I wanted you here!"

8. I looked at the picture and then the Headmaster, and would do so repeatedly as I thought, 'You can't remember, ... I haven't spoken to you since then, ... I haven't told anyone, ... it barely lasted two minutes, ... but you do. How? ... And why the scholarship? ... I didn't say anything about the picture. ... Why here? ... It doesn't make sense, ... but it's got to be true. ... No, you can't remember, ... I haven't been near your study, ... but you do. ... Why the scholarship, ... why here? ... I don't understand: but it's got to be true, ... etc., etc.' Eventually I was mentally exhausted, so I looked at the floor, took a couple of deep breaths, then looked at the Headmaster.

9. He said, in tones of conviction, "I don't know how, Roger, but I will help you. ... I will be there for you, Roger, ... I promise!" In reply, I mumbled, "Thank you, Sir."

10. Then he said, in gentle tones, "All right, Roger, off you go." I said, "Yes, Sir. ... Thank you, Sir." I left his study.

Note that: firstly, the Headmaster's use of my forename was the first time I had heard it at school since the scholarship interview; secondly, in his study, I felt intuitively that he was not speaking to me in his role as headmaster; thirdly, the purpose of his exclamatory sentences was, in the first instance, to expunge my suicidal thoughts in an absolutely safe place; and fourthly, he provided me with unequivocal hope for the future by concluding the succession of phrases with "I promise!", stated in the spirit of a «true man».

E. After I left the headmaster's study, I disappeared from the school grounds in order to find additional relief through my vice in life: smoking cigarettes. Whilst I was puffing on my first evil weed, I promised myself that I would never break a promise in my life if the Headmaster "saw me through this". To date, I have not done so: because he kept his promise in spirit and to the letter. Over the next four years, I would see him only five times and exchange about a dozen letters; but it was he, and he alone, who allowed me somehow to reconstruct my life, which had been shattered in every important respect: my relationship with Mum and Dad, my dream of going to Oxford, and, most importantly in the short-term, my self-confidence, self-belief, and feelings of self-worth were distinguished only by their absence.

F. In autumn 1968, merely because I didn't want to work in an office and biology was the only science I had liked at school, I accepted a position as a laboratory assistant in the pharmacology department of a major pharmaceutical company; it suffices to say here that, apart from finding my first three lodgings unsatisfactory, I loathed the job from the first week onwards.

G. In mid-February 1969, although I did not realize it at the time, I had my first piece of good fortune since leaving school: I obtained lodgings with a couple in their early-60s, who were deeply in love and probably had been since the day they first met; she spoilt me rotten and, after returning from my job each afternoon at about 5 o'clock, he regaled me with no end of interesting and extremely funny stories from his younger days. At 7 o'clock each evening, whilst they watched the television, I respected their privacy by going to my room, where I would either read or listen to BBC Radio 4; at 10 o'clock on the dot, the good lady brought me a mug of hot cocoa.

H. In early April 1969, I began mulling over my former Headmaster's exclamatory sentences — "Remember the picture, Roger! ... That's why I gave you the scholarship! ... That's why I wanted you here!" — without making head nor tail of them, aside from accepting that they must be true. Nevertheless, I needed to determine for myself the answers to two interrelated questions: "Was I worthy of a scholarship? Would I have gone to Oxford?" Accordingly, I went to the public library, consulted an A-level History syllabus, borrowed several seemingly relevant books, and read intensely and annotated conscientiously from 7 o'clock to 10 o'clock each evening, with two additional sessions each day of the weekend. Some 8 or 9 weeks later, in early June, shortly before my 17th birthday, after no more than 300 hours of individual study, I sat the two, three-hour essay-based examinations in A-level History; I found out that I had passed in August. Given that I had planned about 500 hours of intense reading during the summer vacation between the Fifth and the Lower Sixth, I judged that I was indeed worthy of a scholarship and that I would have gone to Oxford.

I. My success in A-level History gave me a smidgen of self-belief, but it was my former Headmaster's belief in me and his steadfast support from afar that provided my «lighthouse», outside the workplace, for the next three years.

J. In autumn 1969, I accepted a position as a scientific assistant in the Analytical & Quality Control Department of Smith, Kline & French in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Given that I had not shown the slightest aptitude for any practical subject at school, I had the gravest doubts that my tenure would last beyond the probationary period: but my pessimism proved unfounded for three complementary reasons. One, I took to the job like the proverbial «duck to water»; in part because I clearly understood that innumerable persons unknown to me were implicitly relying on my pharmaceutical analyses for their mental or physical health, and in part because I had subconsciously absorbed lessons about quantitative analysis from the practical assignments in O-level Physics at school. Two, the laboratory was awash with warm-hearted people, each of whom showed forbearance whenever my personal troubles surfaced. And three, most importantly, the quite extraordinary supervisory skills of Mr. Allan Cameron. In particular, Allan created an environment that ensured continuous improvement in the quality, quantity, depth, difficulty, and range of my analytical work; with the relevant reference to his irrefutably genuine authority, he made his disappointment crystal-clear to me whenever my self-confidence in my diverse skills veered into counterproductive over-confidence; and he was both sympathetic and pragmatic whenever the occasion demanded.

K. In late spring 1972, my former Headmaster wrote a letter to me, whose substance and tone, prefigured in our meeting of late autumn 1971, was as follows: 'Roger, you cannot afford to stay another year at Smith, Kline & French; you'll just be treading water. Go to university; get a degree, no matter what the subject: and let the future take care of itself.'

L. In the laboratory there was copy of Finar's Organic Chemistry, then the country's most widely-used undergraduate textbook in the subject, whose author was a certain Dr. I. L. Finar, «Principal Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, Polytechnic of North London». After determining that this institution offered biology as a degree subject, I applied to same and was accepted to read Biology, Physical Biology, and Chemistry for Part I, and Biology for Part II (finals). Following my acceptance for this degree course, Hertfordshire County Council, on behalf of the generous rate payers of the county, awarded me a full maintenance grant for three years.

M. Also in late spring 1972, Allan Cameron presented me with one final gift: the task of revising all the laboratory's volumes of standard analytical methods; and, as a result of his generosity, I had an extensive opportunity to write scientific-technical English for the first time.

N. In early autumn 1972, I arrived at the aforementioned institution and immediately adopted the following modus operandi: full attendance and commitment to the lectures, tutorials, and practicals in Biology and Physical Biology; reasonably dutiful attendance to same in Chemistry; and, devoid of any distractions, three-hour spells of intense reading of biology monographs during the evenings and the weekends.

HISTORICAL DATA: 5 (November 1972; Chemistry tutorial room)

1. Together with about 17 other 1st year science undergraduates, I meandered into a classroom slightly late for a chemistry tutorial. With his customary warm smile, Mr. John Bull, a tutor who wore his scholarship lightly, handed each of us a tutorial sheet of advanced calculations. I walked to my usual spot in the far right corner, sat down, and determined that all of my chums in the close vicinity were as baffled as I as to the raison d'être for this particular tutorial sheet.

2. I leaned back on the chair, put my feet up on the desk, lit a cigarette, and thought, 'Life's grand: a spot of cheap tasty grub in the canteen with my chums after the tutorial; back to my room; knock off the calculations, with the help of the textbooks — which were bound to reveal the raison d'être somewhere or other; a three-hour spell of intense reading of some 2nd year biology monograph; cocoa with a cigarette in bed; sleep.'

3. Shortly after lighting my second cigarette, some 15 minutes into the tutorial, the door opened: a gentleman framed himself in the doorway, a few of the undergraduates looked up to see who had opened the door, then immediately resumed their work — presumably because, like me, they had never seen him before. The gentleman's eyes slowly swept the room, from left to right, and alighted on the tutor — who had been regarding the gentleman, in a relaxed manner, throughout.

4. Since this gentleman provided a pleasing change of scenery, I continued to observe him. He walked towards the tutor, appeared to discuss the tutorial sheet for a minute or so, then looked up and his eyes started to slowly sweep the room, again from left to right. As soon as he started this sweep, I suddenly realized that, should he decide to talk to anyone, the only logical person was me; I was the anomaly, because everyone else was doing what he or she was supposed to be doing. Nevertheless, that aside, there could be no reason for him to talk to me, so I continued to lean back on the chair, with my feet up, and inhaled on the cigarette.

5. As I exhaled, his eyes met mine, and I realized that he was indeed going to talk to me; I thought, "Oh well, guest in the house." I took my feet off the desk, stubbed out my cigarette, leaned forward, and waited to receive my guest. In the interim, he had swivelled round, passed behind the tutor, walked purposively towards me, then pulled up a chair, and sat close to me.

6. In a warm but purposeful tone — devoid of accusatory, artificial, condemnatory, condescending, judgemental, patronizing, sarcastic, or whimsical elements — he asked, "And what are you meant to be doing?"

7. With a wave of my hand towards the tutorial sheet, I immediately replied, "I'm meant to be doing these calculations. I can do them. I'll do them this evening." Then I paused, looked at him directly, and said, in a very intense manner, "But I don't know why I'm meant to be doing them." He paused briefly, then, in the same warm but purposeful tone, he said, "I see. Shall we start at the beginning?" I replied with mild enthusiasm, "Sure.", in a since there's nothing else better to do manner, then took up a piece of paper, sketched a particle in a box, and looked at him enquiringly: he nodded affirmatively.

8. For the next 15 minutes or so, I proceeded to sketch diagrams and scribble diverse mathematical formulae, guided by his invariably warm but purposeful tones despite my occasional errors. Then, for the first time, I had a fleeting thought that what we were doing might be going somewhere. I paused, scribbled down Schrödinger's equation [HY = EY], drew a few arrows to same from selected sketches and scribbles, paused, then looked at him enquiringly: he nodded very affirmatively. I continued to scribble for about five minutes as he interspersed, as appropriate, a succession of "And?", "Or?", "But?", and "Therefore?": then I stopped dead, looked at him intently for about five seconds — during which time he held my gaze and I thought, "No. ... Surely not?" — then pointed to one of the scribbled equations, and asked him: firstly, "So, if you calculate this approximately, then ..." [He replied firmly, "Yes."]; and secondly, "And, if you calculate it more accurately, then ..." [He replied very firmly, "Yes."]. I thought, "Therefore!"

9. For the next two minutes or so, I directed a torrent of the resulting implications at a good number of the scribbles, then paused, and thought, "Chemistry makes sense! ... ... He's just guided me to a self-consistent and comprehensive model of the chemical world." I drew a deep breath, directed my gaze at him, and said, in a very intense tone expressing my deepest gratitude, "Thank you so much." He replied, in a richly warm tone, "My pleasure." Then, just as he was about to get up, his expression changed into one which can only be described as mischievous; he wagged a finger at me, and said, "Now, you've had your twenty minutes of fun. Get on with your sums!" I collapsed laughing: and he got up and walked away.

10. During the next two or three minutes, he walked down the aisle between two lines of desks, pausing occasionally to observe discreetly the efforts of some of the other undergraduates; he either nodded approvingly to himself or raised a quizzical eyebrow. I, in the meantime, was busy reflecting upon the whys and wherefores of the previous twenty minutes. Just as he reached the end of the aisle, I realized that 'I had never understood chemistry before because I had never started at the beginning, ... but that was his suggestion, I didn't say anything, ... eh!?' Then he nodded to the tutor and headed towards the door. I thought, "Nobody, but nobody has done that with my brain in twenty years. Whoever that gentleman is, I want to do a Ph.D. with him [as in a three-year vehicle for thinking: not the qualification]."

11. Feeling in seventh heaven or beyond, I lit a fresh cigarette, and thought, "Life can't get any better than this."

12. Upon stubbing out my cigarette, I suddenly realized that I hadn't the vaguest idea who the gentleman was; I had never seen him before and might never see him again. I approached the tutor, and asked, "Excuse me, please, who was that gentleman I've just been speaking to?" The tutor replied, "He was Dr. Owston. He's the Head of the Chemistry Department." I said, "Thank you.", and returned to my seat hardly any the wiser; I had never heard the name, and I had never given the slightest thought to who was what in the Chemistry Department since I had no other intention than to read Biology for finals.

Note that had I consciously distinguished any one of the tonal elements stated above, or had I consciously recognized that the gentleman's first question was rhetorical, I would have provided a completely different answer.

O. That same evening I executed the tutorial sheet's advanced calculations «through the lens» of the just recently acquired chemical model. Then I decided, albeit with a heavy heart, to ditch Biology and read Chemistry for finals; whereas biology made some sense — via «the characteristics of living organisms» — chemistry made absolute sense. Finally I decided to investigate discreetly this Dr. Owston, who was the first person that I had found in this institution who could give me what I needed (i.e., make my grey matter do what it couldn't do by itself), in order to determine whether there might be any possibility of me being his doctoral student.

[At undergraduate level, the inclusion of such topics such as the genetic code and recombinant DNA technology were several years away for most institutions on both sides of the pond.]

P. I saw Dr. Owston only once more during my 1st year; we nodded to each other, in the manner of having seen someone before, but did not converse.

[The elusiveness of the Chemistry Department's staff was baffling: e.g., Dr. Finar, he of Finar's Organic Chemistry, a makeshift door-stopper rather than a cozy read with one's bedtime cocoa, would become visible for the first time only when I attended his opening lecture at the start of my 2nd year; and one can only assume that my other future doctoral supervisor shared an office with him, presumably proofreading a new edition of this splendid tome — quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus.]

Q. Everything I discovered about Dr. Owston indicated there was no possibility of me being his doctoral student. Thus, his doctoral and postdoctoral supervisor was the crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971), who had attained a plethora of firsts for a female scientist, and whose doctoral supervisor was the polymath Sir William Bragg (1862-1942), who had been awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics, and is regarded as the «father» of modern-day crystallography [cf., Abbé René-Just Haüy (1743-1822)]; he had three degrees (B.Sc., Ph.D. and D.Sc.); he was a renowned expert in the both physical and chemical X-ray crystallography — the latter appeared to me sine quâ non for most worthwhile research projects, but the former would be effectively inaccessible from my decidedly modest base of O-level Physics; he had just completed a 20-year period occupying very high level positions at ICI — then the largest manufacturing company in the Commonwealth, and commonly regarded as the «bellwether of the British economy»; he had no active research programme, but would inevitably choose graduates and doctorates from prestigious universities when he did so; he had a heavy administrative burden; etc., etc., etc.; and, lastly, I couldn't see the slightest advantage to him in being my Ph.D. supervisor. Accordingly, there appeared to be no other option than to continue with my former Headmaster's Plan A: '... get a degree, and let the future take care of itself.'

[In the November 1964 issue of New Scientist, one reads "Electron Spin Resonance by Dr P. G. Owston" (pp. 373-376); one also reads the prescient "Biology and climate changes by Dr G. W. Heath" (pp. 347-348) — one must profoundly regret that "Violin wood and deforestation by Nero", presumably rejected by peer review, has continued to be shoved under the carpet by nearly one and all from Kyoto to Davos.]

R. On the second or third day of my 2nd year, I walked through a set of swing doors to catch an elevator at the very moment Dr. Owston stepped out of one. Immediately he said, in a warm and welcoming tone, "Hello, Roger." I replied, "Hello, Dr. Owston." He continued, "What have you been up to all summer?" I replied, "Well, I spent a few weeks working at Butlin's [holiday camp] on Barry Island [a peninsular on the Welsh coast], but it was absolutely dreadful, so I went back to Smith, Kline & French to keep my hand in." He said, "Mmm, good.", nodded, then passed besides me; I took the next elevator.

S. For the next two years, I was the Chemistry Department's elected student representative on the Academic Board and on the Science Faculty Board, as well as being the sole student representative on the Academic Planning Committee in my 3rd year; I accepted fully my responsibilities by thoroughly reading the minutes (verbosity was limited to the unwieldy Academic Board), carefully listening to each contributor (except the other student representatives on the Academic Board, because none of them said anything remotely germane to the topic in hand), and contributing whenever I judged that my perspective might be worthwhile (attentiveness was the hallmark of the twenty-strong Faculty Board and de rigueur for the seven-strong Planning Committee). I concluded from my experiences as a student representative that the efficacy of any truly serious-minded assembly increases as the number of participants decreases; this relationship has held true to date.

T. Despite my best intentions, my earliest contributions to the Academic and Faculty Boards were sprinkled with faux pas and non sequiturs. I sought Dr. Owston's advice, and during the tea-break or at the conclusion of a meeting he would generously bring his wisdom to the table, so to speak. From about the 8th week of my 2nd year onwards, I regarded Dr. Owston as my de facto personal tutor; we never once talked about my past, chemistry, or my future.

U. Early in my 3rd year, Dr. Owston appeared to me to be close to making a major departmental decision which appeared to be an unequivocal breach of contract; this was deeply disquieting. Accordingly, after the indispensable discussion with my closest (and subsequently life-long) chum Jim Johri, I sought extremely detailed information from Dr. Mary McPartlin, who generously devoted many long hours of her invaluable time; following my independent verification and analysis of this good lady's information, I concluded that his projected but unpopular decision was not merely correct, but the only decision which would have allowed him to fulfil his contract. Therefore, Dr. Owston had, unknowingly, irrefutably proven himself to me as a «true man».

V. My unwavering conviction that Dr. Owston would not agree to be my doctoral supervisor forever delayed my decision to broach the matter, because I knew that it had to be him or no one, and I had the greatest uncertainty that I was mentally strong enough to deal with the anticipated rejection; Plan B, a return to Smith, Kline & French, would be merely a booby prize. Nevertheless, with the end of my undergraduate career looming, I decided to execute Plan C: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

HISTORICAL DATA: 6 (Early May 1975; Dr. Owston's office)

1. I knocked on the door of Dr. Owston's office, ["Come in."], then opened same, to be greeted by, in his customary warm and welcoming tones, "Hello, Roger."

2. I asked, without further ado, "Dr. Owston, would you do me the honour of being my Ph.D. supervisor?"

3. He replied, "Yes, Roger, with pleasure. ... I've been expecting you." (I thought, "How odd! ... Why?", then gathered myself ready to present three caveats to my second and far more important question: but my gathering, so to speak, was interrupted.)

4. He asked, "Why, Roger, ... ... why do you want to be my research student?"

5. I immediately replied, in tones of the gravest doubt, "You don't by any chance remember the first time we met?"

6. He replied, in assured tones, as if our first meeting had occurred the day before, "Yes, Roger." (I thought, "You can't do!" — followed by a fleeting mental image of my former Headmaster referring to the picture in June 1968.)

7. I asked, in tones of someone who is trying to get to the bottom of a matter, "When you guided me from a particle in a box to a comprehensive model of chemistry in twenty minutes flat!?"

8. He replied, again in assured tones, "Yes, Roger."

9. I was flabbergasted, but said immediately, "Well, you've answered your own question! Nobody, but nobody had done that with my brain in twenty years!" He inclined his head very slightly.

10. I gathered myself once again, in order to present the first caveat, then said, "I don't want to do [physical] crystallography." He nodded.

11. Then I said, "I don't want you to teach me how to do research." He raised a quizzical eyebrow. (Interpolating from certain gestures he used in his role as my de facto personal tutor, this meant: 'Broadly speaking, young pup, what you say is right: but there are one or two things you can learn from this ageing master.')

12. Then I said, "And there'll be tears before bedtime." At which point his expression changed to the mischievous one he adopted at the tail-end of our meeting in November 1972, and he said, in over-dramatic broad tones, "Yes, Roger, ... I know!!"

13. Resisting the temptation to share his mischievousness, I gathered myself once again, and said, "I'll do everything to make this work." (This was my inarticulate way of expressing that I would be thoroughly conscientious with respect to the research, fulfilling the formal requirements of the degree, our relationship, etc.) He nodded.

14. Then, in what I regarded as the most important question that I would ask someone in my life, I asked, in a very deliberate manner, "Will you give me ... what I need, ... when you think ... I need it?" He adopted a focused expression, then replied, in the severest tones he would ever use to me, "Yes, Roger, I will."

15. Finally I said, in a very intense tone expressing my deepest gratitude, "Thank you so much, Dr. Owston." He replied, in a richly warm tone, "My pleasure, Roger."

Caveat 4. A worthwhile definition of a «good teacher» might be: Someone who successfully guides a student from something he or she does know to something he or she doesn't, in steps that makes sense to that particular student, without endangering his or her self-confidence in the present or for the future.

An unknown gentleman [Dr. Owston], who understood the «voice of the learning process», guided an undergraduate student to a self-consistent and comprehensive model of chemistry in November 1972. Dr. Owston's technique mirrored that of Mr. Chalcraft, the teacher of woodwork and metalwork at Kent College, Canterbury, during the 1960s; thus, after carefully demonstrating the correct method of either using a craft tool or executing a specific technique to the whole class of twenty students, he would then patiently and successfully guide each student individually to the required level of competence or beyond without endangering that particular student's self-confidence.

The method of teaching by both Dr. Owston and Mr. Chalcraft precluded any element of competition and required neither gentleman to be an inspiration to his respective student: but did require the student to show both concentration and a measure of commitment. Their method was paralleled by Mr. Hughes, a teacher of history at Kent College during the same period, who similarly dispensed with competition, structured his lessons so that each student concentrated on the subject — and nothing but the subject — for 1½ hours (the length of a typical O-level examination paper), and devised a method of assessment whereby the pass mark, 70% (the percentage required to obtain the top grade at O-level), was within range of each student; this inevitably increased both the self-confidence and achievement of «weaker» students — who often languished in the lower region of the rank ordering within the class for almost any given subject — because they became the equal of «stronger» students, both in principle and in practice.

The foregoing may prompt you to judge that these exemplars alone shatter two received wisdoms prevalent in education: that «a good teacher must be an inspiration to his or her student», and that «competition drives up standards». However, both common sense and prudence demand that you seek independent verification of your judgement; and, in my opinion, this is achievable by reference to Donald Wheeler's Understanding Variation; The Key To Managing Chaos (1993), from which the following two paragraphs are drawn from his Introduction:

"Numerical illiteracy is not a failure with arithmetic, but it is instead a failure to know how to use the basic tools of arithmetic to understand data. Numerical illiteracy is not addressed by the traditional courses in the primary or secondary schools, nor is it addressed by advanced courses in mathematics. This is why even highly educated individuals can be numerically illiterate.

Fortunately, the cure for numerical illiteracy is very simple. The principles are easy to grasp, and very easy to implement. This book is written to help the reader overcome numerical illiteracy."

The qualitative precepts within this book should be more readily appreciated if: firstly, you consider it to have the working title of «Making Sense of Data»; secondly, you focus your attention on Donald Wheeler's perceptive distinction between the «Voice of the Process» and the «Voice of the Customer»; and thirdly, you co-opt a «good teacher».

Caveat 5. For the last forty years, in a nearly-parallel universe, Britain's «powers that be» have required that Lennon-McCartney songs are a compulsory element in each student's secondary education: no other composers have been so «honoured». This is equivalent to asserting that any song in the Lennon-McCartney canon is of more educational value than any song composed since time immemorial, including any one on Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief (1969), The Who's Tommy (1969), Deep Purple's In Rock (1970), Frank Zappa's Hot Rats (1970), Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Waters (1970), Jethro Tull's Aqualung (1971), Led Zeppelin IV (1971), The Strawbs' Grave New World (1972), Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (1977), and Home Service's Alright Jack (1986), to name but ten albums. You are invited to consider «Revolution 9», the final track on The Beatles' White Album (1968), as a reference point.

For the last forty years, Britain's «powers that be» have required that Shakespeare is a compulsory element in each student's secondary education: no other author has been so «honoured». This is equivalent to asserting that any passage, scene, play, poem, or sonnet in the Shakespearean canon is of more educational value than any work written since time immemorial, including and in particular The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran, and The Constitution of the United States; regardless of one's religious or political views, for better or worse, these three works have guided the lives of untold millions since they first graced this earth: ... and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

Now, these «powers that be» are typically highly educated, in the commonly understood sense of the term: yet they have uniformly failed to provide one substantive reason why Shakespeare should be so «honoured», much less provide any substantive evidence that even one student has become more enlightened than he or she would otherwise have been by reading any other author. You are invited to consider — but are not limited to considering — Mark Twain (Is Shakespeare Dead?, 1909), Giles Cooper (Unman, Wittering and Zigo, 1958), Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons, 1961), George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman, 1969), Patrick O'Brian (Master and Commander, 1969), Angie Debo (A History of the Indians of the United States, 1970), John Innes Mackintosh Stewart (The Gaudy, 1974), Finlay J. Macdonald (Crowdie and Cream, 1982), Pauline Maier (American Scripture: How America Declared its Independence from Britain, 1997), and Homer Hickham (October Sky, 2000).

Caveat 6. Every year since 1919, on 11th November at 11 a.m., the people of Britain have observed two minutes silence, in remembrance of those members of the armed forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving their country, including and in particular the 900,000 or more who did so during World War I (1914-1918).

For the past few decades, students have been introduced to the poetry written during this war, including Wilfred Owen's Dulce et decorum est: whether this particular poem is appropriate is a decidedly moot point, for at least three reasons.

First, the title is only the first half of a Latin tag, which reads, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, and means, "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." But the reader can have little or no appreciation of the poem's savage irony without an understanding of the second half of the tag.

Second, from Wilfred Owen himself — who, in October 1917, wrote to his mother from Edinburgh, "Here is a gas poem, done yesterday [...] The famous Latin tag (from Horace, Odes) means of course it is sweet and meet to die for one's country." — to innumerable individuals in the intervening years, the assertion that the words of the tag were 'widely understood' is false. Thus, in contrast to this irrefutably brave soldier-poet, who received secondary education to the age of 18, at least 90% of those who sacrificed their lives during this war had not received one day's secondary schooling, much less one lesson of Latin (note, the 1893 Elementary Education Act raised the minimum schooling leaving age to 11, and the 1918 Education Act made secondary education compulsory up to the age of 14); moreover, 100% of women were disenfranchised until the 1918 Representation of the People Act.

And third, albeit unwittingly, the poem's subject obscures the fact that the greatest cause of death in this war, as in so many others prior to World War II, was disease (such as dysentary, cholera, and typhus).

Caveat 7. Whimsically stated ... In June 1992, a young lass in Year 6 named Cavia Porcellus, known to her chums as Ginny, sat her Key Stage 2 examinations in three subjects which are a statutory part of the National Curriculum: English, Mathematics, and Science. Unsurprisingly, Ginny was none too fussed about whether her performances would result in her primary school being promoted or demoted the following season. Be that as it may, Ginny was expecting her examination papers to be forwarded to «big school», during the long summer vacation, so that her Year 7 teachers in these subjects could carefully go through these raw data with her, so that she had specific details of her weaknesses with respect to her understanding of each subject and her examination techniques. Needless to say, perhaps, but Ginny was sorely disappointed in September 1992. However, although this will be of ice-cold comfort to the now considerably older Ginny, roughly half a million of her Year 7 peers were in the same Brobdingnagian-sized boat as she was; moreover, in each of the last nineteen years, a new such boat has been added to the fleet. Nevertheless, Ginny is ever the optimist: she hopes that copies of Donald Wheeler's Understanding Variation will weigh down Santa's sacks one magical Christmas in the not too distant future, even if this means Rudolph's nose-bag being weighed down with extra lichen and the ubiquitous robin being given the heave-ho.

Seriously stated ... From the perspective of the «powers that be», whoever they be, the percentage mark — e.g., 47% — in an internal or external examination is often the be-all and end-all of assessment. However, from your perspective, as the student, the most important aspect of any examination should be the precise determination of the reasons for your «missing percentage» — here, 53%; amongst others, these might be misreading of one or more questions, inattention to the mark scheme, incomplete or lack of understanding of one or more concepts, lack of factual knowledge, or health problems on the day of the examination. And, once you have determined precisely these reasons, via individual debriefing with a «good teacher», then you will have acquired sufficient self-confidence in your ability to achieve a higher percentage — e.g., 55% — in the next examination: ... and so on and so forth.

Caveat 8. Since time immemorial, the received wisdom would appear to be that a teacher asking a single factual question to a class of students is a worthwhile exercise; examples of single factual questions are: "Where is the headland known as Cape Trafalgar?" [In the province of Cádiz, south-west Spain]; "When was the Battle of Trenton?" [26th December 1776]; "In Romeo and Juliet, who was Romeo courting before he espied Juliet?" [Rosaline]; "What is the first differentiation of y = x³?" [dy/dx = 3x² or f'(x) = 3x²]; "What is the SI unit of force?" [Newton]; "What is the second differentiation of y = x³?" [d²y/dx² = 6x or f''(x) = 6x]; "What is the Latin for «Let the non-believer beware.»?" [Caveat infidelis]; "What is the abbreviation for ribonucleic acid?" [RNA]; and "What is the French for «I don't know.»?" [Je ne sais pas.] ... But!

In September 1995, Mr. Chips — who was the venerable teacher of chemistry in Years 10 and 11 at Ginny's «big school», and whom each student in Year 10 vaguely suspected of having laid the foundation stone for England's first blast furnace (in 1491) — had swashbuckled his way through a presentation of the «Extraction of Iron». Early in the following academic year, Mr. Chips asked the same class of students, now in Year 11, "What is the principal ore used in the extraction of iron?", which resulted in six of the twenty-five students raising their hands. Choosing one of these six, he asked, "Yes, Ms. Porcellus?", who replied, "Haematite, Sir." He said, "Correct. Well done, Cavia!", and then, in the time honoured manner, moved on to the next topic. ... Yet!

There were at least four reasons why a student might not have raised his or her hand: one, he or she had never registered this fact, perhaps because of inattention in Year 10; two, he or she had simply forgotten this fact; three, he or she had lacked self-confidence in the presence of his or her peers; and four, he or she didn't care one way or the other: but Mr. C. made no attempt to determine which reason was applicable to any one of the nineteen students who didn't raise his or her hand. Furthermore, Mr. C. made no attempt to determine whether any one of the other five students who raised his or her hand did indeed know the correct answer. And finally, although Ginny's answer was correct, this could have been of no value to Mr. C. — nor to any one of the other twenty-four students — because he did not know why Ginny knew the correct answer; and, without knowing the why, he had not increased the likelihood of Ginny — nor of any one of the other twenty-four students — producing the correct answer for any time when it truly matters. ... So!

Seemingly, Mr. Chips was unaware of, or had ignored, the dictum of Cyril Hinshelwood, who was awarded the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1956 — that "Science is not the mere collection of facts, which are infinitely numerous and mostly uninteresting, but the attempt by the human mind to order these facts into satisfying patterns." — and, in consequence, he had not considered asking his question in an anchored and potentially more fruitful way: e.g., "Recalling, firstly, that cobaltite and chromite are the principal ores used for the extraction of cobalt and chromium, respectively, and secondly, that haemoglobin is an iron-containing protein which carries dioxygen in the blood of mammals, write down the name of the principal ore used in the extraction of iron."

Whilst you may care to examine further the ostensible worthwhileness of the aforementioned received wisdom, by considering single factual questions in diverse subjects and with diverse class sizes, in my opinion you would be well advised to accept the spirit of Hinshelwood's dictum in pursuing your studies in each subject, by anchoring each fact in a potentially fruitful context.



Each child, at birth, has absolute independence of mind, and, from birth, attempts to make sense of the world as it is represented, so as to establish the truth about the world. This truth, whatever it be, is acquired from both the child's own investigations and one or more sources of titular authority (typically his or her parents) — whom the child trusts as sources of genuine authority.

From infancy onwards, in attempting to make sense of the world, the child's brain receives a veritable hotchpot of demonstrable truths and received truths — mere acceptance of the latter inevitably results in a decrease in the child's independence of mind, regardless of whether any given received truth is itself true or false.

This decrease in the independence of mind appears to be the universal rule, rather than the exception, in the species Homo sapiens, and would indicate that the resultant neural networks established in (at least certain parts of) the brain during infancy are likely to be broadly similar for all individuals of the species, save those who have the tragic misfortune to suffer from either a congenital or an acquired mental disorder.

The corollary of the substance of the three preceding paragraphs is that the retention of absolute independence of mind will be possible only if: one, the child has the opportunity to examine independently a received truth, judged to be important by either the child or the child's only source(s) of genuine authority for the truth; two, the child determines that this received truth is false; and three, the trauma of this falsity results in the establishment of neural networks which permanently lock the child into investigating anomalies and received truths as the default position for making sense of the world, and so establishing the truth about the world.

Note that, during infancy, and indeed throughout life, an individual's brain will also receive — but correctly and timely analyse only rarely — a seemingly ever-increasing ragbag of antiphrases, half-truths, Humpty-Dumpty words and phrases, inadvertent errors, lies, misinformation, non sequiturs, platitudes, and uncontextualized information from sundry sources of titular authority. [Antiphrase: a phrase conveying the opposite meaning to the one intended literally. Disinformation: falsehood(s) by omission. Humpty-Dumpty word or phrase: one chosen by its author to mean whatever that same author chooses it to mean. Lie: a deliberate falsehood. Misinformation: falsehood(s). Non sequitur: an inference or conclusion not logically following from the premises. Platitude: a trite or banal statement, especially one expressed as if it were significant and original.]


Namely, that I have retained absolute independence of mind because all three of the aformentioned conditions were satisfied on Christmas Day 1957 at a children's home. Thus:

1. Both houseparents had insisted that lying was always bad, wrong, evil.

2. Both houseparents had stated that Father Christmas would bring presents.

3. A boy, aged 5½, had observed that all his presents were second-hand and that about half of them were broken, whereas all the other boys' presents were new: this was anomalous.

4. So this child, who felt absolutely safe in the presence of the houseparents, attempted to make sense of the world as it was represented: firstly, by asking himself, 'Why had Father Christmas brought all the other boys new presents and not him?'; secondly, by attempting to resolve the anomaly by asking himself, 'Had he lied or been naughty recently?' ["No."].

5. And thirdly, following gentle prompting, by asking the housemother, 'Why had all the other boys got new presents and not him?' Her answer, "[because] They've all got aunties.", revealed that both houseparents — who, hitherto, the child had trusted absolutely — had lied about Father Christmas.

6. The child had, albeit unwittingly, independently investigated a received truth stated by two individuals who were his only sources of genuine authority for the truth: and had found this received truth to be false.

7. The trauma of this falsity resulted in the establishment of neural networks — via epigenetic modifications [see Rajiv Sharma, David Gavin & Dennis Grayson (2010), and references cited therein] — which permanently locked the child into independently investigating anomalies and received truths as the default position for making sense of the world, and so establishing the truth about the world.


From 1958 to 1972, and indeed beyond to the present day, manifestations of my absolute independence of mind have been variously interpreted as aberrations, bloody-mindedness, contrariness, childishness, ignorance, immaturity, irrationalism, lack of supposèdly due respect for authority, or rudeness: except on extremely rare occasions, none of these interpretations has been correct, save that of authority in the sense of titular authority. Nevertheless, on two particularly important occasions, such manifestations were not only correctly interpreted, but prompted each individual to take truly exceptional measures.

The first occurred in June 1963, in the headmaster's study at Kent College, Canterbury.

1. A young boy, aged nearly 11, had observed a picture whose presence there didn't make sense: it was anomalous.

2. This «child», who felt absolutely safe in the presence of an unknown gentleman who had spoken to him in a warm and welcoming tone, attempted to make sense of the world as it was represented by rooting through his mind to determine where he had seen this picture before.

3. And when this «child» was asked by this gentleman — in a warm but purposeful tone, devoid of accusatory, artificial, condemnatory, condescending, judgemental, patronizing, sarcastic, or whimsical elements — "You keep on looking at that picture?", he voiced his true thoughts, to a favourably disposed individual whose titular status was unknown to him: "Yes, Sir. I've seen that picture before; I don't know where: it must be in something I've read."

4. This gentleman, [whose titular status was Headmaster], immediately realized that the young boy before him, aged about 11 and academically more than competent for this age, had revealed his default characteristic: the child-like behaviour of absolute independence of mind. And, as such, was a danger to himself; that is, his greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. In consequence,

as subsequently evinced by his exclamatory sentences in June 1968, "Remember the picture, Roger! ... That's why I gave you the scholarship! ... That's why I wanted you here!",

he immediately decided that he must not only offer this boy a scholarship for the full tuition fees, but also ensure one way or t'other that he would obtain for him a grant for the full boarding fees, for three reasons. First, his titular position, together with its intrinsic modus operandi in the background, allowed him to watch over the boy discreetly from afar, for the purpose of determining the latter's additional weaknesses — which would need to be ameliorated during his period in the Sixth Form, whose structure facilitated a high degree of independent study. Second, the boy's education and welfare would necessarily be directed by his colleagues in the foreground, whose particular and essential commonality was unwavering fair-mindedness. And third, as a boarder, the boy would have the necessary continuity of education from the beginning of Year 7 to the end of Year 13 (the Upper Sixth), even if his parents moved geographically outside a convenient commuting distance.

And the second occurred in November 1972, in an undergraduate tutorial room.

1. A young man, aged about 20, had considered a tutorial sheet containing merely advanced calculations to be anomalous in a chemistry tutorial.

2. This «child» attempted to make sense of the world as it was represented, albeit without success, by asking his fellow undergraduates the raison d'être for the tutorial sheet.

3. When this «child», who felt absolutely safe in the presence of an unknown gentleman, is asked by him — in a warm but purposeful tone, devoid of accusatory, artificial, condemnatory, condescending, judgemental, patronizing, sarcastic, or whimsical elements — "And what are you meant to be doing?", he voiced his true thoughts, to a favourably disposed individual whose titular status was unknown to him: "I'm meant to be doing these calculations. I can do them. I'll do them this evening."

4. Then the «child» effectively restarted his attempts to make sense of the world as it was represented by stating to this gentleman, in an intense manner, "But I don't know why I'm meant to be doing them."; this is equivalent to stating: 'Because these calculations are anomalous in a chemistry tutorial, I want to know why I'm meant to be doing them.'

5. This gentleman, [whose titular status was Head of the Chemistry Department], immediately realized that the young man before him, aged about 20 and academically more than competent for this age, had revealed his default characteristic: the child-like behaviour of absolute independence of mind. And, as such, was a danger to himself; that is, his greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. In consequence, he immediately decided that he must be the young man's future doctoral supervisor, for two reasons. First, his titular position, together with its intrinsic modus operandi in the background, allowed him to watch over the young man discreetly from afar, for the purpose of determining the latter's additional weaknesses — which would need to be ameliorated during the period as his doctoral student, when independence of mind would be particularly valued. And second, the young man's education in degree-standard chemistry would necessarily be directed by his colleagues in the foreground, whose essential commonality was expertise in this subject.

Appendix 2 presents strong circumstantial evidence for the preparedness of the minds of the Headmaster and Dr. Owston for their respective first meetings with me, given that I had shown a high degree of independence of mind, at the very least, on prior and relevant occasions.



In order to communicate succinctly and efficiently with one another, scientists in general, and biologists, biochemists and chemists in particular, use diverse types of «shorthand»; these include abbreviations, chemical equations, reaction schemes, and line formulae.

Setting aside the finer details, the basic «rules» of line formulae are as follows. Each carbon of the skeleton is shown as a vertex; each full line connecting the vertices represents one localized covalent bond; each hydrogen bonded to the skeletal carbons is omitted; and all other functional groups are shown explicitly.

[The term "localized covalent bond" describes the mutual electrostatic attraction of two adjacent nuclei for a shared pair of electrons which occupy the same molecular energy level.]

The structural and line formulae of hexane (1), hex-1-ene (2), and hex-2-ene (3) are:

Formulae of hexane (1), hex-1-ene (2), and hex-2-ene (3)

The structural and line formulae of cyclohexane (4), cyclohexene (5), and cyclohexa-1,3-diene (6) are:

Formulae of cyclohexane (4), cyclohexene (5), and cyclohexa-1,3-diene (6)

Personal preference, guided by the context, very often determines which carbons are designated skeletal; e.g., methylcyclohexane might be shown as 7a, 7b, or 7c — either of the latter two would probably be used when an author wished to emphasize this compound's topological similarities and/or differences to other substituted cyclohexanes (such as 8 and 9).

Line formulae of substituted cyclohexanes (7a, 7b, 7c, 8, and 9)


In eukaryotic cells — that is, those present in certain unicellular organisms [e.g., Saccharomyces cerevisiae, brewer's yeast] and all multicellular organisms [e.g., Arabidopsis thaliana, thale cress, Caenorhabditis elegans, a free-living nematode, Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee, and Homo sapiens] — the entirety of an organism's hereditary information is encoded in chromosomal DNA and mitochondrial DNA, present in the nucleus and the cytoplasm, respectively; the components of, and their arrangement in, double-stranded DNA are shown below.

Line formulae of the components of DNA and diagrammatic representation of double-stranded DNA

Double-stranded DNA includes both protein coding sequences (genes) and non-protein coding sequences; respectively, these are about 25% and 75% in C. elegans, and about 2% and 98% in H. sapiens. During mitotic cell division, both strands of the DNA are duplicated: by contrast, only one of the equivalent DNA strands is required to serve as the coding template for the synthesis of a given protein.

[Gene: a sequence of codons, where each codon is a group of three nucleotide bases.]

A copy of the gene is transcribed to give mRNA (messenger RNA), which usually contains both exons (expressed codons) and introns (inexpressed codons); the latter are spliced out, and the resulting RNA is then translated to the necessarily precise amino acid sequence of the requisite protein.

Schematic of protein synthesis

For the past fifty years or so, the lion's share of biological, biochemical, genetics, and genomics research has been directed at elucidating, in ever-greater detail, diverse aspects of the DNA sequence variations of an ever-increasing number of living organisms. Such a focus has been more than justifiable, simply because of the irrefutable importance of proteins in the correct and aberrant functioning of cells in all living organisms.

Nevertheless, during the last twenty years or so, there has developed a justified consensus that innumerable fundamental aspects of theoretical and applied biology can only be addressed via research programmes which incorporate epigenetics.

So, epigenetics, as «Cinderella» — who, incidentally, may have been held back by gaggle of antediluvian «Ugly Sisters» who continue to roam the earth — must be an equal and permanent partner to genomics, the «Prince».


In 1957, Conrad Waddington introduced a conceptual framework for epigenetics via an image representing the metaphorical epigenetic landscape, which allows the visualization of cellular development. As various cells differentiate — that is, become more specialized — each one may be considered as occupying a position in a trough lower down the hill; the diagram below shows Waddington's image, modified to illustrate the positions of a few cells as reference points.

1st modified Waddington's image representing the epigenetic landcape

Numerous cell types — including cardiomycetes, cartilage cells, insulin-secreting cells, and neurons — are not only fully differentiated, but the appropriate organ does not have a reservoir of less specialized cells — either intrinsically (e.g., the heart does not have cardiac stem cells) or because they have been destroyed by disease (e.g., the b-cells in the pancreas) — to remake such fully differentiated cells. In consequence, the destruction of such cells typically results in severe health problems (e.g., type I diabetes).

2nd modified Waddington's image representing the epigenetic landcape

In 2006, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka reported the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from mouse fibroblasts, which are the main differentiated cells in connective tissue. And, in the intervening few years, innumerable researchers have extended their research to the creation of iPS cells from diverse human tissues and donors — thereby paving the way, at least in principle, for their therapeutic usage in the treatment of, amongst other diseases, diabetes, haemophilias, and osteo-arthritis.


The first epigenetic modification to be identified was DNA methylation; and, in 1975, Arthur Riggs, and Robin Holliday & John Pugh separately published the proposal that 5-methylcytosine may have an important role in controlling gene expression.

Methylation of cytosine

In 1980, Peter Jones and Shirley Taylor published substantive evidence that the use of cytidine analogues prevented the methylation of cytosine residues in DNA; in particular, the use of analogue 5-azacytidine was shown to be a potent inhibitor of DNA methylation.

Line formula of 5-azacytidine

In 1985, Adrian Bird and his colleagues published further evidence linking DNA methylation and gene expression; in particular, the importance of «islands» of CpG methylation.

Line formula of 5-azacytidine

And in 1998, Adrian Bird and Alan Wolffe, and their respective colleagues, published research that showed that DNA methylation affects gene expression indirectly by changing the affinity of sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins for their target sites.

Broadly speaking, when mammalian DNA is methylated, it binds a protein called MeCP2 (Methyl CpG binding Protein 2), which, in turn, attracts other proteins that prevent gene expression. And, when genes and their promoters are very heavily methylated, the DNA of the chomosome becomes very tightly coiled up, which prevents gene transcription via mRNA.

[Nucleosome: the basic unit of DNA packaging in eukaryotes, consisting of a segment of DNA wound in sequence around eight histone protein cores.]

A second epigenetic modification involves the histone proteins intimately associated with DNA, typically by acetylation of their lysine groups.

Line formulae of lysine and acetyl-lysine

Broadly speaking, when mammalian histones are modified, gene expression increases near a specifically modified nucleosome: nevertheless, the histone code, published in 2001 by Thomas Jenuwein and David Allis, representing the patterns of modifications, is extremely complex.

And a third epigenetic modification involves non (protein) coding RNA (ncRNA), many of which are also involved in gene expression, whose base length varies from about 25 bases ('short' ncRNA) to greater than 3,000 bases ('long' ncRNA).

Caveat 9. Ronald Fisher, who was primarily a statistician, and who was a pioneer in population genetics, wrote at the beginning of his book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (1930):

"Natural Selection is not Evolution. Yet, ever since the two words have been in common use, the theory of Natural Selection has been employed as a convenient abbreviation for the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, put forward by Darwin and Wallace. This has had the unfortunate consequence that the theory of Natural Selection itself has scarcely if ever received separate consideration."

Despite Fisher's cautionary words, the aforementioned "abbreviation", for better or worse, appears to have taken root with a vengeance; as is illustrated here by the following example.

'The over-use of a biocide typically results in living organisms with short life-cycles evolving resistance by the mechanism of natural selection, as exemplified by tsetse flies (Glossina palpalis), the vectors of the Trypanosoma protozoa which cause sleeping-sickness. Thus,

«Structural variation has occurred in populations of tsetse flies by natural mutations of their genome, followed by the exchange of genes via meiosis and random fertilization. Some of these mutations have resulted in some tsetse flies containing a gene which codes for the catabolism of the biocide DDT. These individuals have been the fittest in environments where the agent of selection is this biocide, and so more of these have survived to reproductive maturity. Their offspring have inherited this favourable gene; and so, within the gene pool of tsetse flies, the frequency of the DDT-resistant gene has increased.».'

A parallel construction is readily advanced for bread-and-butter flies (Panemetbutyrum circenses). Thus,

«Structural variation has occurred in populations of bread-and-butter flies by natural mutations of their genome, followed by the exchange of genes via meiosis and random fertilization. Some of these mutations have resulted in some bread-and-butter flies containing a gene which codes for the catabolism of the biocide SWAT. These individuals have been the fittest in environments where the agent of selection is this biocide, and so more of these have survived to reproductive maturity. Their offspring have inherited this favourable gene; and so, within the gene pool of bread-and-butter flies, the frequency of the SWAT-resistant gene has increased.».

However, as evinced by the following two constructions, and setting aside conceivable transgenerational inheritance via the germ cells, certain epigenetic modifications will also have consequences with respect to inheritance. Thus,

«Structural variation will occur in populations of bread-and-butter flies by epigenetic modifications on their genome. The resulting epigenomes will result in some bread-and-butter flies being the fittest in certain environments, and so more of these will reproduce. Therefore more bread-and-butter flies will inherit this genome, mutant or otherwise; and so, within the gene pool of bread-and-butter flies, the frequency of this genome will increase.»,

«Structural variation will occur in populations of bread-and-butter flies by epigenetic modifications on their genome. The resulting epigenomes will result in some bread-and-butter flies not being the fittest in certain environments, and so fewer of these will reproduce. Therefore fewer bread-and-butter flies will inherit this genome, mutant or otherwise; and so, within the gene pool of bread-and-butter flies, the frequency of this genome will decrease.».

But, in common with each living organism which has existed hitherto, 100-d% of epigenomic raw data for bread-and-butter flies has been irretrievably lost; ... as has 100-d% of environmental raw data.

Caveat 10. Finally, if you accept that you are a custodian of the only known habitable planet in the Universe for the species Homo sapiens, then you might care to mull over two interrelated received wisdoms: that «all knowledge is valuable», and that «the quantity of knowledge is increasing exponentially».

Firstly, consider if you will, as illustrative examples, the supposèdly important questions of: "Did birds evolve from dinosaurs?", and "Is there water on planets in distant galaxies?" There are only two definitive answers to either question: "Yes" or "No". But would either answer, regarding aspects of the distant past and the distant future, respectively, be of any conceivable value to a custodian who shares responsibility for the well-being of the species Homo sapiens in the present and the foreseeable future? Moreover, would resources allocated to determining the answers to such questions not inevitably result in fewer resources being allocated to determining worthwhile knowledge that is self-consistent with a custodian's responsibility?

And secondly, note that, despite common parlance, "knowledge" and "information" are not synonyms, neither are "misinformation" and "disinformation".


Appendix 1: Ariadne's Thread and Captain of the Ship
Between 1975 and 2005, I occasionally attempted to determine why my Headmaster and Dr. Owston each remembered his first meeting with me, some thirty or more months after the event. Then, in 2006, whilst re-reading through and mulling over various texts in my mind, the latter paused on the following sentence: "The captain was a warm-hearted gentleman, but he expected his orders to be obeyed to the letter." The description "warm-hearted gentleman" immediately brought both my Headmaster and Dr. Owston to the forefront of my mind: and thence to the word "captain". I had never considered either of these gentlemen as the «captain of a ship»: but, for all intents and purposes, that is precisely what each one was. However, neither gentleman gave me the merest hint of an order during our first meeting; and there my deliberations might have ground to a halt, if I had not instinctively felt that I had, albeit serendipitously, finally teased out the end of Ariadne's Thread. Accordingly, I ruminated upon the roles of a captain on an 18th century ship; and, during these ruminations, I realized that everyone on board, from the ship's boy to the first lieutenant, was, in principle if not in practice, «hanging on the captain's every word». And this realization prompted the following train of thought.

When a master entered a classroom for a lesson, all twenty boys would stand up from their seats in near unison and «hang on his every word»; this was the master's subconscious expectation, because this would be the uniform occurrence. Then he would say, for example, "Good morning, boys. Please sit down." or "Bonjour. Asseyez-vous, s'il vous plaît.", whereupon all twenty boys would sit down in near unison and «hang on his every word»; yet again this was the master's subconscious expectation, because this too would be the uniform occurrence. [Then he might say, for example, "Please open your books at page ..." — and the remainder of the lesson would be in free format.]

Similarly, if a master entered a classroom or a common-room outside of lesson time, any boy who was seated would stand up immediately and, together with any boy who was already standing, face him and «hang on his every word». [Then he might say, for example, "Peters, wait outside my study." — which was a clear indication that I had not received an invitation for a cozy chat and a cup of tea; ... chance would have been a fine thing.]

Similarly, if Matron entered a dormitory, usually to broach the subjects of laundry and personal hygiene, every boy present would stand up immediately, face her and «hang on her every word». [Note, though, that the good lady never enquired about one's personal preference in shampoo, much less whether one wanted one's shampoo and conditioner combined or separate; ... perish the thought.]

Finally, whenever and whereever the Headmaster met a boy or a member of staff, be it in his study, a classroom, a common-room, a corridor, an office, the staff-room, the refectory, the library, the chapel, within the school grounds, or outside the school grounds, the individual would «hang on his every word»; this was the Headmaster's subconscious expectation, because this would be the uniform occurrence.

Almost from the start of the interview in June 1963, and contrary to his subconscious expectation, the Headmaster's conscious mind registers that the «wretched boy» before him was not «hanging on his every word», as evinced by his repeated glancing at a picture; such brazen inattention would have been extremely rare, possibly unique, throughout his career as a headmaster. Furthermore, despite his subconscious expectation, his conscious mind is behaving t'other way round, and, upon registering this anomaly, he decides to investigate the reason for same ["You keep on looking at that picture?"].

Now, whilst Dr. Owston was the «captain of a ship» in November 1972, because he knew that none of the 1st year undergraduates would have known who he was at such an early stage in the academic year, his conscious mind would override his otherwise subconscious expectation. Nevertheless, because his conscious mind registers the anomaly of an apparently «idle oaf» amongst a class of seemingly conscientious undergraduates, he decides to investigate the reason for same ["And what are you meant to be doing?"].

Appendix 2: Chance Favours the Prepared Mind
Between 1975 and 2005, my sporadic attempts at identifying and then unravelling Ariadne's Thread were hampered by two assumptions. First, that, prior to our first meeting in June 1963, the Headmaster's knowledge about me was limited to my performance in the scholarship entrance examination. And second, that, prior to our first meeting in November 1972, Dr. Owston had no knowledge about me, because I was a nondescript undergraduate with respect to the Chemistry Department. I present below circumstantial evidence that not only was neither of my assumptions correct, but that the mind of each gentleman was prepared on three important occasions.

Headmaster's prepared mind in
June 1963 ...
Prior to the interview, the Headmaster would have had my marks in the school's entrance examination, together with a report written by the form master of my primary school, but signed by its headmaster, which would have had the following gist: 'This scholarship candidate, who will certainly pass the 11+ examination to grammar school, invariably occupies first or second position in the class for each subject. When all the boys in the class are taught together, he reveals a tendency to idleness, which results in a loss of concentration. By contrast, when he is separated from the class, which is a good quarter of the time, he patiently executes, for periods of two hours or more, his own original projects on diverse topics in history and geography. Whilst he has shown no delinquent characteristics, his temperament has, on occasions, necessitated the use of strong disciplinary measures.'

It would be reasonable to infer that the Headmaster had — prior to the interview — already decided to award me a scholarship for the tuition fees, based: firstly, on my academic performances at the primary school and in the entrance examination; and secondly, on the evidence of an independence of mind coupled with an ability to focus for extended periods on subjects which interested me. If this inference is correct, then the Headmaster's principal purpose of «interviewing» me was to have an informal discussion, so as to confirm that the school's Sixth Form — whose structure facilitated a high degree of independent study in three A-level subjects — would be suitable. [Certainly, his graceful manner and warm and welcoming tones prompted me to think, "Ooh, I'm going to have a nice chat with this lovely old gentleman."]

Headmaster's prepared mind in June 1968 ...
When the Headmaster, in his study, read through a list — which had the names of three approved A-level subjects alongside the respective boy's surname for 37 boys, and the word "leaving" alongside the surname of 3 boys, whose parents had informed him that their son would be withdrawn from the school at the end of term — he would have made the reasonable assumption that the parents would have informed their respective son that he was being withdrawn at the end of term. Accordingly, he expected to share a «rites of passage» moment with only 37 boys.

Following his introduction — "Good afternoon, boys. Please sit down." — an automatic visual sweep of the classroom would have revealed to him that there were 38 boys who were «hanging on his every word»: and he would have realized, firstly, that the 38th boy had not been informed by his parents that he was being withdrawn from school at the end of term, and was therefore going to be truly devastated on hearing the words "Peters: leaving.", and secondly, that he must be ready to act decisively if said boy should receive these words particularly badly.

Immediately he spoke those fateful words, he would have observed my stare of utter despair — which, as he continued to read the list, changed into one that was also terrified: and he would have realized, firstly, that I had become suicidal, and secondly, that my suicidal thoughts must be expunged in an absolutely safe place. Accordingly, when he finishes reading the list, he says loudly and very forcefully, in a spectacular display of titular authority, "Peters, see me in my study straight afterwards!" — in order to lock temporarily my thoughts in a positive manner. He could not accompany me from the classroom to his study for two reasons: firstly, there is nothing he could say between these two rooms that could conceivably expunge my suicidal thoughts; and secondly, he needed time to consider the precise words and tones he must use to allow me, on the one hand, to make some sense of both the past and the present, and on the other, to have unequivocal hope for the future. [His first (precise) word was, "Roger, ..."]

Dr. Owston's prepared mind in November 1972 ...
A particularly striking anomaly of my first meeting with Dr. Owston, in the 8th week of my 1st year, was that «the gentleman» neither introduced himself nor enquired about my name. The incident detailed below, which I never mentioned to anyone at the time, and would not remember for nigh on thirty-eight years, would appear to provide the background to his reticence.

«In the 6th week of my 1st year, the Head of the Biology Department presented two essay-based questions, for completion within his lecture period, to the entire cohort of 1st year science undergraduates who had opted to read Biology as one component of their Part I. He returned the marked scripts at the start of his lecture in the 7th week. I was extremely disgruntled both with my (otherwise satisfactory) mark and his comments adorning my script; moreover, my ill-humour, so to speak, worsened during the following fifty-five minutes — as he presented his general comments on the questions and the scripts to one and all — to such an extent that I was livid. Nevertheless, because, on the one hand, this assignment was non-assessed, and on the other, I was hungry, I decided to go to the student union's cafeteria rather than pursue my real or imagined grievances: indeed, I considered the matter closed.

Following my lunch, I headed for the library in order to read the newspapers. My route from the cafeteria to the library involved the traversal of a thirty-metre long covered walkway, some twenty metres above the ground, which joined two buildings. As I opened the swing doors leading on to the walkway, at t'other end was the aforementioned gentleman — with not another soul in sight. I immediately said, "Ah! There you are! I've got a bone to pick with you!", and strode down the walkway. The prospective recipient of my bone, a slightly-built man of mature years, was, unsurprisingly, a mite disconcerted at the sight of the six-foot and fourteen-and-half stone of yours truly bearing down upon him «breathing fire and brimstone». He responded, in a slightly apprehensive tone, "Yes, Roger?"

Whereupon, for the next five minutes or so, in forceful tones, I presented a deconstruction of nearly every aspect of the biology courses, ranging from his comments on my script and that of others, through the quality of the lectures, tutorials, and practicals, to the disjunction of the 1st year syllabus with that of the 2nd year; throughout, the gentleman's interjections — amongst numerous others, "I should have given you credit there.", "Yes, I agree.", and "Mmm, that's a very fair point." — were in uniform agreement with my analysis. When I had finished my tirade, he said, "I agree with everything you have said, Roger, but ..."

Whereupon, for the next three minutes or so, I listened carefully to his presentation, in measured tones, of the diverse limitations of my analysis; throughout, my interjections were similarly in uniform agreement.

The gentleman concluded by saying, in a graceful manner, "Roger, you didn't need to be so forceful. If you have any comments about the biology courses, just come up to my office and we'll have a calm and collected discussion about them over a cup of tea." I apologized for my forceful manner, and we parted company on the best of terms. As I walked away, I felt, on the one hand, both chastened and enlightened, and on the other, that I could look forward to a great three years reading Biology.»

Now, it would be reasonable to assume that, as a matter of professional courtesy, the Head of the Biology Department would disclose the aforementioned incident to his counterpart in the Chemistry Department, so as to forewarn the latter (Dr. Owston): 'That there is not merely a loose canon in this year's intake of science undergraduates, but one which readily detaches itself from its mountings. However, with careful handling, said canon can be remounted, so to speak.'

From the details of this serendipitous encounter — which would not have occurred had I decided to head for "the library in order to read the newspapers" a few seconds earlier or later — Dr. Owston would have readily determined my strengths, including determination, independence of mind, highly developed analytical skills, absolute respect for genuine authority, and humility, as well as my weaknesses, including poorly developed synthetic skills, little or no respect for titular authority, precipitousness, and undue forcefulness. But, given that, in the early 1970s, undergraduate chemistry was a much more logical science than biology, he would have been bemused that I was planning to read Biology for finals rather than Chemistry, unless I had not hitherto acquired a fundamental understanding of the latter subject — which demanded an investigation, incognito in the manner of Polixenes in A Winter's Tale, of his now prospective research student.

Appendix 3: Cognitive Disinformation
For over forty years, as detailed below, I inadvertently truncated my memory of my interview with the Headmaster in June 1963; in consequence, I failed to recognize a crucially important commonality between the Headmaster and Dr. Owston in their respective first meetings with me: ... I viewed each as a favourably disposed gentleman whose titular status was unknown to me.

2. I knocked on the door of the headmaster's study, ["Come in."], then opened same. As my eyes swept the room, from left and right, to face the Headmaster standing in front of the right-hand window, I observed a picture on the left wall by his desk that I was certain I had seen before; I thought, "It shouldn't be there!"
3. The Headmaster asked me my name and then invited me to sit down.
4. After we had sat down opposite one another, I presume that I answered his questions politely, whatever they were. [... ...]

2. I knocked on the door of the headmaster's study, ["Come in."], then opened same. As my eyes swept the room, from left and right, to face the Headmaster standing in front of the right-hand window, I observed a picture on the left wall by his desk that I was certain I had seen before; I thought, "It shouldn't be there!"
3. The Headmaster said, in a warm and welcoming tone, "Hello. ... Roger, is it?" I replied, "Yes, Sir." Waving gracefully to a chair, he continued, in the same warm and welcoming tone, "Take a seat, please, Roger." I said, "Thank you, Sir."; and thought, "Ooh, I'm going to have a nice chat with this lovely old gentleman."
4. After we had sat down opposite one another, I presume that I answered his questions politely, whatever they were. [... ...]

Appendix 4: Tetraazamacrocycle exemplar

Chemical line formula of tetrazamacrocycle


This de novo monoimine was synthesized in near-quantitative yield (96%), via the selective reduction of its de novo diimine analogue (1975), and fully characterized (1976); its molecular geometry, derived from the structure determination of its hemi-pyridinate via single-crystal X-ray diffraction analysis (1977), was subsequently used to determine its stereo-electronic structure in the ground-state, via the calculation of its LCAO-SCF CNDO/2 M.O. wavefunction, for (caveated) quantitative comparison with the diimine analogue, and with octamethylcorrole-21H,23H,24H and octamethylcorrole-21H,22H,23H (C27H30N4), amongst other tetraazamacrocycles, acyclic diimines, and benzodiazepines, via selected M.O. indices (1978-1979).

Appendix 5: Historical Data 7

1. Following the successful 2¼ hour defence of my doctoral thesis, Studies in Tetraazamacrocycles, I left the building to have a breath of fresh air — or, strictly speaking, to do the precise opposite. After about 30 minutes chain-smoking myself to an early grave, I spent a similar amount of time focused on the most suitable form of words to express my deepest appreciation of Dr. Owston, who had kept both his promises of May 1975 in spirit and to the letter; in doing so, I completely forgot one of his leitmotifs: he was as predictable as the British weather.

2. I knocked on the door of Dr. Owston's office, ["Come in."], then opened same, to be greeted by, in tones booming with pride, "Dr. Peters, ... at last!"

3. After squaring a few administrative odds and ends, then came, as he casually tidied some papers, his (sparingly-used) antithetical opening phrase, "You do realize, Roger, [... followed by a (five word) received truth]." The effect was electric: the past (a self-consistent, comprehensive model of the physical world), the recent present (my doctoral studies), hitherto several unresolved major anomalies, and the future came together and oscillated at shattering speeds; it mirrored the closing stages of my first meeting with «the gentleman» in November 1972: his crowning gift was in the form of a «lifetime's problem».

4. I was absolutely stunned; literally gasping for breath. After I had recovered same, I said, "I will look at that, Dr. Owston, I promise."

5. Then I drew a deep breath, directed my gaze at him, and said, in a very intense tone expressing my deepest gratitude, "Thank you so much, Dr. Owston." He replied, in a richly warm tone, "My pleasure, Roger."

PS Dr. Owston's mischievousness knew no bounds, ... and some fifteen years later neither did mine. The introductory paragraph to the logically(?) final question of the Metals' Section of Aufbau1, my first partial solution to his crowning gift, could also be construed as: "Curses be like upright arrows; they be fallin' on the archer's top."

Appendix 6: Des Petits Riens
Avant-propos — en anglais bourgeois, une snooze est un petit somme et une cluette est une petite indication.
Des Petits Riens en herbe : À l'école primaire, presque la fin de la journée, un petit lemming dort à poings fermés...
Instituteur : Gamin Sans-Culottes !!... Que fais-tu !?
Gamin       : Heu ?... ... Rien, Monsieur.
Instituteur : Je sais cela ! J'ai voulu dire, que faisais-tu ?
Gamin       : Eh bien, Monsieur, je faisais une snoozette.
Instituteur : Hé !? Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça ?
Gamin       : C'est une petite snooze, Monsieur.
Instituteur : Et,... cela, chez toi ?
Gamin       : Ah ! Monsieur, voudriez-vous une cluette ?
Instituteur : Bôf !... Assez ! Gamin, tu te montres impertinent. Va dehors : maintenant !!
Gamin       : Mais, Monsieur, on se les caille dehors.
Instituteur : Les !? Gamin, à ton âge, tu n'as pas de... ; ... couillettes, peut-être. Quoi qu'il en soit, il y a pas de problème, parce que tu peux tenir ces tripettes au chaud en faisant des pirouettes !... ...

Des Petits Riens non plus : Quelques années plus tard, aussi presque la fin de la journée, toute la classe sauf ce lemming-ci dort à poings fermés malgré — ou parce que — le sujet de la leçon étant « Les causes de la Révolution »...
Gamin       : Monsieur le professeur ?
Professeur : Oui, Gamin.
Gamin       : Monsieur, la dernière nuit j'avais « le mal du roi » pour la première fois !
Professeur : Hé !?... C'est-à-dire,... « un rêve mouillé », comme disent vulgairement les Anglais ?
Gamin       : Heu ? Laissez-moi réfléchir, Monsieur... ... Ah ! Oui ; précisément.
Professeur : Hum ! Deux tripettes non plus ; en effet, tu es Gamin le Grand maintenant. Quoi qu'il en soit, il n'y a pas forcément de quoi être fier.
Gamin       : Non !?... Pourquoi pas, Monsieur, je vous en prie ?
Professeur : Eh bien, comme tu le sais, la première « victime » du mal du roi était Louis XV : mais, en accord avec sa nuit de noces tout à fait extraordinaire au septième ciel sept fois, celui-ci répandait sa semence trop facilement durant toute sa vie. En revanche, Louis XVI, son petit-fils, répandait sa semence avec de grandes difficultés durant les premières sept années de son mariage avec Marie-Antoinette.
Gamin       : Ainsi,... on pourrait dire que le mal du roi Bien-Aimé était la véritable semence de la Révolution et que la maladresse du roi Bienfaisant exacerbait les difficultés résultantes du royaume ?
Professeur : C'est bien cela !... Mon fils, je prédis que tu entreras l'Académie française de bonne heure.
Gamin       : Mon père, ça puisse avoir du bon et du mauvais !... ...

Des Petits Riens en attente : Plusieurs années plus tard, chez les Sans-Culottes...
Professeur : Mon fils, étant donné que tes yeux ont étincelé lorsque tu as rencontré cette demoiselle-là hier, je croie que tu as trouvé l'amour de ta vie ?
Gamin       : Oui, mon père ; c'était le coup de foudre.
Professeur : Alors,... [D'un ton gêné.] il est temps que je te préviens les oiseaux et les abeilles.
Gamin       : Heu !?
Professeur : Euh,... les bébés ne naissant pas dans les choux ?
Gamin       : Oui, mon père ; cela va sans dire.
Professeur : Euh,... ou tombent du ciel dans des corbeilles en osier.
Gamin       : Oui, mon père ; de même.
Professeur : Euh,... ... [Il y a un silence gêné.]
Gamin       : Sauf votre respect, mon père, mais ne me faites pas languir davantage : au fait !
Professeur : Eh bien,... je veux te dire des conseils sur les faits de la vie... [Gamin interrompt.]
Gamin       : Pardonnez-moi l'interruption, mon père, mais pourquoi ?
Professeur : Eh bien, comme tu le sais, Louis XV manqua à éclairer son petit-fils sur ce sujet...
Gamin       : Et alors ?
Professeur : Qu'était ce que le résultat de la nuit de noces de celui-ci, le futur Louis XVI ?
Gamin       : Rien ; littéralement et métaphoriquement.
Professeur : Précisément !
Gamin       : Mais, mon père, à la différence au temps jadis, tout le monde sait comment les enfants viennent au monde.
Professeur : Hum !... ...

Des Petits Riens encore une fois ? : Plusieurs mois plus tard ; le soir de la nuit de noces de notre lemming nommé Gamin...
Gamin        : [D'un ton affectueux.] Ma caille ?
Mme Gamin : [D'un ton tendre.] Oui, mon canard.
Gamin        : Je vais prendre un bain.
Mme Gamin : Quelle bonne idée !
Gamin        : Heu ?
Mme Gamin : Peu importe... [Plus tard, après s'être baigné, Gamin est debout tout nu devant le bain avec un jouet jaune à la main. À l'improviste, sa bien-aimée entre dans la salle de bains : immédiatement elle a l'air atterrée...] Fichtre non !
Gamin        : Hum ! Ma caille, tu n'as jamais vu quelqu'un en costume d'Adam auparavant ?
Mme Gamin : Si,... mais jamais avec un tel canard...
Gamin        : Hé !?...
Mme Gamin : En plastique,... bien sûr !... ...

Des Petits Riens nettement non plus ! : Un soir quelques mois après les épousailles de nos « tourtereaux »...
Gamin        : [D'un ton affectueux.] Ça te dit de se coucher tôt, ma caille ?
Mme Gamin : [D'un ton rigoureux.] Non ; absolument pas !
Gamin        : Non !?... Pourquoi pas, je t'en prie ?
Mme Gamin : Puisque j'ai un polichinelle dans le tiroir.
Gamin        : Hé !? Comment cela ?
Mme Gamin : Comment !? Bôf !... Mon visage peut-être bien fait cailler du lait : mais, hélas, pas ton humeur séminale.
Gamin        : Heu,... comment vas-tu appeler cette future prunelle de nos yeux ?
Mme Gamin : Polichinellette.
Gamin        : Quel nom à coucher dehors !... Mais, pourquoi donc ?
Mme Gamin : Eh bien, comme on dit, « tel père, tel fils »...
Gamin        : Hum !... ...

Des Petits Riens à l'équarrissage : Quelques années plus tard chez notre clan de lemmings...
Mme Gamin : [D'un ton déterminé ; et portant son bonnet de phrygien plutôt que son bonnet hollandais.] Mon canard !
Gamin        : [D'un ton appréhensif.] Oui,... ma caille ?
Mme Gamin : Il faut que tu aies « la snip »... ou, plus exactement, deux « snipettes ».
Gamin        : Hé ? Qu'est-ce que tu radotes ?
Mme Gamin : Il faut que tu aies une vasectomie !
Gamin        : Pourquoi !?
Mme Gamin : Pourquoi ?... Pourquoi, tu me demandes !? Tiens, voilà nos sept fils : Polichinellette, Balourd, Fainéant, Bouffon, Lourdaud, Buffard et Cornichon.
Gamin        : Et alors ?... [D'un ton fier.] « La pomme ne tombe jamais loin de l'arbre ! »
Mme Gamin : [D'un ton cinglant.] Hélas, ce n'est que trop vrai !... Quoi qu'il en soit, mes grossesses répétées... ; je veux garder ma silhouette de rêve,... comme Marianne.
Gamin        : [Sotto voce.] Tu peux toujours rêver !
Mme Gamin : Quoi !?
Gamin        : Heu ?... [D'un ton contrit.] Rien, ma Blanche-Neige de sylphide.
Mme Gamin : Donc, parce que tu considères qu'un préservatif est le même comme porter les chaussettes dans le bain, une vasectomie est la seule solution à long terme.
Gamin        : Mais,... ma masculinité même !
Mme Gamin : Bôf !... Ne dis pas de bêtises ! Vous autres hommes avez un tel sens mal fondé et singulier de la masculinité...
Gamin        : Quoi qu'il en soit, afin de continuer mes jouissances, Gamin Sans-Culottes le Grand doit aller à la petite guillotine ?
Mme Gamin : Bien sûr que oui ; hors de question. Tu deviendras Gamin Sans-Couillettes, pour ainsi dire...
Gamin        : Mille sabords !
Mme Gamin : Précisément !... Beaucoup de vérités se disent en plaisantant... ...
Après-propos — or, comme écrit Norman Holmes Pearson (1937), « ... en établissant le rapport entre l'idée et le fait, chaque lecteur devient son propre auteur. »

Appendix 7: Mark Twain and Shakespeare
In 1909, Mark Twain published a non-fiction work entitled Is Shakespeare Dead?. Within this work he presents his examination of the received truth that William Shakspere, baptized as Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere on 26th April 1564, was William Shakespeare, the author of the Shakespearean canon of poems, sonnets, and plays; the following extracts from Chapters II and III are particularly noteworthy.

Extracts from Chapter II of Mark Twain's Is Shakespeare Dead?
«When I was a Sunday-school scholar something more than sixty years ago, I became interested in Satan, and wanted to find out all I could about him. I began to ask questions, but my class-teacher, Mr. Barclay the stone-mason, was reluctant about answering them, it seemed to me. [... ...] I will say for Mr. Barclay that he was willing to tell me the facts of Satan's history, but he stopped there: he wouldn't allow any discussion of them. [...] In the course of time we exhausted the facts. There were only five or six of them, you could set them all down on a visiting-card. I was disappointed. I had been meditating a biography, and was grieved to find that there were no materials. I said as much, with the tears running down. Mr. Barclay's sympathy and compassion were aroused, for he was a most kind and gentle-spirited man, and he patted me on the head and cheered me up by saying there was a whole vast ocean of materials! I can still feel the happy thrill which these blessed words shot through me.

Then he began to bail out that ocean's riches for my encouragement and joy. Like this: it was "conjectured" — though not established — that Satan was originally an angel in heaven; that he fell; that he rebelled, and brought on a war; that he was defeated, and banished to perdition. Also, "we have reason to believe" that later he did so-and-so; that "we are warranted in supposing" that at a subsequent time he travelled extensively, seeking whom he might devour; that a couple of centuries afterward, "as tradition instructs us", he took up the cruel trade of tempting people to their ruin, with vast and fearful results; that by-and-by, "as the probabilities seem to indicate", he may have done certain things, he might have done certain other things, he must have done still other things.

And so on and so on. We set down the five known facts by themselves, on a piece of paper, and numbered it "page 1"; then on fifteen hundred other pieces of paper we set down the "conjectures", and "suppositions", and "maybes", and "perhapses", and "doubtlesses", and "rumors", and "guesses", and "probabilities", and "likelihoods", and "we are permitted to thinks", and "we are warranted in believings", and "might have beens", and "could have beens", and "must have beens"," and "unquestionablys", and "without a shadow of doubts" — and behold!

Materials? Why, we had enough to build a biography of Shakespeare!

Yet he made me put away my pen; he would not let me write the history of Satan. Why? Because, as he said, he had suspicions; suspicions that my attitude in this matter was not reverent; and that a person must be reverent when writing about the sacred characters. He said any one who spoke flippantly of Satan would be frowned upon by the religious world and also be brought to account.»

Extracts from Chapter III of Mark Twain's Is Shakespeare Dead?
He was born on the 23rd of April, 1564.
Of good farmer-class parents who could not read, could not write, could not sign their names.
At Stratford, a small back settlement which in that day was shabby and unclean, and densely illiterate. Of the nineteen important men charged with the government of the town, thirteen had to "make their mark" in attesting important documents, because they could not write their names.
Of the first eighteen years of his life nothing is known. They are a blank.
On the 27th of November 1582, William Shakespeare took out a license to marry Anne Whateley.
Next day William Shakespeare took out a license to marry Anne Hathaway. She was eight years his senior.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. In a hurry. By grace of a reluctantly-granted dispensation there was but one publication of the banns.
Within six months the first child was born.
About two (blank) years followed, during which period nothing at all happened to Shakespeare, so far as anybody knows.
Then came twins — February 1585.
Two blank years follow.
Then — 1587 — he makes a ten-year visit to London, leaving the family behind.
Five blank years follow. During this period nothing happened to him, as far as anybody actually knows.
Then — 1592 — there is mention of him as an actor.
Next year — 1593 — his name appears in the official list of players.
Next year — 1594 — he played before the queen. A detail of no consequence: other obscurities did it every year of the forty-five of her reign. And remained obscure.
Three pretty full years follow. Full of play-acting.
Then — in 1597 — he bought New Place, Stratford.
Thirteen or fourteen busy years follow; years in which he accumulated money, and also reputation as actor and manager.
Meantime his name, liberally and variously spelt, had become associated with a number of great plays and poems, as (ostensibly) author of the same.
Some of these, in these years and later, were pirated, but he made no protest. Then — 1610-11 — he returned to Stratford and settled down for good and all, and busied himself in lending money, trading in tithes, trading in land and houses; shirking a debt of forty-one shillings, borrowed by his wife during his long desertion of his family; suing debtors for shillings and coppers; being sued himself for shillings and coppers; and acting as confederate to a neighbor who tried to rob the town of its rights in a certain common, and did not succeed.
He lived five or six years — till 1616 — in the joy of these elevated pursuits. Then he made a will, and signed each of its three pages with his name.
A thoroughgoing business man's will. It named in minute detail every item of property he owned in the world — houses, lands, sword, silver-gilt bowl, and so on — all the way down to his 'second-best bed' and its furniture.
It carefully and calculatingly distributed his riches among the members of his family, overlooking no individual of it. Not even his wife: the wife he had been enabled to marry in a hurry by urgent grace of a special dispensation before he was nineteen; the wife whom he had left husbandless so many years; the wife who had had to borrow forty-one shillings in her need, and which the lender was never able to collect of the prosperous husband, but died at last with the money still lacking.
No, even this wife was remembered in Shakespeare's will.
He left her that 'second-best bed'.
And not another thing; not even a penny to bless her lucky widowhood with.
It was eminently and conspicuously a business man's will, not a poet's.
It mentioned not a single book.
Books were much more precious than swords and silver-gilt bowls and second-best beds in those days, and when a departing person owned one he gave it a high place in his will.
The will mentioned not a play, not a poem, not an unfinished literary work, not a scrap of manuscript of any kind.
Many poets have died poor, but this is the only one in history that has died this poor; the others all left literary remains behind. Also a book.
Maybe two.
If Shakespeare had owned a dog — but we need not go into that: we know he would have mentioned it in his will. If a good dog, Susanna would have got it; if an inferior one his wife would have got a dower interest in it. I wish he had had a dog, just so we could see how painstakingly he would have divided that dog among the family, in his careful business way.
He signed the will in three places.
In earlier years he signed two other official documents.
These five signatures still exist.
There are no other specimens of his penmanship in existence. Not a line.
Was he prejudiced against the art? His granddaughter, whom he loved, was eight years old when he died, yet she had had no teaching, he left no provision for her education although he was rich, and in her mature womanhood she couldn't write and couldn't tell her husband's manuscript from anybody else's — she thought it was Shakespeare's.
When Shakespeare died in Stratford it was not an event. It made no more stir in England than the death of any other forgotten theatre-actor would have made. Nobody came down from London; there were no lamenting poems, no eulogies, no national tears — there was merely silence, and nothing more. A striking contrast with what happened when Ben Jonson, and Francis Bacon, and Spenser, and Raleigh and the other distinguished literary folk of Shakespeare's time passed from life! No praiseful voice was lifted for the lost Bard of Avon; even Ben Jonson waited seven years before he lifted his.
So far as anybody actually knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life.
So far as anybody knows and can prove, he never wrote a letter to anybody in his life.
So far as any one knows, he received only one letter during his life.
So far as any one knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford wrote only one poem during his life. This one is authentic. He did write that one — a fact which stands undisputed; he wrote the whole of it; he wrote the whole of it out of his own head. He commanded that this work of art be engraved upon his tomb, and he was obeyed. There it abides to this day. This is it:

Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare
To digg the dust encloased heare:
Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
And curst be he yt moves my bones.

In the list as above set down, will be found every positively known fact of Shakespeare's life, lean and meagre as the invoice is. Beyond these details we know not a thing about him. All the rest of his vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures — an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts.»

In the intervening hundred years or so, Shakespeare's "vast history" has become ever more vast, with few biographers heeding Twain's caveats. Two notable exceptions are Nigel Cockburn (1998) and Peter Dawkins (2004), who, with scrupulous reference to seemingly all of the contemporaneous documents, have detailed unequivocal support for the essence of Twain's «biography». However, whether their strong circumstantial evidence for Francis Bacon (1561-1626) being the principal author of the Shakespearean canon will change hearts and minds, in the near or distant future, is moot.

Appendix 8: Silvanus P. Thompson and the Calculus
In 1910, Sylvanus P. Thompson published a book whose full title was as follows: "Calculus Made Easy, being a very-simplest introduction to those beautiful methods of reckoning which are generally called by the terrifying names of the Differential Calculus and the Integral Calculus"; Chapter I is invitingly titled: "To Deliver You From The Preliminary Terrors".

Chapter I of Silvanus P. Thompson's Calculus Made Easy
«The preliminary terror, which chokes off most [Year 11 students] from even attempting to learn how to calculate, can be abolished once and for all by simply stating what is the meaning — in common-sense terms — of the two principal symbols that are used in calculating.

These dreadful symbols are:

(1) d which means "a little bit of".

Thus dx means a little bit of x ; or du means a little but of u. Ordinary mathematicians think it is more polite to say "an element of", instead of "a little bit of". Just as you please. But you will find that these little bits (or elements) may be considered to be indefinitely small.

(2) ∫ which is merely a long S, and may be called (if you like) "the sum of".

Thus ∫dx means the sum of all the little bits of x ; or ∫dt means the sum of all the little bits of t. Ordinary mathematicians call this symbol "the integral of". Now any fool can see that if x is considered as made up of a little bits, each of which is called dx, if you add them all up together you get the sum of all the ∫dx's (which is the same thing as the whole x). The word "integral" simply means "the whole". If you think of the duration of time for one hour, you may (if you like) think of it as cut up into 3600 little bits called seconds. The whole of the 3600 little bits added up together make one hour.

When you see an expression that begins with this terrifying symbol, you will henceforth know that it is put there merely to give you instructions that you are now to perform the operation (if you can) of totalling up all the little bits that are indicated by the symbols that follow.

That's all.»

Anway, M.D., Cupp, A.S., Uzumcu, M. & Skinner, M.K.: Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility, Science, 308, 1466–1469, 2005.
Bird, A., Taggart, M., Frommer, M., Miller, O.J. & Macleod, D.: A fraction of the mouse genome that is derived from islands of nonmethylated, CpG-rich DNA, Cell, 40, 91–99, 1985.
Bolt, R.O. (1924–1995): A Man for All Seasons, Heinemann, London, 1961.
Carroll, L. ( Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832–1898): Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Macmillan, Oxford, 1872; "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Clayton, A.F.D.: Structural Studies in a Series of Potentially Carcinogenic Cyclopenta[a]phenanthrenes (doctoral thesis), The British Library, London, 1982.
Clayton, A.F., Coombs, M.M., Henrick K., McPartlin M. & Trotter J.: X-ray structural studies and molecular orbital calculations (CNDO/2) in a series of cyclopenta[a]phenanthrenes: attempts at correlation with carcinogenicity, Carcinogenesis, 4, 1569–1576, 1983.
Cockburn, N.B.: The Bacon Shakespeare Question, Biddles, Guilford and Kings Lynn, 1998.
Collomb, D.: Molecular viewer applet Chemis3D, 2003.
Cooper, G.S. (1918–1966): Unman, Wittering and Zigo, British Broadcasting Corporation, London, 1958.
Corbin, A.: Le monde retrouvé de Louis-François Pinagot, Flammarion, Paris, 2002
Coursac, P.-G. de: L'Éducation d'un roi : Louis XVI, Guibert, Paris, 1995.
Dawkins, P.: The Shakespeare Enigma, Polair Publishing, London, 2004.
Debo, A. (1890–1988): A History of the Indians of the United States, The University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma, 1970.
Fisher, R.A. (1890–1962): The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1930.
Garfield, A.S., Cowley, M., Smith, F.M., Moorwood, K., Stewart-Cox, J.E., Gilroy, K., Baker, S., Xia, J., Dalley, J.W., Hurst, L.D., Wilkinson, L.S., Isles, A.R. & Ward, A.: Distinct physiological and behavioural functions for parental alleles of imprinted Grb10, Nature, 469, 534–538, 2011; the Grb10 mutant mice stand their ground!
Gowers, E.A. (1880–1966): The Complete Plain Words, (2nd edition revised by Sir Bruce Fraser), Penguin, London, 1977.
Hickham, H.H.: October Sky, The Coalwood Way & Sky of Stone, Random House, New York, 1999, 2000 & 2002.
Hinshelwood, C.H. (1897–1967): The Structure of Physical Chemistry, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1951.
Holliday, R. & Pugh, J.E.: DNA modification mechanisms and gene activity during development, Science, 187, 226–232, 1975.
Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Consortium (project leaders: Weinstock, G.M. & Robinson, G.E.): Insights into social insects from the genome of Apis mellifera, Nature, 443, 931–949, 2006.
Iwamoto, K., Bundo, M., Ueda, J., Oldham, M.C., Ukai, W., Hashimoto, E., Saito, T., Geschwind, D.H. & Kato, T.: Neurons show distinctive DNA methylation profile and higher interindividual variations compared with non-neurons, Genome Res., 21, 688–696, 2011.
Jenuwein, T. & Allis, C.D.: Translating the Histone Code, Science, 293, 1074–1080, 2001.
Jones, P.A. & Taylor, S.M.: Cellular differentiation, cytidine analogs, and DNA methylation, Cell, 20, 85–93, 1980.
Jones, P.L., Jan Veenstra, G.C., Wade, P.A., Vermaak, D., Kass, S.U., Landsberger, N., Strouboulis, J. & Wolffe, A.P.: Methylated DNA and MeCP2 recruit histone deacetylase to repress transcription, Nature Genetics, 19, 187–191, 1998.
Kidd, A.H.: Discover Zelenka website; established in 2002.
Lorre, C., Holland, S. & Hernandez, T. (story), Prady, B., Molaro, S. & Reynolds, J. (teleplay): The Shiny Trinket Maneuver, [The Big Bang Theory, Season 5, Episode 12], Chuck Lorre Productions & Warner Bros. Television, Burbank, 2012.
Macdonald, F.J. (1926–1987): Crowdie and Cream, Macdonald, London, 1982.
MacDonald Fraser, G. (1925–2008): Flashman, Jenkins, London, 1969.
McIntosh, J.I.M. (1906–1994): The Gaudy, Gollancz, London, 1974.
Maeir, P.: American Scripture: How America Declared its Independence from Britain, Knopf, New York, 1997.
Martin, X.: Voltaire méconnu ; Aspects cachés de l'humanisme des Lumières 1750–1800, Dominique Martin Morin, Mayenne, 2006; passim.
Mattack, J.S.: A new paradigm for developmental biology, J. Exp. Biol., 210, 1526–1547, 2007.
Mill J., Tang, T., Kaminsky, Z., Khare, T., Yazdanpanah, S., Bouchard, L., Jia, P., Assadzadeh, A., Flanagan, J., Schumacher, A., Wang, S.C. & Petronis, A.: Epigenomic profiling reveals DNA-methylation changes associated with major psychosis, Am. J. Hum. Genet., 82, 696–711, 2008; ex Abstract: "Epigenetic misregulation is consistent with various non-Mendelian features of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. [...] Our data are consistent with the epigenetic theory of major psychosis and suggest that DNA-methylation changes are important to the etiology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."
Nan, X., Ng, H.-H., Johnson, C.A., Laherty, C.D., Turner, B.M., Eisenman, R.N. & Bird, A.: Transcriptional repression by the methyl-CpG-binding protein MeCP2 involves a histone deacetylase complex, Nature, 393, 386–389, 1998.
O'Brian, P. (1914–2000): Master and Commander, Collins, London, 1969.
Ørom, U.A., Derrien, T., Beringer, M., Gumireddy, K., Gardini, A., Bussotti, G., Lai, F., Zytnicki, M., Notredame, C., Huang, Q., Guigo, R. & Shiekhattar, R.: Long non-coding RNAs with enhancer-like function in human cells, Cell, 143, 46–58, 2010.
Owston, P.G., Peters, R. & Tasker, P.A.: The stability of functionalized vicinal diazides in the presence of mild base, J. Chem. Res. (S), 352–353, 1985.
Perrault, G.: Le Secret du Roi, L'Ombre de la Bastille & La Revanche américaine, Fayard, Paris, 1992, 1993 & 1996.
Peters, R.: Studies in Tetraazamacrocycles (doctoral thesis), The British Library, London, 1981; for smidgens of which, see Appendix 4 and Owston et al.
Peters, R.: Aufbau1 (a teaching resource for Year 10 & 11 chemistry students, which contains no falsehoods, no half-truths, and no non sequiturs: Student's Version & Teacher's Notes), unpublished Mss., 1996.
Peters, R.: Hat Wissensdrang die Katze getötet?, Eine Spinnwebe von Wissen? & Konsilienz: Die Kunst für die wissende Katze? (three suites of multidisciplinary resources for Year 10, 11 & 12 students in British, 1Br., 2Br., 3Br., 4Br., 5Br., 6Br., 7Br., 8Br. & 9Br., or American orthography, 1Am., 2Am., 3Am., 4Am., 5Am., 6Am., 7Am., 8Am. & 9Am.), unpublished Mss., 1996–2002.
Peters, R.: Boîtes chinoises asymétriques (11Frex.) & Asymmetric Chinese Boxes (11Brex.), extracts from Le Cinesi, unpublished Mss., 2006.
Peters, R.: Bensalem: die Verführerin von Wissen? (a suite of multidisciplinary resources, including comedy-drama N°11, Le Cinesi), et al., in progress.
Riggs, A.D.: X inactivation, differentiation, and DNA methylation, Cytogenet. Cell Genet., 14, 9–25, 1975.
Secher, R. & Murat, Y.: Un Prince méconnu : Le Dauphin Louis-Joseph, fils aîné de Louis XVI, Éditions R.S.E., Paris, 1998.
Sévilla, J.: Historiquement Correct ; Pour en finir avec le passé unique, Perrin, Paris, 2003; Ch. 7 (« Les Lumières et la tolérance »).
Sharma, R.P., Gavin, D.P. & Grayson, D.R.: CpG Methylation in Neurons: Message, Memory, or Mask?, Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 2009–2020, 2010; ex Conclusion: "CpG methylation is a stable covalent annotation of the genome, and provides a ready mechanism for the coding of new information in the brain. This modification has long been shown to influence gene regulation. [...] Appropriate genome-wide methylation is required for the long-term survival and functioning of neurons. In the fully matured post-mitotic state, neurons can modify methylation profiles in response to hypoxia, membrane depolarization, behavioral conditioning, and pharmacological perturbation. [...] We can now say with little reservation that given the scale of operations, from the single base to the genome, it is very likely that CpG methylation affects all three functions, message, memory, and the integration of promoter circuits by a mask-like function."
Skene, P.J., Illingworth, R.S., Webb, S., Kerr, A.R., James, K.D., Turner, D.J., Andrews, R. & Bird, A.P.: Neuronal MeCP2 is expressed at near histone-octamer levels and globally alters the chromatin state, Mol. Cell., 37, 457–468, 2010.
Takahashi, K. & Yamanaka, S.: Induction of pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryonic and adult fibroblast cultures by defined factors, Cell, 126, 663–676, 2006.
The Holy Bible, (Authorized) King James' Version, Deut. 5:16, Barker, London, 1611.
Thompson, S.P. (1851–1916): Calculus Made Easy, Macmillan, London, 1910.
Twain, M. ( Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835–1910): Is Shakespeare Dead?, Harpers & Brothers, New York, 1909.
Waddington, C.H.: The Strategy of Genes, Unwin & Allen, London, 1957.
Wheeler, D.J.: Understanding Variation; The Key To Managing Chaos, SPC Press, Knoxville, 1993.
Zelenka, J.D. (1679–1745): Lamentatione II pro die Veneris Sancto, Dresden, 1722; scored for Alto, violin, chalumeau, bassoon and basso continuo, recorded in 1982 by members of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and redistributed in 1991 on compact disc by Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (GD 77112).

The Weihnachtstag-epigenom resource is dedicated to the author's perfect doctoral supervisors, Dr. P.G. Owston and Dr. P.A. Tasker, and to Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745).

[1st April 2012]


Dr. R. Peters' Home Page