The late Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was an American scientist and doctor whose most significant contributions to medicine include the identification of the Hepatitis B virus. He was one of three co-recipients of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. [Listener: Rebecca Blanchard]
TRANSCRIPT: Nigeria was still a colony. It... unfortunately, you know, there has been a lot of unrest in... in the last what, 20, 30 years, and they were kind of getting ready for independence then, but the actual transition from the colonial period to independence was... was fairly smooth, there wasn't much violence, or I think any violence to speak of. But when I was there, it was a pretty, you know, kind of quiet, peaceful place, lots of humor and energy. I mean I was enormously impressed with the people I met there. And, what I did was go to place to place with a... I had a... I was at the University of Ibadan, at the medical school; it had just started a year or two before I got there. It was a great place, very... they had very high standards, and there’s a lot of well-educated Nigerians - even now, well I shouldn't say even now, but now as well because the universities have continued to grow. And, so I had this long wheelbase landrover, and then they assigned a driver, who had been in the West African Frontier Force in Burma, that was the... he was in the Nigeria Regiment. He was a competent driver, but kind of crusty guy. And then I had a student who was sort of my assistant, and then before we took off on this trip, we were going to go up north from Ibadan, my... there was a kind of a... a servant in the... in the room where I was staying in the university, he was a... he was a butler or a valet. So, he had family up north and he really wanted to go, so I said, ‘Okay, you can come too’, and I said, ‘Well you don't have to worry about looking after my clothes, but you know, we can have, you know, there’s a lot to do’. So the day we were ready to go he shows up, and then he... and then his brother decided to come too, and he had a kid. So the back of the... I mean, there was this mass of people every place I went. And every... every time we'd go somewhere, you know, the... the truck would break down out in the middle of the bush someplace and you’d sort of hang around for a while and a bunch of people would sort of come out and give you a hand, and one person in my party was related to somebody, so we knew we’d go and get something to eat and come back and the car would be fixed.
Well, it was a... it was... we travelled the north-south length of Nigeria, collected bloods in different parts of the country, and did some medical surveys and we ended up in the far north, in Kano actually, where I was at the Trypanosomiasis Research Station in a place called Vom which is up in the... in the... there’s a kind of high plateau in northern Nigeria; much of Nigeria is fairly low, and it... was a beautiful part. But again, the people, the human energy there was just great, it was just fun. Going to parties was a... was a big deal, you know. People had a great time, this sort of, I don’t know if you’d call it informality, but sort of openness, you know. So again, we collected a lot of blood, collected blood from animals, from domestic cattle, which was quite an experience. They had, there were these kind of semi-wild cattle and the herdsman would go out and catch one and put a big rope around its neck and then we had a kind of balloon at the end of a needle and you could throw it like a dart without getting too close to the steer. And, any case, so we got all that stuff and... but you often had to get it back real fast because the red cells were fairly fragile. And I remember once we were in... we had to get the blood back to London and it was going to go on British West African Air... no it was West African Airways it was called, it was associated with what's now British Airways. And I found out where the pilot was staying, what hotel, and I invited him to breakfast and gave him a box of stuff, and I said, ‘Would you mind taking these up to London and a friend of mine will come and pick them up?’ He said, ‘No, fine, no problem’. So it was sort of shipped, now of course it's a big deal, you have to have customs clearance and all that.