Nobel Prize winner goes back to former Boroughmuir school

Nobel Prize winner Frank Henderson takes a science masterclass at his former school with S6 pupils Daniela Badihi, Adam Jacques, Catherine Whymark-Abbott and Dr Frank Henderson. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Nobel Prize winner Frank Henderson takes a science masterclass at his former school with S6 pupils Daniela Badihi, Adam Jacques, Catherine Whymark-Abbott and Dr Frank Henderson. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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The bricks and mortar may have changed, but it was like stepping back in time for Nobel Prize winner Dr Richard Henderson as he headed back to school for the day.

The molecular biologist, who was honoured last year with the highest accolade science can offer with the Nobel Prize in chemistry, dropped into Boroughmuir High School to hold a science master class with pupils.

He said returning to the school after 56 years was “a great pleasure”.

“The school seems to be as good as ever and the new classrooms are perfectly equipped for the 21st century,” he said.

Dr Henderson said he had always been interested in science and maths and reminisced about a very enthusiastic physics teacher called Bill Cow.

Nicknamed “Bilko”, the teacher’s efforts in elevating the subject succeeded so much that five of the students in Dr Henderson’s Boroughmuir physics class all went on to graduate with physics degrees from Edinburgh University.

He said: “There was also our chemistry teacher Doc Young, who had worked on explosives during World War Two and allowed us to do experiments of our choice during the double chemistry period on Friday afternoons.

“One of our classes decided to test out a different explosive each week. We had to duck below bench level for each test, but only once was the explosion enough to mark the walls of the chemistry labs.”

During his visit, Dr Henderson had a tour of the new school before talking to 240 senior science pupils about his journey to becoming a Nobel Prize winner.

He said: “It is important for practicing scientists to be accessible, so that younger students can get an accurate idea about possible careers. I’m very happy to play my part in these activities.

“I think the goal of science is to become completely integrated into everyday life, so that everyone thinks that a scientific viewpoint is essentially just common sense based on knowledge about the world.”

Headteacher David Dempster said: “The pupils were completely enthralled and despite how complex and difficult Dr Henderson’s research is, they were really enraptured by how enthusiastic he was.

“It is the highest accolade, not only in Dr Henderson’s field, but on a global scale, and I think the pupils really understood that and they were delighted to have the chance to meet such a special and inspirational man.”

President of Boroughmuir Former Pupils Association Ken Edwards said: “This is an excellent example of a way in which former pupils can support the school.

“The visit gave many Boroughmuir pupils an exceptional opportunity to hear firsthand about world-class scientific research and to interact at close quarters with a Nobel Prize winner in a masterclass session.”