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Department of Biochemistry

J.B.S. Haldane in the laboratory, c1930

All who have followed John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, our first Reader of Biochemistry, as employees of the University of Cambridge are indebted to him for having an adulterous affair with a married lady which, when it became public in 1925, led to his dismissal by the Sex Viri (the University's moral guardians, dubbed by Haldane as "Sex Weary") for "gross or habitual immorality." Haldane contested the charge, won and was reinstated, thereby establishing henceforth the principle of University non-interference in the private life of its staff.

Although critically neutered as a result of Haldane's battle, the Sexviri became the Septemviri, the continuing existence of which can be confirmed by consulting the Statutes and Ordinances of the University of Cambridge Chapter II: 'Matriculation, Residence, Admission to Degrees, Discipline'.

When asked in an interview for the Department magazine "When are you at your best?", Haldane replied "My optimum pH is obtained by saturating a 25% aqueous solution of ethanol with CO2 (yes, Mr Editor, you can get iced champagne for 4/- [i.e. 4 shillings] a bottle in Paris)"; "When are you at your worst?", "There is no evidence that the depths of my potential iniquity have been plumbed"; "Do you think life worth living?", "Yes, but I do not think the majority of resting bugs, dons and bacteriophages are alive. My answer only applies to higher organisms."


J.B.S. Haldane in the laboratory, c1930.