Sir Peter Medawar was three great men. He was a great scientist, a man of great courage -- and a great writer. He was supremely creative both as a scientist and as a writer, defining creativity as 'the faculty of mind or spirit that empowers us to bring into existence, ostensibly out of nothing, something of beauty, order or significance'. His creativity in literature was shown in his volumes of essays, especially in The Art of the Soluble and The Hope of Progress. They consisted largely of reviews, talks, or lectures and, though they were about science and scientists, were written for a general audience.
If I seem to labour the point by saying that he was as great a writer as a scientist it is partly because I agree with him that 'a man's style of writing is an important part of his character -- some would say one of the most revealing parts'. His recipe for good writing was this: 'Brevity, cogency and clarity are the principal virtues and the greatest of these is clarity.'
Peter was born in Brazil in 1915 of a Lebanese father and English mother. He was sent to school in England and lived there for the rest of his life. When he was still at preparatory school he realized that he was 'hooked on science; no other kind of life would do'. He went to Marlborough, then Magdalen College, Oxford. He got a first class degree in Zoology and then became a Research Fellow.
After exploring various lines of research he focused on the problem of why skin is rejected when grafted from one person to another. He showed that the rejection of skin, kidney, or any other organ is under immunological control. Previously rejection had been considered genetic in origin and therefore insurmountable. But after five years' work he demonstrated, in a series of