Barry J. Marshall


Nobel Prize Talks: Barry J. Marshall

Released 2014-03-06

Something of a poster child for self-experimentation, Barry Marshall proved that peptic ulcers are caused by Helicobacter pylori by actually drinking down a dose of the bacteria himself. But how worried was he at the time? In this conversation the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine talks about his famous experiment, discusses risk-taking in science and suggests why your grandchildren will be smarter than you. He also reveals his skill with a yo-yo!

Play 49 min.

Interview, December 2005

Interview with the 2005 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, J. Robin Warren and Barry J. Marshall, by journalist Rupini Bergström, 6 December 2005.

The Laureates talk about their impressions of Sweden during wintertime, their collaboration during the years (1:17), the discovery of the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori (5:02), how the Nobel Prize has affected their lives (9:55), treating H. Pylori in the developing countries (19:47), and what makes a scientist succeed (24:19).

Nobel Minds 2005

The Nobel Laureates of 2005 met at the Bernadotte Library in Stockholm in December 2005 for the traditional round-table discussion and TV show ‘Nobel Minds’. The programme presenter is Nik Gowing, principal programme anchor for the BBC’s international television news channel BBC World. Among other things the Laureates talk about competition versus co-operation and the need of mentoring in scientific research.

Interview, October 2005

Telephone interview with Professor Barry J. Marshall following the announcement of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 3 October 2005. The interviewer is science writer Joanna Rose.

Interview transcript

– Hello. Barry Marshall here.

– Hello, Barry. This is Joanna Rose from the Nobel Foundation. I’m making a recording for our Web pages.

– Oh, great!

– Congratulations to the Prize.

– Thank you.

– Did you expect it?

– I think … Well, Robin and I often have a beer …

– Yes?

– …down by the riverside at this time of year. But it’s more of a joke, and I think… Of course, it’s funny how things like this are such a surprise, but … I mean, of course, we would always dream about winning the Nobel, but we never really thought we’d … A thing like this, we could say it was an important discovery, but there are so many important things in medicine these days that … I could say that, if we never had won it, it wouldn’t necessarily be a disappointment. It’s just that there are so many other good discoveries out there, and hard workers.

– What does it mean for your work, do you think, now – from now on?

– I think my work’ll be a little bit disrupted. [laughter] But I think there some very exciting projects that I’m doing at the moment, and I think that I have to continue on with those, because that’s where the future of my … That’s where my interest is at the moment; I love doing this work. So it will just create some extra activities for me! So, I’m not sure what’ll happen. I think I’ll just have to float in the breeze, I guess … and see what happens.

– Your colleague, Robin Warren, he mentioned to me that nobody really believed you in this at the beginning.

– Well, it’s so entrenched that ulcers are caused by stress; and so, even now in the movies in Hollywood you still see people developing ulcers from stress. But I think most … Well, I suppose people that are educated haven’t heard about these bacteria that cause ulcers. But … it’s not as exciting as it was a few years ago, because so many people now are being cured and you don’t know people with ulcers any more. It’s becoming a rare disease in modern countries, Western countries. But, of course, in a lot of countries it’s still very common.

– When did you realise that you’d been awarded the Prize?

– Well, when we received a call from Sweden about an hour ago.

– So now you’re celebrating?

– Well, we’re not … We’re being very careful – we’re just having one glass of beer at the moment. And I don’t want to appear on television, intoxicated. Dr Warren and I, we’re very moderate in our activities and, usually, one beer is enough to keep us cheerful.

– For how many years did you make the jokes about the Prize?

– Oh … Well, the first time we … We first had a publication in the Lancet in 1984 …’83 or … it might have been ’83, and we made a joke then: we thought we’d probably win the Prize in 1986. [laughter]

– So it’s just 19 years later – it’s lost it’s kick!

– 19 years later! [more laughter] So we still enjoy it very much, and I visited Sweden a couple of years ago and I’m just looking forward to visiting again so much and showing my wife all the wonderful things we saw there.

– Well, you are so much welcome here. Hope to see you here in December. Thank you very much.

– Oh, yes. Thank you.

– Bye-bye.

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