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Gerald Wiener

Alumnus Gerald Wiener

Course: BSc Agriculture
Campus: Edinburgh
Graduated: 1947

The biography of alumnus Professor Gerald Wiener was published in 2016. It follows Gerald’s fascinating life and scientific achievements, including his time as an agriculture student in Edinburgh.

“Goodbye Berlin, The Biography of Gerald Wiener”, by Margaret M. Dunlop

Goodbye Berlin, a biography of Gerald Wiener

The 24th of March, 1939, was a poignant day for twelve-year-old Gerald Wiener. He was on a train pulling out of Berlin and he was on his way to the UK to escape persecution in Nazi Germany. He was one of the thousands of unaccompanied children saved by the Kindertransport. Looked after by two sisters in Oxford, his abilities as a scholar became apparent and from an early age he was set on the road to academic achievement.

As a young adult, Gerald chose to study Agriculture at the University of Edinburgh. The College of Agriculture, established in 1901, was but a few doors away. Gerald joined the Student Agricultural Society during his first year, whose members were from the university and the College of Agriculture. In 1947 he graduated with a BSc in Agriculture, and was the only student to gain a distinction in his genetics class. This achievement led to Gerald accepting his first post as a scientific assistant at the Animal Breeding Research Organisation (now an integral part of the Roslin Institute).

Gerald was an active member of the alumni community following his graduation. From 1953 he edited the Journal of the Edinburgh Agricultural Former Students’ Association for a period of five years. In 1957 Gerald also co-edited the Association’s glossy edition for the Centenary of Edinburgh University Agricultural Society, that started in 1857!

There followed a distinguished career as a research scientist in Edinburgh, where he made a genetic discovery that received international recognition. His research department was a centre of excellence and after he retired members of his department went on to make an astonishing breakthrough in genetics, the cloning of Dolly the sheep.

During his career Gerald was also in demand to assist agricultural development in China, India, the secretive North Korea and many other countries, and his trips during these years are full of incident and fascinating human and social insights.

It was while he was on a postdoctoral fellowship in the USA that he discovered he had a large family in California. He had known nothing of them as his mother and father had parted when he was only two years old. His aunt and stepmother gave him compelling accounts of their escapes from Hitler, via Shanghai, and life under the Japanese during the War. Their stories, and that of Gerald himself, are amazing tales of resilience and triumph over adversity.

This book shows how one man’s life and achievements mirror the great events of the second half of the twentieth century and the opening years of the new millennium.

“Goodbye Berlin” can be purchased through www.birlinn.co.uk/Goodbye-Berlin bookshops and other online booksellers.

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