The “file not found” error message on features Maryam, the daughter of my friend Nicholas, whom I last saw when I turned up one week early for his and Hind‘s Christmas dinner party. We shared a frozen pizza in his kitchen. Hind was on a train.

This week computational-biologist-turned-epidemiologist Nick became the second one of my friends to be first author on a front-page Nature paper, joining Adrienne, who wrote this [PDF]. Both of them are younger than me and have families. When they come to write the history of late 20th and early 21st century science my name will be there—in the captions of the photographs. I am to biomedicine as Linda McCartney was to popular music.

Nick’s paper is about the spread of syphilis. It’s the result of a lovely idea that I enthused about when he first told me about it on the phone, as I silently cursed his brilliance. It’s the sort of inspired science that can be explained in a way that non-specialists can understand too.


Maryam puts on a goofy smile

Maryam now, old enough to be able to pull a mad scientist face. The stuff in the background is everything the Grasslys own, piled up in one room.