WHEN Lee Cronin was 9 he was given a Sinclair ZX81 computer and a chemistry set. Unlike most children, Cronin imagined how great it would be if the two things could be combined to make a programmable chemical computer.
Now 45 and the Regius Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, Cronin leads a research team of more than 50 people, but his childhood obsessions remain. He is constructing chemical brains, and has ambitions to create artificial life – using a radical new approach.
What drives you?
Everything I’m doing now, I’ve wanted to do since I was a boy. I wanted to discover something new about the universe. It was stressful for my parents because anything they bought, I just took apart. Once I tried to build a carbon dioxide laser. When I was 7 or 8, I ripped the logic unit out of the washing machine and the cathode ray tube from the TV and tried to connect it all up and make my first computer.
Your poor parents. Were they scientists?
No, my father works in construction and my mother was a nurse but they separated when I was 9 and later divorced. I had learning difficulties and was in remedial class at school. I wasn’t interested in what the teachers were doing. I taught myself the maths of relativity when I was 7. I’m determined to answer questions now because I was told I wasn’t any good.
What are you doing to pursue those …