The Genetics Society has produced a Top Trumps-style card game that was sent to every UK secondary school.
Designed for education, ‘Geneticist Trumps’ provides a fun way to learn about influential scientists and their work in a competitive game format. The project was funded by a Tier 2 Public Engagement Grant and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research innovation programme. As a soft launch to coincide with the Society’s 100th anniversary, packs of cards were given away to those who attended the ‘Century of Genetics‘ conference in 2019.
The game consists of 30 playing cards featuring history’s greatest geneticists and explains how they changed our understanding of genes and heredity. Each card also shows five categories and corresponding scores. The player with the highest score in a selected category wins their opponents’ cards. A geneticist’s scores for ‘Fame’ and ‘Impact’ are based on objective measures of online popularity and published research, while their ‘Special Power’ gives a characteristic or hobby that reflects their personality (scores for this category help balance the deck and don’t relate directly to their ability).
‘Geneticist Trumps’ is freely available to download for printing, ideally in colour on thin cardboard. You can find out more about the various scientists featured on the cards through the links below.
- Anne McLaren: ethics. The ethical issues surrounding embryo research led her to serve as an expert on committees for regulating human fertility treatment.
- Barbara McClintock: independence. She preferred to work alone and, apart from a single study, published all her papers as a solo author.
- Charlotte Auerbach: teaching. Before moving to Edinburgh, ‘Lotte’ Auerbach was a teacher in Berlin. She loved children and wrote a book of fairy tales.
- Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard: philanthropy. After noting how life is harder for mothers, she started a foundation to support female researchers with children.
- Edith Saunders: vigour. Edith Rebecca ‘Becky’ Saunders was active and sporty — an ace tennis player, skilled ice skater and experienced mountain climber.
- Elizabeth Blackburn: mentoring. While a scientist will often give their protégé constructive criticism, Blackburn says a good mentor should also offer praise.
- Esther Lederberg: music. Esther Zimmer Lederberg was passionate about Early Music (like Medieval and Baroque), played recorder and founded an orchestra.
- Francis Crick: communication. With an uncanny ability to understand topics outside his field, he could clarify questions and place them in a wider context.
- François Jacob: philosophy. Jacob wrote several books on the history of science, discussing how society is influenced by new scientific developments.
- Frederick Sanger: boating. Sanger enjoyed “messing about in boats.” He built sailing boats and in later life enjoyed cruising along rivers in a motor boat.
- George Beadle: climbing. Despite only taking up rock climbing around age 50, he became a member of the first team to climb Mount Doonerak in Alaska.
- Gregor Mendel: perseverance. The monk’s work on peas took 8 years, which he said required “courage and also persistence and meticulous record keeping.”
- Janet Rowley: cycling. Even in her late 80s, Rowley would ride a bike to her laboratory every day, a familiar sight at the University of Chicago.
- Jennifer Doudna: gardening. She enjoys getting her hands dirty and her garden in Berkeley contains strawberry guava, common to Hawaii, where she grew up.
- Marshall Nirenberg: precision. Believing that any researcher should be able to reproduce results from the methods, his experiments were always precise.
- Mary Lyon: rigour. Lyon was rigorous in thought and speech, which meant long pauses during phone calls as she carefully formulated what she wanted to say.
- Mary-Claire King: activism. A campaigner for human rights and social justice, she helped the United Nations use DNA tests to identify victims of war crimes.
- Nettie Stevens: creativity. She excelled at school and turned into a creative scientist with what Thomas Morgan called an “independent and original mind.”
- Oswald Avery: eloquence. Avery had a way with words. His public-speaking skills delivered engaging lectures and earned him a nickname, ‘the Professor’.
- Paul Nurse: astronomy. An amateur astronomer, Nurse has used a telescope since childhood, when he watched the satellite Sputnik 2 fly across the sky.
- Phillip Sharp: farming. During his childhood on the family farm in Kentucky, Sharp saved money for college fees by raising cattle and growing tobacco.
- Ronald Fisher: eccentricity. A stereotypical absent‐minded professor, Fisher was a pipe-smoking, shabbily-dressed academic who would forget to go home.
- Ruth Sager: enthusiasm. While Sager thought a scientific career was closer to a vocation than a job, she was also enthusiastic about her many outside hobbies.
- Seymour Benzer: reinvention. Benzer had a PhD in physics but reinvented himself several times, ultimately establishing the field of behavioural genetics.
- Sydney Brenner: mischief. With a wicked sense of humour and the pen name ‘Uncle Syd’, Brenner was described as “one of biology’s mischievous children.”
- Thomas Morgan: generosity. When Thomas Hunt Morgan won a Nobel, he shared the prize money with colleagues Calvin Bridges and Alfred Sturtevant.
- Tomoko Ohta: persuasiveness. Ohta ignored traditional Japanese etiquette and argued with her boss daily, persuading him to officially hire her as a researcher.
- Tsuneko Okazaki: resilience. After losing her husband — and lab partner — to cancer, she continued her research while raising their two young children.
- William Bateson: feminism. Bateson pushed for gender equality at Cambridge University, while his group at Newnham College consisted mainly of women.
- William Hamilton: curiosity. Although a theoretical biologist, WD Hamilton was curious about nature and seemed able to identify every species he saw.