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Listen or download interview (mp3, 30 minutes, 29MB)
Michael Clegg was born into a scientific family: both his father and grandfather were biological researchers, and his great-grandfather was a physician. So Clegg did what came naturally—he rebelled. He worked as a crop duster’s assistant and served as a military paratrooper before settling down to married life and a job in the sugar industry. When he returned to college on the G.I. Bill in the mid-1960s, he planned to pursue a degree in international agriculture. But a required course in genetics lured him back into the family business. Despite his best efforts, Clegg became one of the world’s foremost plant evolutionists.
Using DNA sequencing technology and sophisticated statistical methods, Clegg has explored the evolutionary history of plants, from the origins of flower colors to how humans first domesticated barley and came to practice agriculture. His work has pioneered new techniques for studying plant biology and has earned him numerous distinctions, including membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Clegg is the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of California at Irvine. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1990 and served as its Foreign Secretary.
Last Updated: 06-06-2011
The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.