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The advancement of scientific knowledge gives rise to ethical concerns about the unintended use of new inventions. Concerns also exist over the use of animals in scientific research. In a thought-provoking lecture at the recent WSAVA/FECAVA/BSAVA congress, Lord Robert Winston discussed both of these issues. Arianwen Morris reports
‘EVERY piece of technology that mankind has ever invented has had both an unexpected upside and downside.’
So said Lord Robert Winston, a pioneer in the fields of genetics, gynaecological surgery and in vitro fertilisation (IVF), giving the BSAVA lecture at the WSAVA/FECAVA/BSAVA congress, which was held in Birmingham from April 11 to 15.
He explained that many inventions were heralded by exaggerated claims of their imminent value, but that the 10 greatest achievements of the past 50 years all had a practical value that no one had predicted.
For example, the first optical laser had been used just over 50 years ago. It had been incorporated into pointer pens, barcode readers and cables used for telecommunications. However, in recent years, an experimental project had been underway that had the potential to create an alternative energy source and thus help tackle ‘one of the greatest problems that we perceive facing the …