Cabbie collects remarkable guestbook of Nobel laureate passengers

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A SCOTS cabbie has amassed a remarkable guest book throughout his career – containing signatures from the biggest names in science.

69-year-old Davie Douglas has worked for the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee for the past 20 years.

His main job is ferrying researchers on the 90-minute trip from the university to Edinburgh airport, as they fly abroad for conferences and talks.

He began to collect their signatures in a guest book, given to him by a friend as a birthday present.

And now his book contains hundreds of notes from scientists from all over the world – including 12 Nobel prizewinners.

Getting your name in the book is quite the privilege
Getting your name in the book is quite the privilege

Among his conquests include Nobel laureates such as Sir Tim Hunt, who was awarded the prize in 2001 for his part in the discovery of protein molecules that control the division of cells.

Alongside his signature, which he left after a taxi journey in 2010, Sir Hunt drew a small diagram of the cell cycle for the cabbie.

Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her chromosome research, also signed her name, as well as Edmond Fischer who was recognised for his discoveries concerning reversible protein phosphorylation.

There is also a note from Aaron Ciechanover, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004 for the discovery of ‘ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation’.

Davie, who used to be a seaman with the British Merchant Navy, said of his esteemed passengers: “They’re just normal people, like ourselves.

“I think they’re usually fed up of talking science. They’d rather just talk about football or anything else that comes to their minds.”

In caring for his passengers, the line between job and lifestyle seems to blur.

“I don’t even consider myself a taxi driver anymore,” he said. “I’ve got a meter in my car and I couldn’t even tell you how to turn it on.”

Those hoping to sign the book may be left disappointed, however, as Davie explained that it is an honour only bestowed among the few.

A taste of the signatures and messages in Davie's book
A taste of the signatures and messages in Davie’s book

He joked: “You can’t just sign the book. You’ve got to be invited to sign the book. If I didn’t like you, you didn’t get to sign the book.”

The book was bought for Davie on his 60th birthday by Dario Alessi, director of the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Ubiquitylation Unit at the university.

He said: “Davie probably meets more eminent scientists than the average scientist would meet in their working career.

“I bought him the book for his birthday since I thought it would be a good idea for him to get their signatures.

“Only the top people get to sign, but he’s now got hundreds of them. The book is almost full.

“He is such a likeable, nice guy and when I meet other scientists abroad they always ask how he is doing. He’s a great ambassador for Dundee.”

He joked: “He is threatening to semi-retire and I might have to buy him another book just so he keeps going.”

The 33-page book now contains over 450 signatures and diagrams – a treasure trove of notes from biochemistry greats.

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