Even in 1915, it was a small world for Peter Medawar. Peter's
father was from Lebanon, but moved to England to seek his fortune
and marry an Englishwoman. He did marry and after their
marriage, the couple
moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Peter's father became
a salesman for a dental supply company out of England. Peter
was born in Rio, but nonetheless was declared a citizen of England.
Before entering school, Peter Medawar learned Portuguese, the
first language of Brazil, because school was taught in that language.
He recalls of his mathematics teacher that she "considered
it her business to teach us addition, subtraction, and the like,
and she jolly well did." A main childhood interest of Peter
was reading comic books. He and his brother had quite a collection.
Another perhaps surprising interest was opera. Peter fell in
love with the gramophone, the forerunner of today's record player
or CD player. Due to the kinds of music his parents played in
the house, he acquired a love for opera, even as a child. He
would save his pocket money for weeks in order to buy a record.
He enjoyed pretending to be an orchestra conductor in front
of a mirror.
Most of Peter's free
time as a child was spent with his brother on Copacabana Beach.
He marvels that he did not catch polio, which afflicted many
children in his neighborhood. His very own brother was crippled
for life by the disease. Peter recalls how the town's sewers
emptied directly onto the beach, and the children played around
huge stagnant pools of sewage.