LONDON – Svante Paabo’s first fascination was archaeology, and in particular the study of ancient life in Egypt, which he visited with his mother when he was 13. “I wanted to be like Indiana Jones, discovering mummies and other ancient hidden treasures. I had a very romantic idea of what archaeology was,” he recalled. “But when I started studying it at Uppsala University, I found it wasn’t quite as romantic as I had imagined.” So Paabo changed to a course in medicine.
Some scientists believe Paabo’s work has opened the door for the creation of Neanderthal children who could be born to a human woman.
Paabo dismisses such an idea as utterly unethical. However, it should be possible to introduce Neanderthal variants into human and mouse cells in the laboratory and study their effect, he says. In this way, scientists would be able to uncover the subtle physiological and mental differences between ourselves and the Neanderthals.
“I have always been attracted to men as well as women, and was active in the gay rights movement in Sweden,” he said. At Leipzig, Paabo fell in love with a colleague, Linda Vigilant, and the two were married in 2008 by a New Age pastor during a ceremony on a beach in Hawaii. They have a son, Rune.