Department of Genetics,
you are at least two inches shorter than I am.
that I am six foot four inches tall.
My name is Matty Doonan and,
although you do not know me, I believe you can see the effects of my
work all around you.
Let me explain.
was a child I was tall for my
age and I loved reading stories about giants. I was particularly
Gulliver who found himself a giant among the Lilliputians but a midget
the giants of Brobdingnag who were as tall as church steeples with a
set me thinking and I became
curious to know why I was so much taller than my friends. When I grew
studied genetics and eventually ended up here, at the University of
where, about thirty years ago, I discovered a method of blocking the
which causes humans to grow taller with each generation as their health
improved by better nutrition.
never published my research, but
now Cambridge University has offered me a chance to make my discoveries
- although not yet! This year, as part
of its 800th anniversary celebrations, the University has invited the
Cambridge to write 'Letters to the Future' which will be locked away
hundred years before being opened.
suits me very well, as I am not
ready for my research to be known. Had this opportunity not arisen, I
never have put pen to paper on the subject.
my initial discovery I devised
a system for reducing population pressures, by causing humans to
gradually evolve into smaller and smaller
since then, I have travelled the world personally embedding into the
into water supplies, and into the food we grow, a formula which, even
lifetime, is already showing signs of taking effect.
all this sound like a fairy
story? Well, I admit, I do look a
a mad scientist with my white hair and my tendency to wave my hands
believe me, my legacy to you and to the world is no fairy story.
Rather, it is
the single most important step taken by humankind this century, to
footprint on the earth - literally - and reduce the damage we are doing
not published my research
because I know the only way it can benefit mankind is for me to
implement it in
secret, otherwise its progress would be blocked by ethical, moral and
objections, as well as by all the common prejudices about the benefits
height. Because, you see, in this century
there is a huge preference in favour of people being tall. Tallness is
associated with success and good health and beauty and I can see no
persuading people otherwise in time to save the planet.
My system has the effect of blocking
the fertility of the tallest people in a population and is designed as
self-perpetuating loop so that, once it has been running for a few
the process will become virtually impossible to reverse. And yes, in
are wondering, there is a built-in 'bottom line' which will protect us
becoming too tiny to survive as human beings.
this is happening so gradually
that it is hardly noticeable at first and, by the time the trend is
established, it will be too late to stop its progress. I calculate that
years time the average height for a human male could be almost sixteen
less it is now and, by the time Cambridge University has doubled its
1600 years old, its professors will have shrunk in to the size of a
As a result our civilization will
undergo many changes. People will need smaller houses, will consume
and fuel and, if they still use cars and boats and trains, these too
This shrinkage will bring problems.
For a start, all Cambridge's college buildings will become too large
practical use - if they are still standing that is - and King's College
will seem as vast as pyramids to our pygmy descendants.
By then, too, the contents of this
letter may be dismissed as the ramblings of a long dead giant in a
fairy story. Will anyone believe it? I
is the trouble with secrets. If
you keep them too long they vanish into legends.