Frances Arnold: I was crazy in those days. I had three little kids, a husband who was also eager to do his science, and I had no patience for pushback. I had no patience for people who wanted to give me advice or tell me it wasn’t going to work. First of all, I knew it would work. And second, I was never good at taking advice, anyway. So people would tell me that “Oh, gentlemen don’t do random mutagenesis, and we make mutations at random because you’re supposed to sit with your big brain and figure things out.” Or “That’s not science.” And then: “Hmm. Well, I’m not a gentleman, and I’m an engineer, so maybe that’s okay.”
So I just was able to ignore the naysayers — and not to say it didn’t hurt my feelings. I listened to the criticism. I took the pieces that were useful to me, and I completely just ignored the rest, and just said, “You don’t know; you don’t understand.” Because I’d seen lots of people who thought they knew everything, and they lied to us. So I was able to, I guess, just by the force of my very stubborn character, to say, “No, I know this is going to work.” And I knew it was going to work right away because it worked right away. And it took me 20 years to convince the rest of the world — or it probably took two years to convince some people and then 20 years to convince others. And maybe others are not even convinced today. But this method really, really worked when no other approach did.