Life story interviews allow scientists to tell us rich and complex stories of their childhoods that evoke the era in which they grew up. Many of them draw attention to aspects of their younger selves that resonate with their later scientific careers. Frequently they remember how they learned skills that remained useful to them in later life, or provoked their curiosity about the natural world. Sometimes they flirted with danger, sailing out to sea or making rudimentary gunpowder or bombs. For many there is a strong sense of scientific careers fostered in childhood and encouraged by parents, though as Janet Thomson’s recollections reveal, this was not always the case.