From the Wellcome library collection:

When the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre (now the Sanger Institute) was named after him in 1993, he told the Director, John Sulston: "It had better be good."

What do we make of what Sanger said? Does he mean that now that it bears his name, the institute ought to do good work? (That sounds unusual given that Sanger had an unassuming style and did stellar research all his professional life.)

From New Oxford American English Dictionary:

had better do something: would find it wiser to do something; ought to do something: you had better be careful.)

  • 4
    He undoubtedly felt that if the Sanger Centre had been deficient in some way it would have reflected poorly on his good name.
    – Robusto
    Jul 9, 2019 at 3:08
  • This is based on the question "What had better be good?", which is about history and subjective application of a transparent expression. Jan 5, 2020 at 19:16

1 Answer 1


Likely he meant that now that the centre had his name on it he felt it must do a good job or he would feel bad, be embarrassed. This sounds like a show of modesty from someone who is being honored with by having their name used on an institute.

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