What makes a child decide to become a scientist?
•For Robert Sapolsky–Stanford professor of biology–it was an argument with a rabbi over a passage in the Bible.
•Physicist Lee Smolin traces his inspiration to a volume of Einstein’s work, picked up as a diversion from heartbreak.
•Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist and the author of Flow , found his calling through Descartes.
Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Humphrey, Freeman Dyson . . . 27 scientists in all write about what it was that sent them on the path to their life's work. Illuminating memoir meets superb science writing in stories that invite us to consider what it is–and what it isn’t–that sets the scientific mind apart.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Curious Minds|
|Release Date: 08-31-2004|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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A Family Affair
Nicholas Humphrey, School Professor at the London School of Economics and professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research, is a theoretical psychologist, internationally known for his work on the evolution of human intelligence and consciousness. His books include Consciousness Regained, The Inner Eye, A History of the Mind, Leaps of Faith, and The Mind Made Flesh.
On Boxing Day 1960, soon after breakfast, Gower Street in London was deserted. I and my grandfather, A. V. Hill, entered the anatomy department of University College through a side door and made our way stealthily upstairs to his laboratory. The atmosphere was morguelike, and a musty smell of formaldehyde hung in the air. Water dripped from the lab ceiling and splashed onto an umbrella raised over the bench. A clock ticked, oddly out of tempo with the dripping; otherwise there was an eerie stillness. Grandpa removed the lid from a basin filled with live frogs, picked one out, and eyed its strong thigh muscles. He put it aside in a glass jar and called me over to admire it. The dissecting instruments and pins were waiting beside the corkboard.
I was seventeen years old. I had been reading Hermann Hesse's novel Steppenwolf, and I thought of the Magic Theater, with the strange sign on its door: "Not for Everybody." I felt (not for the first time) that I had crossed a threshold into a place from which ordinary people were excluded. But in the novel the theater's door bore another sign beneath the first: "For Madmen Only." I was proud to be where I was, and in this company, but I was wary, too.
My grandfather had in fact chos