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A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO DR. GEORGE C. COTZIAS, CUNICIAN AND SCIENTIST BERNARD M. PATTEN* George Cotzias, the first real scientist I ever knew, was more of a father to me than anything else. He gave me my first job in medical research, supervised my first experiments, and coached me through my first paper. Long after I left his laboratory at Brookhaven, he continued to advance my career and to give paternal advice. His legacy to humanity , a long chain ofdiscovered facts, will live forever, even though people will soon forget who he was, what he discovered, and, more important, why he discovered it. His legacy to me is more ephemeral and consists of a series of private monologues delivered from 1963 to 1969, during which he seemed to be either solving some personal problem, predicting the future, dramatizing some event, or instilling his philosophy of life. After each ofthese unique conversations, I made notes and subsequently typed them on the weekends. They are reported here almost verbatim and free of posthumous poetry with only a short topic heading to orient the reader. Captured for an instant, they are only a part of a faded photograph illustrating a facet of this person's life. To some, the quotes may seem strange and unflattering, but much of George's outlandish and dramatic early behavior, I now realize, stemmed from his own insecurity . You see, he looked and sounded more like a Greek butcher than a physician. Consequently, no one paid attention to him unless he dramatized things, used abusive language, or talked in riddles. Later in life, especially after his election to the National Academy of Science, George's personality mellowed, proving, again, that aging humans may undergo metamorphosis as total as that of certain insects. I. Why We Do Research "Oh my God, Patten, you really are an ass. Don't you realize we're in the research game primarily to earn a living—to make money so we can * Department of Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Medical Center, Houston , Texas 77030.© 1983 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0031-5982/84/2701-0360$01.00 156 I Bernard M. Patten · George C. Cotzias eat. Never forget that research is a business. But it's a special kind of business. Youjust can't decide to go into it. You have to be qualified by birth or training. Science is mostly instinctual, like fucking or killing. It is built into the individual early in life. You have to be born with the need to know, to find out, to investigate. You have to be born into the sacred estate." II.The Purpose of Brookhaven National Laboratory "Brookhaven is run under government auspices so that, when they need advice, the boys in Washington have a group of experts they can consult. The machines at Brookhaven, including the alternating gradient synchrotron that you have heard so much about, are not important . The machines are here so that the ignorant public doesn't bitch about us sitting around and talking to each other. The machines are a facade which we use so the ignorant public thinks we are working with them. Remember the real wealth and glory of Brookhaven derives from the humans here and their peculiar characteristics. The machines are here so that the ignorant public doesn't bitch." III.What Is the Mission of the People Working in the Laboratory? "Frankly, your attitude here has been anything but what it should have been. You are the great Patten, who never asked what he could do for Brookhaven National Laboratory. Your grades are excellent, boy, but Al Capone was twice as smart as you, you know. Around my laboratory people bust their asses to make me famous. I'm famous, boy, you know. And the people around here bust their asses to make me more famous. They work to win me a Nobel Prize, boy. They are content busting their asses to make me famous. This is their one supremely important mission in life, to make me famous." IV.Why the Experiments Are Not Working Out "Let's get down to business. Nothing seems to be going our way. We've...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 156-161
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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