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SEARCHERS AND RESEARCHERS SELMAN A. WAKSMAN* Science cannot be based on dogma or authority ofany kind, nor on any intuition orrevelation, unless indeedit be ofthe Book ofNature that lies open before our eyes. We neednot dwell on theprocesses ofacquiring knowledge by observation, experiment , and inductive and deductive reasoning. The study ofscientific method both in theory andpractice is ofgreat importance. It is inherent in the philosophy that the recordmay be imperfect and the conceptions erroneous; thepotentialfallibility ofour science is not only acknowledged but also insisted upon.—R. Robinson [i]. I. Random Notes on Scientists and Their Fellow Men In any attempt to analyze the attitudes, philosophy, or scientific contributions ofa particular investigator, it is usually desirable to present first one's own point ofview or philosophy, for in making such an analysis, one cannot escape his own prejudices. Even the definition ofa "scientist" could be expressed in diffèrent ways, depending on the point ofview of the definer. To some, it is a Newton, a Faraday, a Pasteur, an Einstein, or one who has reached the pinnacle of scientific attainment; a scientist is thus conceived as one who tries to solve basic or fundamental problems underlying matter and energy, by means of whatever tools he is best qualified to use. Others conceive ofscientists as people who develop new tools, ranging to those of a technician or even a gadgeteer. Even the compilers ofdata—or the "literature scientist" and "information specialist "—are considered scientists, the mere concept being reduced to that of researchers. ?. Science and Society It has become customary in recent years to generalize about science and its place in society. It is rather difficult, however, perhaps even unjustifi- * Professor Emeritus, Institute ofMicrobiology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NewJersey . The Upjohn Company's kind generosity in covering publication costs ofthis article is acknowledged with thanks.—Ed. 309 able, to speak in a similar vein ofthe scientists themselves, unless one considers them in a purely abstract sense or as a special social group rather than as anassemblage ofvarious individuals with quite diffèrent philosophies of life and diffèrent attitudes toward society. The various branches ofscience can be classified, but not so the scientists themselves. It is possible to analyze or even idealize the nature ofthe individuals who are engaged in scientific endeavors or the types ofpeople who occupy themselves with science as a means oflivelihood or as a natural calling. But one cannot attempt to describe scientists as a group. In the early days, when the field ofscienceembraced onlya fewdevotees, onecouldpicka Davy, a Dumas, or an Ehrlich and describehis emotions, his personallife, and even generalize , as some historians have done, about the kinds of wives they had or shouldhavehad, whether they should or should nothavehad any children, and whether or not they were generally normal human beings. Various branches ofscience, notably physics, chemistry, and biology, have recendy made such rapid advances that the resulthas been a complete revolution in our daily Uves. The impact ofthis revolution upon society is only slowly being recognized, although "atomic" explosions and "sputniks " have tended to hasten this process. We have been hearing a great deal about the social responsibilities of science and of scientists recently; unfortunately, we have only little appreciation ofwhat is really involved. The general impression still prevails that science is something abstract and thatthoseengaged initform, atbest, a kind ofa guild or, atworst, a group ofmedieval magicians. In reality, science has become in recent years a definite profession and is often closely affiliated with what one might call "big business." Scientific research is now no longer limited to universities and special institutes. It is carried out quite extensively and quite competently in industrial laboratories and government institutions as well as in laboratories supported by private funds. It is true that important scientific contributions are still being made by individual scientists—that great ideas and leading experiments are still hatched in individual brains, like those ofa Curie, an Einstein, a Fermi, or a Pavlov. These individuals are still considered the great pathfinders in science, who have opened new fields for others to explore and exploit. But with the growing need ofexpensive equipment for certain types of experimentation, with the growing importance of collaboration and teamwork...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 309-320
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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