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THE DEBT OF DISCOVERY TO LEARNING MAX TISHLER, PH.D.* In the past twenty-five years discovery and invention have produced a great transformation in our society. So profound has been this change that those ofus who have participated in it could scarcely have conceived ofits extent when we left the university to devote our lives to research in industry . These have been good years to us as scientists and as directors ofwhat Sumner Slichter has called "the industry ofdiscovery." I need not recall to you the brilliant achievements ofindustrial research that have taken place during this quarter-century. Instead of looking at the past, let us look at the future and let us ask ourselves a nagging question that I am sure has tugged at the sleeve of each ofus more often than we like to think. Is it going to be more difficult for us in the next twenty-five years to make new discoveries of the same magnitude as those that have come from our laboratories in the past? We feel the pressure for discoveries. We all know they are coming, but we do not know when. The world ofknowledge is so tiny in relation to the universe ofignorance that the result is inevitable. In my own field—¦ pharmaceutical research—we are still wandering around pretty much in the dark treating the symptoms ofdisease because we know so little about its causes. Our ignorance ofboth biology and chemistry is so monumental that we have to depend much too often on hunch plus plain trial and error even for symptomatic results. How can one question the productiveness ofthe years ahead ifwe sustain our capacity for discovery? Where Are the Future Scientists'? This, then, becomes the key question: how can we sustain our capacity for discovery? This capacity is dependent, in the final analysis, on an end- * Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories, Rahway, NewJersey. This address was given at the annual meeting ofthe Industrial Research Institute, May 2, 1961, at Boca Raton, Florida. It is reprinted by permission from Research Management. 244 Max Tishler · Debt ofDiscovery Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Winter 1962 less supply ofeducated people and an inexhaustible fund ofbasic knowledge . To what source ofintellectual activities should we look for the new basic concepts ofsciencefromwhenceflow our discoveriesandinventions? Can we be sure that the organization ofscience—today's and that ofthe years ahead—will motivate and bring forth such fundamentals as the quantum theory, Gibbs's phase rule, the theory of relativity, antibiosis, antimetabolites, radiation, and radioactive fission? Where shall we find the future scholars and giants ofscience, such as Einstein, Fermi, Nermst, Stanley, Schroedinger, Pauling, and Krebs, who have made permanent imprints on discovery and invention? Every time I think ofthe future ofresearch, I find myselfcoming back to the debt that discovery owes to learning. I come back to the cradle of research, to the natural, nurturing shelter offreedom ofinquiry—the university . The first real home ofscientific research was the university, for research is inseparable from scholarship. There it multiplied disciples dedicated to cutting paths through the unknown and to creating new knowledge and understanding. The university provided the atmosphere, the sustenance and the motivation for complete freedom ofinquiry. Science paid its debt for all this nourishment by helping the university to carry out the important mission ofadding to the nation's resources ofeducated men and women. Research was an essential part ofteaching for both the university and for those engaged in research. I am vitally concerned with the university's future, because it is our future too. Unless it does itsjob well, neither I nor any other industrial research director will be able to sustain our capacity for discovery. It is for this reason that I would like to examine with you today some ofthe forces at work within the university, forces that will ultimately influence the success ofevery laboratory for which we here today are responsible. In the past twenty years the role ofthe university in our national life has changeddrastically. The logicofsurvivalinthe modernworldhas dragged it from the quiet periphery ofour society right into the maelstrom ofits center. After Pearl Harbor we had to denude our campuses to win the war. And we are now depending...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 244-255
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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