No one wants to become just another statistic, scientists least of all. We cherish our individuality, our march to a drummer whose beat most people never hear. And isn't our profession built on the unquantifiable flash of creative insight? Because statistical analysis concentrates only on average behavior, it is destined to miss outstanding individual achievement. Yet it is valuable to find the common threads that define our own special herd. What kind of analysis would help scientists understand themselves? One approach is to consider how we do science as we age.

From children of the Great Depression to baby boomers, age and the common experiences that define a generation are deeply important. The shared events that form a scientific generation, such as the one that developed the atomic bomb, could equally well set the trajectory of a research career. The fact that some career elements are beyond any individual's control...

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