An Astrophysicist's Pursuit of Science

Aesthetics and Motivation in Science. S. Chandrasekhar. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987. 170 pp. $23.95. In this small, attractive volume, the well-known astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar presents seven lectures on the motivation of scientists, the meaning of beauty in science, and contrasting patterns of creativity in science and the arts. Presented on various occasions during a 40-year period, the lectures are printed without alteration. Thus, as Chandrasekhar notes,

Laurie Brown
May 1, 1988

Aesthetics and Motivation in Science.
S. Chandrasekhar. The University of
Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987. 170
pp. $23.95.

In this small, attractive volume, the well-known astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar presents seven lectures on the motivation of scientists, the meaning of beauty in science, and contrasting patterns of creativity in science and the arts. Presented on various occasions during a 40-year period, the lectures are printed without alteration. Thus, as Chandrasekhar notes, they may illustrate the changing (maturing?) attitudes of one scientist.”

In the first lecture, presented in 1946, Chandrasekhar states that “scientific values consist in the ... recognition of the uniformity of nature” and that the scientist’s prime motive is “systematization.” In contrast, the second lecture, read in 1985, allows for the existence of a multiplicity of other motivations, including the desire (sometimes obsessive) to say either the first or last word on a subject. The remaining five lectures, given in the...

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