A Prerequisite To Success In Science

Two recent articles--one in the New York Times Magazine, the other in Nature--set me to thinking about the role pure genius plays in stimulating and sustaining the scientific enterprise. On one hand, individual displays of awesome intellect can certainly be inspiring; but I suspect they can also be discouraging for budding researchers who realize that their grasp on things will never equal that of an Einstein, Fermi, or Feynman. And that's truly unfortunate.

In the Times Magazine piece ("Murray Gell-Mann: The Man Who Knows Everything," May 8, 1994, page 24), writer David Berreby reports on the man who won the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his classification of elementary particles. Berreby makes no secret of his reverence for Gell-Mann and his vast erudition--a scope of interest and knowledge that extends far beyond physics. The superscientist who discovered the quark, Berreby points...

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