Some 425 readers told us about the influences that guided them to become scientists; they cited an average of three influential factors. By far the most important, according to 70% of our respondents, was innate curiosity. "I cannot help but poke things until I find out how they work," says one. Another notes, "I have known since I was a toddler that I would become a biologist."
Secondary school teachers (46%), parents (46%), and college teachers (45%) were approximately equal secondary influences. Many readers mentioned the enthusiasm and curiosity of teachers and relatives as essential ingredients. One reader reminisces: "Grandmother was curator of conchology at Buffalo Museum of Science. In my preteen years I spent many hours looking at her large personal collection of seashells and minerals. I have her original microscope from 1890."