Does a scientist reach a peak in productivity at age 35? My experience indicates that’s not true for chemists, and it probably isn’t true for other disciplines in science. I am 75 years old. I reached retirement age (66) in 1978. The university held a grand retirement party. Many of my former coworkers, both graduate students and postdocs, numbering about 300 at that time, came to the festivities. I might easily have retired to a life of comfort and vegetation. But my wife urged me to continue. Her observations had led her to the conclusion that people last longer, in better health, if they continue to be active.

Fortunately, the university came to me with an exceptional opportunity. I was invited to continue my research activities within the same space. There would be just two changes. First, I would no longer accept graduate students training for their Ph.Ds; I would...

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