I read with interest the article by Linda Marsa entitled "Mentoring: A Time-Honored Tradition Changes Over Time" (The Scientist, Oct. 28, 1991, page 19). As a faculty member over the past 20 years with a modest number of prot‚g‚s, I recently became interested in a more thorough investigation of this important and elusive process. I enlisted the services of a colleague, Don Petersen, and in our search through the literature we read many of the same key phrases found in the article, such as "role model" and "show you the ropes." But we believe the most fundamental component of mentorship barely surfaced in Bernice Sandler's comment: "Just be sure that the mentor you pick believes wholeheartedly in your abilities."

This is a corollary to what we believe is the fundamental proposition underlying mentorship. It is found in Plato's Theaetetus, in which Socrates, whose mother, Phaenarete, was a midwife, uses this...

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