The scientist is motivated primarily by curiosity and a desire for truth.
Train yourselves. Don’t wait to be fed knowledge out of a book. Get out and seek it. Make explorations. Do your own research work. Train your hands and your mind. Become curious. Invent your own problems and solve them. You can see things going on all about you. Inquire into them. Seek out answers to your own questions. There are many phenomena going on in nature the explanation of which cannot be found in books. Find out why these phenomena take place. Information a boy gets by himself is enormously more valuable than that which is taught to him in school.
A chemist who does not know mathematics is seriously handicapped.
Only a small part of scientific progress has resulted from planned search for specific objectives. A much more important part has been made possible by the freedom of the individual to follow his own curiosity.
History proves abundantly that pure science, undertaken without regard to applications to human needs, is usually ultimately of direct benefit to mankind.
Science, almost from its beginnings, has been truly international in character. National prejudices disappear completely in the scientist’s search for truth.
To my mind, the most important aspect of the Nobel Awards is that they bring home to the masses of the peoples of all nations, a realization of their common interests. They carry to those who have no direct contact with science the international spirit.
Happy indeed is the scientist who not only has the pleasures which I have enumerated, but who also wins the recognition of fellow scientists and of the mankind which ultimately benefits from his endeavors.
Medicine also disregards national boundaries.
[In the case of research director, Willis R. Whitney, whose style was to give talented investigators as much freedom as possible, you may define “serendipity” as] the art of profiting from unexpected occurrences. When you do things in that way you get unexpected results. Then you do something else and you get unexpected results in another line, and you do that on a third line and then all of a sudden you see that one of these lines has something to do with the other. Then you make a discovery that you never could have made by going on a direct road.
[There] are cases where there is no dishonesty involved but where people are tricked into false results by a lack of understanding about what human beings can do to themselves in the way of being led astray by subjective effects, wishful thinking or threshold interactions. These are examples of pathological science. These are things that attracted a great deal of attention. Usually hundreds of papers have been published upon them. Sometimes they have lasted for fifteen or twenty years and then they gradually die away.
Many of the things that have happened in the laboratory have happened in ways it would have been impossible to foresee, but not impossible to plan for in a sense. I do not think Dr. Whitney deliberately plans his serendipity but he is built that way; he has the art-an instinctive way of preparing himself by his curiosity and by his interest in people and in all kinds of things and in nature, so that the things he learns react on one another and thereby accomplish things that would be impossible to foresee and plan.
And literature frequently rises to heights that make it international.