Science inspirations

Why did you become a scientist? I am sure most scientists have been asked this at some point, and with the drive to maintain and increase the number of young people choosing science, its also a central question for policymakers. In a

recent post on 2020science, Andrew Maynard revealed some of the key inspirations that got him hooked on science. Following a Twitter challenge to do the same, I tweeted my top three inspirations, but I thought I would expand a little here. So my top three are:

  1. David Attenborough. Or more specifically, the television programmes he presented. These programmes provided a window onto the natural world, and I loved the exploration, the exoticism and the obvious enthusiasm of Attenborough himself. It was through watching Attenborough that I gained an appreciation of the diversity of the natural world, and became fascinated in it. Why and how had that diversity arisen? How is the diversity maintained? And what will happen in the future?
  2. My chemistry teacher. Mr Jones taught me chemistry throughout my secondary school years, and he was a truly inspiring person. One of the things he passed on was a love of the experimental side of his subject. His chemistry demonstrations were legendary, and the explosions could often be heard across the school campus. He also made sure we spent lots of time actually doing experiments, and I learned my chemistry at the bench not at the blackboard or from a book. When I look back, he also taught me the scientific method – the ‘how?’ of science as well as the ‘what?’. In retrospect I think this was the most valuable thing I learned at school.
  3. ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins. I can remember reading this book during my later years at school. I had always thought my interests in biodiversity and molecules were separate, but Dawkins helped me see the links between them. From this point I knew that life sciences was the discipline for me. Even 30 years on ‘The Selfish Gene’ is still a great book – if you haven’t read it pick up a copy here.

I would be interested to here about your inspirations to become a scientist in the comments.


Written on September 6, 2009

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