ADVICE TO A YOUNG SCIENTIST

Excerpted from here’s how by who’s who, a compilation of messages from successful men.  The following article was written by Glenn T. Seaborg in 1965.

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If you consider a career in science, you may ask yourself whether you really have the qualifications. You may feel that you need to be a genius. This is not true. While great advances have been made by our greatest minds, the bulk of scientific discovery has been made by men who, while of better-than-average intelligence, were by no means in the genius category.

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Glenn  T. Seaborg Chairman Atomic Energy Commission

Glenn T. Seaborg
Chairman
Atomic Energy Commission

My advice is not to worry too much about your intelligence, about how you compare with your contemporaries, but to concentrate on going as far as possible with the basic endowments nature has given you. Don’t underestimate yourself. Set yourself a high goal of achievement and exert yourself to advance toward this goal.

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I would like to emphasize a particularly necessary element in the makeup of a good scientist: simple hard work. Many a person of only better-than-average ability has accomplished, just on the basis of work and perseverance, much greater things than some geniuses. Such a hard-working individual will succeed where a lazy genius may fail.

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This matter of hard work runs counter to the trend of modern times, with its emphasis on leisure, shorter work weeks and more leisure time activities. I cannot feel that the 35-hour work week has much relevance for a creative scientist. Scientists and engineers are definitely not clock-watchers where the doors of the laboratory are never locked and the lights frequently burn late into the night.
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Our country’s destiny lies in large part in the hands of its future scientists. I would say that science has great and exciting challenges to meet; that great discoveries with great benefits to human beings everywhere are much closer than the far horizons.

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There can be no question as to whether a career in science would be inter-esting—even more than interesting: EXCITING.

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In this respect, I would say that science can be like the exploration of new countries, and adventure on oceans never before traveled. But the discovery of the “new” in science has a thrill and satisfaction unequaled in any other type or kind of discovery. The scientific discoverer is the first to see or to know a really new thing: He is the locksmith of the centuries who has finally fashioned a key to open the door to one of nature’s secrets.

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We live in a money-oriented society, but I think that personal success in money matters is often overrated as the reigning monarch of our standard of values. A scientist feels that what he is doing is important—there are zest and motivation in his efforts. There is no group of persons on whom society as a whole depends so heavily.

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YOU CAN BE PART OF IT.

GLENN SEABORG SIGNATURE

 

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