Universities and knowledge

"If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment. --- Lord Rutherford " Is a GREAT quote. I have a collection of related ideas up at http://www.breskin.com/science.htm

But the best discussion of science that I have run into in MONTHS is the following - that I scanned from The Microbe Hunters an amazing book written by Paul deKruif in 1928 - and it comes from the letters that passed between Anthony Leeuwenhoek, inventor of the microscope and the discoverer of microbes, to the Philosopher Leibniz. The following exchange occurred near the end of Leeuwenhoek's life.
Leeuwenhoek was a showman.

He was very pleased to hear the ohs and ahs of people - they must be philosophical -people and lovers of science, mind you! - whom he let peep into his sub-visible world or to whom he wrote his disjointed marvelous letters of description.

But he was no teacher.

"I've never taught one," he wrote to the famous philosopher Leibniz, "because if I taught one, I'd have to teach others. . . . I would give myself over to a slavery, whereas I want to stay a free man."

"But the art of grinding fine lenses and making observations of these new creatures will disappear from the earth, if you don't teach young men," answered Leibniz.

"The professors and students of the University of Leyden were long ago dazzled by my discoveries, they hired three lens grinders to come to teach the students, but what came of it?" wrote that independent Dutchman.

"Nothing, so far as I can judge, for almost all of the courses they teach there are for the purpose of getting money through knowledge or for gaining the respect of the world by showing people how learned you are, and these things have nothing to do with discovering the things that are buried from our eyes. I am convinced that of a thousand people not one is capable of carrying out such studies, because endless time is needed and much money is spilled and because a man has always to be busy with his thoughts if anything is to be accomplished."

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