Applied Research Quotes (3 quotes)
Applied research generates improvements, not breakthroughs. Great scientific advances spring from pure research. Even scientists renowned for their “useful” applied discoveries often achieved success only when they abandoned their ostensible applied-science goal and allowed their minds to soar—as when Alexander Fleming, “just playing about,” refrained from throwing away green molds that had ruined his experiment, studied them, and discovered penicillin. Or when C. A. Clarke, a physician affiliated with the University of Liverpool, became intrigued in the 1950s by genetically created color patterns that emerged when he cross-bred butterflies as a hobby. His fascination led him—“by the pleasant route of pursuing idle curiosity”—to the successful idea for preventing the sometimes fatal anemia that threatened babies born of a positive-Rhesus-factor father and a negative-Rhesus-factor mother.
Is pure science to be considered as something potentially harmful? Answer: Most certainly! Every child knows that it is potentially exceedingly harmful. … The menace of blowing ourselves up by atom bombs, doing ourselves in by chemical or biological warfare, or by population explosion, is certainly with us. I consider the environment thing a trivial question, by comparison—like housekeeping. In any home, the dishes have to be washed, the floors swept, the beds made, and there must be rules as to who is allowed to produce how much stink and noise, and where in the house: When the garbage piles up, these questions become pressing. But they are momentary problems. Once the house is in order, you still want to live in it, not just sit around enjoying its orderliness. I would be sorry to see Caltech move heavily into this type of applied research. … SCIENCE POTENTIALLY HARMFUL? DEFINITELY.
Willis Rodney Whitney ... once compared scientific research to a bridge being constructed by a builder who was fascinated by the construction problems involved. Basic research, he suggested, is such a bridge built wherever it strikes the builder's fancy—wherever the construction problems seem to him to be most challenging. Applied research, on the other hand, is a bridge built where people are waiting to get across the river. The challenge to the builder's ingenuity and skill, Whitney pointed out, can be as great in one case as the other.