Berkeley Quotes (3 quotes)
Consider the plight of a scientist of my age. I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1940. In the 41 years since then the amount of biological information has increased 16 fold; during these 4 decades my capacity to absorb new information has declined at an accelerating rate and now is at least 50% less than when I was a graduate student. If one defines ignorance as the ratio of what is available to be known to what is known, there seems no alternative to the conclusion that my ignorance is at least 25 times as extensive as it was when I got my bachelor’s degree. Although I am sure that my unfortunate condition comes as no surprise to my students and younger colleagues, I personally find it somewhat depressing. My depression is tempered, however, by the fact that all biologists, young or old, developing or senescing, face the same melancholy situation because of an interlocking set of circumstances.
In Melvin Calvin’s office there were four photographs: Michael Polanyi, Joel Hildebrand, Gilbert N. Lewis, and Ernest O. Lawrence. These scientists were his mentors: Polanyi for introducing him to the chemistry of phthalocyanine; Hildebrand for bringing him to Berkeley; Lewis, perhaps his most influential teacher; and Lawrence, who provided him the opportunity to work with the new scientific tool of radioactive carbon, which enabled the search for the path of carbon in photosynthesis to be successful.
In one of my lectures many years ago I used the phrase “following the trail of light”. The word “light” was not meant in its literal sense, but in the sense of following an intellectual concept or idea to where it might lead. My interest in living things is probably a fundamental motivation for the scientific work in the laboratory, and we created here in Berkeley one of the first and foremost interdisciplinary laboratories in the world.