Berland, Theodore. The Scientific Life. New York: Coward-McCann, 1962.

 

Berland, Theodore. The Scientific Life. New York: Coward-McCann, 1962.

One way of studying science is to examine Big Name scientists and subject those so identified to
psychiatric, psychological or social study. The assumptions for such studies include the idea that
one can learn about science from those who do it. Historians have much to say about Newton, for
example, because he is assumed to be an important scientist. Maslow chose historical figures
whom he identified as self-actualizers, and showed how some of them evidenced their
self-realization. This book is but a variation on such an accepted procedure. The author has
identified some Big Names, talked to them, and written his book. The nine Big Names he has
chosen to study (and who agreed to such study) are: Willard Frank Libby, Murry Gell-Mann,
Charles Hard Townes, James Alfred VanAllen, Albert Bruch Sabin, Chester Milton Southam,
Jeremiah Stamler, Philip Morris Hauser and Dean Everett Wooldridge.

The author warns the reader that this is not a sample of anything. He is also aware that his
definition of successful scientist is somewhat arbitrary. The book, nonetheless, has a certain
fascination. The author is committed to naive psychology and the Boy Scout image of science.
Each of the scientists is "a hard worker," and each one "drives himself." There are many homey
"insights" into each scientist: this one has had a happy marriage, this one loves to teach, and so
on. But there are no generalizations which seem to derive from Berland's "data."

Probably the weakest point in the book is the assumption that these nine, because they are
famous scientists, have something to say about other topics; that because they are famous men
we should ask them about religion, about social planning, about values. The assumption is that
these men are supposed to be the shapers of the future and so they must know something about
the future.