Professor Medawar here shares his experience of a distinguished career in science for the benefit of the aspiring scientist. This book would probably be useful to anyone entertaining the idea of a science-based career, certainly up to the graduate stage. This is an original and personal book, by a writer who won a Nobel prize in 1960 for his research in the area of human tissue transplants. Literate and highly practical, he distills the wisdom of a lifetime normally only acquired slowly by personal life experience, and delivers it with dry humour.
The chapters cover: 'How can I tell if I am cut out to be a scientific research worker?', which contains a revealing and exceedingly quick intelligence test, (and which would probably be of great value as a suprise question in executive job interviews). 'What shall I do research on?' contains the observations of a typical biologist, very down to earth. Likewise, 'How can I equip myself to be a scientist?'. 'Aspects of scientific life and manners' is the best chapter; an excellent set of observations on teamwork, respect for colleagues, the scientist's moral requirement of dedication to Truth, how to handle mistakes, giving fair credit for discoveries, and how to keep your friends (by handling the critical scientific habit of mind correctly! I have taken notes...). 'The Scientific Process' analyses Kuhn's theory of scientific 'paradigms', and 'Scientific Meliorism versus Scientific Messianism' throws some enjoyable light on his debates with C. S. Lewis, whom he knew well. This latter debate proves (although he would deny it), that although he approaches C. P. Snow's ideal of the man who can bridge the two cultures - of those schooled in the humanities, and those in the sciences - he fails. The disparity in the cultural worldviews is too great. The book is usefully rounded off with an index. All in all, Medawar is the best of teachers, teaching with his heart and his head: he dispels stereotypes, he advises on how to handle your emotions, he inspires.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose