Science is not a matter of pure logic. Some of the best scientists lived through intense emotions—it shaped their lifes. Here are a few quotes:

  • Ludwig Boltzman (invented entropy): When he could not reach the standards he set for himself, he would be overcome by feelings of fear, suffering and depression. He killed himself on 5 September 1906.
  • Wallace Carothers: Despite his success with Nylon, he felt that he had not accomplished much. He checked into a Philadelphia hotel room and died after drinking a cocktail of lemon juice laced with potassium cyanide.
  • Rudolf Diesel: His family says that Diesel committed suicide because his invention was stolen (so he felt). A cross in his journal on the date he died was an indicator of suicide.
  • Ignaz Semmelweis: He was one of the first to understand that doctors should wash their hands, especially after touching corpses before handling pregnant women. Yet he was largely ignored despite his great results and even ridiculed as naive. He suffered from severe depression and died in an asylum.

Related posts: Research productivity: some paths less travelled and Emotions killing your intellectual productivity.

Update: Don’t worry about my own state of mind. I’m not depressed right now, but I am interested in how our emotions shape our research and our faculty to innovate.

2 Comments

  1. Daniel,

    I recently heard about the so-called “impostor syndrome”, which apparently is (relatively) common among creative people (including academics).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

    The anecdotes you report sound a bit like that. It certainly looks like it is generating strong emotions!

    Comment by Cyril — 19/8/2009 @ 16:41

  2. Perhaps this has something to do with their families’ expectations of them?

    I know that the parents of some of my friends always kept pushing them in their childhood. Perhaps this instills low self-esteem in a person when they grow up.

    Comment by Ragib Hasan — 19/8/2009 @ 17:53

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