Thursday, March 9, 2017

Letters to a Young Scientist by E.O. Wilson

Part memoir, part mentoring, and part history of science, ecological icon E.O. Wilson offers up this series of 20 letters of advice to those beginning - or thinking of beginning - a life in science. 

Wilson examines how to choose a path to follow, the widely variable creative process, what a life in science entails, and bigger picture dynamics. Along the way he provides insights from his own path and the field on which he is a renowned expert - ants. 

His final letter concerns the scientific ethic, in which he emphasizes a scientist's relationships with other scientists. His final advice reminds me of Abraham Lincoln's counsel to "if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer." Wilson's version for scientists is "But never, ever will fraud be forgiven. The penalty is professional death: exile, never again to be trusted."

There are many wise words from this most accomplished and wise man. While designed to inspire and advise young scientists, the book is well worth reading for scientists at any stage of their career.

[NOTE: This is part of a series of reviews for books related to science, science communication, and/or specific science topics such as climate change. To read reviews of other books, click Book Reviews.]