Says, "Most Scientists aren't Brilliant"

Nobel Prize in Physics 1988

Leon Lederman is director emeritus of Fermilab at Batavia, Illinois; professor of physics at the University of Chicago; and a former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his invention of the "Atom Smasher," a tool to study nuclear decay of atoms.

Having an illness that confined him to his bed when he was a young boy was the beginning of Dr. Leon Lederman's scientific pursuits. "When I was eleven or so, got the measles. To help me pass time while I recovered, my father brought me book, The Meaning of Relativity by Einstein and Enfield. It's a wonderful book which starts off like a detective story, talking about how detectives seek clues to solve a puzzle. That book got me interested in science.

"In high school, I was a B-to-B + student, far below the class leaders, but I did have a passion for science. In college, I majored in chemistry, but later on I decided that physics interested me more than chemistry and didn't smell as bad."

Dr. Lederman says that persistence and commitment are the name of the game in the field.

"Being average now isn't decisive. Remember that most scientists aren't brilliant. Some are even very slow. Being solid is important - that means really knowing what you have to know even if it takes a long time. Many 'brilliant' guys are superficial.

Adapted from Curiosity is the Key to Discovery: The Story of How Nobel Laureates Entered the World of Science, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1992

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