Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII: PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS - The Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, vol. 3 The Organization of Inquiry
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CHAPTER VIII: PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS - Gordon Tullock, The Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, vol. 3 The Organization of Inquiry 
The Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, vol. 3 The Organization of Inquiry, ed. and with an Introduction by Charles K. Rowley (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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It may seem odd to begin a chapter entitled “Practical Suggestions” by recommending that a number of changes not be made, but the first part of this chapter will be devoted to discussing a set of frequently made proposals for reforming science which are in my opinion either impractical or undesirable. The first of these suggestions is that science either be completely stopped or at least drastically slowed down. The proponents of these ideas normally point out that the tremendous improvement in our physical control of the universe has not been accompanied by any conclusive proof of increased happiness of individual human beings. There are, of course, many more men alive than there would be without science (and presumably some of its critics must be counted among those who would not be alive if science were less advanced), but it must be admitted that the evidence of any real increase in individual satisfaction or cultural development from scientific progress is scanty. Elimination of positive pain is all that can be claimed conclusively. Clearly, the improvements in dentistry, for example, have improved human happiness by eliminating certain causes of unhappiness. A man with a persistent toothache is obviously improved in happiness when a dentist cures it. It is possibly for this reason that those who hope to restrict scientific progress normally, but not always, exempt medical research from their ban.
Before turning to my reasons for objecting to this proposed policy, I must record my agreement with some of the “data” upon which it is based. Clearly, very rapid rate of change of the physical environment makes social adjustment hard. Think, for example, of the tremendous effect on that basic social institution, the family, by first the automobile and now by the television set. A child brought up in the pre–World War I period was hardly prepared for the type of family life which prevailed in the twenties and thirties. Similarly, a child brought up then was hardly prepared for the radical changes in family and social patterns inaugurated by the television era. It is frequently said that education should prepare a child for modern life. In fact, it should prepare him for future life, life twenty to thirty years from now, and we do not know what such life will involve. Certainly, in a more slowly changing society, it would be easier to prepare children for their future roles.
Having now briefly stated what I believe to be true in the arguments for stopping scientific progress, I can now address myself to the reasons for not accepting them. In the first place, educating our children for their future roles in society is obviously a desirable goal and, obviously, would be easier in a static society than in a rapidly changing one, but is there any reason to believe that we would be able to do it even in a static society? Our knowledge of what it takes to play a given role in society and how to instill those qualities in individuals is very slight. Improvement of our knowledge of these matters, of course, can come only from further scientific advances. If we examine the more or less static societies which have had elaborate educational systems, traditional China for example, we find that the educational system produced some obvious misfits. Further, there is no particular reason to believe that even those who were not obviously unsuited to their social roles received an optimum education. True, the societies did not immediately collapse, but human societies seem to be quite tough and able to survive a large amount of internal strain. Our present rapidly changing society has also not collapsed.
Even, however, if we did know enough about human society to properly plan an educational and social structure for a static or slowly changing society, this would still not support very strongly a proposal to stop scientific progress. Even in highly advanced countries like the United States, only part of our present scientific knowledge is being utilized. The discontinuance of further research would probably have no effect at all on the rate of technological change for a year or so, and then would be only a gradual leveling off. In less advanced countries, hundreds of years of rapid social change could result simply from applying what we know. Thus the stopping of scientific progress would “benefit” only a small fragment of mankind in the immediate future.
Further, we live in a world of nations. The stopping of scientific research by one nation, even such a major scientific power as the United States, would not stop it everywhere; it is dubious whether it would even seriously reduce the rate of new discoveries. Scientific research, like everything else, is presumably subject to the law of diminishing returns, and elimination of marginal resources will result in a less than proportional reduction in the total output. One thing that the discontinuance of scientific research by one nation would do, however, would be to eliminate that nation rather quickly as a world power unless it took care to adopt rapidly all inventions made abroad. This, of course, would lead to a rapid rate of change, so what could be the gain in abandoning the research?
Lastly, assuming that some sort of world agreement were reached to stop scientific progress, which, let us say, also included an agreement from the less advanced countries to refrain from adopting devices already known in the advanced countries but as yet not applied in their own countries, we would be confronted with a paradox. The problem of when to stop would have to be solved, and no given time would be as desirable as a later time. Suppose it were urged that we stop all research1 two years from today. It is obvious that stopping two years and six months from now would be better because the discoveries made in the extra six months would then be available to this great static society which we plan to build. It would be just that much better a stasis. Thus, even if we are agreed to the principle that a shift to a more static society were desirable, it would always be desirable to postpone the shift to some future date.
Even if these arguments are unconvincing, however, we simply do not know how to stop the accumulation of new knowledge. There have been societies in the past, and some now exist, in which knowledge accumulates very slowly. We do not, however, know the “secret” of such retardation. The tremendous scientific advances of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe were made in a society which looks, in many ways, much like some of today’s stagnant societies. Certainly, scientific knowledge will grow rapidly in any politically and economically “open” society, and I doubt if even the most vigorous enemies of such progress would favor a shift to despotic government in order to avoid it. Even, however, if we were willing to make such a shift on a world-wide basis, history indicates that it would not eliminate the growth of knowledge, but merely slow it down. All historical and archaeological investigation shows human societies learning new things. The rate of new discovery may be low, and parts of the world may actually forget things, but some new knowledge is always being picked up.
The radical anti-scientific position which I have been discussing is held by only a few in the present-day world, but watered-down versions are quite commonly believed in, even by scientists. The two most common versions are the belief that scientific progress in the development of weapons should be stopped or slowed down, and the view that research should be shifted from physical to social science. The first is held by many scientists who are naïve outside of their own specialty. In its most widespread and popular version, it consists, more or less, in the wish that the atom bomb had not been invented.
The history of the atom bomb will do as an illustration of the reasons for distrusting this view. The effort to improve our knowledge of the atom was the outstanding field of “pure” science between the wars. While some hoped that atomic energy might eventually be of some practical use, the whole matter was largely one of investigating reality for simple curiosity’s sake. No one thought of the accumulation of information as having any military utility, and the scientists of the various nations continued calmly engaging in research (which was not financed by military funds) and publishing their results openly even as World War II approached. When, in 1939, Hahn first discovered the reaction on which the atom bomb was based, he apparently never even thought of its possible military significance, and even the extremely security-conscious German state of that time put no barrier on his publishing it. Even more peculiarly, from the standpoint of hindsight, the pathologically secretive Russians also continued to act openly in this field.
The reason for this lack of caution, of course, is simple: no one realized that this field had any military applications. The most deadly weapon of modern times was developed as the accidental by-product of fundamental research aimed at quite other goals. Thus the proposal that scientists stop inventing atom bombs has the very serious drawback that no one knows in advance when he is inventing one. A biologist studying cancer may tomorrow find an “active principal” which would be easily distributed over an enemy nation artificially; a psychologist may find a method of driving men insane en masse. Only stopping all research will stop the invention of new weapons.
A more sophisticated version of this position might, however, be invented. It might be argued that, while the original discovery is essentially unpredictable, it will normally require some development before it is available as a weapon, and the scientist should refrain from taking part in this process. If every single scientist or engineer in the world were united in some general conspiracy to enforce such an “ethical rule,” and if arrangements were made to bring into this conspiracy every man who began to teach himself about some field of science or technology, and if none of the members of this conspiracy put his patriotism above his obligation to the conspiracy or was willing to undertake “forbidden” research out of curiosity or hope of large rewards, then this policy might work. Clearly, however, these are impossible conditions. Producing new scientific principles is chancy, and little can be done about planning to produce one in a given area. But once such a principle has been developed, then applying it in a practical device is normally much easier.2 If we had not invented the atom bomb, someone else would have. True, this invention might have been delayed, possibly for as much as ten years, but there seems no reason to think that this would much advantage the human race.
Further, this position, both in its naïve and its sophisticated versions, holds great danger for the more peaceful nations. Like the pacifist and pro-disarmament position between the wars, it takes effect only in areas where it is not needed. The aggressive and militaristic countries in the 1930’s simply prohibited anti-armament propaganda, while the peaceful countries permitted it. The end result of the whole movement, then, was simply that the relative advantage of the potential aggressors over the satisfied powers was increased. The actual practical effect of a refusal of any significant number of scientists to work on weapons in the West would be identical. We may be sure that no such nonsense is tolerated behind the curtain. Surely permitting the Russians to attain a potential killing advantage is no way of promoting peace.
Another mild variant on the theme that we should restrict scientific research holds that we devote too much effort to research in the natural sciences and too little in the social studies. A restriction of one field of research in order to put more resources in the other is not infrequently recommended. That the social studies are in many ways less flourishing than the natural sciences is, of course, clear. Still, in science as elsewhere, resources should be invested where they are most likely to get a good return. We can shift resources to the social studies, but there is no great reason to believe that this would perceptibly improve the situation there. The resources now employed in research in the social fields are already vastly disproportionate to the results being achieved. Most universities maintain large faculties in the various fields of human study, running from history to economics, and these faculties engage in active research. The results, however, are disappointing. It would appear that, if anything, a shift of resources out of the social sciences and into the natural sciences would be wiser than the reverse.
Another widely popular proposal for changing present-day science suggests simply that there be more of it, that we increase the resources devoted to this aspect of our culture. This viewpoint is held most strongly by the scientists themselves, but is held also by many laymen. Like everyone else, the scientist thinks that his own field tends to be neglected and that it should be given further attention. Most scientists secretly think that their own individual specialties are particularly neglected, and that it would be wise to divert funds from other sciences into those fields, but they normally talk very little about this. After all, they have many friends and associates in the other branches of science, and suggesting that these people have their funds cut is not a good way to get along. The result is a sort of general agreement that the total amount of money put into science should be increased, which will give everyone a share. The analogy with bureaucracies, where proposals for general expansion are always welcomed, but suggestions for economies in one area to permit expansion elsewhere are de trop, is close.3
There is no particular reason to be disturbed by the fact that scientists share this common human failing, although their almost religious approach to the matter can be irritating at times, but there is also no particular reason to pay any attention to their opinion. They, of course, want more money spent in their fields of interest, but so do sports fans. Any decision on how much should be invested either in science in general or in some specific research project necessarily depends on a guess as to what now-unknown information will be discovered by the investigation. Such guesses are hard to make, and we certainly do not put too much dependence on them. Nevertheless, in other parts of our economy, decisions based on guesses about the future are made.
The usual procedure in a free economy is to permit anyone to make guesses, and then to distribute rewards and penalties according to how well the guesses turn out. This insures that at any given time the people who in the past have been most successful in making such guesses have considerable resources to make further “investments,” and those who have failed in the past have few such resources. The patent system, from the standpoint of individual corporations or people, offers just this type of problem. There is no reason to believe that General Motors is any better or worse in making guesses about this matter than about, say, car models. Looked at from our point of view, however, the problem is not so easy. Present laws offer two stimulae to invention, the patent monopoly and certain tax privileges. Our question should be whether these stimulae are of the correct strength. Should the patent privilege be strengthened, thus leading businessmen to put more resources in research, or perhaps weakened with the opposite effect? Unfortunately, this is currently an unanswerable question.
When we turn to pure research, the problem is even more difficult. Here, we do not have even the ghost of a theory indicating how much should be “invested.” Presumably, such research should be thought of as a consumer good, giving direct satisfaction to various people, but, unlike most consumer goods, its production and consumption both involve the co-operative participation of a large number of people. Further, this co-operation works very well as long as it is largely voluntary, but would work very badly if all pure scientists were integrated in one giant decision-making machine. Under the circumstances, there is simply no way of telling whether any given amount of resources is the correct amount to invest in pure science. The outcome of this discussion, then, is that I do not know how much should be invested in science. This makes it impossible for me to comment on the frequently heard demands for greater diversion of funds into these channels.
But now, having discussed a number of popular proposals for the improvement of science with which I disagree, it is incumbent upon me to justify the title of this chapter by presenting some practical suggestions. These suggestions will, of course, include such trite but sound bits of advice as choosing personnel carefully and not wasting money. But the principal purpose of this chapter is not to repeat the maxims of good management, but to suggest certain specific changes and improvements in our present organization of science. The first of these is that large organizations should confine themselves to cataloguing and indexing knowledge and to providing funds for those very few scientific activities, such as atom-smashing, which require very large amounts of money for a given experiment. The reasons for feeling that large organizations are particularly suitable for such work and unsuitable for encouraging science in general have already been given.
Much scientific work requires relatively little money; the sum total may be large, but individual projects seldom really cost more than $25,000 and may cost only a few hundred.4 This fact is concealed by the organization of the giant “wholesaler” foundations which give very large gifts to various agencies for supporting research. In fact, the money is “retailed” by the recipients who break it up into a number of small projects. If such a foundation wishes to dabble in direct support of research, it should first split itself into ten or, better, twenty small foundations, each with completely separate boards of directors. These smaller foundations can then, without the bureaucratic mess which characterizes the giant foundation (or the giant government research agencies), hand out the same total amount of money, but pay it to the individual small projects which are the real recipients of the present grants.
In administering the grants, less attention should be paid to the nature of the specific project proposed for a grant and more to the results achieved by the potential recipient in previous work. The talent for producing a convincing brochure5 and the talent for actual discoveries are different, and while they may be united in one person, they may also not be so united. Further, the present situation where a great deal of the time and energy of leading investigators is taken up with the preparation of projects for future research is a glaring and obvious waste of talent. There has also been a tendency to develop specialized personnel who are experts at getting grants, having the ability to figure out what will appeal to the foundations and the necessary political abilities to present their projects properly. Under present conditions these people are as valuable to universities and other research institutions as their status would indicate, but clearly their presence and positions of control and prestige represent sheer waste from the standpoint of the scientific community as a whole.
Concern with what has been done rather than with what is proposed for the future would greatly improve this situation. In part, this is already done, although it is disguised. Only a man who is “trusted” by the specific foundation can get a grant, and such “trust” is usually based on previous work. I suggest, however, that this be brought out in the open. Research workers who have had success in the past should simply be given funds to spend on what they wish, with the understanding that further funds will depend on the results they obtain.6 This procedure would largely eliminate the present waste of time on preparing projects and would permit scientists to concentrate on their real work.
This program, of course, would make it easier for a man who has already made his name to get funds than it would be for a newcomer. In this respect, however, it would not differ from the present situation. Today, a newly minted scientist has practically no chance of getting a research grant “on his own.” He will normally do his early research as the assistant of someone else, or he will receive grants on the recommendation of some more prestigious scientist who knows him. Usually, this means some member of the faculty either at the school where he took his training or at the institution where he is employed. I would suggest that this procedure be formalized. Prominent scientists, in addition to being given grants, could be asked to recommend newcomers for initial grants.7 If the new men produced good work, then the grants could be renewed, and the senior scientist could be asked to suggest some more. If their work turned out to be inferior, the granting organization would seek advice from some other scientist on its next round. Here again, there would be no need for the institution dispersing the funds to make any attempt to judge the future. All that would be necessary, other than the initial small gamble, would be to judge how good the work done in the past was and to channel funds to people who had done the comparatively best work.
Direct rewards, in the form of prizes, for scientific work would also seem desirable. It is disgraceful that the Nobel prizes and the new Balzan prizes are practically the only substantial ones that a scientist can win. There should be many more prizes, and they should be much larger. There is no reason why a man who has made a really significant contribution to scientific knowledge should not be rewarded by very large sums of money. A system of prizes should be aimed at two objectives: specific discoveries and unspecified developments. The difference between the two may be neatly summarized by two discoveries of considerable importance to astronomy: the chronometer and the discovery that the apparent direction of stars shifts slightly according to the direction in which the earth is moving. The first was seen as a need by the British Admiralty, and a prize for the first successful chronometer was offered. Eventually an expert clockmaker succeeded in producing an instrument of the required degree of accuracy and, after some trouble, collected his reward. The second discovery, by Bradley, could not have been specified in advance because no one suspected that it was true. Further, if anyone had suspected it, he could very easily have checked his suspicions. The discovery, although of great importance, could not have been the subject of a specified prize offered in advance. It could, however, have been rewarded by a prize for an “advance in astronomy.”
The specified reward is an excellent way of directing research toward some specific end, whether that end is large or small. As an extreme example, surely offering a reward of $1 billion for the first successful ICBM would have resulted in both a large saving of money for the government and much faster production of this weapon. At the other extreme, there are large numbers of minor practical discoveries which would be desirable but which, for one reason or another, are not patentable. Offering rewards for such discoveries would appear to be an effective method of encouraging this type of highly useful science. Much of present-day agricultural research could, for example, be done in this way, and thus the vast bureaucracy which now both carries out and impedes research in this field could be eliminated. Other areas where little or no research is now done could also be fertilized by this method: criminological procedures, for example.
Nor would specified prizes necessarily be confined to applied science. In the pure field, too, innumerable problems are suitable for such awards. But the non-specified award seems on the whole more suitable for the pure field. The patent, of course, is a non-specified reward for research in the applied field, and a most successful method of encouraging research. Non-specified rewards in the present-day world, such as the Nobel prizes, are rare and more valuable for the publicity and prestige than for the money. While I would not decry the value of publicity and prestige, most scientists would, I think, rather have more and larger prizes. But while such prizes are desirable, it would be highly undesirable to have them distributed by the same bodies. The maximum possible dispersion of decision-making powers on the question of who gets a prize is desirable. We discussed previously the advantage that the scientific publication system derives from the fact that there are many journals with diverse editors, so that work rejected by one stands a chance of being accepted by another. The prize-awarding process should be similar. There should be a large number of individuals or boards that could award a scientist a prize, but no one of these should be able to say that he would not get one.
There is little else to say about the organization of these prizes except that diversity is desirable in every way. Not only should there be a number of prizes available in, say, physics, all offered by different bodies, but there should also be some prizes restricted to certain fields of physics, and other prizes for which physicists’ discoveries must compete with, say, biologists’. The award-giving process should be so organized that no scientist could greatly benefit his chances for an award by any “politicking.” Publication of his work should be all that is needed to make him eligible for an award. The people who decide who gets the award should not require applications, but should simply read the literature and reward the best items they see. Further, since it is sometimes difficult to see the real importance of a discovery immediately, a good many of the awards should be given only some years after a work was originally published. This is particularly important for the largest rewards. Frequently, some line of research which appears important when it is completed is seen four or five years later to be a dead end. The type of premonition which seems to lead some scientists into work which will lead to further great discoveries in the future is a rare and valuable gift, and it can be rewarded only by delaying the granting of rewards.
Some will object to all of this on the grounds that scientists are motivated by other things than a desire for money.8 In my experience, scientists themselves are particularly likely to make such statements. Their tendency to talk about their lack of interest in monetary rewards is equaled only by their tendency to bemoan their “low” pay. I have divided motives for scientific investigation into three categories: desire to make practical applications, curiosity, and induced curiosity. Clearly, the first is already largely motivated by material considerations. The second would not be greatly affected, but a man who was genuinely interested in some scientific problem might just as genuinely be interested in money. If presented with a choice between investigating the problem that has engaged his interest at a low salary and some other problem at a high salary, he might well choose the latter. If the compensation for his scientific work was the same as for both alternatives, he would probably choose to work on the first. Thus, even for people motivated by curiosity, the amount of money likely to result from scientific or non-scientific activity is relevant.
For the people whose curiosity is “induced,” the situation is clear. They will exert themselves in areas where the “inducement” is strongest, and thus provide an exceptionally good area for the application of our suggested methods of rewarding good work. In most real cases, of course, these motives are intertwined, but since in each of the pure cases our system of monetary compensation will be an improvement over the present system, it would also help in these mixed real situations.
The general problem of the level of compensation which a scientist can expect should be briefly discussed. We need pay little attention to the complaints of the present-day scientists about their pay. After all, everyone complains in this way, and everyone is always free to change his occupation. The problem of the type of people who are being attracted into science is, however, a real one. Monetary rewards are certainly not the only motivating factor leading a man into science, but equally certainly, they are one such factor. A college student considering his future career surely will devote at least some thought to likely pay rates, and, in most cases, this will be a highly important factor. Thus, higher compensation should result in some improvement in the intellectual quality of new entries to the field. With a given amount of money for research, of course, higher pay means fewer workers; so the question of whether we would be better off with fewer, but more brilliant, scientists is relevant. I must confess that I cannot answer it. The prize system would permit an implicit compromise, since the duller scientists would obtain a low income from a relatively small number of such awards, while a brilliant man might do very, very well. The rewards themselves would be distributed in terms of contributions, and it seems likely that the amount of research funds invested to obtain a given discovery would be minimized.
In strictly organizational matters, however, two further changes in present conditions are desirable, or, to be more precise, changes in two myths about present-day conditions in order to bring them into closer accord with reality are desirable. These changes involve the present connection between researcher and college teacher and the “tenure” arrangements in most universities. Both of these “institutions” are hangovers from previous historical conditions, and both have been provided with modern rationalizations. In both cases, the present reality is drastically different from the myth.
Let us start with the association of higher education and research. This fairly obviously is the result of the fact that in those fields of knowledge which have little immediate practical application teaching is a possible career. When universities were few, they had their pick of people interested in such areas. They obviously tried to get the best qualified authorities, and these best authorities were likely to be also the men who would produce the best research. Further, at least in England, teaching at a university was far from a full-time job in the early nineteenth century; so there was a great deal of time for research available. The combination of people who were really expert in a given field, intellectual stimulation, and free time led to research. Somewhat similar conditions existed in the Continental universities. The modern expansion of the university system, particularly in the United States, involved a great deal of simple imitation of the great universities at which many of the leading members of the new faculties had gained their training, and thus research as a function of the universities was confirmed in these new organizations.
Although the mating of research and teaching probably does harm in only a few cases, there seems no particular reason why it is necessary. It used to be considered essential to have an exceptional man as a teacher in the universities, but the vast expansion of the university system has resulted in a dilution in the quality of faculties. Many present-day teachers do research only because they are required to do so. The problem arises of whether it might not be better to put those of them who are primarily interested in teaching on teaching full time and those who are best at research on full-time research. It is likely that this would improve both the teaching and the research without in any way increasing the resources devoted to the two activities.
The present scheme is not particularly dangerous to science, but probably greatly reduces the teaching efficiency of our institutions of higher learning. The tendency of faculty members to look down on the students and to put their teaching off on graduate students who are paid but a pittance and of administrations at the better universities simply to ignore teaching ability in hiring faculty, all must greatly reduce the effectiveness of universities as teaching institutions.9 The possibility of organizing specialized research institutions which do no teaching should be looked into. Today there are a number of such institutions, some under government subsidies and some under private, but, in general, they are organized to deal with applied rather than pure science. Even when, as in some of the Bureau of Standards work, they do pure investigation, their work tends to be routinized projects, with teams of scientists engaging in pre-planned research.
There are a few places where individual scientists, with no non-research responsibilities, are permitted to engage in research in as free a way as in the universities. The system of simply paying the scientist, giving him some expense money for his experiments, and then seeing that what he produces is basic to university status could, I think, be extended to other types of research institutions. After all, our best scientists are very scarce resources, and they would be best employed if they devoted their whole time to research, without “wasting” a lot of it in teaching. Of course, some teaching could be worked in without in any way reducing their research activities if bright students were assigned to them as laboratory assistants. A good deal of the methodology and attitude of science can be transmitted without any formal instruction.
Another field in which the current mythology should be revised is “tenure.”10 This, too, is a survival of the Middle Ages. In the feudal period, most appointments to posts were hereditary, but the faculties of universities were clerics, and they were legally incapable of having children. Consequently, these appointments, instead of being hereditary, were simply for life. European universities retained this custom, and the new universities in America copied them. The tenure system has two advantages. In the short run, it saves the universities money, and it provides some elementary protection for minority opinions. The saving of money in the short run is particularly clear, since the rational faculty member (and we must assume that professors are, at least occasionally, rational) should be willing to accept a somewhat lower wage if he is guaranteed against discharge. Thus the university administrator reduces the year’s budget when he offers tenure instead of a higher basic rate to his employees. It is also possible that the political situation, at state universities in particular, may make straightforward wage increases impossible when fringe benefits are feasible. Tenure, of course, is a fringe benefit. The proposal to abolish tenure would be opposed by practically all men who have it, but presumably if the proposal were made in the form of an offer to increase the pay of those who gave up tenure, there would be takers; and the more was offered, the more would take it up.
From the straight monetary standpoint, the proposal to abolish tenure then might appear to be unwise, but in the long run it would probably save money. The gradual erosion of the workload of that part of the faculty which has tenure in modern American academic institutions, in spite of the existence of numerous limitations on it to be discussed below, is a notable disadvantage. Further, some members of the faculty are likely simply to stop their research when they get tenure. Some continue to do research, possibly of improved quality, but some stop, and a great number slow down.11 Thus it is by no means certain that, in the long run, tenure saves money. In fact, it seems possible that without the numerous “defects” in the present tenure system, it might be a source of tremendous waste and inefficiency.
Proponents of the tenure system, however, hardly ever advocate it as a means of saving money; in fact, they would probably be somewhat annoyed if told that it had this effect, even if only in the short run. Their normal argument is that it provides security, which in turn permits its beneficiaries to take unpopular stands. They can uphold the “truth” even if the “mob” opposes it. There is obviously some truth in the position; society does gain by having some people who are free to take long views and to advocate unpopular courses of action. The only question is whether tenure, as it is currently organized, really serves this purpose.
I am prepared to argue that it does not, or, more exactly, that it does not in most cases. In the first place, tenure in the United States (this is less so in England) applies to the wrong period of life. New and radical ideas are most likely to occur to a man in his youth or at least before thirty. It is true that some people continue having such ideas during their whole lives, but the general pattern is clear. This, then, is the period when tenure would be most valuable, but this is precisely the period in which people do not have it. The average scientist who takes up a university career spends this period as a graduate student, instructor, and assistant professor, positions in which he has no security and is subject to the maximum pressure to conform. People with radical and unpopular ideas are likely to be weeded out during this period so that they never even get tenure.
In order to obtain tenure, a young man in an American university must first get good grades throughout his undergraduate days—an achievement which depends on pleasing his professors. Then he must get a fellowship or instructorship for graduate work, normally at another institution. This again puts him under great pressure to please his superiors. He must not only pass; he must get their recommendations to get a job when he finally graduates. Last, but not least, he must please his superiors during his time as an assistant professor so that they will promote him to associate. Even when he achieves tenure, which normally coincides with this promotion, he still had better keep his nose clean until he finally makes full professor if he wants to maximize his income. All through this long period he is unprotected by tenure, and, to repeat, this is the period in which he is most likely to have revolutionary ideas.
Some members of the academic world may, by now, be excited and disturbed by my arguments. The view that tenure protects the academics from the outside world, not from other academics, is widely held and forms part of the personal security system of large numbers of “the profession.” They feel that academics (with a few exceptions) are in favor of freedom and against conformity, while the outside world favors conformity. In fact, of course, the academic world is as conformist as any other. It just conforms to a different norm from, let us say, that of garbage collectors. The young instructor in a “good” school who thought that McCarthy was right kept his mouth shut or lost his job in most instances. The tenure system is of some use to a university administration arguing with a legislature or a potential donor about whether some individual should be fired, but its importance in this field is strictly limited. The legislature is not prevented by the tenure system from reducing (or not increasing) its appropriation, and individual and foundation donors are perfectly free to grant or not grant funds as they wish. In fact, most academics, even with tenure, are quite realistic about the necessity of avoiding actions which might seriously affect the financial situations of their institutions. Fortunately, the standards of both legislatures and donors are rather broad in these matters, and they are unlikely to consider the existence of one or two crackpots on a given faculty as much of a disadvantage.
Tenure, however, does prevent department heads from firing senior members of their departments. It also, although this is less important, prevents the president and other administrative officials from doing the same thing. Since administrators normally place few restrictions on who is hired in a given department (they are generally interested only in how many are hired at what cost), it is unlikely that they would be much more interested in who was fired, if firing were possible. The present semi-committee system used in many departments would make it difficult to fire members of the department even in the absence of tenure, of course, but we are now talking about the tenure system. This system, then, protects the man holding tenure status from his fellow academics. He is under less pressure to conform to their views than he would be without it. It does not particularly affect the pressure he is under to conform to the views of the whole community. His protection from the latter type of pressure, insofar as he has any, results simply from the fact that he is a member of a subcommunity which gives no great prominence to the views of the general community. Like the beat generation or artistic communities in general, the academic community offers social support to people who deviate from the average norm, but conform to its own. The existence of such specialized communities which deviate to a greater or lesser degree from the general community is obviously desirable if one believes in a high degree of social “openness,” but it has nothing to do with tenure.
Nevertheless, it is an obvious fact that even junior men in the scientific departments of our universities have a good deal of freedom to disagree with their superiors, and even to prove them wrong. The degree of this freedom should not, of course, be exaggerated; a man who wishes to stay in academic research may be well advised to stick to energetic but routine work in the early years of his career,12 but there is still quite a bit of independent thought even at these levels.
The reasons for this freedom are two, neither of which has anything to do with tenure. In the first place, almost all scientists are really interested in the advancement of knowledge and are therefore likely to consider such an advance, even if it contradicts their own viewpoint, admirable. They are less likely to take umbrage at the brash young man who attacks their position than are people in other fields. They are also, normally, less committed to one position than people in other fields, and the scientific community is tolerant of changes of opinion so that backing down is socially easy. Again, however, we should not exaggerate. A man who disagrees sufficiently with his professors may find himself in difficulty in his future career even though he is consistently right.
Albert Einstein, for example, had not impressed his professors sufficiently favorably to be placed in an academic job when he graduated. He was forced to take a job in the Swiss patent office. Fortunately the Swiss patent office, like most governmental bureaucracies, was so organized that a man who did not care too much about his efficiency rating could spend most of his time each day on matters of interest to him rather than of interest to his superiors. Einstein practiced this type of implicit fraud on the patent office, and the result was the special theory of relativity, his paper on Brownian movement, and much other basic work.
The second factor which gives a junior scientist considerable freedom to disagree with his superior is the scientific community itself. While the individual faculty of some school, even if left to itself, would certainly tolerate a good deal of independence of thought, it is under great pressure from the rest of the scientific community to tolerate even more. The “department” has no control over whether the work of one of its junior members is or is not published by scientific journals, nor any control over the reputation that such a member may develop through publication. Thus an independent young man may well develop considerable assets in the form of outside respect. If he is badly treated by his own department, he can normally easily move elsewhere. Only the less productive scientist need worry about the feelings of his immediate superiors. For the man who really does have independent ideas which work out well, there are innumerable alternative employers. In fact, since every department is interested in keeping its prestige high, his own co-workers have the strongest possible motives to try to keep such a man from shifting somewhere else. Thus the general scientific community protects the junior scientist from possible difficulties with his superiors. Although he has no tenure, he is safe as long as he produces.
In a sense, my opposition to tenure is like kicking a dead horse, since tenure now is only a pale ghost of its former self. Today the “protection” of tenure, even for a full professor, is slight. In the first place, we are in an inflationary era. For the last twenty years—very likely it will continue to do so for the next twenty, too—the value of the dollar has been declining. A guarantee of a fixed dollar income is, therefore, worth less than might be thought. In fact, most men would like to obtain periodic increases; these are distributed according to various rules and may be withheld from anyone. Further, we are in a period of rapidly increasing affluence. The real living standard of every ditch-digger, lawyer, and plumber increases every year (albeit more slowly than his nominal income), and professors would like to share in this growing prosperity. This again requires periodic increases which can be withheld for disciplinary reasons.13 Altogether, the present-day holder of tenure has real monetary reasons for trying to please his superiors. Again, it is really his reputation in the profession, the product of his research, which gives him his security. The possibility of shifting to another school will be his real reliance against “oppression.” In present conditions, it is a full and sufficient assurance.
Another field in which tenure does not protect the profession, but in which reputation does, involves foundation grants. Today most scientists rely on such grants to give them supplementary income during summer vacations and occasional periods when they are relieved from teaching and to provide funds for research assistants and other facilities. Getting a series of such grants is not only necessary for the academic reputation of the average scientist, it usually also provides a substantial part of his income. Here there is no tenure, even in ghostly form. The reputation of the worker, based on his output, is the principal item considered, and a man who has done good work can generally expect to receive such grants regularly.
Can we not, however, think of some institution like tenure which might be of value? I think that we can, but it would require the solution of an extremely difficult problem. The granting of “security” to the vast collection of present-day teachers in our institutions of higher learning, many of whom, alas, are less than distinguished intellectually, is senseless, but a more selective distribution of such “security” might be desirable. Shortly after World War II, it was proposed that special “fellowships” be established. These would give their fortunate possessors a large enough income so that they would not be motivated to try to increase it by economic activities. To this an arrangement for increasing the grant in step with rising national prosperity could be added. It would also be provided that if any of the “fellows” decided to spend part of his income on research, the government would match it on, say, a five-to-one basis.14 This would provide freedom and security to a selected group of people who would also be given research funds, subject only to their own estimate that the funds were worth making some sacrifice for. The ideal nature of such an arrangement for any given scientist is obvious, and if it were granted to the proper people, its benefit to society would be equally so. The selection of the “fellows,” however, would be an extremely difficult task.
The real opportunity for the scientist who, for one reason or another, does not fit into the present professional scheme of things is amateurism. Einstein is an example of a man who could not integrate well enough with the scientific community to get a full-time scientific job. He therefore took an outside job and became the world’s greatest scientist in his spare time. In a wealthy economy such as our own, where practically anyone can make a decent living with relatively little work, this course of action is easy. Even in earlier, harder times it was possible. Charles Peach, the private in the “Preventive Service” supporting a wife and nine children on four shillings a day, was yet able to become a great biologist.15
The amateur in science has the disadvantage that he can normally devote less time to his field than can the professional, but he also has advantages. In the first place, he is not under any pressure to complete a given piece of work, or, indeed, any work.16 If he finds a problem which interests him, but which looks sufficiently difficult that nothing is likely to be discovered which can be published in the immediate future, this need not discourage him. He can afford to take risks in the choice of his problem which the professional, with his need to “produce,” cannot. At the same time, the amateur, with his marginal contact with the scientific world, is less likely than the professional to be caught up in the fads and currents of opinion which sweep all social bodies. In a sense, the scientific community is an intellectual hothouse, with ideas sprouting and spreading at an unnatural rate. In general, this simply accelerates progress, but on occasion it may impede it, and the amateur is less likely to be taken in by a passing fad than is the man who spends his full time in the “profession.”
A second advantage which the amateur has is the simple fact that he has some other profession.17 We have earlier mentioned the desirability of having people in the sciences with unusual combinations of training. The professional hydraulic engineer who has a hobby of marine biology is, necessarily, in possession of such an unusual combination. In his work in marine biology, his background in hydraulic engineering may lead him to certain conclusions that would be rather unlikely for a scientist who did not have this background. In experimental work this is particularly important. All experimental scientists are, in fact, engineers, but they are sometimes not particularly good ones. They learned, while they were learning their science, techniques of assembling apparatus which are traditional in their fields. A man who is fully familiar with another tradition of construction of devices will be likely to perform experiments which would never occur to the professional scientist. This, of course, is not intended to belittle the professional competence of scientists, but merely to point out that they, like everyone, are somewhat specialized. They do not know everything, and an amateur with a different combination of knowledge and ignorance may make discoveries which would be impossible for the professional.
A great many people seem to think that amateurism in science, while possible in the time of Boyle and Hooke, is simply inconceivable today. How anyone can feel this way after the publicity Christophilos received as a result of the “Argus” project, I do not know, but the implication of his work for amateurism seems to have escaped many observers. Nicholas Christophilos was an elevator installer in Athens who became interested in nuclear physics and taught the subject to himself by wide reading during the German occupation of Greece. He then proceeded, in the intervals between installing elevators, to invent the principle of strong focusing for cyclotrons, beating the AEC’s professionals to the discovery by more than a year (they had filed his letter without reading it; so the principle had to be rediscovered). As a denouement, he was hired by the AEC,18 performed the Argus experiment, and is trying to bind the hydrogen reaction for peaceful purposes with a multimillion-dollar laboratory at his disposal. He is still apparently considered a sort of amateur by his colleagues in physics, many of whom do not associate with him socially because he has not had the type of social indoctrination which one normally gets in graduate school and, consequently, does not really fit into academic society.19
Another equally prominent amateur scientist is Land of Polaroid. Land began by studying chemistry at Harvard. Long before his graduation, however, he decided he was wasting his time and left to undertake independent research. Later he was entrapped to return for a period by an offer of an unsupervised laboratory, but he never got his degree20 or completed many courses. Eventually he founded Polaroid, invented the Land camera, and designed the cameras that have so much improved our maps of Russia. I would maintain that at all times he has been an amateur scientist. He devotes more time to managerial tasks, for which he has great talents, than to science, and his scientific activities are highly non-professional. Polaroid, for example, was founded to exploit not chemical phenomena, but physical, i.e., the polarization of light. The Land camera is a preposterous combination of knowledge selected from the most diverse scientific fields, in few of which Land could, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a professional. Further, Land’s attitude is essentially that of the amateur. He obviously gets a good deal of pleasure in simply fooling around in a laboratory. His recent discoveries in light perception were the result of such fiddling. He did not actually doubt the Newtonian theory on the subject; he just liked to play around and, in the course of doing so, accidentally noticed a phenomenon which must have been seen by innumerable predecessors.21 His contribution was to take the discovery seriously. A wealthy man engaged in pursuing what amounts to a hobby can afford to do things which might lead to his making a public fool of himself while the careful professional man cannot.
Christophilos and Land are by no means alone. More than half of all patents are regularly taken out by people who have no technical training. Revolutionary changes in technique or devices are about as likely to be the results of amateur work as professional.22 The professionals in the applied field are good at elaborating ideas and all types of routine, but major changes may elude them. Professionals, of course, do make basic advances; such advances even come out of “well-planned” and elaborate research programs. But it is at least clear that amateurs suffer no great disadvantage in the field of applied science.
Discoveries by amateurs in the pure field are rarer, however, and we might well spend some time investigating why this is true. In the first place, by definition, pure research pays nothing to its devotees. Working on a practical invention is an economic activity, while pure research is, from the standpoint of the person performing it, consumption. Therefore only people who actively enjoy science are likely to take up pure research as a hobby. Under present circumstances, however, anyone with the brains to be a great scientist and the interest and enjoyment of the field necessary to become a good “hobbyist” can probably get a job doing full-time research. Consequently there is a tendency for people who otherwise might be amateurs to turn professional, as Christophilos has done. This, however, is no barrier to anyone who wishes to take up such a hobby; it only indicates that if he is successful he may be given an opportunity to become a full-time hobbyist.
The absence of part-time hobbyists in the pure field, then, can partly be explained by the opportunities now open to “go professional.” In part, however, it also reflects a mythological view, now strongly held, that amateur activity in this field is simply impossible. The view that modern science requires professionals for its work and hence that amateurs cannot contribute seems to many people so obvious they need not explain it. If pressed, they will normally say that modern science requires specialized training, large financial resources for experimental equipment, and superior intellect. The third I do not deny, but I see no reason to believe that there are no superior intellects outside the scientific field. Both of the other two objections are, I believe, false.
The problem of scientific training has already been discussed in Chapter II of this book. My view, and I think that it will not be seriously contested by working scientists, is that most scientific work requires a good deal of “training,” but that this is largely self-acquired. If one examines the work of any scientist and compares it with his formal education, one will generally find only a minor overlap. Usually only a small part of his formal instruction covered the problems on which he later specialized, and, conversely, most of the information he acquired on his major subjects he obtained by reading and investigating on his own. In fields where progress has been rapid, the scientist of forty may be making no use whatever of his formal education, which would be largely obsolete. Thus the amateur is not so handicapped here as is generally believed. If he simply subscribes to journals, reads articles on a given subject for a few years, and does some additional background reading, he will normally be as well trained in the field of his particular interest as the professional. It is true, of course, that if he can devote only a part of his time to self-education in this field, then he had better choose a fairly narrow specialty. The full-time scientist can keep himself up-to-date over a wider range of subjects than can a man who devotes only part of his time to the matter. Narrow specialties where discoveries can be made abound, however, and the amateur who is interested can easily find one. The biological sciences are particularly rich in such opportunities.
The cost of research is also greatly exaggerated. The reason, I think, is simply that experiments using large, expensive, and complicated equipment get much more publicity than those using small, inexpensive, and simple devices. To read the newspapers, one might get the impression that every laboratory has a set of high-energy accelerators and five or six satellites. Such devices, with costs running in the hundreds of millions of dollars, are obviously out of reach of amateurs, but they are equally obviously out of the reach of all but the most fortunate of professionals. Only a tiny minority of the scientific community uses such equipment, and it is highly doubtful if this privileged minority is really as important as its publicity would indicate. The most important nuclear experiment of the recent period was made, not with a giant accelerator, but with a rather modest device for testing magnetism at low temperatures. Mossbauer got his Nobel Prize for an almost equally important experiment in which an old radio loudspeaker was the largest part of the experimental apparatus.23 The giant machines extend the range of possible experiments, but there is no reason to believe that the experiments performable only with such machines are the most important ones.
If we ignore the glamour of these expensive devices and inquire as to the actual cost of science as a possible hobby, we rapidly realize that it can fit practically any purse, although wealthy men would be able to do things which the poor would not. In the first place, there is theoretical research. This is of the greatest importance and requires little more than a paper and pencil in the way of physical equipment. Surely, financial obstacles will not prevent amateurs from working in this field. A little more active, although still inexpensive, work of a simple observational nature remains to be done in the biological fields.24 A good deal is still unknown, for example, about the life cycles of the majority of the innumerable known species of insects. Becoming the world’s leading authority on the behavior and life of some species of fly may not impress a potential amateur scientist as being very glamorous, but it certainly is a goal he can achieve with little investment in equipment. I should possibly warn that it will involve a sizable investment of time, energy, and intelligence.
For the man who has a normal income and is willing to put as much money into science as he would into any other hobby (including “do-it-yourself” as a hobby), experimental science is also quite possible, although the scale will, of course, be limited by the amount he wishes to spend. For the cost of an outboard cruiser and its motor, an adequate chemical or experimental biology laboratory could be equipped.25 A respectable program of experiments occupying a hobbyist for, say, eight hours a week could then be run on about what it costs to keep such a boat in fuel and paint. Further it is highly likely that expenditures on a scientific hobby, unlike expenditures on other hobbies, would be tax deductible.
Altogether, cost does not seem to be much of a problem for a man who wishes to engage in science as a hobby. Wealthy men can, of course, carry out projects out of reach of the ordinary worker, but this has always been true. Boyle’s vacuum apparatus seems simple and primitive to us now, but in his day only a man of independent wealth, like Boyle, could have afforded it. Boyle’s combination of considerable wealth, a strong interest in the advancement of knowledge, and a most ingenious mind made a great contribution to science. Similar activities by wealthy amateurs could have the same effect today. But I hope I have convinced the reader that wealth, while helpful, is not necessary. Financial problems would not prevent many citizens of the wealthy United States or the somewhat less wealthy Europe from contributing to the advancement of science, if only they wished to do so.
Anyone wishing to take up science as a hobby must have intelligence, but the amount needed can easily be exaggerated. Among scientists themselves are some of our brightest minds, but also, as anyone who knows many scientists can testify, some fairly dull people. The more intelligent, on the average, the more likely that a given man will make major discoveries, of course, but there is a good deal of scientific work which can be done by industrious but not overly intelligent workers. The highly intelligent layman may well be more intelligent than all but the best scientists and, consequently, able to work in the most difficult fields. At the other extreme, routine work can be done by almost anyone.
The advantages of science as a hobby, of course, are the same as the advantages of any other hobby—relaxation and entertainment. If you do not enjoy it, you should not do it, any more than you should fish if you do not like fishing. In science, an additional bonus is provided in the form of a perfectly genuine feeling that the hobbyist is doing something of general significance. He is enjoying himself and, instead of simply consuming resources, actually producing something of great value—knowledge. It is a case where there is both a consumer and social surplus of great size. Nor does there presently appear to be any limit on the amount of work that can be done in the scientific field. The more workers, the faster we learn, although the increase in speed is not proportional to the increase in manpower. Science is a difficult game, but any number can play.
The typeface used for the text of this book is Galliard, an old-style face designed by Matthew Carter in 1978, in the spirit of a sixteenth-century French typeface of Robert Granjon. The display type is Meta Book, a variant of Meta, designed by Erik Spickermann in the 1990s.
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[1. ]Or reduce it to a level which resulted in accumulation of new knowledge at a rate only some fraction of the present rate.
[2. ]Edward Teller, “Perilous Illusion: Secrecy Means Security,” New York Times Magazine, November 13, 1960, p. 29.
[3. ]Basic Research and National Goals (National Academy of Sciences, 1965) is a collection of statements by prominent scientists which illustrates this attitude. Dr. Harry G. Johnson, an economist, presents a sort of minority report, but even he favors more research in his own field.
[4. ]Jakob Messikomer was one of the important early explorers of the so-called “Swiss lake villages.” He supported all of his research from his tiny income as a farm laborer. Alfred Rust, the archaeologist who discovered the Meiendorf and Stellmoor sites, worked as an electrician during the winters and did his digging in the summers while living on unemployment relief. The general level of his expenditures on research can be seen from his first expedition, to Syria. He bicycled from Germany and supported himself in Syria by doing electrical repair work. Geoffrey Bibby, The Testimony of the Spade (New York: Knopf, 1956).
[5. ]Ernest M. Allen, “Why Are Research Grant Applications Disapproved?” Science, 132 (November 25, 1960), 1532–34, gives the administrator’s view of the conditions a project must meet.
[6. ]Scientists, like other people, are subject to temptation. Accounting procedures to make sure that very large grants are spent on research, not on high living, would still be necessary.
[7. ]That this process would not be foolproof is obvious. For a particularly bad example of a misjudgment, see letter by Ralph W. Dexter, “Can One Predict Success in Science?” Science (February 15, 1963), 670.
[8. ]Practical men have almost always used monetary incentives to “control” scientists. A king of Denmark, confronted with a potential “brain drain” in the form of a proposal of Tycho Brahe to settle down in Basel, wrote the following letter: “We, Frederick the Second, make known to all men, that we of our special favour and grace have conferred and granted in fee . . . to our beloved Tycho de Brahe, Otto’s son . . . our land of Hveen, with all our tenants and servants who thereon live, with all rent and duty which comes from that . . . to use, hold, quit and free all the days of his life as long as he lives and likes to follow his studia mathematice.” Needless to say, Tycho decided that Denmark was really a much better place to carry on his researches than Basel. I am indebted to J. B. Adams (“Megaloscience,” Science, 148 [June 18, 1965], 1560–64) for this quotation.
[9. ]There are some devoted and highly intelligent teachers on university faculties who are simply not interested in research. They have a tremendous effect upon the student body, but they are systematically discriminated against by current administrative arrangements.
[10. ]Pyotr L. Kapitsa, in a speech published in the Journal of the Soviet Academy of Scientists, attacked the Russian version of tenure on the grounds that it permitted incompetents to remain in their jobs. He apparently thought that we did not have the same problem. New York Times, April 25, 1965, p. 18.
[11. ]See also Armen A. Alchian, “Private Property and the Relative Cost of Tenure,” in The Public Stake in Union Power, ed. Philip D. Bradley (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1959).
[12. ]A friend of mine who has devoted quite a bit of time to advising degree candidates always tells them to write their dissertation on a “trivial” subject and then do serious (and risky) research after they have their union cards.
[13. ]This is not true at Harvard, and it is possible that the Harvard system will spread.
[14. ]As part of our giant national investment in medical research, “career investigatorships” were established for qualified scholars which closely approximate the suggested scheme. For a plea for an expansion of this system to all of science, see Norman W. Storer, “The Coming Changes in American Science,” Science, 142 (October 25, 1963), 464–67, especially 467. Unfortunately the program has been curtailed instead of expanded.
[15. ]See the Encyclopaedia Britannica for a brief biography of Peach.
[16. ]H. Gerstenkorn, the German high school mathematics teacher who carefully calculated the values for the Darwin theory of the origin of the moon, surely depended upon this. Working without a computer he must have put much more time into the work than any university professor trying to “publish or perish” could have afforded. H. Alfven, “Origin of the Moon,” Science, 148 (April 23, 1965), 476–77.
[17. ]Alvan G. Foraker, in his letter to Science published in the October 4, 1963, issue, pointed out two cases of doctors who did important work in their spare time. Of the first he writes: “An obscure district physician without university or research institute affiliation, he wished to develop original techniques to explore a new field. He worked, not in a laboratory, but in his own house.” The second “was a country practitioner, without university or research institute affiliation. He proposed to investigate an old wives’ tale. . . . It seems obvious that [they] would have been brushed off quickly by almost any foundation or fund granting agency.” Fortunately Robert Koch and Edward Jenner were able to support themselves by practicing their profession.
[18. ]He installed his elevators so carefully,
[19. ]Time, March 30, 1959, p. 70.
[20. ]Eventually Harvard gave him an honorary doctorate in science.
[21. ]It is actually covered by a series of patents of rather old date.
[22. ]John Jewkes, David Sawers, and Richard Stillerman, The Sources of Invention (London: St. Martin’s Press, 1958).
[23. ]Time, in describing the work which got Donald Glasser his Nobel Prize, reports: “Working with almost no funds or encouragement he built his first successful bubble chamber in 1953. It was half an inch in diameter and was filled with ether. ‘Ether is cheap,’ explains Glasser, ‘and I could get it at the chemistry store without any red tape.’” November 14, 1960, p. 89.
[24. ]Lionel Sharpes Penrose, “Self Reproducing Machines,” Scientific American, 200, No. 42 (June, 1959), 105, reports some extremely interesting experiments which surely could have been performed by anyone who had an ordinary home workshop.
[25. ]I do not wish to imply that this sum of money would be useful only in these sciences. The problem is that such sciences as physics use less of what might be called permanent equipment and more special devices constructed for a given experiment than does a laboratory in chemistry or experimental biology. Under the circumstances, physics requires less in the way of initial investment, but more in continuing expenditure than does, say, chemistry.