100 Hot Books (Амазон, Великобритания)



TIME LENDS DISTANCE. When I read words written four decades ago, I see them with an objectivity as if they were composed by another scientist. And yet, blessed with a good memory, I have access now in 1983 to the process of creative genesis for this book's theories that no one else can ever enjoy.

      John Livingston Lowes won scholarly esteem for himself, and added to Coleridge's immortal fame, when he explored in The Road to Xanadu the books and poems Coleridge was known to have read before The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was written, tracing in one or another of these works the inputs of images, metaphors, and conceits out of which the great poem's contents were forged. Posterity is grateful to Lowes. But how much more valuable it would be if we had from Coleridge himself an accurate sampling of the creative travail that went into his masterpiece.

      Science is not art. Yet, despite the lack of complete identity between art and science, there is much in common among different creative processes. How Mozart produced his music, Shakespeare his plays, Frost his short poems and Milton his great epics, Tolstoy and even Trollope their novels—what would we not give to learn? No less interesting to those of us who consider science the most exciting game in the universe would be autobiographical accounts of the young and old Newton, of Euler at work and Clerk Maxwell at play.

       We are eternally grateful to Henri Poincare for his detailed exposition of the role that the subconscious plays in the discovery of mathematical theories: how one wrestles consciously and un­successfully with a theorem, then puts it aside, as if out of mind, but apparently not really out of mind; for suddenly, in a Cole-ridgean dream—or, in the case of Poincare when he was stepping on a bus while doing his military service—the successful solution arrives as if the unconscious had all along been grinding away on the puzzle. I once advised the head of the Harvard University Press to publish James Watson's double-helix manuscript— exactly in its first naked form, with its original title, Honest Jim—for the insight it gave into one aspect of science: the struggle for priority and fame. If a man would write such an account, let him be read, even if it is an exaggeration of what is a normal element in the scientific way of life.

      We have all been bored by pedants' postmortems on the essence and nature of humor. And working scientists, to tell the simple truth, have neither the time nor the patience to bother with the history of their subject: they want to get on with making that history. Philosophers of science, historians of science, sociologists of science, may not be without honor in their own houses; but the customers who take in their washings, and swap garments with them, are unlikely to be working scientists still in the prime of life. Still, the attention that an assistant professor's dissertation cannot command to a discussion of how Helmholtz achieved his scientific contributions may just possibly be attracted by Helm-holtz's own account. Again, this suggests a role for autobiography in science. The laboratory notebooks of Michael Faraday are more precious to me than the Domesday Book or the Rosetta Stone.

      Autobiography has its pitfalls. No better example of that could be found than in the case of Coleridge. Research shows that his statements to have written this or that poem at the age of seven, or eleven, or forty-three can never be taken at face value—and there is the further danger that the "original" poem in question is in fact a translation from Schiller's German. Coleridge has high claims to the title of greatest plagiarist of all time. Genius is above scandal. But just what there is to be forgiven or praised posterity does want to know.

       Watson's account of DNA is Watson's account. It is part of a truth and belongs in the record, even though it does less and more than justice to its narrator. Isaac Newton did not falsify the story of his transcendental achievements. He did not do so either con­sciously or unconsciously. But he was not generous to rivals and you would not be able to discern from Newton's Principia how he arrived at his major discoveries and insights. Even Albert Ein­stein, the sweetest of human beings and one with so many early achievements to his credit that he had no need for puffery or priority claims, does not seem in late-life accounts to have man­aged to give plausible accounts of the origins of all his notions. Not to have known of the Michelson-Morley experiment by name is not the same thing as not to have known of equivalent empirical findings. Innumerable writers Einstein studied did know of Brownian motion; in what sense, then, can one interpret Ein­stein's claim not to have known of it when writing his 1905 paper on stochastic processes?

       Content analysis will confirm that autobiographers cannot help but give themselves the benefit of the doubt. Accounts by scientists of their earlier works are invaluable, but such accounts are only one subset of the data and hypotheses that nominate themselves for inclusion in the adversary procedure that consti­tutes the corpus of science.

       Let the reader beware. I have made a conscious attempt to render correctly my role in the creation of modern theoretical economics. But I urge that the grain of salt I have to apply to the present dish be kept at hand by those who have the objectivity of distance as well as of time.



Координация материалов. Экономическая школа


Институт "Экономическая школа" Национального исследовательского университета - Высшей школы экономики

Директор Иванов Михаил Алексеевич; E-mail: seihse@mail.ru; sei-spb@hse.ru

Издательство Руководитель Бабич Владимир Валентинович; E-mail: publishseihse@mail.ru

Лаборатория Интернет-проектов Руководитель Сторчевой Максим Анатольевич; E-mail: storch@mail.ru

Системный администратор Григорьев Сергей Алексеевич; E-mail: _sag_@mail.ru