“Advice for a young investigator” – sugestão de leitura para Nuno Crato

Estou aqui a ler um livro “Advice for a young investigator” de Cajal (1897), e achei que seria uma boa sugestão de leitura para o actual ministro da ciência – Nuno Crato -. Sobretudo por esta passagem:


Another corruption of thought that is important to battle at all costs is the false distinction between theoretical and applied science, with accompanying praise of the latter and deprecation of the former. This error spreads unconsciously among the young, diverting them from the course of disinterested inquiry.

This lack of appreciation is deanitely shared by the aver- age citizen, often including lawyers, writers, industrialists, and unfortunately even distinguished statesmen, whose in- itiatives can have serious consequences for the cultural de- velopment of their nation.

They should avoid expressing the following sentiments: “Fewer doctors and more industrialists. The greatness of nations is not measured by what the former know, but rather by the number of scientiac triumphs applied to commerce, industry, agriculture, medicine, and the military arts. We shall leave to the phlegmatic and lazy Teutons their subtle investigations of pure science and mad eagerness to pry into the remotest corners of life. Let us devote ourselves to ex- tracting the practical essence of scientiac knowledge, and then using it to improve the human condition. Spain needs machines for its trains and ships, practical advances for agriculture and industry, a rational health care system—in short, whatever contributes to the common good, the na- tion’s wealth, and the people’s well-being. May God deliver us from worthless scholars immersed in dubious specula- tion or dedicated to the conquest of the inanitesimal, which would be considered a frivolous if not ridiculous pastime if it weren’t so expensive.”

Ineptitudes like this are formulated at every step by those who, while traveling abroad, see progress as a strange mi- rage of effects rather than causes. People with little under- standing fail to observe the mysterious threads that bind the factory to the laboratory, just as the stream is connected with its source. Like the man in the street, they believe in good faith that scholars may be divided into two groups—those who waste time speculating about unfruitful lines of pure science, and those who know how to and data that can be applied immediately to the advancement and comfort of life.

Is it really necessary to dwell on such an absurd point of view? Does anyone lack the common sense to understand that applications derive immediately from the discovery of fundamental principles and new data?

For the present, let us cultivate science for its own sake, without considering its applications. They will always come, whether in years or perhaps even in centuries. It matters very little whether scientiac truth is used by our sons or by our grandsons. The course of progress obviously would have suffered if Galvani, Volta, Faraday, and Hertz, who discovered the fundamental principles of electricity, had dis- counted their andings because there were no industrial ap- plications for them at the time.


Passaram mais de 100 anos, mas a visão continua a mesma. Achei por bem partilhar…

Caso tenham interesse, podem ter acesso ao PDF do livro aqui.

Até breve!


3 responses to ““Advice for a young investigator” – sugestão de leitura para Nuno Crato

  1. Tal com o FMI, de José Mário Branco (e não só)… que, passados tantos anos, continua actual!
    Grandes génios, mas também, por culpa daqueles que continuamos a deixar que nos governem (ou melhor, que se auto-governem).


  2. “applications derive immediately from the discovery of fundamental principles and new data”. Diz a minha experiência profissional que sim. Mas também diz que a aplicação pode obrigar à descoberta de novos princípios teóricos.


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