Advice for a Young Investigator / Edition 1

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Santiago Ramon y Cajal was a mythic figure in science. Hailed as the father of modern anatomy and neurobiology, he was largely responsible for the modern conception of the brain. His groundbreaking works were New Ideas on the Structure of the Nervous System and Histology of the Nervous System in Man and Vertebrates. In addition to leaving a legacy of unparalleled scientific research, Cajal sought to educate the novice scientist about how science was done and how he thought it should be done. This rediscovered classic, first published in 1897, is a still-relevant anecdotal guide that offers timeless advice not only for the new investigator but for the old pro as well. Cajal was a pragmatist, aware of the pitfalls of being too idealistic -- and he had a sense of humor, particularly evident in his diagnoses of various stereotypes of eccentric scientists. The book covers everything from valuable personality traits for an investigator to social factors conducive to scientific work.

Written in 1897, the noted neurobiologist disc. personality traits, idealism, investigation & research, writing.

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Editorial Reviews

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Making Great Minds

In the popular history of the modern world, few scientists are remembered for their work: Einstein, certainly; Marie Curie, perhaps; Fleming, Banting, Best, Salk, Oppenheimer, maybe -- the giants who have become cultural icons. Not among that group is Santiago Ramon y Cajal.

But in the annals of science, Cajal is remembered as a visionary biologist and the man who most influenced our understanding of the brain. And more than that, Advice for a Young Investigator shows us that Cajal was also an alert and concerned teacher.

Cajal (1852-1934) first published this essay in his native Spanish in 1897, when he was already well-established as a leading biologist. His straightforward and elegant advice on how to conduct research and, more broadly, how to think like a scientist was subsequently translated around the world.

For a lay reader whose closest encounter with the scientific method came in a high school science class, it may seem repetitive and obvious for Cajal to point out the need for sound judgement and infinite patience. But Cajal, though writing in a general, nonscientific language -- translated here into very accessible modern English -- is not writing for the casual experimenter or the student who is simply meeting a breadth requirement. Cajal, a passionate and dedicated researcher, is writing for the young and inspired student who feels a vocation for a life of science.

To paraphrase Barbie: Science is hard. The motivation to explore and explain the natural world is a rare impulse, but one that cannot itself guarantee success. Cajal's goal in Advice for a Young Investigator is to guide the inexperienced through the pitfalls of hubris, impatience, laziness, insecurity, reverence, and a host of other moral, educational, and technical failings that keep scientists from achieving their goals.

Though Advice for a Young Investigator is a dated document (Cajal's belief that patriotism is a prime mover for dedicated science reads more jingoistically than modern defenses of science, which always keep a polite distance between science and geopolitics), it has an enduring message for both scientists and lay readers.

—Greg Sewell

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262681506
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 172
  • Sales rank: 475,923
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface to the second edition
Preface to the third edition
Preface to the fourth edition
1 Introduction 1
2 Beginner's traps 9
3 Intellectual qualities 29
4 What newcomers to biological research should know 53
5 Diseases of the will 75
6 Social factors beneficial to scientific work 89
7 Stages of scientific research 111
8 On writing scientific papers 125
9 The investigator as teacher 137
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