John Dewey: the four kinds of scientific career

John Dewey understands his own career path in relation to his perception of four different approaches to career development and retirement.

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I wondered whether you’re ambitious for different things now than you were when you were ambitious as a younger scientist?

 No, I think it’s just a continuation of again the pleasure of finding things out, publishing and getting recognised for it, yes. I want – I like to keep my name in the forefront of the system, I don’t want to fade as an old chap, you know, into the – into obscurity and go off and paint and do – I do paint, I love painting, I’m doing much more of that sort of thing nowadays but I want to – to keep the geology going, I really do. ‘Cause I’m desperately interested in it, you know, it’s just tremendous fun and if you find out something you really like doing you want to go on doing it in general, you know. 

In your experience what is more common in science, for people to gradually fade away as you say or to like you want to stay doing it at? 

Well there are there things, I mean the three – three sort of conditions I suppose, there’s my condition in which I just want to go on doing it, and another good example of that is Dan McKenzie in Cambridge, so there’s that kind of person. Then there are those who sort of gradually do less and less and sort of fade and fade, by the time they’re sort of my age, seventy-five, they’re doing almost nothing and then there are those – there is four groups really, then there is another group who – whose geology or science or whatever it is fades and that happens quite often early in middle age but then they start becoming administrators. Oxburgh is one example, O'Nions is another example, Bob May, and John Krebs, you know, there are – and people who – and then they do administration very well, they run organisations, become presidents of the Royal Society, become rectors of Imperial College, you know, they do those sorts of things and sort of – which I would find, I personally would find abhorrent, you know, just the notion of having to do an administrator job is – instead of doing geology I couldn’t imagine. Anyway there are those types who keep on being productive but in a completely different way. And then there are those who just give up immediately they retire, they come to retirement and they give all their books away and they go off and run cruises or collect stamps, they do all [laughs] –indulge in a hobby of some kind and examples of those were Jimmy Brindley, the old professor of geology in University College, Dublin, wonderful character, very good geologist and working until he retired and then quite suddenly – you only went to seventy in those days in Ireland, suddenly at seventy he retired and just simply gave up, absolutely completely. Another good example was van Bemmelen the great Dutch geologist, he just simply retired and he said – wrote to all his friends and said, ‘Please don’t send me any more reprints of books, I’ve given up geology, I’m going something quite different now.’ So there are four categories I think and they are all equally valid I suppose, you know [laughs].

  • Interviewee John Dewey
  • Duration 00:02:54
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 9/21/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/83
  • Keywords

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