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100 Reasons to Become a Scientist or Engineer

On our 75th anniversary, we collected 75 reasons. Now we've added 25 more

The Editors

For American Scientist’s 75th anniversary in 1986, we asked 75 eminent scientists and engineers their reasons for entering their fields. As part of our centennial celebrations this year, we’ve asked 25 additional scientists and engineers to chime in about their inspirations, to bring our count up to 100 reasons. The first 75 reasons can be found in the original 1986 article, "75 Reasons to Become a Scientist."  Biographies of the responders in this article can be found by clicking on their names below the entries.

Francis S. Collins

Click to Enlarge ImageWhat’s inside the black box? That question captured my imagination on the first day of 10th grade in a Virginia public school, sparking an interest in scientific exploration that has never let me go. But I must confess it was an opportunity that I very nearly missed. When chemistry teacher John House gave each of us a black box containing an unidentified object and asked us to devise ways to investigate what the object was, my initial reaction was: “What a silly waste of time!”

But then I began to think about it. I knew something was different here. This was a radical departure from the science I’d previously encountered, a dry and lifeless world in which teachers poured facts into my head and I spit them back. This was the first time that someone had invited me to come up with the ideas—to design experiments myself. Rather intimidating. Rather exhilarating! I got caught up in the challenge of figuring out ways to determine what was inside the black box. (It turned out to be a candle.) After that first experiment, I knew there would be many, many more.

Francis S. Collins


National Institutes of Health

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