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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2012 > Article Detail

ESSAY

100 Reasons to Become a Scientist or Engineer

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

The Editors

80
John J. Shea

Click to Enlarge ImageMr. and Mrs. McKey inspired me to become a scientist. They were my next-door neighbors when I was growing up. He taught high school biology and she taught English and foreign languages. The McKeys had no children of their own, and they were like second parents to me. He tutored me in biology and she in Latin. They encouraged me to read serious literature, to think critically and to work hard so that I could pay for college. Together Mr. and Mrs. McKey taught me that science helps answer the big questions, but the big questions originate in the humanities.

Among the books they recommended I read, and the one that was most influential in my becoming an archaeologist, was F. Clark Howell’s book, Human Evolution. It showed scientists studying the past, not just by reading about it, but also by excavating fossils, by experimenting with stone tools and by studying hunter-gatherers. I thought this was the perfect profession, one in which people worked with their hands and their minds. That they did so by traveling to exotic places was all the better. I grew up in a small town, and as I grew older, distant horizons beckoned. Whenever I return there, I bring back a little piece of stone collected in the course of my travels to leave at the McKeys’ grave.

John J. Shea

Professor of Anthropology

Stony Brook University




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