Wonko the Sane – On Being a Scientist…

It’s amazing how one can always learn something from the most unexpected places. Today, I learnt a great deal about being a scientist, from non other than this quirky character in Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Universe (or Universes) – Wonko the Sane! This marine biologist lives in an inverted house (the insides are outside, while the outsides are inside), and has decided to lock the rest of the world in an asylum while he lives happily ‘outside the asylum’ in his house. People think he’s crazy because he claims to have seen green-winged angels on scooters, but he has this to say to us scientists:

The reason I call myself by my childhood name is to remind myself that a scientist must also be absolutely like a child. If he sees a thing, he must say that he sees it, whether it was what he thought he was going to see or not. See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that. So the other reason why I call myself Wonko the Sane is so that people will think that I am a fool. That allows me to say what I see when I see it. You can’t possibly be a scientist if you mind people thinking that you’re a fool. ~ Wonko the Sane, from So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams


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