The point of publishing a scientific paper? Sure, it's to get a ticket punched, enhance a career, attract a grant, or otherwise make a personal profit. But the larger purpose is the same as that of leaving a rope on a steep mountain climb, or marking a path through the woods with cairns of rocks or a blazes on trees. It's to make the journey easier for those who follow --- so they can avoid blind alleys and themselves go farther, eventually into new territory where they in turn can establish routes to help their successors.

Back in the mid-1970's, when I was in grad school in southern California, an older gentleman invited me to a meeting of The Explorers Club [1]. I can't recall who it was, or how I met him, or why he thought I might be interested in hearing a lecture by some guy who had tramped around in some obscure wilderness. I certainly don't recollect the content of the talk. I do remember being puzzled to hear that the Club invited certain scientists to join. Now, a few decades later, it makes more sense ...

TopicScience - TopicPersonalHistory - 2004-06-12

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