Recorded: 04 Jun 2001
I don’t give advice but if you are a biologist you still must learn math, physics, and chemistry. If you are not too good at those things, there are certain descriptive areas [that] still work, but if you want to make real discoveries it’s important you have a background [with] a certain amount of math, a certain ability to enjoy working with chemicals. The theory of chemical reactions and things like that. We had a lot of that so I that was very helpful. If you have it in your background, it doesn’t mean that you use it; it’s just an intellectual discipline you acquire by going into those fields. If you don’t do that and have that background, than it’s harder to make discoveries. You can make a discovery just accidentally. It’s hard you can’t teach creativity, it’s impossible, I think. You could give the right environment that allows people to become creative, who are sort of inwardly creative.
Edward B. Lewis (1918-2004) was a renowned leader in genetics and Drosophila development research. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1942. He served as captain of the United States Army Air Force from 1942-1945 as a meteorologist and an oceanographer in the Pacific Theatre. In 1946, he joined the Caltech faculty and was appointed Professor of Biology in 1956, earning a Thomas Hunt Morgan Professorship in 1966. In 1995, Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development” along with Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus. Lewis is also a recipient of the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal (1983), the Gairdner Foundation International award (1987), the Wolf Foundation prize in medicine (1989), the Rosenstiel award (1990) and the National Medal of Science (1990).