I mentioned it before in a previous blog posting that I grew up considering Bill Gates as my hero. I never met him. But sometime back, I wondered, what kind of advise he would have provided me, had I met him.
There could be lot more people wondering the same and he might have answered the question generally somewhere.
My exploration started and encountered a book called “100 Most popular Scientists for Yound Adults – Biographical sketches and professional paths” by Kendall Haven and Donna Clark. ISBN: 1-56308-674-3. It is a compilation of popular scientists short biography and their advices. William Gates was in that list and his advises are:
William Gates – Invented Disk Operating System (DOS) and Microsoft Windows computer operating systems. Founded Microsoft Corporation.
Bill Gates would advise you to pursue studies that include mechanical engineering, chemistry, and physics classes in addition to computer science and electrical engineering. Gates would also say that the computer field is driven by consumer needs. The best ideas are those that fill the most basic needs. Develop not just programming skills, but also the ability to recognize needs and create new ideas.
Erwin Schrodinger is not in the list and it is a disappointment for me. The book contains advices from my other heroes and here is the summary.
Steve Wozniak – Invented the Apple II computer and Co-founded Apple Computer Corporation.
If you are considering a career in computer technology, Steve Wozniak would advise you not to specialize too soon. Spread yourself over several disciplines. You must have a foundation in the basics – math, physics, material science, electrical engineering – but don’t be afraid to study anything else that interest you. Search for new ways to combine departments and disciplines to your advantage. And never think that it’s all been done already. People probably thought that way in Rome thousands of years ago. There will always be new inventions simply because there’s a need inside us to express our creativity and inventiveness.
Albert Einstein – Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, 1921
Practice and develop your mental powers: dream, imagine, and wonder. Take the time to let your mind wander through a problem. Einstein believed that learning is the servant of imagination, and that curiosity and inquiry are the foundation of learning. He also would advise you to get used to teaching yourself. Investigate, read, probe through the areas that stir your passions. University classes are valuable but can never be custom designed for your specific needs as can you own studies.
Richard P. Feynman – Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, 1965
A cornerstone of Richard Feynman’s belief was that each scientist was responsible to question and challenge theory. No field can develop without rigorous, constant challenge to its hypotheses and assumptions. Above all else, he would advise students to first ground themselves in math and logic. Master all forms of math and their orderly application because mathematics is the language of science. Also learn the skills of reasoning, logic, and analysis. They will guide your questioning. Begin serious studies with physics, thermodynamics, and chemistry before advancing to particle physics and nuclear physics. Finally, open your mind to unexpected sources and ideas. All the world is a science textbook and the ideas you need could be lurking around any street corner, not just in textbooks, science journals, and labs.
Dennis Gabor – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1971 and invented holography.
If you are considering a career in physics, Dennis Gabor would advise you to consider adding mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering classes to your physics curriculum. Engineering approaches offer practical perspectives to the complex and theoretical problems of physics. Engineering courses also create a problem-solving orientation that is invaluable in the world of physics.
Max Planck – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1918
Max Planck’s primary advice to anyone planning a physics career is to master mathematics. Math is the language of science. If math is not your servant and ally, it will always to your enemy. During undergraduate studies gain a basic understanding of all fields of physics and related fields such as thermodynamics. Specialize in graduate school and commit yourself to staying with that field. It may take decades of struggle to arrive at a point where you can know what questions to ask, recognize the answers once you find them, or begin to understand the answers. Understanding math and being persistent now will produce understanding and advancement later.
Werner Heisenberg – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics – 1932
Werner Heisenberg believed that any study of physics should start with mathematics. Math is the language of science and any scientist should be completely familiar with the concepts and techniques of this language. Heisenberg often advised students to seek out and study under the masters in their particular field. Masters are those who have created the last step in the path of scientific progress. The next step will be taken by those who learned from those taking the current step. Finally, study, study, study. It takes considerable work to reach the forefront of any scientific field. Yet that effort is mandatory for those who expect to achieve.
Niels Bohr – Awarded Nobel Price for Physics, 1922
His Advice: Start by gaining a solid understanding of math and classical physics methods. Then seek out the researchers at the forefront of the specialties that interest you most. Apply to those schools and find ways to study under the current leaders of your field, the ones breaking new and revolutionary ground. Volunteer if you must, but work with the leaders. Sign for their classes. Attend all their lectures. Work with them until your own ideas and questions are begging to be investigated.
Max Born – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1954
Every successful science career must begin with a full mastery of math. That foundation will allow you to understand and decipher the implications and relationship of all other fields. Born said during several speeches late in his life, “I always consider my knowledge of mathematics to be one of my greatest assets.” Max Born advised to resist the urge to specialize during their undergraduate studies. Instead, generalize. Study all the fields you can. Questions and studies will often lead your across field boundaries.
Paul Dirac – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics ,1933 (shared with Schrodinger)
Paul Dirac was a shy loner and reticent to advise others. Still, he consistently acknowledged the value of his study in engineering, both electrical and mechanical, before he turned to the study of hard sciences. Engineering trained him to be practical and pragmatic and to approach complex problems in a straightforward, step-by-step manner.
Wolfgang Pauli – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1945
Wolfgang Pauli tried to never offer advice to others, believing that each person and career was unique. However, he advocated several principles that he would advice any student to incorporate into his or her early studies and careers. Demand precision and exactness in your won work and in that of others. These are habits that you must teach yourself early in a science career. Study mathematics carefully and learn from its precision and rigor. The value of your science and your science reputation will be measured by the care with which you perform both analyzes and computations.