Letter: Reasons for the short supply of science students

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Sir: In order to understand the supply of science graduates and the demand for them, it is necessary to consider the direct as well as the indirect rewards of studying science.

The direct reward is satisfaction of the hunger to understand the physical universe and how it works. One of the Huxleys, I believe it was, remarked that Nature is not only more wonderful than we imagine, it is more wonderful than we can imagine. In this sense, science is the most abstract and arguably the greatest of art forms. Aesthetically a scientist is someone who has understood this.

The mistake many people make is to look for the pleasure-mechanism too soon. In science one cannot just read, look or listen and say, 'Oh, how beautiful'; the pleasure comes from having solved a problem, or in the accurate and imaginative thinking needed to find a solution.

As to the indirect, material rewards of studying science, in a society that rewards those who manipulate wealth more highly than those who create it, it is no wonder that employers undervalue scientists. Undesirable though this circumstance is, it at least has the virtue that it makes the study of science less attractive to those who do not truly love it.

Yours faithfully,


Bodmin, Cornwall