Although she had wanted to become a literary writer as a child, Rachel Carson (1907-1964) changed her major during college from English to Biology. She would later become one of the most famous science writers (e.g. Silent Spring, 1962). Read More
If you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t assume that this man in the electric wheelchair is one of the most accomplished scientists. Read More
Clifford Geertz (1926-2006) represents one of those cultural anthropologists, who knows exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it while writing. At least that’s the impression he gave when giving an interview to Gary A. Olson. Read More
The Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) was one of the pioneers of nuclear physics, winning the Nobel prize in 1922. At his research institute in Copenhagen, he gathered a community of international physicists. Bohr availed himself of his colleagues to develop his ideas and theories. He talked to them about problems for hours or even days; his discussion partners took notes. While talking, he could spend a long time on a single statement, refining it more and more. He never seemed to be satisfied with his thoughts, which led to more discussions and more refinements. His texts suffered from this process, because they became complicated and laborious. Biophysicist Max Delbrück, a colleague of Bohr, seems to have said that Bohr’s texts were a “crime for the readers”.
After talking to his colleagues, Bohr used to dictate his texts to his wife Margrethe. It is likely that while taking the dictation his wife revised the text. Bohr seemed to have accepted her revisions, without revising the text again himself. In contrast, however, he did not accept suggested revisions from other physicists, such as Ernest Rutherford.
In one case, when presenting a paper, Bohr apologized for his convoluted prose. He hadn’t been trying to present facts, he told his audience, but intended to pose questions, which could be pondered further. Despite this apology, the audience likely still had a hard time understanding Bohr.
Fischer, Ernst Peter (2012): Niels Bohr. Physiker und Philosoph des Atomzeitalters. München: Siedler Verlag.
The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek (born 1949) publishes a lot – one or two books a year on different topics such as psychoanalysis, current political events and developments, and the economy. We might assume that he enjoys writing all these books, but that would be far from the truth. Although Žižek admits to being obsessed, it is not with writing, but rather its opposite. Read More
Reading scientific literature is a demanding task, although it can be fun or even exciting. While reading a single text might be manageable, researchers have to deal with a flood of field-specific texts every year. Read More
- Writing means solving problems and taking decisions.
- There are no hard and fast rules for writing. You have to find solutions and take decisions every time you write.
- Know your writing habits – both good and bad.
- Talk to others about writing. Share problems and solutions.
- Stick to what works for you.
- Get feedback on your writing.
- You are responsible for your writing. You have to be able to explain every single decision you take.
- Only frauds hire a ghostwriter.
- Learn from mistakes and failure. Write to learn.
- Writing is hard. Enjoy the challenge.