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Pasteur's Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation Paperback – August 1, 1997
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About the Author
Donald E. Stokes was professor of politics and public affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
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The title "Pasteur's Quadrant" comes from the author's idea of divvying up scientific endeavors on two axes, according to whether there are 1) utilitarian considerations; 2) some quest for fundamental understanding--thereby defining four quadrants. An example given for research that was undertaken for fundamental understanding, but not for utilitarian considerations was that of Niels Bohr's quantum theory. Research undertaken without regard to fundamental understanding, but completely for utilitarian reasons was that of inventor Thomas Edison. The research of Louis Pasteur, however, was undertaken to advance both fundamental understanding and utilitarian goals--thereby providing a template for much of modern science policy. I suppose that nobody would want to assume the mantle as the exemplar of research that is neither fundamental or useful. I, however, nominate creationism as an example of research that neither advances fundamental understanding, nor utilitarian goals!
The views of American World War II and Cold War policy guru Vannevar Bush are also considered, as is his recommendation that pure and applied research be separated to some degree, fearing that "applied research invariably drives out pure." This view articulated by Bush explains a story told to me by a senior colleague prominent in the government electronics research community. My colleague recounted to me his conversation with Nobel Laureate and transistor co-inventor Bill Shockley in the early 1960's. After my colleague gave a conference presentation which discussed the contributions of both pure and applied government research, he was sought out by Shockley--who found it most surprising that government researchers we able to "mix" pure and applied research.
The author does not confine his attention to the history of modern science. He discusses the origin of the scientific method in ancient Greece, as well as its modification in Medieval Europe. One interesting point, which I had not heard before, is the possible role of Christian monasticism in the development of science. It is claimed the the dignity of manual labor, as practiced by monks, helped elevate the status of both the applied and experimental aspects of science--thereby moving it forward and somewhat away from the elevated and aristocratic realm enshrined by the Greeks.
I have used the paradigm and exceprts from this book in numerous seminars in the U.S. and other countries when presenting seminars to graduate students and undergraduates. Many of today's students want to conduct research that makes a difference for pressing societal needs but also do not wish to be subjected to the criticism of not being enough of an "academic researcher" when conducting their thesis research. This book and the explained paradigm provide the framework for guidance for these students and their advisors/mentors. I highly recommend it and have given away nuemrous copies to colleagues wordlwide.