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They don’t make ‘em like that any more……

PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 4:56 pm
by dragon
It has recently come to my attention that Pliny the Elder was an exemplary scientist. In curiosity, in rationality and in dedication to the cause of exploring the unknown, he is an example which should be held before all aspiring scientists in our modern more effete age.

Pliny the Elder along with his nephew Pliny the Younger, to whom we are indebted for the account of the scientist’s actions, were resident in the former’s villa which was situated at the other side of the Bay of Naples from the volcano Vesuvius. Like the realization of a scientist’s dream, Vesuvius erupted while the pair was in residence giving the scientist a rare and golden opportunity to study a volcano in active eruption. As Pliny the Younger remarked: “My uncle's scholarly acumen saw at once that it was important enough for a closer inspection…”. Wasting no time the scientist readied a boat and set sail.

Unfortunately this is the last we heard from Pliny the Elder. No doubt he could have written up a most interesting account of the phenomenon, an account which would have contributed rare data, data of incalculable value, to the future of volcanology. The loss of Pliny the Elder was a tragedy and we can only speculate upon the loss his death has cost science.

Fortunately his nephew recorded as much as could be seen and known from the villa and so, though the loss of scientific data is a misfortune whose magnitude cannot be calculated, the nephew has preserved for us an account of the conduct of a model scientist. In my opinion, that model should be presented to all young scientists as an exemplary paradigm, and one to which they should all aspire.