All Centipedists

“When I look back on my early way in science, on the problems I studied, on the papers I published — and even more, perhaps, on those things that never got into print — I notice freedom of movement, a lack of guild-imposed narrowness, whose existence in my youth I myself, as I write this, had almost forgotten. The world of science was open before us to a degree that has become inconcievable now, when pages and pages of application papers must justify the plan of investigating, ‘in depth’, the thirty-fifth foot of the centipede; and one is judge by a jury of one’s peers who are all centipedists or molecular podiatrists. I would say that most of the great scientists of the past could not have arisen, that, in fact, most sciences could not have been founded, if the present utility-drunk and goal-directed attitude had prevailed.” (Erwin Chargaff, Heraclitean Fire)