The Spaniard Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852 – 1934) was a famous neuroscientist, earning a Nobel prize in 1906. He was also an avid artist and his drawings of brains structures and neurological connections are works of art in their own right – mysterious yet luminous.
In 1887 he wrote a wonderful little treatise on the art of science, entitled Advice for a Young Investigator. Many of his remarks qualify as useful aphorisms. Some of those I have side-lined include:
“I believe that all outstanding work, in art as well in science, results from immense zeal applied to a great idea”.
He summarises in brilliant sentences what others have laboured over in lengthy tomes, as in:
“It is well known that a discovery is simply the joining of two or more pieces of information to a useful end”. The art of connecting the dots.
And he provides a salutary admonition about the shaping of an intellect:
“Let books be our masters – wise mentors, serene, no bad temper, and no momentary lapses in ability. We shall happily give them our major commitment – which is to discover ourselves before discovering scientific truth, to mould ourselves before moulding nature”.
This little book is a sheer delight to read, and a wonderful companion to his extraordinary books of drawings. Any emerging researcher would benefit from reading this.