Dedicated to my Dad, who turns 65 today.
My Dad is a scientist. He wouldn’t tell you that. And neither would the majority of the scientific community consider him one. He hasn’t published a paper, or presented at a conference. He doesn’t hold a position at a university. But my Dad is a scientist.
In the 1970’s, my Dad went to England. There was a call out for people who could help with archaeological digs and, as he told me over beers once, it sounded like a good idea at the time. I imagine there were many people who went, simply dug things up, cleaned them off, and then went to the pub for the rest of the night. I am sure my Dad also spent his fair amount of time at the pub, but I know that he also studied. He learned about the history of the sites he was digging, about the people who had lived there, about the events whose details he was helping to unravel. I know he studied, not because he ever published a paper about his discoveries, but because he shared his knowledge with me. There were no formal lectures, just gems of information that would drop during a conversation, or while in a museum, or while looking at photos or trinkets that he kept in a wooden box on his bookshelf (a metal ring he fashioned for himself while on site, headbands he used to wear during digs). Years later, he shared parts of his archaeological knowledge and his skill for story telling with others when he wrote a book entitled The Wine of Agamemnon. This is a wonderful book. Yes, I’m biased, but you should still read it.
My Dad is also an artist, who can wield a pen and paintbrush in ways most people only dream of. In his art I also see evidence of the scientist in him. He studies. Perspective. Human anatomy. He takes photos and examines them, tries to reproduce the scenes. He experiments. Different combinations of materials, paints, techniques. All of this he does while color blind, which leaves the occasional driveway painted purple rather than gray, but has never stopped him from creating masterpieces. And now he shares his knowledge with my son, teaching him step-by-step how to draw the things he sees around him. He made my son his very own sketchbook out of card and string.
My Dad has a thirst for scientific knowledge. He reads my papers and asks me questions (which is more than I can say for some of my colleagues). And almost every day he sends me emails with the latest interesting piece of science news he has found. Studies of tool use in animals, the latest dinosaur fossil finds, neural studies on music and language. He sends me emails about correlation versus causation, and links to studies in mathematics, asking “How far can this be generalized?”.
My Dad is a scientist. Maybe he doesn’t know it. But I do. And I’m sure that he is part of the reason that today I am a scientist, too.