The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge by Abraham Flexner

epilys wrote :

I'm astonished at the clarity of thought and wisdom of this essay. Some excerpts:

[…] but one thing I said he could be sure of, namely, that they had done their work without thought of use and that throughout the whole history of science most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.

[…] curiosity, which mayor may not eventuate in something useful, is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking. It is not new.

The whole calculus of probability was discovered by mathematicians whose real interest was the rationalization of gambling. It has failed of the practical purpose at which they aimed […]

I am not for a moment suggesting that everything that goes on in laboratories will ultimately turn to some unexpected practical use or that an ultimate practical use is its actual justification. Much more am I pleading for the abolition of the word "use," and for the freeing of the human spirit.

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