EXPLORING THE EXPLORERS


“…I had ambition not only to go farther than any other one before, but as far as it was possible for a man to go.”  James Cook, RN (Captain Cook)

In this, the 21st Century, the dominant public focus has been on our exploration of space.  It is, however, important that we become informed of the immense variety of exploratory efforts that are being carried out in all the sciences, including the study of we humans. Although each program may seem unique and unrelated, there is a common thread that connects all research (exploration) efforts.

What if..?  I wonder why..? What is up there…? Where did that come from…? Where can we go from here..? What lies across that sea…? In our opinion that common thread is wonderment, curiosity, or simply the desire, as James Cook stated, to go as far as possible “for a man to go.” This can also be summarized as the thirst for knowledge; to know more about what surrounds us. This thirst however, is simply a manifestation of those basic curiosities.

As I have stated in earlier posts to this blog, this inquisitive force begins at birth, and it should be supported and stimulated through the actions of parents, schools, and government.  When this is consistently and thoroughly done, we make great progress in both our evolution and our understanding of why we are here and what we should be doing.

The concept in the above paragraph is the ideal.  As humankind’s history shows, the efforts and lives of many explorers are neither secure nor easy. This is particularly true of the relationship between the explorers and their governments. Galileo was officially constrained in his efforts to understand our solar system and cosmology.He was very disappointed by the general indifference of his leaders toward his efforts, “It vexes me when they would constrain science by the authority of the Scriptures, and yet do not consider themselves bound to answer reason and experiment.” (Galileo Galilei).

History also records the direct effect that parents and close relatives of scientist-explorers have upon their progress and success.  Space systems maestro Wernher von Braun was somewhat indifferent about his early career decisions until his mother stepped in to motivate him.  Einstein’s second marriage to his first cousin, greatly enhanced his ability to devote the attention needed for him to progress in his research. She can be regarded as an explorer’s care-giver of the first order.

Schools, as stated above, play a major and critical role in the molding of explorers. The amazing support that Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman rendered to his students and even to those youngsters he never met has endowed this nation with a host of eager and bold science-explorers (see the collected letters of Feynman published by his daughter as well as his many famous lectures). As a middle school student, I was nudged into the explorer mode by a physics teacher who held Friday night explorer sessions in her home for her physics students. I have never forgotten them, though I never became much of a successful explorer.

The fickleness and indifference of their respective governments have always haunted explorers and continue to do so this very day. This situation is what produces an entire legion of bold, aggressive and outspoken scientist-explorers who, despite a timid nation, carry forward and tow the rest of us into a better future.

Astronaut Russell (Rusty) Schweickart is a clear example of a dedicated scientist-explorer who has traveled the world to create an international program to detect and deflect dangerous (incoming!) near earth objects (asteroids and comets).  Ignaz Semmelweis a Hungarian physician of the 1800’s made the breakthrough discovery in stopping the spread of “ChildBirth Fever (puerperal fever) which was simply the act of washing of the hands before beginning examinations of the mother or delivery of the child. His efforts also inspired another explorer-scientist Louis Pasteur to confirm the germ theory in biology and medical science.

Library upon library, filled with histories and biographies give testament to the many contributions of these bold, brave explorers.  Our very lives are continually extended and enriched by their efforts. Most importantly our future and that of generations to follow are directly affected by just how bold, how aggressive and how persistent these explorers are. In this regard, we beneficiaries need to stand tall and make it known to our schools and our governments that we must not fail to support all efforts to seek answers for who we are, why we are here, and where we must go.

CREDITS:

Exploration Map of Captain James Cook: From Wilson’ Almanac EMS Explorers Resource Hub

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