Day 325. How to grow a scientist

In July 2013 on July 3, 2013 at 9:41 am


Of course, I’m not the only one with science in my life. This was written by my friend James, reflecting on the 4th birthday of his son.

Four years ago, at 3.33am on July 3, in birthing suite 3 of the Queen Mary Maternity Ward of Dunedin Hospital, our youngest child ‘D’ was delivered into the world.

All the 3’s made it into the birth announcement in the daily departmental email where I was postdoc-ing at the time.

For months afterwards the cleaner – who’d become quite fixated on the 3’s – pestered me to buy a lottery ticket, as she was into numerology, and all the 3’s were apparently highly significant.

I didn’t buy a lottery ticket, as I am not into numerology. I am a scientist, in remission at least, and the only highly significant stats to do with lotteries indicate you will do your dough.

Earlier this week, D’s contact teacher at preschool met with us for our semi-regular parent-teacher things, to run through his ‘profile’. Formerly this was a looseleaf binder of arts and crafts and printouts and things scribbled upon; now it’s a considerably more techie online powerpoint thing that is more interactive and visibly more impressive, though harder for the young bloke to bring home with him to show us.

D’s preschool is a great little place, and all the team there try very hard to extend the kids in their demonstrated areas of interest. The problem is, his teacher confessed sheepishly, D’s areas of interest are… everything. He wants to know everything. He wants to question everything. He wants to understand how everything works, how the parts fit together to make the whole, and which bits do what. Whether it’s what makes the wind blow or how a camera works, his question is the same one Julius Sumner Miller was famous for:

Why is it so?

(Admittedly, D’s version is usually just phrased as ‘…Why?’)

My people once were scientists. And will be again, it seems.

Perhaps he had no chance to be anything else; both his parents ask scientific questions and frame scientific conversations for a living.

Four is too young to worry about how your kids will turn out, or what they’ll make of their lives. And while I wouldn’t wish the soft-money panic of a research scientists’ life on anyone, least of all my nearest and dearest, there are many, many worse things you can turn out to be than someone who never forgets to ask the world,


Happy birthday D.


A ScienceforLife.365 guest post by Dr James Smith (find him on twitter: @theotherdrsmith)

  1. […] How to grow a scientist by James Smith […]

  2. […] read James’ guest post on Science for Life. 365 about how ‘his people’ – including his 4-year-old son – are scientists and […]

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