Nelson Reyes, Economist
Times change, and this may be a widely used affirmation, but it contains all the truth we can see and the truth we cannot see.
In our history, we see a plethora of scientific figures that had a global view of knowledge, Hypatia, Omar Khayyam, Leonardo, Lavoisier (woman and husband), Curie (woman and husband), Wang Zhenyi, among many others. What did they have in common? They were not specialized in one are of expertise, instead, they mastered several knowledge fields. Math, literature, physics, plastic arts, etc.
The concept of a Comprehensive Scientist was broadly known, in fact, in those early years of science, any who could master a specific field of knowledge would probably master many others at the same time. Many of the few quoted above were also important leaders and mentors of young talents, many were also simply “good people”, sharing not only their knowledge but also their fortunes with the entire humanity.
History has led us to specialization, and I know this has created a strong push for advancing science, but human knowledge has advanced faster than human focus. Now it is not strange to find scientists highly specialized in their fields, but not very communicative with other people, and leaving expertise restricted to the walls of a lab or workshop. May be this is the fashion nowadays, but that doesn’t mean I like it.
I miss the Comprehensive person very much. When I look up for a leader I would follow a person that has a recognized leadership on the area of competence, recognized by pairs and recognized by achievements, but I also want to see SOFT skills on this person, being closer to people, having the capacity of seeing people needs and find a way to focus the research on solving real problems altogether with longer views in science. In summary, I miss the “Human Touch”.
I think, as times change, the focus of science and academia will regard these skills also when evaluating a comprehensive human (although it may be a redundance, because human definition includes the comprehensive view). And these will be great news, some major universities are focusing not only on academic achievement (hard skills) but also in how the leadership creates an umbrella for others, students, researchers, community, etc., all the people that could be beneficiated by the efforts of the person working in a field of expertise. I have lived to see the day where the best grades were not enough to receive a distinction, but also soft skills were required to match the mastering of the degree and, quoting from the actual prize: “In recognition of your leadership in business and your strong sense of civic obligations”, what a comprehensive definition!
I had also the privilege of knowing an outstanding scientist, Dr. Ricardo Maccioni, and I have had the privilege of looking at his outstanding discoveries in science, breakthroughs, as described by scientific pairs worldwide, but also his human side when dealing with remarkable scientists formed under his leadership, I also had the privilege of meeting many of them, and all of them agree that Professor Maccioni (as they call him with respect and love), is the most exigent person they have known in this world, but also, they all agree that he was capable to see the outstanding level they could achieve and helped them to see it by themselves. The touch of “hunger for knowledge” we need so much in our times.
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