Aeon opinion piece: How can scientists best address the problems of today and the future?

26 May 2020
by Martin Rees, Sally Davies

The good scientist. Science is the one culture that all humans share. What would it mean to create a sceintifically literate future together?

"The Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s academy of sciences, was founded in 1660. At its earliest meetings, scientists shared travellers’ tales, peered through newly invented microscopes, and experimented with airpumps, explosions and poisons. Its earliest fellows included the polymaths Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, along with enthusiastic amateurs such as the prolific diarist Samuel Pepys. Sometimes gatherings turned gruesome: Pepys recorded the event of a blood transfusion from a sheep to a man – who, amazingly, survived. Health and safety rules render Royal Society meetings somewhat duller these days, but the guiding spirit remains. Right from the start, the Society recognised that science was international and multidisciplinary.

Science and technology, of course, hugely expanded over the following centuries. As a result, the Royal Society’s present-day fellows are specialised professionals. This fact aggravates the barrier between science and the public, as well as between different specialisms. As a physical scientist, most of my own all-too-limited knowledge of modern biology comes from ‘popular’ books on the subject...."

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