John Williams – Stoner

Last modified: February 9, 2018

A farmer’s son goes to university to study agricultural sciences. But once there he becomes fascinated by linguistics, gains his doctorate in that subject and finds a job as a lecturer. Outgrowing his own family background along the way, he marries the wrong woman. At work he proves no match for his sophisticated colleagues and his career is unspectacular. But he believes in the importance of his subject and endears himself to his students. Those around him barely acknowledge that, however, and he leads a lonely life.

This book provides a revealing insight into the important role of intrinsic motivation in science. That can make people extraordinarily single-minded, to the extent that they sublimate their own interests. Which may appear admirable to outsiders, but can also foster behavioural characteristics bordering on the autistic.

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