Pioneers of Know­ledge

Whether Poets, Physicists, or Designers: They All Craved to Explore the As Yet Unknown

They questioned things that no one has ever questioned before: Pioneers of knowledge. The universe, languages, computers – no matter how diverse their areas of research, they all had one thing in common – curiosity.

There can be no knowledge without curiosity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Following his father’s wishes, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of Germany’s most famous poets, began studying law at the age of 16. However, it didn’t take long until he began studying human anatomy at the dissecting table and was measuring air pressures to discover the origins of weather. His interests soon expanded into literature, botany and mineralogy – the will to satisfy his insatiable curiosity drove the student to explore numerous different branches of science. Goethe’s thirst for knowledge is characteristic for the age of enlightenment.

   A space shuttle lifting off    A space shuttle lifting off

Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

Steve Jobs

Home computers, smartphones, or tablet PCs: with his elegant and intuitive design concept, Jobs transformed utilitarian technical devices into irresistible lifestyle icons. This aesthetic subtlety is not least due to the Apple founder’s curiosity. After dropping out of his initially planned studies of physics and literature, his intuition led him to visit a calligraphy course as a guest student. This was the inspiration that first lent Apple devices their entirely new design signature.

There’s something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. That’s something that is almost part of being human, and I’m certain that will continue.

Sally Ride

Every since she was small, Sally Ride always wanted to find the answers to questions like “Is there life on Mars”, or “How did the universe begin”. She was the first American woman in space. At the age of 31, she is still counted among the world’s youngest female astronauts. She particularly wanted to share her fascination for astrophysics with children and the younger generation: she wrote children’s books about her adventures in space and encouraged young people, and particularly girls, to make a career in science.

Curiosity always stands in first place when a problem is to be solved.

Galileo Galilei

Galileo’s curiosity soon landed him in a precarious situation – in fact, in 1633, the Roman Catholic Inquisition found him “vehemently suspect of heresy” – and kept him under house arrest until his death in 1642. With his groundbreaking invention of the telescope, the most famous philosopher, mathematician, physicist, and astronomer of the 17th Century refuted the broadly accepted theory of geocentricity – at the time, Roman Catholic cosmology placed planet Earth at the center of the known “universe”: Galileo’s curiosity had led to his discovery that the sun was at the center of our planetary system. Galileo’s most significant contribution to science lies not only in his inventions and discoveries, but also in his experimental approach.

It is not a silly question, if you cannot answer it.

Jostein Gaarder

The Norwegian author of children’s books let Alberto, a leading character in his novel “Sophie’s World” (1991), say these words. Alberto, a middle-aged philosopher, animates little Sophie to take a critical view of the world around her by asking her apparently trivial questions. This reflects the method by which men of science like Galileo Galilei or Isaac Newton questioned and refuted seemingly unassailable “truths” – and, by doing this, laid the foundations for modern science. “Sophie’s World” is an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought, a book in which Jostein Gaarder provides its readers, both young and old, with fascinating insights into the history of philosophy. His book has been published in 59 different languages.

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