Ramachandran cites an unexpected source for much of his success: Charles Darwin.”He had a huge impact on human thought, and on the study of natural selection,” Ramachandran said. “But he did so much more than that. Darwin did elegant, highly-detailed studies in other areas. He was always looking for insight into things that other people thought of as trivial.
“I have tried to emulate him. I hope that style rubs off on my students. I tell them that they need to read about the history of science. They need to know about the grand masters. People like Darwin and English chemist MIchael Faraday. Science should be a grand adventure. A lot of scientists today are 9-to-5ers. And 90-percent of brain science is technology driven. Scientists shouldnt be technicians. They should be thinkers.”
Thats how Time regards Ramachandran — as a thinker.
“Once described as the Marco Polo of neuroscience, V.S. Ramachandran has mapped some of the most mysterious regions of the mind,” the magazine wrote, explaining why he was chosen for the list. “He has studied visual perception and a range of conditions, from synesthesia in which viewing black-and-white figures evokes the perception of color to autism.
Mathematical signs and symbols are often cryptic, but the best of them offer visual clues to their own meaning. The symbols for zero, one and infinity aptly resemble an empty hole, a single mark and an endless loop: 0, 1, ∞.� And the equals sign, =, is formed by two parallel lines because, in the words of its originator, Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde in 1557, “no two things can be more equal.”In calculus the most recognizable icon is the integral sign:
This week microbiologist Rita Colwell received the Stockholm Water Prize. Dr. Colwell was recognized for her “numerous seminal contributions towards solving the world’s water and water-related public health problems.”I interviewed Dr. Colwell at the 2008 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science .
Q: What’s the most important thing you want people today to know about the environment and infectious diseases?
Rita Colwell: Infectious diseases are closely related to the environment. In other words, it’s important for us to understand seasonality, climate, and the drivers for infectious disease, and the fact that the ecology of the environment plays a very significant role in infectious disease outbreaks and their persistent patterns.
Q: Tell us more about this connection between infectious disease and the environment.
Rita Colwell: Let me give you an example. Cholera is a devastating disease in the developing world. It was a massive epidemic disease in the United States, but that was pre-1900, before water treatment and good sanitation was introduced to the country. The organism is resident on plankton, marine zooplankton – the small, microscopic animals of the sea. The organism is a marine bacterium, but yet it can also live in fresh water associated with plankton.
If Great Britain was at its mercantile and military zenith by the beginning of the 20th century, even more so was its pre-eminence in the rapidly growing fields of genetics, statistics and evolutionary biology. In 1890, at the pinnacle of the gilded greatness that was Victorian England, doughty old East Finchley witnessed the birth of one the greatest of her sons, a man who in the words of a one historian was a “genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science.” His name was Ronald Aylmer Fisher.
The son of a successful businessman, Fisher was had a precocious intellect, and because of his poor eyesight learned mathematics without the use of paper and pen; leading to a marvelous ability to visualize problems in geometrical terms, and to forever frustrating both teachers and students by being able to produce mathematical results without setting down the intermediate steps.