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Some aphorisms on research and writing.

Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Medicine


Department of Physiology and Biophysics, ROBERT F. PITTS* Cornell University Medical College, 1300 York Ave., New York, N.Y. 10021 SOME APHORISMS ON RESEARCH AND WRITING** When Dr. Giebisch called to ask me to speak at this dinner celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Salt and Water Club, I violated a long standing principle. I said yes immediately over the phone, rather than giving his offer the mature consideration it deserved. After-dinner speaking is definitely not my forte. Then when Dr. Levitin called to reinforce the invitation, I asked him what I should talk about. His reply, "About 30 minutes," was no help to me in my dilemma. However, I do consider Dr. Giebisch's and Dr. Levitin's offer to speak as a signal honor. Most of you know that I was never allowed to be a party to the deliberations of this august body. Presumably as a Departmental Chairman I would have dominated your discussions and inhibited the free expressions of younger men. But at least after 20 years you have mellowed to the point where you will tolerate a garrulous old man as long as he has a specified time limit. I shall certainly not exceed my limit. We all share a common interest in two types of activities: biomedical re- search and writing, namely the reporting of the results of our investigations to our colleagues and to the broader scientific public. I have now been in laboratory research for 40 years. Perhaps these 40 years, which began dur- ing the second year of my Ph.D. studies and continued throughout my medi- cal training to the present, give me license to discuss from experience these two mutual interests. In considering a title, I finally settled on "Aphorisms on Research and Writing" as a mechanism of sharing my thoughts with you. Aphorism is not the most appropriate word. An aphorism is a short, pithy maxim. A maxim is a generally accepted truth. I doubt that all of you will accept my thoughts as truth. In fact, I'd prefer you would not; instead I'd rather needle you a bit. My first aphorism is re

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