Living Science, Narrating Self

Dr Anthony O'Keeffe
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Scientists who take up the writing of autobiography typically find themselves wrestling with two difficulties that derive specifically from the practices of science itself, one textual and the other. Both scientific publication and scientific work demand an essential commitment to reason and reductionism that brings with it a concomitant "erasure" of the personal. As Nobel Laureate S. E. Luria has observed in his own autobiography, A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube, "It is characteristic of scientists to transfer from their work to their lives a deep respect for rationality. Most scientist distrust those aspects of their personalities that drive them away from the domain of the formalizable." Conscious awareness of this difficulty, and direct textual address to it, seem to have a decisive impact on whether or not the individual scientific autobiography succeeds in presenting that deep sense of self — created and revealed in the processes of autobiographical writing — on which the genre depends. Examination of a range of such texts by scientists, from Darwin to contemporary examples, allows us to test the strength of this idea, and to take some important first steps toward a theory of scientific autobiography.

Keywords: Autobiography, Interdisciplinary study, Science
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr Anthony O'Keeffe

Professor of English, Department of English Bellarmine University Louisville, Kentucky 40205

Ref: H05P0262