Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Role of Emotion in a World of Professionals

The obituary of Philip Masters, in today's New York Times, is a good reminder that there is still room for "amateurs" -- those drawn to a field by a passion for learning, despite a lack of what might be considered "acceptable" formal training -- in many fields that have become almost totally professionalized. Philip Masters, who was, among other things, a jewelry salesman and cabdriver, was excited by tales of piracy and independently pursued research and underwater exploration techniques that eventually led to the discovery of the Queen Anne's Revenge, the 18th century sailing ship of the notorious pirate Blackbeard.

What I find striking about Mr. Masters is not only the lengths that he went to acquire the variety of knowledge necessary [history, language, diving, etc.] to make his find, but, perhaps more importantly, that his passion and commitment to learning led him to such success in a field that had previously been well-trod by many other, "better educated," but less daring, scholars. I think that it is a refreshing lesson that "emotion" still plays an extremely important role in the fortunes of knowledge professionals.

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