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Commentary |

Reflections on the Lasker Prize for Basic Biomedical Research

Paul Berg, PhD
JAMA. 2005;294(11):1419-1420. doi:10.1001/jama.294.11.1419.
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Many of us who chose scientific careers did so partly for selfish reasons. Solving puzzles and making discoveries are intoxicating experiences, and the fact that someone will pay you to spend your life doing so is even more satisfying. Seeking something that has not been known before is an exhilarating goal. But soon, the investigation’s complexity deepens and simple curiosity gives way to what Peter Medawar called “the acute discomfort of incomprehension” resulting in “a rage to know.”1 It is then that persistence and resiliency are needed to achieve the breakthrough. Success in such endeavors is rare and intellectually rewarding. Being awarded a prize is a bonus; it is not high on the list of motivations that drives researchers to solve the problems they set for themselves. Nevertheless, most scientists would admit to welcoming the acknowledgment of their peers, for it signifies that what they had accomplished was judged as being special and had moved the field substantially.

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