When writing a prefatory chapter for Annual Reviews a scientist is confronted with the question of what in his or her life might be interesting to others. In my case I was appalled at the absence of material that generates good novels: no broken homes, no misunderstood childhood, no criminal youth gangs, no disastrous liaisons. A landscape of boredom from sea to shining sea. If there is one overlying theme it is that I got paid for doing what I enjoyed all my life. I wish I could say I had cleverly plotted to achieve this nirvana by a series of Machiavellian measures. The truth, however, is closer to the course of the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado: I was “...wafted by a favoring gale as one sometimes is in trances.”

As I look back, each new chapter in my life seems to have been a mutation of Pasteur’s phrase “chance to the prepared mind.” Once I had decided to be a scientist, the events seemed to flow as if by accident. However, in retrospect I see that the experience of each phase of my life presaged the next “accidental happening.” But I was surprised at the “random walk” nature of my life.

Keyword(s): Autobiography

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