2003 HowIWrite

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Subject Headings: Interview, Popular Science Literature.


Cited By



  • Robert Sapolsky is one of the leading neuroscientists in the world, a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research Museums of Kenya, and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. At the same time, he has been called "one of the best scientist-writers of our time" by Oliver Sacks and "one of the finest natural history writers around" by The New York Times. Prof. Sapolsky has produced, in addition to numerous scientific papers, books for broader audiences, including A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: Stress Disease and Coping, and The Trouble with Testosterone.
  • ...
  • RS: … I went off to Africa for a year and a half to begin to get my field work started, which I have been doing ever since for twenty-five years and it was fairly isolated site, where a lot of the time I was by myself. I would go 8 to 10 hours a day without speaking to anyone, I would get a mail drop about once every two weeks or so, there was no electricity, there was no radio, there was no anything, and I suddenly got unbelievably, frantically dependent on mail. So as a result you wind up sending letters to every human that you have known in your life in hopes that they would write back to you. ...
  • RS: … So like this was just irresistible so I went berserk with this for about two months and wrote up something and downloaded it and — sort of my wife was finally pleased that I would stop like orating at her about ticking and all that — and sort of got it out of my system and then haven’t thought about it since. ...
  • RS: … the science stuff is incredibly slow, and it never works, and if screw up people, like, lose their jobs in your lab and things like that;
  • RS: … No doubt there is some neurological basis for, like, why people like stories and why every culture comes up with them. But we're centuries away from having any understanding of that.
  • A... you said you orate to your wife, right, and yet you don't show to anyone in advance. And I am wondering if, as is true for many of my students and myself as well, do you ever work things out by speaking it out? And you’re obviously such a verbal person; these orations, do you ever work out ideas by talking about them?
  • RS: Umm…rarely; mostly I just sort of download the factoids to my wife, sort of the Munchhausen’s-By-Proxy sort of, every night tortured her with the seventeen reports I had found. She’s in there just sort of in the aftermath, glowing in motherhood, and I just sort of, “Look at this, this is important here.” Umm…rarely, not really. I pace a lot.
  • RS: … She is also a clinical psychologist ...
  • RS: … . Carl Sagan with his billions and billions of stars, he’s like the most successful science writer of his time, and, as a result of doing that, he totally destroyed his scientific career. And the snotty term that’s used for it among scientists is, that one gets “Saganized.” There’s a presumption that if you’re spending so much time doing this that you can’t possibly do good, serious science any more. And it actually, it did quite literally damage his professional career.
  • RS: They know who I am. So it’s a really good realm for settling scores, and undermining stuff. It’s a very childish arena of science.



 AuthorvolumeDate ValuetitletypejournaltitleUrldoinoteyear
2003 HowIWriteRobert SapolskyHow I Writehttp://www.stanford.edu/group/howiwrite/Bios/robertsapolsky/index.html2003