After posting about how Churchill and others overcame impediments on their ways to greatness, I saw an article in the New York Times about great historical figures humbly learning things late in life — Marie Curie learned to swim after winning two Nobel Prizes, Leo Tolstoy learning to ride a bike after writing War and Peace, Dwight Eisenhower learning to paint after World War II ended, and a couple other examples.
Inspiration isn’t that hard to find.
A favorite example for me is Ernest Rutherford, one of the great experimental physicists. To understand the results of what we call the Gold Foil Experiment. I won’t go into the details since the link is right there, but it basically discovered the nucleus and established the process for nearly all exploration inside the atom, nucleus, and further inward bound. His results led to the Bohr model of the atom and most of our understanding of chemistry.
Anyway, as I understand, Rutherford didn’t have the math to analyze his team’s results so, as Nobel Laureate, sat in on undergraduate classes, leading to his greatest results.
What humility! And what great results. I imagine it must have been difficult. Hmm… or maybe it was fun. Having a PhD in physics has given me freedom to do what others might be scared of making them look dumb. Maybe he got that same freedom.