Dr. Austin is a professor of neurology at the University of Colorado. A great part of his successful career has been spent in research into metabolic disorders affecting the nervous system of such rarity and complexity that one would have supposed it impossible to present such work in a form intelligible to the general public. However, he has not only succeeded in doing just that, but also conveyed some of the facination and excitement of the hunt which accompanies research in any field.
Scientists are seldom wholly frank about the way they go to work. A scientific paper looks like a coherent series of logical steps culminating in an inescapable conclusion. As Dr. Austin demonstrates, the creative process does not work like this. All kinds of factors, including the personality of the investigator, the people he happens to meet, and sheer chance, contribute to the advance of knowledge.
Many scientists have rather limited interests outside their own field; or, if they do profess cultural enthusiasms, consider these as entirely separate from the rigorous intellectual activity of their professional life. Not so Dr. Austin. He is a painter, a musician, and also widely read.What he realizes and demonstrates in his book is that his research into the malfunction of the nervous system owes much to his outside interests. Research, in his view, is no narrow intellectual exercise, but an activity in which the whoe man participates. Ideas come to him under all sorts of circumstances, often when he is far away from the laboratory. He has a chapter on meditation in which he cites neurological experiments demonstrating its value for making new associations. Such a chapter, even 20 yars ago, would be very unlikely to have stemmed from the pen of a neurologist.
No one can force the creative process, but Dr. Austin's last chapterss are frull of good, practical advice as to how to woo the muse. "Never stay so busy that you don't have time to day-dream". Adopt some active hobbies that provide contrast." "Know something about the structure of luck so that at least you don't do anything to discourage it.
Any writer will recognize and agree with much of what Dr.Auctin has to say. What I hope, and what he must hope too, too, is that his book will be read by his "hard-headed" scientist colleagues as well as by those humanists to whom it has more obviously immediate appeal. Anyone engaged in any kind of original immediate work will find the book rewarding. (Columbia University, $12.95)