In Memoriam of Steve Jobs, et al

Steve Jobs, January 24, 1955 - October 5, 2011
Allow me to lay my writer’s hat aside for a moment as I embrace my other personalities, the scientist and the educator. If you haven’t read my “About Me” page, you may not know I am both of these things in addition to being an Accidental Writer.

When I was in the classroom I began each year with the same question, “What does a scientist look like?”.

I would put a large piece of white butcher paper on my board and draw a circle on it to represent my scientist’s head. From there, I only drew what my students told me to draw. Each and every year I had some version of the same geeky scientist with freaky hair standing in a laboratory wearing safety goggles and a white lab coat. He often had one of those horrible pocket protectors too.

I always followed up with the same questions, every year.

“Why is the scientist a male?”

“Why is he in a lab?”

“Why is he Caucasian?”

Every year my students were shocked to realize that their preconceived notions of what a scientist is, what they look like, and where they work were seriously lacking.

But I never mentioned Steve Jobs. And by not mentioning Steve Jobs, I feel I seriously failed my students. There is a fine line between science and technology. They are intricately woven together, but still somehow separate in the minds of many in the scientific community. Did my own preconceived notions of who and what a scientist is prevent me from using Steve Jobs as an example in my classroom? Ouch.

My personal science hero is Albert Einstein who is attributed to the quote, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.”

No matter what side of the science versus technology debate you side with, everyone agrees Steve Jobs was a major giant in our time. Here was an opportunity for me to pull up a picture of this man in front of my students and say, “Here is a man working in a field of science who has changed the way our entire planet communicates and he makes more money than any actor, actress, singer, rapper, or movie star you can name.” I failed to give them another giant’s shoulders to stand on.

When we think if important scientists we think if Charles Darwin, Aristotle, Leewenhoek, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, Nikola Tesla, Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, and Jane Goodall. These scientists are the Kobes, Shaqs, Beckhams, and Peyton Mannnings of the science world and yet only one of them is currently living.

How can we inspire our nation’s youth to pursue any avenue of science without giants for them to learn from, look up to, and dream about? To my former students, please accept my sincere apologies. I hope you will take the time to view what I should have shown you in class. Please click this link. May you always follow your curiosity and your intuition.

It is a sad day for the world of technology and the world of science. For Steve Jobs, and all the other giants who came before him, I take my lab coat off to you today. Thank you for your genius and your contributions to our world and society.

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