Friday, October 30, 2015

Keeping an impractical scientist around the industrial lab

[Clinton J. (Davy) Davisson] decided to stay at [Bell Labs] when the war ended. He was allowed to carve out a position as a scientist who rejected any kind of management role and instead worked as a lone researcher, or sometimes a researcher teamed with one or two other experimentalists, pursuing only projects that aroused his interest. he seemed to seemed to display little concern about how (or whether) such research would assist the phone company. . . . Frank Jewett ad no illusions that his Western Electric shop was in the business of increasing human knowledge; they were in the business of increasing phone company revenues. By allowing Davisson a position on staff, though, Jewett and his deputy Harold Arnold recognized that Davy had financial value. If he was helpful to the researchers working on real-world problems, he was worth keeping around.
Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p.

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