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In John Barry’s The Great Influenza, Barry characterizes the tedious and uncertain work of scientific investigators, and compares their work to the minimal rewards that are reaped in order to convey the immense amount of courage required to become a scientific investigator. Barry analyzes the qualities and virtues of the scientists in order to paint a picture of the uncertainty of science.
One of Barry’s main points in his passage is the metaphor where he compares scientific research to literally exploring the unknown. He writes, “would analyzing the water after it passes over the rock reveal anything useful? How would one analyze it?” Barry is conveying the difficulties of exploring the unknown by emphasizing that it is difficult to make proper decisions when everything is suspended in a state of uncertainty. Analyzing anything is put under question: should scientists analyze the substance? How do they analyze the substance? What should they do after the finish analyzing? By conveying the difficulty of the situation that researchers are often put in, Barry successfully characterizes the tedious and uncertain work of scientific investigators.
Barry also writes about the virtues and qualities that are needed in order to become a proficient scientific researcher. He writes that aside from intelligence and curiosity, “passion, patience, creativity, self-sufficiency, and courage” are needed. Not only are these virtues required to be productive in the scientific field, Barry writes that these virtues are very hard to develop and to come by; they aren’t everyday virtues. Barry especially emphasizes on the virtue of courage. He writes that uncertainty causes fear, and that true courage is to accept uncertainty. In a field where everything is uncertain, scientific researchers must “move forcefully and aggressively”, even though the situation is uncertain. To do so, the researchers must possess “a confidence and strength deeper than physical courage”. By articulating the large amount of virtues and qualities needed in order to become a proficient scientific researcher, Barry conveys the fact that not only is scientific work tedious and uncertain, it requires a great deal of courage from the researchers themselves.
Finally, Barry describes the hardships that the researchers face after all of the tedious and uncertain work. He writes that, ultimately, even after a success, “a flood of colleagues will pave roads over the path laid, and those roads will be orderly and straight, taking an investigator in minutes to a place the pioneer spent months or years looking for…the perfect tool will be available for purchase.” Barry conveys that after all of the hard work that the researchers have put in, there are only minimal rewards to reap, and the product of their hard work will be sold off to the masses and treated as nothing more than “laboratory mice”. By doing so, Barry characterizes not only the tedious and uncertain work of scientific investigators, but also the fact that the investigators must possess a great deal of courage, not only during the research, but for the years after.
Barry characterizes the tedious and uncertain work of scientific investigators, and compares their work to the minimal rewards that are reaped in order to convey the immense amount of courage required to become a scientific investigator. Barry analyzes the qualities and virtues of the scientists in order to paint a picture of the uncertainty of science.
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