Books et al.SCI POLICY

In defense of basic research

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Science  24 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6327, pp. 804
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8870

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Abraham Flexner, founding director of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, believed in the intrinsic value of the scientist’s curiosity and in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. His 1939 essay, The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, advo­cates for unfettered inquiry that, paradoxi­cally and unexpectedly, has often resulted in extraordinary utility. In a companion essay, Robbert Dijkgraaf, the present director of the Princeton Institute, weaves Flexner's personal story together with compelling new examples that support Flexner’s thesis.