Scientific inquiry has yielded novel cures for diseases, revealed distant planets and unearthed ancient civilizations. And behind these grand achievements are individual people with a burning question — one that, at some point, set their mind spinning and after that it never stopped.
It’s likely that there came a point when science placed you under its spell as well (after all, you are reading Discover right now). So we asked readers to share the moment that they became hooked on science, and their answers are proof that inspiration can occur anywhere.
Some readers were inspired by events, which led to science-related careers:
“My earliest memory is of the Apollo 11 moon landing… What I remember much more vividly, though, is how excited my father was. He would point at the television and exclaim breathlessly, ‘Look Brad, they’re walking on the moon!’” — Bradford Watson
I entered high school when science fiction had very little attention of the public, and I started listening to Orson Welles’ “Mercury Theater” on the Sunday evening radio…I got home from the theater a couple of minutes late, and the famous “War of the Worlds” show was on. What a shock, and what fun, when I learned of the panic it caused!” — Gordon Kull
“I was first inspired by science when I was six years old and the rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars. I remember going to NASA’s website and playing a game where you had to assemble the rocket and if you did it right you could click the big red launch button and watch the rocket fly to Mars.” — Emma Louden
Sometimes, it just takes a good old-fashioned book to be inspired:
“My mother purchased a set of classic works and I devoured Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. That led to many other science-oriented readings. A neighbor who helped me build a crystal-set radio led to a lifelong interest in science.” — Bill Rashford
“My father brought me a small grocery bag filled with used, paperback science fiction books. From that time on my interest in science was piqued… especially in astronomy!” — Don Bobzien
Other readers became passionate about science by getting their hands dirty:
“The area behind our houses on the north side of the street was bounded by two blocks of ‘back lot.’ I spent hours there; back lot inspiration has afforded me a life of wonderful experiences in the wild… It’s been a joy to observe and take note of animal behavior all these years.” — Mattie Webb
“Scouting got me interested in science. That was back in the day when we went a few hours north of Chicago to a pristine lake in Wisconsin and camped where it looked as if no one had ever been there. We got our drinking water right out of the lake, caught snapping turtles, spent hours watching loons call and dive.” — Paul Cummin
“In the 6th grade I was given a chemistry set and enjoyed watching what happened when I mixed this and that. That evolved into making gunpowder (the ingredients were obtainable from the drug store; I have all my fingers). That evolved into making radios from kits, and then model airplanes. Eventually all that evolved into a doctorate in chemistry.” — John Douglas
Sometimes, scientific curiosity can cause a little trouble:
“(My dad) had a 1940s vintage car with wipers that attached above the glass. One day, when he turned them on, they weren’t there. At the age of 4, I had climbed on the car and I tried to get them to move, or to study them. In so doing, I had turned the wipers 180 degrees so they were up in the air going back and forth — perhaps my first scientific experiment. So happy my folks had a sense of humor.” — Emile Ouellette
But sometimes, that curiosity can be cultivated by a mentor taking you under their wing:
“In 1976, my kindergarten teacher was troubled by my assertion that my best friend, Harvey, was 70 years old… Harvey Carr was my next door neighbor. I spent more hours at his house than I did in school. He helped me build a solar eclipse viewer, got me a membership in the Earth Sciences Club of Illinois, and gifted me a subscription to National Geographic. In short, he inspired my love of science.” — Matt Darst
Now it’s your turn. Can you think back to the first moment science became a lifelong interest for you? Tell us in the comments.