Readers Respond: When Did You Get Hooked on Science?

By Carl Engelking | July 22, 2014 9:27 am


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.

  • Folly Crawford

    When I was 14, I went to a science teacher convention in NOLA. It was so exciting and amazing that it inspired me to pursue science as a career.

  • Keilen Kelly

    In eighth grade I learned about the periodic table of elements and the patterns of properties that ordered them on the table. My interest spiraled into a poster, a calendar, multiple books about chemistry, and eventually a love of science that led me to a biotechnology program in high school.

  • jo

    I watched Jurassic park …now I’m a palaeontologist!

  • Uncle Al

    Mr. Wizard spoke to us. When an aged Don Herbert visited Michigan State, they put him in a TA room. He filled an auditorium. Everybody remembered the Coke bottle, the cork, and the candle. Best Experiment Ever.

  • CollegeOfCuriosity

    All kids are interested in science. Kids are born scientists, and will remain so unless someone beats it out of them.

  • Mariel Mohns

    I was always fascinated with the natural world as a kid. In 4th grade, my science teacher was the real-life Mrs. Frizzle and we dissected owl pellets and cow’s eyes and I “officially” fell in love with science. Finally, in middle school I saw the movie “Outbreak”, and despite its scientific flaws, it made me interested in infectious disease and I dreamed of one day working as a scientist for the CDC. I currently do HIV/AIDS research and keep stepping towards those science dreams.

  • Enrique Segre 21008

    i read the caves of steel by Isaac asimov when I was 8 later I got my hands on a scientific american issue and I was hooked that was in 1950

  • Mike Borrello

    Maybe that microscope my grandparents gave me when I was just 5 years old. But I think its just in my bones.

  • rw

    One day whilst visiting my grandfather’s house, I wandered down to his basement for the first time, I think I was eight or nine years old. I discovered thousands of bottles with varying powders, crystals, liquids, etc. and flasks of all sizes, colors and shapes, and even a mini laboratory. When I asked him what it all was, he said he used chemistry to make a better world. He told me of very well known things that he was part of creating. . . the one that still gives me the chills?

    I can remember some tears in his eyes when he said that he helped design and create the atomic bomb. I knew of the bomb pictures and such because my birthday is August 6th (Hiroshima). I recall years later, when I asked him about the Bomb, that him saying that for better or worse, science is a part of humanity, and that sometimes scientists do everything right and get it totally wrong.

    From that time forward, I was forever caught by the science curiosity…science is a part of our humanity.

  • Isha

    A couple of years ago, my science teacher showed us a documentary of Michael Faraday, where he was emphasized as being a curious and intelligent soul. Somehow my interest was piqued, I felt that I could somehow relate to him. I started looking into him, and came across Einstein’s theories about time. This inspired an obsession with the scientific and philosophical implications of time travel.

  • crocaduck .

    I was always interested in science but it really began with an issue of Discover mag I eyed in the stands in the 80s. The issue which caught my attention was all black except for a small title using a white font in the center… which was ‘The End of the Universe.’ The whole look had a conceptual art feel to it and I loved the title so I purchased it and became hooked. I’ve been reading all things science–from hundreds of books to magazines (including Discover) ever since. I just finished Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn by Amanda Gefter. Fantastic read btw.

  • Ivan

    As a little kid, around 4 years old. Pulling and dragging toy cars around, making paper plains and wondering what causes them to flight, adjusting the wings, putting some other objects onto them and so… :)

  • Emily Arturo

    My biology teacher in high school tried to explain chromophores to us. For whatever reason I just coudln’t get over how amazing that was, that all of what we see is just …MOLECULES! I just kept raising my hand and asking a zillion questions about why bond order had anything to do with that and what it was about those molecules that did that to our eyes. It all clicked in to place right at that moment, and to this day I love all sorts of spectroscopies, and have a hobby of keeping up with GPCR research, even though my thesis work is on dynamic quaternary structures of cytosolic enzymes.

  • Martin Malacara

    Apollo-Soyuz mission, Viking 1 & 2, and Star Trek.

  • JoAnna

    My high school was a low-income, tiny, rundown little art school, so the math/science curriculum generally sucked. But one biology class–and the biology teacher–inspired my love of science through a two-week unit on evolution. After that I would go into her classroom everyday after school and talk about biology and evolution. She’d give me books to read and answer all my questions. I’m so thankful I discovered science because it also led me to discover I wanted to be a science writer!

  • Mike Zhou

    i got interested in science when i got into university and ended up studying physics after an introductory course. it really got me hooked!


The Crux

A collection of bright and big ideas about timely and important science from a community of experts.

See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar