The United States remains the world's pacesetter in science based on patents, research papers, and other criteria. The origins of many of its breakthroughs may surprise you, however.
A sizable number of pioneering scientists were "outsiders," emerging from undergraduate institutions of only modest scientific renown.
That outsider's status, historian and sociologist J. Rogers Hollingsworth says, fosters an entrepreneurial spirit that spurs creativity. A professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin renowned for his study of innovation and the organizations best at fostering it, he discusses his analysis of the scientists and institutions associated with major discoveries of the past century on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The presentation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship in American Science: From Rags to Riches, is co-presented by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
For the past two decades, Hollingsworth has examined research organizations worldwide and whether there are different approaches and structures that are more conducive to innovation. The biggest threat to America's competitiveness, he says, may be the massive size of major research universities, which produce a high volume of published work but not a corresponding increase in "major breakthroughs."
He has recommended heavy investment in a new type of nimble and interdisciplinary science - the creation of smaller-scale research institutes adjacent to, but autonomous from, current universities. They could operate with little bureaucracy and without the constraints of conventional academic departments and thus be more likely to fuel creative thinking.
His research identifies dozens of scientists who made significant advances in organizations with fewer than 50 fulltime researchers.
Though Hollingsworth's presentation will focus primarily on science in the United States, he also will draw on his extensive study of scientists and universities in other countries.
Hollingsworth, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, has been a University of Wisconsin faculty member since 1964. He currently is a visiting scholar at the BioCircuits Institute at the University of California, San Diego and has worked closely with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for several years.
Among his many awards is the Humboldt Research Prize for a career of distinguished research in the social sciences and humanities, presented by Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
A 6 p.m. reception precedes his presentation. Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore.