This I Believe

Bronowski, Jacob

  • Jacob Bronowski describes his simultaneous introduction to mathematics and the English language, his love that developed for both subjects, and his belief in using the mind to find truth.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Professor J. Bronowski was born in Poland, but brought up in Germany and England. He studied mathematics at Cambridge and was a university teacher until World War II, when he entered the British government service. Since 1950, he has been Director of the Central Research Laboratory of the British National Coal Board. And The Face of Violence, a radio drama he wrote for the BBC, has won international recognition. This is J. Bronowski's creed.
I've lived most of my life in England. My parents took me there as a small boy because they didn't want me to grow up under the sullen cloud of hate which even then, early in the 1920s, was
gathering to a nightmare over Germany. So I went to an English school to learn in a language which was foreign to me. All those oddities of mathematics and science which opened like a picture puzzle book, half understood and half teasing, to an excited growing boy. My chemistry book was as strange to me because it was written in English, as because it was full of formulae. I had to learn "H2O" and "water" as two foreign words, not one, and both at the same time. I never had time to wonder which was the more difficult language, and to tell you the truth I fell in love with both.
Since then, I've never put a fence between one part of my mind and another. I'm a professional scientist and I spend most of my time in the practical work of directing a large laboratory. But I have
never lost my boyish passion for the great writers of English. I've written two books about English poets, and I hope that this visit to America will make me eager to write a third. But at bottom, I've not come here either as a scientist or as an imaginative writer. I've come here as a man. I want to see this landscape again, from New England to the Pacific. I want to see the people and the ballgames, and the gardens at Charleston, and the new Cosmotron. The delight which I learned from the struggles of my boyhood is delight in the whole of life.
So, my philosophy is that which Albert Schweitzer has put into his own phrase, "reverence for life." But I find "reverence" too passive a word. I would say, actively, an "exploration" of life. I think
every man and woman can live fully if they welcome new experience. But even then, you can't live by simply letting the experiences pass over you. Life can't be treated as a show, however colorful. You have to put questions to your own experience to find a pattern in it, to explore its meaning. And in my own case, I know that I must look for the meaning for myself.
I can't be satisfied to treat my life as the verification of someone else's religion. That is, like Schweitzer, I believe that man's instrument for finding the truth in life, the life within us as well as the life around us, is the human mind. I learned to know myself, I learned to be myself, by exploring the world. I discover myself in my experience of the world. My deepest knowledge, I think, is
always knowledge of myself. But I have to get it actively, by living fully in the world and asking questions of it. To me, this is a rewarding and a happy belief. This is why I find Einstein as rich as Shakespeare, science as rich as poetry, and the pitcher throwing a curve as exciting as a new language, because in these skills, each man discovers himself and mankind fulfills its own humanity.
There the beliefs of Professor J. Bronowski, prominent British scientist, author and radio dramatist.