Max Delbrück

Max Delbrück, 1940s

Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück (September 4, 1906March 9, 1981) was a German-American biophysicist and Nobel laureate.


  • If you're too sloppy, then you never get reproducible results, and then you never can draw any conclusions; but if you are just a little sloppy, then when you see something startling, (...) you nail it down (...). So I called it the "Principle of Limited Sloppiness".
  • The progress of science is tremendously disorderly, and the motivations that lead to this progress are tremendously varied, and the reasons why scientists go into science, the personal motivations, are tremendously varied. I have said … that science is a haven for freaks, that people go into science because they are misfits, and that it is a sheltered place where they can spin their own yarn and have recognition, be tolerated and happy, and have approval for it.
    • Interview with Max Delbruck (1978), p. 87. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives, Pasadena, California.
  • The particular thing about science is to combine that [the dreams of obtaining power] with a retreat from the world. Other people want to obtain power by going out into the world, but the scientist really wants to obtain power by retreating from the world.
    • Interview with Max Delbruck (1978), p. 88. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives, Pasadena, California.
  • The scientist addresses an infinitesimal audience of fellow composers. His message is not devoid of universality but it's universality is disembodied and anonymous. While the artist's communication is linked forever with it's original form, that of the scientist is modified, amplified, fused with the ideas and results of others, and melts into the stream of knowledge and ideas which forms our culture. The scientist has in common with the artist only this: that he can find no better retreat from the world than his work and also no stronger link with his world than his work.

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