I.I. Rabi on teaching science in a humanistic way



In the early 1960s, Nobel Prize Winner physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi (1898-1988) promoted the idea that science needs to be taught in a humanistic way.¹

He said, “Science is an adventure of the whole human race to learn to live in and perhaps to love the universe in which they are. To be part of it is to understand, to understand oneself, to begin to feel that there is a capacity within man, far beyond what he felt he had, of an infinite extension of human possibilities….” Then, he added,

I propose, that science be taught at whatever level, from the lowest to the highest, in the humanistic way. It should be taught with a certain historical understanding, with a certain philosophical understanding, with a social understanding and a human understanding in the sense of the biography, the nature of the people who made this construction, the triumphs, the trials, the tribulations².


(1) From the G Holton, F. J. Rutherford, F. Watson, Project Physics Course, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York (1970, 1981), preface.

(2) As explained by Gerald Holton in his article, “I. I. Rabi As Educator and Science Warrior” (Physics Today 52, 9, 37 (1999); doi: 10.1063/1.882811), Rabi pronounced his statement privately when accepting to be the head of the advising committee of the Harvard Physics Project. He later gave his permission to be quoted in the preface of the first book from the Harvard Physics Project.

Holton: “With the intention of asking Rabi to head the advisory committee of our project, I described its intended approach. To my surprise, he agreed immediately. It seemed to touch something that he had already been deeply convinced of. He accepted my request, and moreover allowed us to print, at the top of the first page of the text, the following impromptu remarks, as I recorded them:…”




SOBRE EL AUTOR: José G. Álvarez Cornett ( @Chegoyo en Twitter )

Miembro de COENER, y del grupo “Physics and Mathematics for Biomedical Consortium“. Representante de los Egresados ante el Consejo de Escuela de Física, Facultad de Ciencias, UCV. Docente de Historia de la Ciencia en la Escuela de Física, Facultad de Ciencias, UCV.


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