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I'm currently reading Neil Ascherson's Black Sea, a broad and very readable overview of the region's history.  This passage stood out to me:

'Science' is the word Russian archaeologists use to describe the whole profession of knowledge to which they belong. The word in Russian has none of the limitation to physical sciences or technology which it has acquired in English; a philologist or an art historian is as much a scientist as a molecular biologist, in the sense of the French word 'savant'. Nothing, neither Stalinist terror nor free-market pressures and privations, has been able to rob this Russian term of its majesty.  When Mr Chesnok and his colonists spoke about themselves as 'scientists', I came to understand that they were talking not only about their research but also about something inward and existential. They meant a sort of marble stele in the mind; incised upon it are the moral commandments to which the life of the scientist is dedicated. These commandments include the commitments to truth, to loyal comradeship, to intellectual and personal self-discipline, to an ascesis indifferent to discomfort or money. This is the Rule of a religious order.

I wonder how many Russian scientists would agree with this today?

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Comment by Peter J. Matthews on February 28, 2014 at 9:44

This is probably an idealised view that is still true or aspired to among many scientists in Russia, and that was perhaps never aspired to among others.

Generally speaking, the venal and ascetic forms of science have probably always existed. I would not call it co-existence as their ability to mix is a bit like oil and water.

The public may only see an opaque emulsion, but for each molecule, its independent existence is important.

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