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Clyde Tombaugh

Discoverer of Planet Pluto

Clyde Tombaugh: You carry on through even despite of discouraging situations and you never lose sight of the goal. Often, you experience hardships involved like freezing in that cold dome at night, loss of sleep, and that gets pretty wicked, but I was interested in getting the results. It takes a dedication to achieve that kind of thing. A lot of people would give up and quit.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

Charles Townes: I listened very carefully to the reasoning that other people had of why it wouldn't work. And some of them had theoretical reasons why they believed it wouldn't work. Others practical reasons. I listened very carefully to that. And I looked at those reasons very carefully, and I convinced myself that, no, they had not really understood it fully. That I thought they were wrong. But I examined it very carefully. I kept examining myself and my own ideas, of course. Now some people agreed with me. But not a large number, and as I say, no one thought it was exciting enough to try to do it themselves. I had no competition at all. Interestingly, when the laser came along, and when I started talking about the laser, then everybody jumped in, and everybody wanted to do it. With the maser, it was really too new and different, and people didn't quite see the future of it. And after the maser was working, then it became the property of the field, the maser did. It became quite popular for a while. And then when Schawlow and I -- Arthur Schawlow and I -- wrote a paper about the laser, then that was exceedingly popular and everybody jumped in to try to make a laser. That was a very different kind of environment. But the really first ideas were not seized on by other people at all, and that's where the scientist has to be ready to be alone a bit.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

I didn't have very much money when I went to Cal Tech. I had been at Duke University before that, and I wanted to go to Cal Tech, which I felt at that time was the best place in physics during that period, as I believe it was. Oppenheimer was there, Millikan was there, and many other very well-known people. I could not, however, get a fellowship or any help at Cal Tech. Coming from a relatively small school, Furman University, and then at Duke, the competition was too fierce, and I just didn't get any help at Cal Tech. But I had saved up five hundred dollars and I decided, well, I'll take my five hundred dollars and I'll go to Cal Tech, and see how long I can last. And so I was rather abstemious when I got there. And I got together with another student who also didn't have any excess money, and we slept on this sleeping porch all the first year. And then, fortunately, Cal Tech gave me a teaching assistantship, which from then on allowed me to pay my expenses there.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

It's very important to be able to be wrong. That is, you want to be able to stand up against criticism, or people who differ with you. You want to be able to take chances. You also want to be able to recognize when you're wrong. And you're going to be wrong some of the time, and it doesn't hurt a scientist to be wrong, especially if he can recognize it. If he recognizes it first, that's great. If somebody else recognizes he's wrong and proves it to him, well then okay, you accept that. Yes, I was wrong. And so you go on and do something else. It's the sorting out of what's right and what isn't right, we do it all the time. And sure, we're wrong some of the time and we're right some of the time. But the fact that we can sort that out and decide is what's great about science. So you can continue to build on what is right, and when that's tested by other people, you may have to stand up against the community for some time, but eventually, other people will be able to decide whether you're right or wrong. Doing experiments and showing it, for one thing. Or doing the experiment and finding out it doesn't work. Then you know. You don't want to waste too much time on being wrong, you want to say, "Well all right, I was wrong, and what did I learn from that?" And go on and find a better way of doing things.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

I've made plenty of mistakes, I've had setbacks, made mistakes in that sense. I don't consider them setbacks. If I work for a while on something, and find out that my idea wasn't right, well okay. It's not exactly a setback, I've explored that path. Down that particular path doesn't lead anywhere, and so I've done something. To me it doesn't seem like a setback. It's a mistake, you might say. So I go off some other way, so it's certainly not painful. But I've done plenty of things that aren't right that I find out about, made missteps. The idea is to try to figure out the best thing to do, but stay self-critical. As soon as you find you're wrong, backtrack and do something else.
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Ted Turner

Founder, Cable News Network

We didn't have hardly any commercials -- regular commercials like Procter & Gamble or Budweiser or Coca Cola. They didn't buy us because we weren't -- for the most part, they wouldn't buy us because we didn't have ratings and we were too small. But we were able to sell records and tapes and Crazy Glue and things like that. People would mail -- usually they would mail a check for $19.95 in, plus shipping and handling. What I would do is to see where they came from, and I would separate the letters. The letters from Atlanta would go here, and the letters from outside of Atlanta would go over here, and if I got 100 letters in Atlanta and I got 200 outside of Atlanta, I figured the audience was twice as big outside of Atlanta as it was inside of Atlanta. While I was going through these letters -- I swear to God, this is the truth -- it turns out that about one out of ten letters -- the Post Office department was real sloppy, and they wouldn't stamp them. You know? It was a used postage stamp. So I would tear those postage stamps off, and we'd use them again on our outgoing mail to save money. The Chairman of the Board was up there pulling the stamps off the letters. That's a funny story, isn't it?
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Ted Turner

Founder, Cable News Network

If something happens to you that breaks your heart, that's not going to do you or anybody any good. What you've got to do is shake it off, and just like if you're playing for a baseball team. You get beat on Friday? Well, you know you got Saturday and Sunday, and if you get beat on Saturday and Sunday, well, there's Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And if you get beat all year like the Braves -- the first four years I owned them, they came in last every time in their division, and set a record that stands today with the most consecutive last place finishes since divisional play was started. But I didn't quit. And 18 years later, I won the World Series, and we had the best team in the history of sports. For 13 consecutive years, we won our division.
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Ted Turner

Founder, Cable News Network

Ted Turner: It was hard to lose my sister and then, a couple years later, my father too. If I had spent my time just sitting down and thinking about it, it would have absolutely crushed me. I did give it some thought, obviously, but in both cases, whenever I had tragedy occur in my life, I'd just go work harder. I think that's the best way to heal from wounds -- spiritual wounds, wounds of the heart. The best thing to do is to get your mind off of it as quickly as you can, and the best way to do that is do something that requires your thought process and your efforts, so that you can do something else and concentrate on it and grow, grow out of the tragedy.
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