Thomas C. Südhof - "Learning how to be a musician taught me how to be a scientist."

I had been interested in many different subjects in high school, in fact all subjects except for sports which I found primitive - now ironic to me as I have become addicted to regular exercise. Early on, I became fascinated by classical music. After unsuccessful attempts at playing the violin, I gave this instrument up to the delight of everyone around me who had to listen to me trying. However, I then decided to learn to play bassoon, which I pursued with a vengeance, motivated by a wonderful teacher (Herbert Tauscher) who was the solo-bassoonist at the local opera house, and who probably taught me more about life than most of my other teachers. I credit my musical education with my dual appreciation for discipline and hard work on the one hand, and for creativity on the other. I think trying to be marginally successful in learning how to be a musician taught me how to be a scientist: there is no creativity if one does not master the subject and pay exquisite attention to the details, but there is also no creativity if one cannot transcend the details and the common interpretation of such details, and use one's mastery of the subject like an instrument to develop new ideas.

I did not know what to do with my life after school, except that I was determined not to serve in the military. More by default than by vocation, I decided to enter medical school, which kept all avenues open for a possible career in science or as a practitioner of something useful - as a physician - and allowed me to defer my military service. I thought that music, philosophy, or history were more interesting subjects than medicine, but I did not feel confident that I had sufficient talent to succeed in these difficult areas, whereas I thought that almost anybody can become a reasonably good medical doctor.

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