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Faces of Science: Marek Zvelebil

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Mariana Cook’s book , “Faces of Science,” portrays 77 scientists who have made many of the most important discoveries of our time. Each photograph is accompanied by a personal essay written by the scientists. The portraits in this online series are accompanied by excerpts from those essays. For more information, please visit Mariana Cook’s website: .

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Faces of Science: Marek Zvelebil-marek
Marek Zvelebil - Photos and Text ©Mariana Cook “Faces of Science”

I discovered the past and the puzzle and mystery it captured quite suddenly one day when I was walking through the forests of my native Bohemia with my father. We stumbled across ruined foundations of a medieval fort or a castle, one that was not marked on the maps. How did it come to be there, what did its ruins mean, what events came to pass there, and why has it been so comprehensively forgotten?

At that time, the country was a communist state, and in the socialist Czechoslovakia of the 1950’s and 1960’s schoolchildren were sent off in the summer to “young pioneer” camps for political indoctrination, to train in the “building of socialism.” The day in such camps usually began with patriotic and revolutionary songs, marches, and trooping in front of the camp leader, who would shout, “For the defense and development of the fatherland, be ready!”– to which one had to yell back, “Always ready!”

All this way extremely boring and embarrassing. At the age of 14 I discovered that if I volunteered to work on archaeological excavations, I could do this instead of being a pioneer. So I spent several happy summers digging for archaeology in a much freer environment, which was intellectually stimulating too. Practical work in the field and intellectually provoking research form the basis of archaeological investigations: this is something fairly distinctive to archaeology as a discipline, and it is one of the main reasons why I remained captivated by archaeology for the rest of my life.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.