Jonas Salk: As I look upon the experience of an experimentalist, everything that you do is, in a sense, succeeding. It’s telling you what not to do, as well as what to do. Not infrequently, I go into the laboratory, and people would say something didn’t work. And I say, “Great, we’ve made a great discovery!” If you thought it was going to work, and it didn’t work, that tells you as much as if it did. So my attitude is not one of pitfalls; my attitude is one of challenges and “What is nature telling me?” This ideal, this idealized notion that discovery, so to speak, is just something falling into your lap! It’s recognizing something that you might not have anticipated. Or designing an experiment and finding out that it fits within certain parameters, and you see what the patterns of the response are. And basically, it’s entering into a dialogue with nature.
Now, some people might look at something and let it go by, because they don’t recognize the pattern and the significance. It’s the sensitivity to pattern recognition that seems to me to be of great importance. It’s a matter of being able to find meaning, whether it’s positive or negative, in whatever you encounter. It’s like a journey. It’s like finding the paths that will allow you to go forward, or that path that has a block that tells you to start over again or do something else.