This interview with Lewis Thomas took place in January 1984 in his office at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. We invited Dr. Thomas to participate, knowing that, although not a specialist in education, he has written essays and books expressing a profound concern about the nuclear threat and the life of the planet. We very much appreciate his willingness to contribute to this special issue.
As a physician and biologist, Dr. Thomas is perhaps best known for his book, Lives of a Cell
. His recently published volume, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony
, contains several essays on the threat to the planet posed by nuclear weapons. His comments here reflect an understanding of education that emphasizes the media's role in providing information. In his view, the media has failed to inform the public about recent research on the biological effects of nuclear war, and he suggests that scientists have a responsibility to assist the media in understanding complex scientific findings. He expresses hope in peoples eventual ability to expand their idea of community so that it transcends national boundaries. In preparing this transcript we took some liberties with the text, rearranging the order of sections to clarify the main themes of the discussion.
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