55 years of Cinvestav – reflexions on a conversation

I have yet to read Susana Quintanilla’s written account of the Cinvestav’s founding [Recordar hacia el mañana. Creación y primeros años del Cinvestav. 1960-1970], a nice edition published by the Center in 2002 that sits on the pile of books on my desk. So far, I have followed the story through the autobiography of Pablo Rudomín. We initiated, today, festivities for the 55 years from the creation of the Center. I returned to the lab with three thoughts to share.

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  1. Behavior, Purpose and Teleology were on the mind of the founding director, Arturo Rosenblueth and his close friend and collaborator, Norbert Wiener. The reference was kindly mentioned by Jorge Volpi and José Gordon, in part as an example of the rebellious natures of these individuals who were working against dominant paradigms in the natural sciences at their time. In reading the essay, I was reminded of my earlier remarks on Zouros’ Searching for Purpose
  2. In fact, Norbert Wiener was being chased away from McCarthy’s cleansings. The Cinvestav opened its doors to those fleeing oppressive regimes and is proud of this tradition. Special mention was also made to the military dictatorships in Argentina and Chile ‘helping’ recruitment of qualified scientists: our own Drs Pirincho and Marta Romano (in the department of physiology) provide examples. With due respect to differences, I couldn’t help associate my arrival to the Cinvestav following a flee from Queen Mary and the near-impossibility to return as a scientist and supporter of a family to crisis-striken Greece.
  3. Support basic science. José Gordon closed the event with these words; director José Mustre de León, along with his predececors who opened the event pointed out the same necessity. Such support and dedication to science, determined all we celebrated today. In her book, Susana Quintanilla calls Adolfo López Mateos, President of Mexico (1958-1964), a friend of the polytechnic community. Jorge Volpi labels that period as the golden years of Mexico. The point is that support of basic science is a reflection of the general political situation, of whether a society enjoys prosperity and progress. Cinvestav was founded with the intervention of the National Polytechnic Institute and by presidential decree in 1961. It falls on our shoulders, as well, to move things forward, in Mexico and in the world, once again.

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