Auto-methods and auto-meta-methods of successful people?
August 13, 2016 12:19 PM   Subscribe

So Descartes got a lot of things right (and a lot of things wrong), but, arguably, he had vast impact on all science that came after him. He was successful. And, not a ton, but a little bit, he tries to explicitly communicate the method by which he got his results. So, not just the steps he took to get his results, but the method that generated the steps...

Are there other "successful" historical (or contemporary) individuals who talk about their methods in surviving sources? Businessmen? Strategists? Generals? Monarchs? Not just their worldviews, conclusions, the steps that the took, and what happened, but the methods they used to generate those steps? How they thought, among other things?
posted by zeek321 to Education (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (And statesmen(people), diplomats, politicians, negotiators...)
posted by zeek321 at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2016

I think Ben Franklin would likely qualify.
posted by Michele in California at 1:08 PM on August 13, 2016

Just learned of Algorithms to Live By yesterday and it looks interesting.
posted by rhizome at 1:25 PM on August 13, 2016

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" is like that. Also "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"

Richard Feynman was a real character, of course. He also won a Nobel Prize in Physics, and was involved in a lot of really important work in Quantum Theory. (And he was on the Manhattan Project.)

Those books aren't about quantum mechanics, They're more a series of memoirs. One of them is about his father (grandfather? uncle? It's been years since I read it) taking him for a walk in the woods and pointing out different kinds of plants. The senior also made the point that knowing the name of something isn't the same as knowing about the thing, which lesson seems to have stuck with Feynman his whole life.

Feynman was invited to join the committee that was formed to investigate the destruction of the shuttle Challenger. The "investigation" turned out to be a whole bunch of formal presentations by NASA top administrators whose purpose was to prove that no one was at fault. It didn't take long for Feynman to decide that was all bullshit and he went off on his own and started talking to the people who actually knew what was going on: grunt engineers and senior technicians.

When the primary report was eventually written, Feynman wrote his own report and insisted that it be attached. It was because of Feynman that we know that the decision makers had become innured to risk and made the decision to launch that day for political reasons, ignoring the real danger from low temperature.

If I'm remembering properly, he wrote an article about how he did all that and it's in one of those books. Feynman was the perfect combination of brains, prestige, irreverence, and the common touch, to puncture all the bullshit that the NASA brass tried to use to baffle the committee.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:27 PM on August 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Albert Einstein's thought experiments come to mind. He thought things out qualitatively before he did the math.

Thomas Edison left a legacy of quotations about experimentation and hard work.

The story of the discovery of the structure of benzene is here. it involves a famous dream. Maybe...
posted by SemiSalt at 4:41 PM on August 13, 2016

Do you know that 'methods' papers in chemistry, biology, physics, and many natural sciences are among the most cited papers in their fields? So e.g. western blots and Monte Carlo markov chains and PCR and CRISPR and many many other powerful, influential methods all have key source publications that get cited thousands of times.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:02 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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