Jo. Biography of an inimitable pacifist nuclear scientist?
Keeper of the Nuclear Conscience, Andrew Brown, Oxford University Press, Pp 348, $ 29.95 ?
This is a very interesting biography of Jozef Rotblat, known as Jo, who was born in November 1908 at Warsaw, the capital of a Russian province then. His father Zelman Totblat was a successful businessman and prominent figure at the local synagogue. Jo had an idyllic childhood with frequent trips made to the countryside taken by horse and buggy in the boisterous company of his siblings, who called him ‘Jozio’. His two sisters were taught Polish and Jozio would eavesdrop on their lessons, picking up the language and correcting their mental arithmetic. Jo was nearly 12 years old when the armistice with the Soviets was signed in October and he had spent half his childhood in a war-torn city. “He saw his family become destitute, he was bullied in food queues, felt the crump of artillery fire in his eardrums and gut, and witnessed deaths through violence or illness.”
As his father’s crowning ambition was to make Jo a rabbi, the latter had his early education as a heder taught by a local rabbi. The suitability of that religious education with memorising of the Torah stuck Jo as pointless waste of time and by the age of 10, he doubted the existence of God. This led to a rift with his father and for some years the two barely spoke.
Jo chose to study electrical engineering where he demonstrated a precocious ability to memorise long tables of meaningless figures and was thus put in charge of cataloguing the school library instead. There he was able to read science textbooks and feed his imagination with science fiction written by Jules Verne and HG Wells. He felt physics was the fundamental science of Nature and joined the Free University of Poland in Warsaw. He was taken under his wings by Ludwik Wertenstein under whom Jo began research into slow and fast neutron bombardment for about five years and published 15 papers. Meanwhile Jo heard about heavy bombing of Warsaw on the radio. At this time, he had been conducting research on the cyclotron and was concerned with finding the degree to which the inelastic scattering of fast neutrons took place in uranium. Fellow scientist Chadwick told Jo to take on British citizenship and go to USA on their bomb project but Jo was more interested in returning to Poland after the war to help in restoration of the country’s institutions.
He heard the news of his wife Tola’s sudden and shocking death in Germany’s attack on Warsaw and he went into long depression. He ultimately agreed to go to USA. Though he worked as a nuclear physicist, the idea of developing destructive weapons appalled him. So he took to study of radiobiological processes as he was interested in use of radiation in cancer treatment. With long hours of research and hard work he achieved his objective. His contribution to use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes can never be ignored.
This is a very beautifully written biography of an inimitable nuclear scientist.
(Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP)
Krishna as Management Guru?
Management Guru Lord Krishna, OP Jha, Diamond Books, Pp 184, Rs 150.00?
In the last quarter of the 20th century, management emerged as an important discipline. It is important because in every field of life, management becomes important, be it management of the day, or of life, or of one’s shop or of people in an office.
Lord Krishna after a span of thousands of years still manages to stimulate the imagination of the common man, showing him the way to manage adversities and all kinds of perils in his life. On going through his life story, we discover certain aspects of his management skill, though not in pure definitive terms. He is seen in his best form just before the war of Mahabharata, which was going to be fought on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Armies of the Karuavas and the Pandavas were assembled on the field, but all of a sudden Arjuna, on seeing that his own kith and kin would have to be killed in the war, was all set to surrender. It is in such instances that the need for a guru arises to remind the warrior the importance of duty over sentiments and emotions. For Arjuna the war of Mahabharata was to be fought for the sake of the throne, but for Krishna, this was not a battle for succession. He intended to uproot the very cause of war. For Arjuna, Duryodhana was his opponent but for Krishna, Duryodhana was the symbol of wicked force. He wanted to eliminate the cause of all evils and establish the victory of righteousness.
Krishna takes Arjuna into confidence and preaches to him to observe his duty and puts forth his philosophy forcefully and logically so as to convince Arjuna. His sermons are acclaimed even today and the entire body of his preaching is known as the Gita, which is literally a collection of verses. In fact, it’s a manifesto on understanding of life.
The author then goes on to explain the principles of management on the basis of Lord Krishna’s actions at various stages of life.
In today’s world too, when managing an organisation, the chief appoints a person on the basis of his talent, qualification and experience. Without going into the past, one cannot judge a person’s experience. So for finding all about a person’s experience, he has to go into the past. Thus skilful employment of the past is an art for betterment of the present. But to live in the present, you have to get rid of all negativities and prejudices. Once this is done, the organisation can start looking at the present, at ‘what is’ and thus understand what to expect. We can understand the expectations of our boss, feelings of our subordinates, intentions of our colleagues and what are the rumours floating around because they too give a glimpse of things happening around. In a similar fashion, Krishna knew he was born in a prison, his parents were put behind bars, his maternal uncle wanted to kill him, so since his childhood phase, he started killing demons sent by Kansa, his maternal uncle; he killed Kansa even because he knew the latter was evil. Krishna was aware of his own strengths and knew that the Kauravas were very powerful, so he applied his understanding and knowledge through a clear and sharply focused mind.
The book suggests some of the inherent messages conveyed through Krishna’s method of tackling the situations in his life and which brought him success in managing them:
Use past experiences for the betterment of the present
Breed no hang-ups
Look at any object, animate or inanimate, without prejudice
After looking, try to grasp the gist of the object
Compare the object with other things
After comparison, feel other’s point of view regarding the object
Judge, but don’t be judgmental
Find that the image you have built of the object in your mind is useful or not
Watch what is going on and decide if it is correct
Find out if any change is expected from you
Try to think if you are in a position to change anything or not
Before understanding any object/organisation, you need to understand yourself
You need to understand the depth of a pond only to swim without any hurdle. Gauging the depth is not your goal.
(Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd, X-30, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase II, New Delhi-110 020; www.diamondbook.in)
Creation as the essence of entrepreneurship ?
The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career, Reid Hoffman & Ben Casmocha, Random House Business Books, Pp 260, £12.99 ?
The authors begin on the premise that all humans are entrepreneurs, not because they should start companies but because the will to create is encoded in the human DNA – “Creation is the essence of entrepreneurship.”
To adapt to the challenges of professional life today, we need to rediscover an entrepreneurial instincts and use them to forge new careers. Whether we are a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer or even a business owner, we must think of ourself as an entrepreneur at the helm of our career. This book provides the start-up mindsets and skill needed to adapt to the future. The strategies suggested help us expand the reach of our network, gain a competitive edge and land better professional opportunities.
The authors talk of the traditional careers paths over the last 60 years or so, when “the job market for educated workers worked like an escalator because after graduating from college, you could find an entry level job at the bottom of the escalator at an IBM or a GE or Goldman Sachs,” (the authors are talking of America and not India) but it is no longer so now. Today this keeps middle-aged workers stuck in promotion-less limbo; at worst, it squeezes them out in order to make room for more senior talent. The authors add, “Today it is hard for the young to get on the escalator; it’s hard for the middle-aged to ascend, and it’s hard for anyone over sixty to get off.”
With the death of traditional career paths, the kind of traditional professional development previous generations enjoyed is not there. You can no longer count on employer-sponsored training to enhance your communication skills or expand your technical know-how. Companies no longer want to invest in you because you are not likely to stick on to one job.
(Random House Business Books, Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA; www.randomhouse.co.uk) —MG