In their own words: Curiosity as depicted in autobiographies of scientists and inventors

Menucha Birenbaum*, F. Nasser-Abu Alhija, Hany Shilton, Helena Kimron, Rovena Rosanski, Neria Shahor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence regarding curiosity collected from autobiographies of renowned scientists and inventors written in the 20th and 21st centuries were analyzed to detect authentic expressions related to the five-dimensional model of curiosity and personality, in addition to other personal attributes. Explored were also profiles of contextual and personal factors leading scientifically-curious individuals to well-known professional expertise. Statistical analysis yielded three distinct profiles of those factors: The first depicted established families that offered the writers an intellectual home environment occasioning meaningful interactions and exposure to diverse fields and experiences. The writers also mentioned the influence of others throughout their professional development. The second profile depicted difficult background circumstances rendering the writers' areas of interest quite unusual in their family. While not mentioning receiving help from mentors or others, the writers express resilience and determination throughout their professional development. The third profile depicted the middle class's supportive and loving families who provided the writers a safe environment for development yet did not push them in a definite direction. Characterized are highly versatile individuals who considered exploration and learning pure pleasure. The study's contribution to deepening understanding of curious minds and their developmental trajectories was discussed with reference to autobiographical data's advantages and disadvantages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110935
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Autobiographical data
  • Expressions of scientific curiosity
  • Pathways to professional expertise


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