Scientists share certain personality traits. At least, that's what immunologist Avrion Mitchison says after his decades of experience reviewing the backgrounds of scientists for academic appointments. You can make generalizations such as scientists being intelligent or curious, but it is more useful to consider the qualities of a scientist in the context of what successful scientists actually do.
The ability to see the big picture while staying focused on the details is an important quality for a scientist. Whether you call this vision or imagination or creative insight, this quality is essential in a scientist. Successful scientists have the vision to perceive the missing links in the theoretical frameworks of their field, conceive of the solution, design an experiment, and eventually get enough data to prove their ideas to their colleagues.
An Ability to Solve Problems
Scientists solve problems. That is their job at the most basic level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, problem-solving skills are important qualities for all kinds of scientists. Scientists must be able to use scientific methods to deduce solutions, and they need the ability to think conceptually to design experiments to provide useful data.
Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills
Being able to follow an idea all the way through to its logical conclusion is another important quality for scientists. These kinds of analytical and critical thinking skills enable scientists to posit hypotheses to be tested, and to interpret experimental results that might not be exactly what was expected, but are significant in that they point to another possibility to be investigated.
Perseverence might be better described as self-confidence or stubbornness, but perhaps perseverance connotes both of these. Good scientists believe they already know the solution on some level, and they are driven to prove it, to themselves and to the world. History is full of stories about scientists like Louis Pasteur or Marie Curie persevering through decades of scientific toil before reaching their "Eureka!" moments.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Chemists and Materials Scientists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Biochemists and Biophysicists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Physicists and Astronomers
- Emotional Competency: Chapter 10: The Scientist
- Web of Stories: Avrion Mitchison -- Immunologist -- The Key Qualities that Make a Good Scientist
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.