Daniel Lemire's blog

, 1 min read

Seth Roberts and research

Seth Roberts was one of my favourite bloggers. He recently passed away. Seth was an original fellow. He completed his PhD and went on to secure a job at a leading university… only to effectively reject the academic model. He retired early.

I have exchanged a few emails with Seth over the years and was even featured on his blog once. I think I am not too far off if I describe Seth’s principles for good research as follows…

  • Be willing to spend a long time (decades) on one problem before you get results.
  • Seek useful ideas, not prestige.
  • Dare to attack problems as an outsider.

Was Seth a success in the end? His recent work certainly did not earn him any favours within academia. Yet I think that Ben Casnocha expressed how many of us feel:

Like many who knew him or read his stuff, I’ll miss Seth. He was a one-of-a-kind thinker.