I went to high school in 1958. The previous year, the Russians had launched Sputnik 1, the first manmade satellite to be put into orbit. As an 11-year-old boy who loved science fiction, I thought that was the coolest thing imaginable, and at that moment I decided that I wanted to be a scientist.
I didn’t really know what science was, but I knew it had put a spacecraft into orbit and I wanted to be part of that exciting new world. By the time I was ready to go to university, I decided that I was more interested in the mathematics that I had studied hard to improve my chances of becoming a scientist, than the science itself. All thoughts of working directly on space exploration evaporated. But it all began with Sputnik 1.
Keith Devlin is author of books including he Math Instinct: Why You’re a Mathematical Genius (Along with Lobsters, Birds, Cats and Dogs) (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and Sets, Functions, and Logic: An Introduction to Abstract Mathematics (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website