At the same time it offered the hope, as it still does, that improved understanding could better the lot of mankind. For me, growing up in the 1930s, the two motivations powerfully reinforced each other.
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My father is a real idealist, and he's all about learning. If I asked for a pair of Nikes growing up, it was just a resounding 'No.' But if I asked for a saxophone, one would appear and next day and I'd be signed up for lessons. So anything to do with education or learning, my father would spare no expense.