When I had cancer in 1997, I more or less followed Cousins' advice. Many people try to heroically combine doing their jobs with undergoing chemotherapy, but with Cousins' theory in mind, I immediately went on disability and just did whatever I liked. I reread all Robert Heinlein's novels, took long walks along the Chicago lakefront, played golf, and carefully polished perhaps my best article Is Love Colorblind? And I slept 12 hours per day. (Nice work if you can get it.)
Did it work? I dunno, but 15 years later, I'm still here.
"That made it apparent to me that there was a new breed in America," he said, "people who were business executives, or in science, say, who were interested in ideas but not interested in intellectual cliques or literary gossip. I recognized that this was one of the most exciting intellectual developments of our times -- but its manifestations hadn't been acted upon by those in the world of communications."
This picture of a young DeGolyer, tired and muddy but rightly happy, is my favorite in Daniel Yergin's monumental history of the oil industry, The Prize. The caption reads, "The geologist Everett Lee DeGolyer, sitting on a porch near Tampico after his discovery in 1910 of what became Mexico's Golden Lane. By 1921, Mexico was the world's largest oil producer." It's a great picture of the Enterprising Young American.
DeGolyer would be high on the list of Most Valuable Americans whom nobody these days has ever heard of. The oil industry is a massive contributor to the wealth of America, and DeGolyer contributed as much to the success of the American oil industry in the first half of the 20th Century as anybody. Yergin writes:
No man more singularly embodied the American oil industry and its far-flung development in the first half of the twentieth century than DeGolyer. Geologist -- the most eminent of his day -- entrepreneur, innovator, scholar, he had touched almost every aspect of significance in the industry. Born in a sod hut in Kansas ... while still an undergraduate, he took time time off to go to Mexico, where in 1910, he discovered the fabulous Portrero del Llano 4 well. ... It was the biggest oil well ever discovered ...
That was only the beginning. DeGolyer was more responsible than any other single person for the introduction of geophysics into oil exploration. He pioneered the development of the seismograph, one of the most important innovations in the history of the oil industry ...
He put together one big oil firm, Amerada, then started the premiere oil engineering consulting firm, DeGolyer and McNaughton. He made $2 million per year during the Depression. In 1943, FDR sent him on a top secret mission to Saudi Arabia to figure out how important that hunk of desert was. One of his staffers reported back, "The oil in this region is the greatest single prize in all history."
Eventually he grew bored with making money and gave a lot of it away. ... He was a founder of what became Texas Instruments. He was a considerable historian of chili. He built an extraordinary collection of books. He bailed out the Saturday Review of Literature when it was about to go bust, and became its chairman, though he never did care much for its politics.