11Theory for Development

Fernando Quevedo

Theoretical physics and pure mathematics are often ignored in discussions about the importance of science for development and the well-being of society. However, whenever someone talks about the great minds in the history of science, most of the names that are mentioned are the famous theorists, from Isaac Newton to Albert Einstein and, more recently, from Richard Feynman to Stephen Hawking. The lack of appreciation for the relevance of theoretical scientific subjects has a direct impact on the difficulty of making funds available for researchers in these fields. This may be understandable since, usually, the motivation for their research is curiosity rather than a direct will to solve one particular applied problem. Moreover, when the outcome of their research has direct implications for society, recognizing their contribution is not straightforward. Thus, people tend to leave them out in the distribution of credits for the corresponding application.

Experimental physicists – particularly those working in institutions such as CERN – are equally guided by the curiosity to understand our world but, contrary to theorists, they are closer to technology and, although sometimes questioned by policy makers, their impact on society is easier to appreciate.1) Besides being the biggest experimental facility in the world, CERN also boasts a very active theoretical group that has played a crucial role in the experiments over its 60 years of operation, ...

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