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Utah State University Faculty Honor Lectures


The Faculty Association, Utah State University

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Among the practitioners of science are people who are called theorists , and this lecture is concerned with the question, Just what is it that a theorist does?

If an experimentalist does experiments, then a theorist presumably does theories. What is a theory? My dictionary defines it as ". . . a system of assumptions, accepted principles, or rules of pro· cedure devised to analyze, predict or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified set of phenomena."

Those who now understand perfectly what a theorist does may stop reading here because everything that follows will be superfluous. For those who are still somewhat in the dark, the rest of this lecture will attempt to explain, in rather more concrete terms, just what it means to be a theorist. Of course, I cannot presume to speak for all theorists; therefore, I am going to discuss only what it means to be a theorist within the context of my own specialty, theoretical chemistry.


This work made publicly available electronically on August 16, 2011.

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