Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity and the less they are deflected by considerations of immediacy of application, the more likely they are to contribute not only to human welfare but to the equally important satisfaction of intellectual interest which may indeed be said to have become the ruling passion of intellectual life in modern times.
An institution which sets free successive generations of human souls is amply justified whether or not this graduate or that makes a so-called useful contribution to human knowledge. A poem, a symphony, a painting, a mathematical truth, a new scientific fact, all bear in themselves all the justification that universities, colleges, and institutes of research need or require.
I noticed quite early that Ehrlich would work long hours at his desk, completely absorbed in microscopic observation. Moreover, his desk gradually became covered with colored spots of every description. As I saw him sitting at work one day, I went up to him and asked what he was doing with all his rainbow array of colors on his table. Thereupon this young student in his first semester supposedly pursuing the regular course in anatomy looked up at me and blandly remarked, „Ich probiere:“ This might be freely translated, „I am trying“ or „I amjustfooling.“
I replied to him, „Very well. Go on with your fooling.“ Soon I saw that without any teaching or direction whatsoever on my part I possessed in Ehrlich a student of unusual quality.
Es ist eigentlich wie ein Wunder, dass der moderne Lehrbetrieb die heilige Neugier des Forschens noch nicht ganz erdrosselt hat; denn dieses delikate Pflänzchen bedarf neben Anregung hauptsächlich der Freiheit; ohne diese geht es unweigerlich zugrunde. Es ist ein großer Irrtum, dass Freude am Schauen und Suchen durch Zwang und Pflichtgefühl gefördert werden könne (Quelle: Autobiographisches, In: Albert Einstein als Philosoph und Naturforscher, hrsg. von Paul Arthur Schilpp)