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The Real Final Exam: Dr. Coffey’s Lessons to Live By

Donald Coffey was motivated to solve problems, and he had his own unique recipe for doing so. He passed his wisdom onto the thousands of trainees who were fortunate to study with one of the world’s finest teachers.  Among his many revered lessons is what he called the “Real Final Exam.” In it, he extols several time-tested principles:

  • Don’t assume anything you can’t prove.
  • The experiment that doesn’t come out the way you think it should, is the only experiment that is really going to teach you something new.
  • If you find something to be true, what does it imply? Often we don’t need more experiments. We need more critical thinking about the results.
  • Generate more than one concept to explain your data, then give all the possibilities your equal attention and effort. Your pet idea will usually turn out to be just that.
  • When discoveries are made, give everyone credit. You were probably not the first one to study the problem, nor will you be the last.