Reading, Pennsylvania, is not a breeding ground of scientists. It has no special high school, no major research university. It is a rather humdrum city in the southeastern part of the state that flourished making iron cannons during the Revolutionary War and, later, servicing railroads and their commerce. Today, with 78,000 people, it is best known as perhaps the largest factory-outlet center in the Northeast, a place where shoppers from Virginia to Massachusetts pick their way through hangars full of discount blue jeans and irregular shirts. John Updike has made the towns around Reading his Yoknapatawpha County, familiarizing American readers with the region's "close-packed rows of semi-detached brick dwellings" and their "idle alleys and darkened foursquare houses."
Yet, Reading is David Haile's town, and David in 1989 confounded all the theories about early training for young scientists by winning a Westinghouse for contriving a new method of classifying butterflies. David is a tall, lanky teenager with blue eyes behind silver-rimmed glasses. He could be the earnest, diligent lad of Up‐ dike's boyhood novel, The Centaur, the son of a sweet-natured teacher in an unremarkable town. What makes David remarkable, though, is that he is a virtuoso at science and mostly self-taught at that. By age seventeen, he had already won dozens of state and national science competitions. The accountant in his blood prompted him to keep a log of his winnings, and when I interviewed him, these added up to $18,265 in cash and scholarships and an additional $23,000 in expenses-paid travel.
But David did not just emerge as a full-blown scientific genius from his mother's womb. There were forces in his background that seemed to steer him toward inventive science. Years of hard work