The axis of ideal understanding explained

On the Edge of Common Sense
By Baxter Black, DVM

I have developed a way to evaluate when a person reaches the pinnacle of their profession, their prime, so to speak.

I call it the “Peak of Practical Intelligence.” It states there is a point in the lifetime of a profession where your dependence on your knowledge derived from Education (ED) equals your dependence on your knowledge gained from Experience (EX).

On the graph at the beginning (graduation) your reliance on ED knowledge is at its zenith and your reliance on EX knowledge is at its nadir. As time passes your knowledge from ED, in relation to your knowledge from EX, will decline as defined by percentile.

Thus the lines on the graph will eventually cross. ED will equal EX. That point is your personal Axis of Ideal Understanding. You have reached the Peak of your Practical Intelligence. Thereafter you will rely more on EX than ED.


Although I graduated with a DVM, my first “D” grade was in Algebra as a junior in high school.

In college while attempting to pass the “pre-vet” requirements I received a “D” two semesters running in the 4-hour Physics classes and an “F” in the required 5-hour Calculus and Trigonometry course. The “F” was changed to a “D minus” by a sympathetic graduate student.

In veterinary school I promptly earned an “F” in Physiological Chemistry in which I repeated the final exam and escaped with a “D”.

As a senior in vet school we were required to write a senior paper as part of our senior grade. I chose as my subject “The Anatomy of Five Non-Domestic Animals.”

The faculty members on the committee did not approve of my topic selection; “Stupid, juvenile, frivolous and useless” were the printable criticisms, I recall.

“Do one on Collie Eye or Bog Spavin…” they suggested. I resisted. They threatened if I didn’t choose a more serious subject they would guarantee me a “D”!

My senior paper included the anatomy of the elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and the blue whale. I got a “D”. But I know that a giraffe has cloven hooves and both the blue whale and elephant have internal testicles.

And though I have long passed my Peak of Practical Intelligence, I have used tidbits of anatomical knowledge more often than I have calculated the cosine of someone’s polygon. Suffice it to say, if any of my scientific readers negatively evaluate my Axis theorem, fire away, you can’t scare me with a “D!”