Einstein's luck: the truth behind some of the greatest scientific discoveries

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Oxford University Press, 2002 - Fiction - 308 pages
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As John Waller shows in Einstein's Luck, many of our greatest scientists were less than honest about their experimental data. Some were not above using friends in high places to help get their ideas accepted. And some owe their immortality not to any unique discovery but to a combination of astonishing effrontery and their skills as self-promoters. Here is a catalog of myths debunked and icons shattered. We discover that Louis Pasteur was not above suppressing "awkward" data when it didn't support the case he was making. Joseph Lister, hailed as the father of modern surgery because he advocated sanitary conditions, was just one of many physicians who advocated cleaner hospitals--and in fact, Lister's operating room and hospital was far more unsanitary than most. We also learn that Arthur Eddington's famous experiment that "proved" Einstein's theory of relativity was fudged (Eddington threw out two-thirds of his data, 16 photographic plates that seemed to support Newton over Einstein). And while it is true that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by lucky accident, he played almost no role in the years of effort to convert penicillin into a usable drug. But once the miracle drug was finally available, the press hailed him as the genius behind the drug, in part because his story made good copy and in part because war-torn Britain needed a hero (and the other researchers were not British). Einstein's Luck restores to science its complex personalities, bitter rivalries, and intense human dramas which until recently have been hidden behind myths and misconceptions. This richly entertaining book will transform the way we think about science and scientists.

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Fabulous science: fact and fiction in the history of scientific discovery

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In this iconoclastic survey of some of science's most notable discoveries, Waller (The Discovery of the Germ) strives to show that scientific research is less rational and more haphazard than we ... Read full review

Contents

Right for the wrong reasons
20
Telling science as it was
111
and the ratios of fact and fiction
133
Copyright

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About the author (2002)


John Waller is Research Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London. He has taught at Harvard, Oxford, and London universities. He is the author of The Discovery of the Germ: Twenty Years that Transformed our Understanding of Disease.

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