Einstein's luck: the truth behind some of the greatest scientific discoveries
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 discoveryUser Review - Book Verdict
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 believe. He argues that our expectations of science are better served when we acknowledge that it is like any other human endeavor, populated by real people and subject to many extraneous influences, including luck. That scientists are sometimes ambitious and have rivalries, opinions, and even personal lives should not be surprising. Unfortunately, too often the public perceives scientists as immune from human frailties. Among the scientists Waller profiles are Louis Pasteur, who suppressed data that didn't support his theories, and Joseph Lister, whose supposedly sanitary hospital wards were actually filthy. However, readers will be disappointed by the lack of details regarding Albert Einstein's work, which, the title notwithstanding, had nothing to do with luck. There are, in fact, only five references to Einstein in the index, and on four of the pages referenced he is listed only as one of several prominent scientists. The 14-page chapter reputedly discussing "Einstein's luck" actually refers to the controversy surrounding Sir Arthur Eddington's famous 1919 solar eclipse observations, which are often credited as proof for the theory of relativity. Aside from the misleading title, this book is well written and well argued. Fans of Howard Zinn and other iconoclastic historians will enjoy. For larger science history collections.-James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago ...
Fabulous Science: Fact and Fiction in the History of Scientific Discovery
Limited preview - 2004
A People's History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and "low Mechanicks"
Clifford D. Conner
Limited preview - 2005
Right for the wrong reasons
Telling science as it was
and the ratios of fact and fiction
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