Einstein's Luck

Einstein's Luck : Fact and Fiction in the History of Scientific Discovery

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The great biologist, Louis Pasteur suppressed 'awkward' data because it didn't support the case he was making. John Snow, the 'first epidemiologist' was doing nothing others had not done before. Gregor Mendel, the supposed 'founder of genetics' never grasped the fundamental principles of 'Mendelian' genetics. Joseph Lister's famously clean hospital wards were actually notorious dirty. And Einstein's general relativity was only 'confirmed' in 1919 because an eminent British scientist cooked his figures. These are just some of the revelations explored in this book. Drawing on current history of science scholarship, "Fabulous Science" shows that many of our greatest heroes of science were less than honest about their experimental data and not above using friends in high places to help get their ideas accepted. It also reveals that the alleged revolutionaries of the history of science were often nothing of the sort. Prodigiously able they may have been, but the epithet of the 'man before his time' usually obscures vital contributions made their unsung contemporaries and the intrinsic merits of ideas they overturned. These distortions of the historical record mostly arise from our tendency to read the present back into the past. But in many cases, scientists owe their immortality to a combination of astonishing effrontery and their skills as self-promoters.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 127.5 x 196.6 x 18.5mm | 222.26g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0192805673
  • 9780192805676

About John Waller

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.show more

Table of contents

List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Introduction: what is history for?; PART 1: RIGHT FOR THE WRONG REASONS; 1. The pasteurization of spontaneous generation; 2. 'The battle over the electron'; 3. The eclipse of Isaac Newton: Arthur Eddington's 'proof' of general relativity; 4. Very unscientific management; 5. The Hawthorne studies: finding what you are looking for; Conclusion to Part 1: sins against science?; PART 2: TELLING SCIENCE AS IT WAS; 6. Myth in the time of cholera; 7. 'The priest who held the key': Gregor Mendel and the ratios of fact and fiction; 8. Was Joseph Lister Mr Clean?; 9. The Origin of Species by means of use-inheritance; 10. 'A is for ape, B is for Bible': science, religion, and melodrama; 11. Painting yourself into a corner: Charles Best and the discovery of insulin; 12. Alexander Fleming's dirty dishes; 13. 'A decoy of Satan'; Conclusion to Part 2: sins against history?; Notes on sources; Indexshow more

Review quote

"John Waller takes several of our treasured and carefully nurtured illusions about the nature of science and scientists, and systematically uses history to shatter them. Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, John Snow, Gregor Mendel--even Charles Darwin--will never be quite the same again."show more

Rating details

18 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 22% (4)
4 50% (9)
3 17% (3)
2 11% (2)
1 0% (0)
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