Leaps in the Dark

Leaps in the Dark : The Making of Scientific Reputations

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In Leaps in the Dark, John Waller presents another collection of revelations from the world of science. He considers experiments in which the scientists' awareness was not perhaps as keen as they might have claimed in retrospect; he investigates the jealousy and opposition that scientific ideas can provoke; he celebrates the scientists who were wrong, but for very good reasons; and he demonstrates how national interest can affect scientists and their theories. The result is an entertaining and highly readable re-examination of scientific discoveries and reputations from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. The tales in Leaps in the Dark range across a wide historical field, from a seventeenth-century witch-finder, Joseph Glanvill, to Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the self-proclaimed 'Father of radar'. Each story underscores the rich, fascinating complexity of scientific discovery. Writing in a clear and engaging style, and skilfully weaving history in with the science, John Waller brings these scientists to life, illustrating how their work and their discoveries influenced their careers and the wider world around them.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 140 x 218 x 26mm | 480.82g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • halftones
  • 0192804847
  • 9780192804846

Review quote

Leaps in the Dark is a good read, and ought to generate much healthy debate. Natureshow more

About John Waller

Dr. John Waller is Lecturer in the History of Medicine and Biology at the Centre for the Study of Health and Society and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne. His previous books for a popular readership, The Discovery of the Germ (Icon Books, 2002) and Fabulous Science (Oxford University Press, 2002, now available in paperback) have been widely and favorably reviewed.show more

Table of contents

Preface; Introduction: The past really is another country; PART I: FALLING FROM GRACE; Introduction to Part I; 1. Joseph Glanvill: scientific witch-finder; 2. The man who made underpants for frogs; 3. Pettenkofer's poisoned chalice; PART II: EUREKA! REVISITED; Introduction to Part II; 4. Sir Isaac Newton and the meaning of light; 5. Dr James Lind and the Navy's scourge; 6. The destruction of Ignaz Semmelweis; PART III: HEROES MADE TO MEASURE; Introduction to Part III; 7. Will the real Johann Weyer please stand up?; 8. Philippe Pinel: the re-forging of a chain breaker; PART IV: DO-IT-YOURSELF HEROES; Introduction to Part IV; 9. The first casualty of war; 10. Rank hath its privileges; Conclusion: The bigger picture; Indexshow more

Review Text

Eureka! moments are the stuff of scientific legend, as are stories of the lone genius battling against back-stabbing colleagues and the entrenched establishment. Most such tales are suspect says author John Waller who re-examines a dozen of the better known ones and who discovers that they are mostly myths. That applies even to some that we might think could not possible be challenged, such as Isaac Newton's demonstration that white light was a spectrum of all the colours. Waller has gone back to original accounts and finds that there many factors which decide who is to become famous in the annals of science. Politics, patriotism, personalities and propaganda are just as likely to create a reputation as to destroy it. Some scientists once highly regarded are now forgotten, while others who were ignored are now idolised. Waller explains how such posthumous changes of fortune can come about. REVIEWED BY JOHN EMSLEY (Kirkus UK)show more

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