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Einstein's Luck: The Truth Behind Some of the Greatest Scientific Discoveries

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Synopsis:

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. We also learn that Arthur Eddington's famous experiment that "proved" Einstein's theory of relativity was fudged 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. 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.

About the Author

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.

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


Index


Product Details

ISBN:
9780192805676
Subtitle:
The Truth behind Some of the Greatest Scientific Discoveries
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Author:
Waller, John
Author:
null, John
Subject:
General science
Subject:
Physics
Publication Date:
20040603
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
21 halftones
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
5 x 7.7 x 0.9 in 0.488 lb

Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General

Einstein's Luck: The Truth Behind Some of the Greatest Scientific Discoveries
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Product details 320 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780192805676 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , 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. We also learn that Arthur Eddington's famous experiment that "proved" Einstein's theory of relativity was fudged 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. 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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