16 Visionary Scientists and Their Struggle for Recognition—From Galileo to Barbara McClintock and Rachel Carson
Donald R. Kirsch
- 360 Pages
- November 7, 2023
- ISBN: 9781956763393
- Trim Size: 5.5in x 8.25in x 0in
Scientific breakthroughs that changed the way we understand the world—and the fascinating stories of the scientists behind them
Some of the most significant breakthroughs in science don’t receive widespread recognition until decades later, sometimes after their author’s death. Nobel Prize–winner Max Planck, whose black-body radiation law established the discipline of quantum mechanics, stated this as what has become known as Planck’s principle, commonly summarized as “Science progresses one funeral at a time.” In other words, for some truly groundbreaking discoveries, a new consensus builds only when proponents of the old consensus die off. Breakthrough discoveries require a paradigm shift, and it takes time and new minds for the new paradigm to be adopted.
In Innovators, Donald Kirsch tells the stories of sixteen visionary scientists who suffered this fate, some now famous like Max Planck himself, Galileo, and Gregor Mendel, and some less well known. Among them are Barbara McClintock who, working with Indian corn, discovered transposons, also known as jumping genes, which provide a major mechanism driving biological evolution; Rachel Carson, catalyst for the environmental movement; and Roger Revelle, the climatologist whose findings were the first to be described by the term “global warming.” The breakthroughs cover fields from biology to medicine to physics and earth sciences and include the discovery of prions, life-changing treatments such as drugs for high blood pressure, ulcers, and organ transplantation; the process of continental drift; and our understanding of how molecules form matter.
Donald R. Kirsch, PhD, coauthor of The Drug Hunters, was a drug hunter for more than thirty-five years, holds more than two dozen drug-related patents, has written more than fifty research papers, and has been a reviewer for prestigious scientific journals. He served as a director of neuroscience research at Wyeth, the director of molecular genetic screen design at Cyanamid, the leader of a research group in microbiology and cell biology at Squibb Institute for Medical Research, and the chief scientific officer at Cambria Pharmaceuticals. He has taught in the biotechnology department at Harvard Extension School and currently teaches at Columbia University. He lives in Westchester, NY.
“Don Kirsch’s book is an eye-opening and insightful window into that curious process whereby remarkable innovations and incredible insights can nonetheless take years to be accepted—and then be considered commonplace. This is how science works, and this is how it has been so innovative for the last 400 years, but it is generally hidden from public view by mythologized historical narratives. This selection of the some of the most creative ideas in the history of human thought is an important corrective to that distorted view as well as a fascinating insider’s read.”—Stuart Firestein, Professor of Neuroscience , Columbia University and Fractal Faculty, Santa Fe Institute
“We take for granted many innovations, but once established the struggles of the scientists who gave birth to them are soon forgotten. Donald Kirsch takes a retrospective look at key inventions and the trials of nonacceptance, stigma, and disbelief their authors faced. He provides a real-world view of the struggles they surmounted in bringing novel ideas to the world."—Eric Gordon, Adjunct Professor, Stanford University
“With fascinating biographies and revealing histories that tell where new ideas come from and how they become accepted, Innovators recounts the stories of scientists, some little known and some famous, who persisted in finally convincing a skeptical world that their novel ideas were true. This book should be in school and college libraries to inspire students, and community public libraries to inspire adults. These examples demonstrate that innovation is tough, but with perseverance, it may be rewarded.”—David E. Axelrod, Professor, Rutgers University