Nevertheless, it was to Darwin’s friends that the first wave of positive responses must be attributed. For it was obvious that Darwin’s theories were as useful to them as they were to his theories. Over the following decades, Darwin’s defenders came to occupy influential niches in British and American intellectual life. Together, these men would also control the scientific media of the day, especially the important journals... Darwin’s opponents failed to achieve anything like the same command of the media or penetration of significant institutions. — Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, p. 129.
It keeps getting better and better. Wonderful resources there. — a mechanical engineer and educational consultant in Texas
From the 1960s to the 1980s, space probes returned the first close-up looks at eight of the then-nine planets. To researchers expecting a simple story that would explain what shaped our solar system, the observations sent a sobering message: in your dreams. Today, enigmas such as Mercury's makeup (mostly iron core, with a thin veneer of rock) and Uranus's skewed magnetic field continue to bedevil planetary scientists, and no tidy resolution is in sight. — Richard A. Kerr, Science Magazine, June 1, 2012
It’s not often that a layman untrained in science makes a fundamental discovery, starts a new branch of science, and alters the course of human history. Nor is it often that a layman shows exemplary scientific technique that becomes a model for scientists to come. Antony van Leeuwenhoek was such a person. Extremely inventive, careful, and precise, unfettered by false notions of the day, Leeuwenhoek was driven by an insatiable curiosity that captivated him at age 40 and kept him going to his dying day at age 91. It started when he read a copy of Robert Hooke’s new illustrated book Micrographia in 1665, which contained drawings of insects, cork, textiles and other things revealed under a microscope at magnifications about 20-30x. Leeuwenhoek took to grinding his own lenses and making his own microscopes. Perfecting a technique that raised the power to over 200x, he opened up a whole new world never before seen by man: the world of microorganisms.
Schierbeek says, “Leeuwenhoek was driven by a passionate desire to penetrate more deeply into the mysteries of creation. To him, as to many others of his time, a watch was a greater specimen of craftsmanship than a clock in a tower; this opinion is reflected in his biological views. The microscope gave him the opportunity to study and admire the small organisms, the ‘animalcules,’ and whenever he was able he expressed his admiration of the beautiful things he saw.”
The loner, not the consensus, is sometimes the one whose views get traction in science. Here are three historical examples.
As Alan Guth rises to prominence this year for his inflation proposal, it might be useful for readers to see what he said about it in 2005.
Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it. I, the Lord, have created it. — Isaiah 45:8