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Fabulous Science: Fact and Fiction in the History of Scientific Discovery
Fabulous Science: Fact and Fiction in the History of Scientific Discovery
by John Waller
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fables and facts, 23 Oct. 2002
The book reveals science as the collective evolution of knowledge rather than the work of a few intellectual giants. As John Waller writes, "believing that single individuals are capable of such tremendous accomplishments is also to ignore the fact that science is best viewed as a never-ending, multi-participant marathon, not a series of high-profile relays."
The surprise is that the result's so entertaining. In Waller's highly readable prose, the book is like a collection of reverse detective stories. We learn of the remarkable deductive feats of an Hercule Poirot or a Sherlock Holmes of science (such as Louis Pasteur or Robert Millikan) only to learn that the great detective selected evidence to support a theory which happened to be right, the solution confirmed not by a single stroke of brilliance but the by the hard slog of police procedural investigation.
If myths are debunked, the heroes of science become no less admirable in being revealed as human. Though some like Sir Alexander Fleming take harder falls, there is surely no insult in seeing Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin as men of their time, bound by the knowledge of the time. To claim, as our mythology suggests, that by miraculous prescience they ignored existing theories is hardly flattering. We learn instead that Mendel was no Mendelian and that Darwin accepted much of the evolutionary beliefs of Lamarck.
For the student of history or science, "Fabulous Science" is likely to soon become required reading.


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