Some Specific Examples

There are hundreds of examples of new discoveries in science that have at first — and often for an extended period of years — been severely obstructed and ridiculed. Here are just a selected few:

1.2.2.1 Conservation of Energy

Von Mayer {60}, the discoverer of the modern statement of the conservation of energy and the mechanical equivalent of heat, was severely chastised for his "insane" work. He was hounded and severely

ridiculed. This extremely harsh treatment, together with domestic problems, drove him to a suicide attempt and a nervous breakdown, and into psychiatric treatment for some years. Toward the end of his life, his principle of energy conservation had so greatly increased the ease of calculations and the understanding of systems that the same scientific community — due to the commendable efforts of Helmholtz, Clausius, and Tyndall — began to recognize his great contributions and lionize him. In 1867, he was made a member of the nobility, dying in 1878 with his "insane" work by then well respected. He was fortunate to have the "cur dog attack" reversed in his lifetime. Most scientists with novel discoveries are not so fortunate.

1.2.2.2 Continental Drift

Alfred Wegener {61} proposed the theory of continental drift in 1912. The reception was extraordinarily hostile. So ferociously was he ridiculed for the notion that huge continents of rock could "float" and "drift" that his very name, "Wegener", was often used as a synonym for "utter idiot". To refer to someone as "a Wegener" was to cast the greatest slur possible upon that person's mental powers and to label him a gibbering lunatic. Only in the 1960s when sea-floor spreading from ocean ridges was discovered, proving that ocean basins are not permanent features, did Wegener's concept of continental drift concept finally gain acceptance.

1.2.2.3 Kinetic Theory of Gases As pointed out by Paul Nahin {62}:

"J. J. Waterston's paper on the kinetic theory of gases, in 1845, was rejected by the Royal Society of London. One of the referees declared it to be 'nothing but nonsense, unfit even for reading before the Society.' ... "Waterston's dusty manuscript was finally exhumed from its archival tomb forty years later, because of the efforts of Lord Rayleigh... "

Lord Rayleigh was the Secretary of the Royal Society when he had Waterston's paper reprinted nearly a half-century after submitted. Lord Rayleigh also gave an introduction to the paper, regretting it lying so long unpublished when its content was quite important. His introduction is a way of explaining the delay.25

25 Waterston's paper was finally published as John James Waterston, "Free and Elastic Molecules," Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond, Vol. 183, 1892, p.1-79. Lord

1.2.2.4 Surgical Pain Deemed Necessary

It has always been this way in science. As another example, the famed surgeon Alfred Velpeau wrote in 1839:

"The abolishment of pain in surgery is the chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it today. 'Knife' and 'pain' are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient. To this compulsory combination we shall have to adjust ourselves." [Martin Gumpert] {63}.

Wryly we observe that today a similar attitude of "we must glory in the pain" — where the "pain" is due to the yoke of C0P<1.0 EM systems and of the second law of classical equilibrium thermodynamics — consumes most modern electrical power system scientists and engineers.

1.2.2.5 The Photoelectric Effect

Almost every household now knows Albert Einstein's epochal achievements. Yet his formative three papers — on Brownian motion, the photoelectric effect, and special relativity — were published in 1905 while he was working in the Swiss Patent Office. The most renowned physicist of the time was Max Planck. Planck was embarrassed that a scientist who was not even employed in physics was doing such important work in physics. So Planck and other scientists arranged for Einstein to be awarded a chair in physics at a proper university. In their letter to the university, they pointed out Einstein's brilliance in his papers. They also then excused him for straying down the road of the photoelectric effect, because — as they put it — everybody knew that was foolishness, but persons of such brilliance could be forgiven a few such little bobbles along the way. Years later, in 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, for his work in theoretical physics and especially for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

The Einstein incident is a typical illustration of Arthur C. Clarke's cogent observation:

"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible he is very probably wrong." [Clarke's First Law]

Rayleigh's introduction and Waterston's paper also are given in Jefferson Hane Weaver, The World of Physics, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1987, p. 632-651.

1.2.2.6 Amorphous Semiconductors

Stanford R. Ovshinsky's development of amorphous semiconductors {64, 65} is another modern example. "Everybody knew" that a crystalline structure was necessary in order to have a semiconductor at all; in short, a semiconductor formed out of non-crystalline material was deemed to be totally impossible, never mind this "phase" change that Ovshinsky advanced. However, some young graduate students, e.g., began to look at Ovshinsky's amorphous materials and his phase change approach.

Finally funded by the Japanese, Ovshinsky's company, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD) simply placed its amorphous semiconductor devices into working equipment. Copy machines appeared with his amorphous semiconductors installed in them — with the machines and their amorphous semiconductors working very well. More graduate students and post-docs enthusiastically entered the area, did research, and wrote dissertations.

As a result, amorphous semiconductors finally became accepted, and they are now part of the established technology and scientific knowledge base. The interested reader can simply look up Ovshinsky's company and statistics on http://www.ovonics.com . The Japanese have reaped a continuing bonanza from the sales of amorphous semiconductors, because of the shortsightedness and bias of the U.S. scientific community.

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