Ideas that seemed good at the time...
by John Grant
Did someone really think that...? Beginning with the birth of the Earth and ending with theories of life after death such as cryonics and thanatology, this book examines how scientific views have been influenced by religion and politics and how, despite their good intentions and ingenious explanations for their ideas, scientists were often just wrong. The author, John Grant, has published over 70 books including Corrupted Science (2007), from which this latest book follows on.
Covering the ancient and modern history of disciplines including medicine, geology, biology and chemistry, it is filled with images and extracts from the reports that scientists used to explain and justify their theories. Many of these seem shocking in retrospect, such as the book entitled The Earth is Not a Globe. Grant illustrates the perils of scientists straying from their fields of expertise, pointing out that geniuses such as Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and Joseph de Lalande “can be as much amateurs as anyone else when they stray into disciplines where their level of knowledge is not especially higher than that of the lay person”. Such deviations resulted in nonsense predictions, for example that meteorites could not fall from the sky and that manned flights in hot air balloons were impossible!
Discarded Science has been continually snatched out of my hands by eager work colleagues, friends and family, sparking hours of conversation and laughter. After reading about the initial research into cold fusion effects in 1989, my co-workers even attempted to recreate the original experiments, and realised the outcome was not as remarkable as the scientists involved had reported!
Grant has pulled together such a wide variety of subjects that scientists and non-scientists alike will find something to discover, and there is no need to be an expert on every topic. This is a wonderfully interesting, thought-provoking and at times very funny book that I highly recommend.