Great Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists Sheds Light on Centuries of Unsung Heroes07/19/12
By Philip Yaffe
Many scientists who have an impact on our daily lives and the importance of what they did are largely unknown to the general public. This book tries to rectify this injustice while also making science more interesting and accessible for everyone.
“And he was absolutely right,” says science writer Philip Yaffe. “No matter how monumental any scientist’s individual achievement, it always depends on a phalanx of other scientists who have laid the foundations, often over centuries, and sometimes even millennia. Most of these other scientists are unknown to the general public. However, often their achievements have become so much a part of our everyday thinking, that we don’t even recognize them as achievements.”
For example: Alois Alzheimer, Louis Braille, Robert Bunsen, Anders Celsius, Rudolf Diesel, Daniel Fahrenheit, Ernst Mach, Georg Simon Ohm, Julius Petri, James Watt, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, Alessandro Volta.
In his new book Great Achievements of Lesser-known Scientist: Human Biology, Mr. Yaffe tries to rectify this injustice while at the same time making science more interesting and accessible for everyone.
“It is not necessary to have a profound knowledge of science to better understand it and help shape its influence on the way we live. However, it is necessary to have at least a basic understanding; otherwise, we resign all responsibility for how the world is developing and how this development will affect our lives,” Mr. Yaffe asserts.
Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists: Human Biology is the first of a planned series of books. Each one will be divided into two fundamental parts: 1) Brief explanations of major discoveries often little known or not fully appreciated by the general public, 2) Brief biographies of the scientists generally credited with the discoveries.
“Many of these scientists were polymaths, that is persons of great and varied learning. Some of them had a rapier wit and were skilled at turning a phrase. So as a bonus, a number of quotations associated with these scientists are also presented,” Mr. Yaffe explains.
“If you tend to picture scientists as austere people in white coats hunched over bubbling test tubes or fiddling with arcane equipment, then you are partially right — and terribly wrong, Mr. Yaffe says. “The appearance of lab rats on the scientific scene is a fairly recent development, only since the late 19th century. Before then, most scientists worked alone, largely because science was the prerogative of society’s elite, i.e. those persons wealthy enough to have the leisure and resources to engage in it.”
This book starts in starts in 510 B.C. and comes right up to the present day. It includes some scientists whose name most people probably already know, e.g. Hippocrates, Galen, Linnaeus, Darwin; and many most people probably have never heard of, e.g. Cuvier, Schleiden, Schwann, Semmelweis, Wohler, Haldane, Wilmut, Collins. “There are really many exciting stories to be told, not the least because as individuals some of these lesser-known scientists were interesting, even eccentric.”
To round things off, the book includes a layman’s explanation of the “scientific method,” i.e. what scientists really do, and why they do it they way they do. There is also a section about humor in biology. “These jokes and observations are not only good for a laugh, they are a pleasant reminder of the key ideas presented throughout the book as a whole,” Mr. Yaffe concludes.concludes.
Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily student newspaper.
He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974.
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(at July 2012)
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