In Great Feuds in Science, Hal Hellman tells the lively stories of ten of the most outrageous and intriguing disputes from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Bringing the cataclysmic clash of ideas and personalities to colorful life, Hellman explores both the science and the spirit of the times. Along the way, he reveals that scientific feuds are often fueled not only by the purest of intellectual disagreements, but also by intransigence, ambition, jealousy, politics, faith, and the irresistible human urge to be right.
Defending the merits of their science before the misguided arguments of fellow scientists, dogmatic perspectives of religious believers, and the outright envy and contempt of fierce competitors, scientists from Galileo to Darwin and from Margaret Mead to Richard Leakey have found themselves and their work at the center of storms that have raged into remarkable furies.
Hellman selects a delightful mix of famous and lesser-known clashes. We learn about the possibly unintended personal slight that may have prompted Pope Urban VIII's anger at Galileo in their famous battle over the evidence that Earth revolves around the Sun. The surprising role of remarkable coincidences in the history of science is revealed in the story of the raging battle between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz over their simultaneous invention of calculus. The astonishing power of reputation is brought to light in the account of the decades-long battle between Lord Kelvin, a titan of science in his time, and the proponents of the new field of geology over Kelvin's drastic underestimate of the age of Earth (he proved to be billions of years off the mark). The stunning vitriol to whichcompetition between ambitious scientists can sometimes lead is demonstrated by the saga of the infamous "fossil feud" between the two great fossil hunters Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh.
In each engaging story, Hellman offers fresh insights into the very human drama of the real process of scientific discovery. Great Feuds in Science is an eye-opening look at the high-stakes, rough and tumble battle between ideas and ambition, evidence and egos, emotion and reason that characterizes scientific advancement, revealing that controversies are not only typical of, but often necessary to, the progress of science.
The dramatic stories of ten historic feuds and how they altered the course of discovery and shaped the modern world
Pope Urban VIII versus Galileo An Unequal Contest Wallis versus Hobbes Squaring the Circle Newton versus Leibniz A Clash of Titans Voltaire versus Needham The Generation Controversy Darwin's Bulldog versus Soapy Sam Evolution Wars Lord Kelvin versus Geologists and Biologists The Age of the Earth Cope versus Marsh The Fossil Feud Wegener versus Everybody Continental Drift Johanson versus the Leakeys The Missing Link Derek Freeman versus Margaret Mead Nature versus Nurture