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Scientific Feuds: From Galileo to the Human Genome Project 1st Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1847737175
ISBN-10: 184773717X
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joel Levy is a writer and journalist specializing in science and history. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Poison: A Social History, the science, history and lore of poisons through the ages, The Atlas of Lost Treasures, on historical mysteries around the world, The Doomsday Book, a guide to scenarios for the end of civilization, and Lost Cities of the Ancient World. Joel lives in North London.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New Holland; 1 edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184773717X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847737175
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.6 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,398,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Donald E. Fulton on May 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
You can tell from the title and cover that this book does not take itself too seriously. Levy here has done a good job assembling a fun, light summer read. It's a big book, colorful with a lot of nice pictures, and its cheap! List is $14.95, but it can be had for around $10.

Nearly all of the 26 topics chosen are important, and at one time or another most of these disputes got a lot of press, so much of this material will be familiar to technical people, still I think almost everyone will find some interesting new material here. For example I knew nothing about the disputes Freud had had with Jung and Adler in the early 1900's, the subject of two of the articles. I was unaware that Montagnier and Gallo, who I remember battled over credit for discovering the HIV retrovirus, are now friends, but only Montagnier was included in the Nobel prize. Or polio vacine guys, Sabin and Salk, do you remember which used the killed virus and which the weakened? Levy has read up on these 26 cases and generally does a good job giving a pithy and even handed summary of the dispute in a few pages, and when helpful he includes a timeline.

The disputes are grouped into four categories:
1) Earth Sciences
2) Evolution and Palaeobiology
3) Biology and Medicine
4) Physics, Astronomy and Math

Most articles start with unlabeled picture/portrait of the disputants. I finally figured that a dispute titled A vs B has A's picture left and B's right. But sometimes there is still portrait uncertainty. For example the article on who invented fingerprints for criminal identification is titled Faulds vs Galston and Herschel. There are two portraits. The left I presume is Faulds, but who is the man on the right, Galston or Herschel?

I think this book should be three stars, but as the only other reviewer gave it two stars I am giving it four to raise the average to three.
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Format: Paperback
The ideal of dispassionate objectivity in scientific research exists in tension with the reality that scientific research is conducted by fallible human beings who exhibit a wide range of different personalities, emotions, and personal interests. This book provides a thought-provoking look at how the personalties, emotions, and personal interests of scientific researchers can threaten the ideal of dispassionate scientific research. The author discusses 26 disputes in the history of science to show how the ideal of dispassionate objectivity occasionally has been forgotten, ignored, or blatantly abandoned by some researchers determined to promote their theories, attack opposing theories, seek personal fame, or vilify opponents.

The book is too brief and episodic to provide a thorough or scholarly history of contentious scientific disputes. Furthermore, the author occasionally lapses into bare speculation and undocumented surmise about the motives and thought processes of some of the disputants he discusses. However, the book does provide an interesting perspective on the history of science.

Readers interested in other books about how personalities, emotions, and personal interests can affect the history of medicine, mathematics, and technology might consider also taking a look at Dana Mackenzie, The Universe in Zero Words: The Story of Mathematics as Told through Equations; F. Gonzalez-Crussi, A Short History of Medicine (Modern Library Chronicles); and Robert V.
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Format: Paperback
Review of `Scientific feuds from Galileo to the human genome project' by Joel Levy in 2010 published by New Holland Publishers of London.

Reviewed by Dr W. P. Palmer

"Scientific feuds from Galileo to the human genome project" is what might be called a coffee table book. Looking at the pricing is instructive as paperback editions are more expensive than the hardback edition, said to be available at $2.02 new or used. It is the hardback edition that is being reviewed here. I have some criticisms of the book, but it is certainly good value at this price. The book is 224 pages long, nicely printed, with twenty-six feuds and eight features considered in very short attractively illustrated articles. A feature is used here to mean a generalized theme, such as `fraud in science' and `science and politics', which add to the books general usefulness. My dictionary defines a feud as `lasting mutual hostility' and the feuds chosen all seem to fit this definition.

Most articles contain a diagrammatic timeline summarizing the times when various events took place and these are useful. The criticism must be the lack of depth, but there is a broad sweep of science covered worldwide from the fourteenth century to the present day. The purpose of the book is to interest a wider audience than just those already interested in science's fascinating history. I enjoyed the rival publication is "Great Feuds in Science" by Hal Hellman subtitled, "Ten of the liveliest disputes ever" (already reviewed by this reviewer), where article length averaged twenty pages, but this too was criticized by others as being insufficiently detailed.
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