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Scientific Feuds: From Galileo to the Human Genome Project 1st Edition
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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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›