ROMANCE

Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein-Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

S. & S. 2013. 352p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439192368. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781439192382. SCI
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Astrophysicist, prolific writer, and blogger Livio (Space Telescope Science Inst.; The Golden Ratio) succeeds in his aim to demonstrate that science progresses by fits and starts, with oversights, or conceptual errors (aka blunders), as part of the process. Livio sees blunders as very dependent upon a scientist's milieu—the theories, prejudices, and culture within which the scientist exists. He examines the world-changing key works of Charles Darwin, physicist Lord Kelvin, Linus Pauling, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein via detailed descriptions of the contexts within which their oversights occurred. His placement of these scientists' work within their historical context makes the technical details of their research more accessible to lay readers and is a narrative approach reminiscent of George Pendle's Strange Angel, his study of rocketeer Jack Parsons. Livio aims to link the men's work under the notion of environment and evolution, defined so broadly that they seem useless and unnecessary threads, the only notable shortcoming of this engaging work.
VERDICT An entertaining and different take on the work of pivotal Western scientists. Recommended.

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