Written with considerable sympathy for the characters it portrays, this book is nonetheless a trial of the great names of scientific discovery. The first part deals with scientists who manipulated scientific data to prove preconceived theories which happened to be correct. Robert Millikan sought to prove that electricity resides in basic particles or electrons, rather than being an immaterial pulse or force as most physicists of his time believed. In "Einstein's Luck" this proof is shown to be based on inclusive experiments from which Millikan excluded any aberrant results which did not fit the theory. Arthur Eddington "proved' Einstein's theory of relativity, and was fortunate enought to be later found correct, even though he suppressed more than two-thirds of the eclipse photographs on which his proof was based. Even the great Pasteur is shown to have been right for the wrong reasons in this section of the book.
In the second part, John Waller recounts the stories of scientists to whom history attributes greater perception than their beliefs justified. Gregor Mendel, for example,the father of genetics had no concept of the significance of Mendelian theory, believing instead in a theory much closer to "intelligent design." Charles Darwin followed the tradition of his age in believing in the inheritability of acquired characteristics, something which we do not today consider part of the theory of evolution. The death toll of patients in the hospital wards managed by Dr. Joseph Lister, whose name is eponymous with antiseptic (as in "Listerine"), exceeded that of any of his colleagues because of his own lack of sanitary standards.
This report prepared by Richard Graham-Yooll