Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed…

Paperback | May 27, 2014

byMario Livio

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Drawing on the lives of five great scientists, this “scholarly, insightful, and beautifully written book” (Martin Rees, author of From Here to Infinity) illuminates the path to scientific discovery.

Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein all made groundbreaking contributions to their fields—but each also stumbled badly. Darwin’s theory of natural selection shouldn’t have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Lord Kelvin gravely miscalculated the age of the earth. Linus Pauling, the world’s premier chemist, constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a “Big Bang” origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven). And Albert Einstein speculated incorrectly about the forces of the universe—and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps. As Mario Livio luminously explains in this “thoughtful meditation on the course of science itself” (The New York Times Book Review), these five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors.

“Thoughtful, well-researched, and beautifully written” (The Washington Post), Brilliant Blunders is a wonderfully insightful examination of the psychology of five fascinating scientists—and the mistakes as well as the achievements that made them famous.

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From the Publisher

Drawing on the lives of five great scientists, this “scholarly, insightful, and beautifully written book” (Martin Rees, author of From Here to Infinity) illuminates the path to scientific discovery.Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein all made groundbreaking contributions to thei...

Mario Livio was born in 1945 in Romania. When he was 5 years old, he immigrated with his grandparents to Israel. He received undergraduate degrees in physics and mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a M.Sc. degree in theoretical particle physics at the Weizmann Institute, and a Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics at Tel-A...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 0.9 inPublished:May 27, 2014Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1439192375

ISBN - 13:9781439192375

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Customer Reviews of Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of L

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Book! Although the word “blunders” usually tends to suggest some serious degree of lumbering oversight on the part of those who have performed them, in reality, all of the scientists whose work is discussed in this book are not usually associated with such behaviour. The author, an astrophysicist, presents the work of five brilliant, world-famous scientists who have performed errors of judgement to varying degrees of severity during their illustrious careers. They are: Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle and Albert Einstein. The author has devoted two consecutive chapters to each one. In each case, the author discusses their respective fields of research, their ground-breaking work and what he considers to be their blunders. He also analyzes these blunders as well as how they came about, their aftermath and even the psychology of why they actually occurred. I found the book to be well-written in a very friendly, chatty, lively and captivating style. Although some specialized terms are explained, the author does not generally pull too many punches when discussing the subject matter with regards to using jargon. Consequently, unless the reader is an avid science enthusiast familiar with all of these fields, he/she may have a bit of difficulty in following arguments in the less familiar ones. My own struggles arose when the structure and function of the DNA molecule (and associated molecules) were discussed. But despite this, I do believe that even the least scientifically-inclined reader could still learn much from this book since it contains much more than technical discussions.
Date published: 2014-02-18

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Editorial Reviews

“The stories of how these blunders came about, and what happened next, are extremely well researched, and they shed a welcome, informative, entertaining and sometimes new light on science as a deeply human activity.”