Rebels, Mavericks, and Heretics in Biology


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Edited and with an Introduction by Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich and with an Epilogue by R.C. Lewontin

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The stories of nineteen scientists--some famous, some forgotten--who stubbornly challenged assumptions and icons in the life sciences

This book is the first devoted to modern biology’s innovators and iconoclasts: men and women who challenged prevailing notions in their fields. Some of these scientists were Nobel Prize winners, some were considered cranks or gadflies, some were in fact wrong. The stories of these stubborn dissenters are individually fascinating. Taken together, they provide unparalleled insights into the role of dissent and controversy in science and especially the growth of biological thought over the past century.

Each of the book’s nineteen specially commissioned chapters offers a detailed portrait of the intellectual rebellion of a particular scientist working in a major area of biology--genetics, evolution, embryology, ecology, biochemistry, neurobiology, and virology as well as others. An introduction by the volume’s editors and an epilogue by R. C. Lewontin draw connections among the case studies and illuminate the nonconforming scientist’s crucial function of disturbing the comfort of those in the majority. By focusing on the dynamics and impact of dissent rather than on “winners” who are credited with scientific advances, the book presents a refreshingly original perspective on the history of the life sciences.

Scientists featured in this volume:

Alfred Russel Wallace 

Hans Driesch

Wilhelm Johannsen

Raymond Arthur Dart

C. D. Darlington

Richard Goldschmidt

Barbara McClintock

Oswald T. Avery

Roger Sperry

Leon Croizat

Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards

Peter Mitchell

Howard Temin

Motoo Kimura

William D. Hamilton

Carl Woese

Stephen Jay Gould

Thelma Rowell

Daniel S. Simberloff

Oren Harman is associate professor, Graduate Program for Science, Technology and Society, Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies, Bar Ilan University, Israel. Michael R. Dietrich is professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College.

“Excellent history presented in well-written chapters and an innovative approach to the history of science—this volume makes an interesting read.”—Jane Maienschein, Arizona State University

“Readers will enjoy the opportunity to become acquainted with life scientists who made a difference and had an interesting life/career story. There is something for everybody in this volume.”—Everett Mendelsohn, Harvard University

"The inclusion of well-known as well as unknown scientists is one of the great strengths of this volume, because it permits the authors of the various studies to examine how different personalities deal in different ways with the vicissitudes of challenging scientific orthodoxy. A second strength is the wide range of fundamental biological discoveries presented."—Robert Root-Bernstein, JAMA

"This is a major book not only for biologists but also for the myriad committees and boards which, in times of financial stringency, tend to favour safe routes rather than challenging ones in the decisions they are required to take. The lessons to be drawn from this excellent dossier are as disturbing as they are inspiring."—Bernard Dixon, Biologist

"[The book is] brim full of little-known facts as well as opinions by the various authors that are likely to stimulate thought."—Henry Bauer, Journal of Scientific Exploration 
ISBN: 9780300158458
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
416 pages, 5 3/4 x 9
32 b/w illus.
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