Major Advances in Science are not Recognized for Decades (Axil Axil)

Thanks to Axil for sharing this comment today in this thread.

In 1839 a young Frenchman, Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, experimented with electricity in his father’s lab. He was passionate about phenomena of magnetism, electricity and optics, which scientists had only started to understand. He noticed a strange occurrence: an electrolytic cell generated more energy when it was exposed to sunlight. He called it the photovoltaic effect.

Forty years had to pass for another two scientists, William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day, to discover the photovoltaic effect in a solid substance. Then, in 1905, Albert Einstein explained the fundamental physics of it, which ultimately led to the quantum revolution in physics. Yet even eight years later, great physicists such as Max Planck considered this explanation foolish. With an apparent lack of practical applications, all these breakthroughs had not been taken forward until a US company, Bell Labs, made the world’s first useful solar cell in the 1950s. The rest is history.

Science is a passion driven by curiosity. It is not a job, it is an obsession driven by the need to know.

Alfred Lothar Wegener was a German polar researcher, geophysicist and meteorologist.

During his lifetime he was primarily known for his achievements in meteorology and as a pioneer of polar research, but today he is most remembered as the originator of the theory of continental drift by hypothesizing in 1912 that the continents are slowly drifting around the Earth. His hypothesis was controversial and not widely accepted until the 1950s.

Ludwig Boltzmann faced massive ridicule for his work on thermodynamics, eventually committing suicide in 1906. His work was largely carried on and extended by Paul Ehrenfest, who faced similar ridicule, committing suicide in 1933. Their work laid the foundation for modern statistical mechanics.

In 1927, Georges Lemaître put together data about the redshift and distance measurements of galaxies to infer the expanding Universe, writing to Einstein about his findings. Einstein responded, “Your calculations are correct, but your physics are abominable.” Yet Lemaître was correct, with his conclusions predating Hubble’s identical ones by two years.

Fritz Zwicky, who first inferred the existence of dark matter in the 1930s, had his results dismissed based on the absurdity that such a significant fraction of the Universe could be hitherto undetected. The work of Vera Rubin and Kent Ford in the 1970s led to dark matter being seriously considered, but the work of Zwicky could have given us a 40 year head-start on the puzzle.

The really major advances in science are not recognized for decades after they have been made by those obsessed with knowing and discovery. These discoveries are just too hard to accept by the current paradigm of the day. As it has been, it remains so today. There are great advances in science that have been made but are currently being ridiculed. It just takes decades for these advances to pass the test of time and to come of age.