Scientists Are All Too Human

021025It’s important to remember that scientists are human beings who display all the same weaknesses as the rest of us.

Take, for example, the famous mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton. He essentially rewrote the laws of physics, invented calculus and was first to understand the nature of light. As well, he proposed the theory of universal gravitation. Yet, in later life, he was a difficult and unpredictable fellow, bitterly attacking his critics and rivals.

The astronomer and biologist, Robert Hooke, was a notable rival. At one point, he had charged Newton with plagiarism. Perhaps, on account of this, Newton had all references to Hooke deleted from later editions of his famous work ‘The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.’ When Hooke died and Newton became President of the Royal Society, he ordered all portraits of Hooke destroyed.

Newton had similar disagreements with both the famous mathematician Leibniz, and also with the Royal Astronomer. He ordered that their names too be deleted from new editions of his famous book. Some think that his change in behaviour was the result of ingesting mercury during his chemistry experiments. Whatever the reason, Newton, who was deeply religious, was all too human.

So next time someone puts a big name scientist on a pedestal, remember that outside the lab their behaviour is no different from the rest of us.