Why Read the Biographies of Others?

The names included in this appendix are mainly those of deceased persons whose work has affected this book and its author. Basic facts referred to below were gathered mainly from the World Wide Web, courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Life summaries of past scientists, often neglected in other texts, are considered important here because student often relate to the trials and tribulations of older generations of scientists, many of whom were financially and socially disadvantaged.

Only a few had material advantages, such as Charles de Coulomb of France and James Clerk Maxwell of Scotland. But most began relatively poor, like William Rowan Hamilton of Ireland and Benjamin Franklin in America. Because of their talent, they became very famous, and in some cases, prospered. The social and financial disadvantages of scientists who you read about in textbooks will be a surprise to young students lacking money, those who see material wealth as essential to a proper career in science. Realizing the difficulties of others makes the reading more interesting.

Competition for credit is intense in the world of science. A major discovery or fundamental contribution often is not enough to secure recognition, since society sometimes gives credit for significant advances to a popular or deserving person without much regard for the true discoverer. For example, this happened in the case of Robert ...

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