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Promoting the Planck Club: How Defiant Youth, Irreverent Researchers and Liberated Universities Can Foster Prosperity Indefinitely by Donald Braben

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Accidents, Coincidences, and the Luck of the Draw: How Benjamin Thompson and Humphry Davy Enabled Michael Faraday to Electrify the World

Ambition's ladder is not the same for everyone. For many, the first rung is attained only with unremitting determination. Some transitions might require radical changes in social status, and the gulf may be so huge that the chances of a successful leap will probably depend on events over which an individual has no control. Even the privileged might need help in avoiding ill-matched career expectations of well-intentioned families. Senses must constantly be on the alert for those game-changing events; if and when they come, that might give the necessary kick that allows an escape from apparently preordained orbits. We know some of the lucky ones in these respects: Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday, for example, but no doubt there are countless others on whom fortune did not smile at the right time. Newton was a farmer's son seemingly destined to be a farmer's father. But the Master of his school, Henry Stokes, managed to persuade Newton's mother Hannah (his father having died three months before Isaac was born) that Newton had exceptional talent and, rather than make him take to the plow, he should go to a university. She could see no value in that. To her, protecting and cultivating the land was everything. Luckily for us all, Stokes did not give up, Hannah was reluctantly convinced, and Newton was able to take that fateful first step that would ...

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