Some of their names are among the most revered in the history of science; others have been all but forgotten, in spite of their achievements. What did giants of science Gregor Mendel and Joseph Priestley have in common with virtual unknowns such as Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Grote Reber? They were all amateursuntrained or undertrained researchers who often toiled in obscurity, but whose dramatic discoveries opened new pathways to a deeper understanding of nature.
It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist examines the lives and work of ten amateur scientists whose investigations yielded insights and discoveries that eluded their highly educated counterparts. You'll meet the man who built the world's first radio telescope in his backyard; the woman whose astute observation led to the proof that there are untold numbers of galaxies in the universe; and the self-taught bacteriologist who laid the groundwork for the discovery of DNA.
You may be surprised to learn that, between political battles and architectural projects, Thomas Jefferson carried out the very first scientific archaeological excavation, establishing methods that are now standard practice in the field. Likewise, in his youth, famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote a technical paper introducing ideas that would eventually lead to a communications revolution.
This unique and offbeat look at the history of science sheds light on the nature of scientific investigation: Does the self-taught scientist actually have advantages over the professional? Are there particular qualities of mind that enable amateurs to succeed in spite of their lack of formal training? How large a role did luck play in these momentous discoveries and achievements?
Whether you're a dedicated amateur scientist or an avid science reader, It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist will delight and surprise you with little-known details about the work and insights of these self-taught scientists. And, with its discussion of fields in which amateur scientists can still make a name for themselves, it may even give you some ideas for making a great discovery of your own.