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REVIEW: Fabulous Science: Fact and Fiction in the History of Scientific Discovery.


Names such as Louis Pasteur and Arthur Eddington are familiar. They are names we are presented with at school and people who we wouldn't think were the type of people to manipulate experimental data. 'Fabulous Science' however sheds light on the more dubious goings on in this world of test tubes and spatulas.

The way in which this book is written gives you a real feel for what it must have been like to be at the forefront of all these amazing scientific discoveries. Illuminating, for example, the tremendous cliquiness that existed. Enabling people such as Eddington to manipulate his data to fit in with his preconceived notions of how things really are.

There is evidence - from these scientist's notebooks in particular - that there were various underhand occurrences going on. The title of the first section 'Right for the wrong reasons' does indicate that although the route that was taken could be conceived as being 'wrong' the results were actually 'correct'.

This is particularly well illustrated in Pasteur's case, which had he have been proved to be 'wrong' his " would have been tarnished and the emergence of the science of microbiology set back for years; and he would have been proven wrong for all the wrong reasons...".

The second section 'Telling science as it was', focuses itself on historical improprieties surrounding the fantastic tales of science. Examining the heroic - but misinterpreted - adventures of, amongst others, the likes of Gregor Mendel, Charles Darwin and Alexander Fleming.

Essentially in this section author John Waller seeks to show that heroic caricatures have replaced the 'real' characters. As you read through what did actually happen, in comparison to the story you know, it becomes apparent that indeed we do have a tendency to romanticize the past and make things more dramatic.

Because of the subject matter - the misinterpretations, manipulations and generally all the sneakiness that is presented in 'Fabulous Science', it could be inferred that it could be quite a dull read. However, the tone which Waller adopts throughout is rather lighthearted and sardonic giving the overall effect of making it quite a generally humorous read.

CONCLUSION: Full of interesting, well written, easy-to-read, facts and anecdotes. It has the added bonus of bringing a smile to your face as well.

Title: Fabulous Science: Fact and Fiction in the History of Scientific Discovery Author: John Waller Published by: Oxford University Press ISBN: 0-19-280404-9 Price: GBP18.99 Reviewer: Rebecca Sanderman
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:M2 Best Books
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 30, 2002
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