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Scientists who were shafted.

Here are vignettes of folks who were in the forefront of scientific discoveries, but didn't significantly share in the glory and rewards.

Dicke and Peebles

It was in 1965 that two Bell Labs physicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, set up an experiment to measure the radio emission coming from the Milky Way galaxy and were in the process of calibrating their antenna at a wavelength of 7 cm, where galactic radiation was at a minimum. They were surprised to find that this minimum corresponded to 2.7 [degrees] K and was relatively constant in any direction the antenna was pointed.

That same year, Princeton physicists Robert Dicke and James Peebles took cognizance of George Gamow and his associate Ralph Alpher's 17-year-old paper on the possible residual radiation of the hot model Big Bang theory and prepared an experiment to detect microwave background radiation.

In their view, the expansion of the universe since the Big Bang would have radically redshifted all electromagnetic radiation deep into the microwave region of the spectrum. This background radiation was considered to be the primordial temperature residue.

However, as with many other great discoveries, when Penzias and Wilson heard of the Princeton effort, they realized that they had already found this residual radiation in the 7-cm band. Penzias and Wilson graciously accepted the Nobel Prize in 1978 for their preemptive finding. Dicke and Peebles were bridesmaids, and even Gamow and Alpher weren't invited to the ceremony.

Jansky and Reber

In 1931, Karl Jansky was an engineer for the Bell Telephone Laboratory and was studying the causes of radio interference in long-distance communication using the short-wave band. He had characterized the usual sources of static and radio distortion, such as lightning from thunderstorms, but couldn't fathom a peculiar persistent hiss that came and went every day.

Jansky's highly directional antenna pinpointed this source somewhere in the sky. The hiss increased and reached a maximum 4 min earlier each day before decreasing again and fading into the background. As it turned out, Jansky had built the very first radiotelescope and was listening to the radio emissions coming from the Milky Way's center.

The results of his study were published and then went forgotten for several years. However, in 1937, amateur astronomer Grote Reber found Jansky's paper and recognized it for what it was. Reber then home-constructed a 9.5-m parabolic wire dish in his own backyard and with this directional antenna made the first radio maps of the sky, ultimately submitting his findings to the Astrophysical Journal.

After World War II, the refinements made with the advent of radar and the subsequent development of highly directional antennas spurred a renewed interest in what became known as radio astronomy. Hundreds of extragalactic-appearing radio sources were then found, among them a rather bright source designated 3C273 in the Third Cambridge Catalogue. This astronomical anomaly was later given the sobriquet quasar, from quasi-stellar radio source.

In 1955, Bernard Burke and Kenneth Franklin of the Carnegie Institution announced the discovery of radio noises emanating from Jupiter, a phenomenon that was totally unanticipated from planetary bodies and had been predicted more than a year earlier by Immanuel Velikovsky from his independent investigations. Neither Jansky nor Reber were cited by the Nobel committee for pioneering work.

Jocelyn Bell-Burnell

By 1967, radio astronomy had taken advantage of new masers - or microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation devices - that operated at cryogenic temperatures to obviate thermal and other atmospheric noise in deep-space radio detection.

During a radio survey in 1967, Cambridge Univ. research student Jocelyn Bell found four objects that pulsated at radio frequencies. Initially, there was some excitement that she had inadvertently found the radio emissions from extraterrestrial alien communication sources. These four radio objects were preliminarily prefixed by the catalogue reference LGM, meaning "Little Green Men."

A no less exciting theory later emerged that these sources were rotating neutron stars - phenomena that had been suspected but until then never detected. Bell's mentor at Cambridge, Antony Hewish, published the results of the survey and was later rewarded with a Nobel prize for the discovery of pulsars, while Bell received a nod in the form of honorable mention. Students - like amateurs - do not make respectable Nobel laureates.

Alfred Russel Wallace

By the end of the 18th century, as more and more evidence of primordial life forms were found in ancient rock formations, the paradigmatic pendulum was well into its swing away from the ecclesiastic concept of a finite universe created 6,000 years before.

In 1796, Pierre Simon de Laplace announced his cosmological theory of the solar system, using Newtonian mechanics and building on the previous hypotheses of Immanuel Kant and Emanuel Swedenborg. That same year, Erasmus Darwin - grandfather of the illustrious Charles - proposed that the fossils found in the rocks represented an evolution of species as the "great ladder of nature." French biologist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck was the first to devote an entire book to evolution as the "march of nature" in his Philosophie Zoologique (1809).

The social structure of the time, particularly in England, was inextricably linked with the Industrial Revolution. However, the British monarchy had just endured a costly war with the American colonies and was fearful of a similarly bloody revolution on home ground. To forestall any detrimental changes in the system of government, philosophical and religious polemics were inaugurated to condemn radical ideas on human and social progress.

In this milieu, Thomas Malthus wrote his tome on the limited resources and overpopulation, upon which Charles Darwin, wittingly or no, based his theory of continued evolution and change.

There were competitive problems, as Alfred Russel Wallace - himself a world traveler and naturalist - had already published Sarawak Law in 1855, a work that contained the essential ingredients of evolutionary theory except natural selection. But Wallace, who had written a previous series of papers, was doing his work in southeast Asia and was a long way from England.

Having read Wallace's latest submission, Sir Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker told Darwin to get a move on. Darwin procrastinated - until he received Wallace's unpublished "Ternate" essay, written in 1858, which outlined natural selection in detail.

With the help of Lyell and Hooker, Darwin managed to get his own hastily written paper presented before the Linnean Society - the foremost prestigious scientific group of the time in England - at the same meeting as the presentation of Wallace's paper. Darwin scored an inestimable coup - and won a secure place in history - by reading his outline first. The following year, Darwin published his Origin of Species, containing every concept forwarded by Wallace.

Lyell, first a barrister and only later a renowned geologist, used his early training to forcefully argue Darwin's case - though he did have vacillations of conscience with regard to Wallace. But Lyell's polemics on evolution set the tenor of Darwinism for the ensuing century, a mindset that since has been argumentatively taken up, refined, and polished by some of the most brilliant minds in science - most notably in recent days by Harvard's Stephen Jay Gould.

Umetaro Suzuki

A Japanese professor of agriculture educated in Berlin, Umetaro Suzuki studied the relationship between rice and beriberi, which had ravaged Japan for several years. Suzuki isolated a component - oryzanin - whose dietary lack he figured might cause the disease. He announced his findings at the 1910 meeting of the Tokyo Chemical Society and later published in the society's journal. Suzuki and his coworkers followed up with papers confirming the original study, and an abstract appeared in 1911 in the German Zentralblatt fur Biochemie und Biophysik.

Later that year, the Polish-born chemist Casimir Funk published the results of his own research work - similar to Suzuki's but lacking any reference to the Japanese chemist. Funk's 1914 paper established him as the founder of a new discipline in the study of metabolic amines - he in fact coined the term vitamin. Still, a number of scholars think that since Funk was proficient in German, he might have known of Suzuki's Zentralblatt abstract.

In 1912, Suzuki published a paper on oryzanin in the Biochemische Zeitschrift. But by this time Funk's publications were widely distributed, and he - not Suzuki - became known as the discoverer of vitamin B-1.
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Title Annotation:unrecognized scientific discoverers; part 1
Author:Jueneman, Fred
Publication:R & D
Date:Mar 1, 1997
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