(I’m writing this quick blog post while I wait for some yams to boil. It’s also finals weeks, so I’m a bit sleep deprived. This post will probably reflect that…)
“The sun revolves around the earth”. Say that to pretty much anyone and you’ll be hopefully be corrected right quick. Yet there was a time when such a statement was considered truth.
History is full of similar stories: someone presents a scientific theory contrary to popular or accepted belief and faces criticism, only to be found correct all along. It’s easy to laugh about the pseudoscience people used to believe in, but to think we don’t sometimes get things wrong today is to be optimistic and sadly mistaken.
In 1884, Svante Arrhenius proposed in his dissertation his theory of ionic dissociation. His review committee found this idea unconvincing and penalized him as a result. Twenty years later he revived a noble prize for his work on this subject.
Still, this was more than a hundred years ago, so lets move ahead to 1955 when Jo Hin Tjio was the first person to identify that their were 23 pairs of human chromosomes. Prior to this, all experiments led researchers to believe their were 24 pairs.
In the 1971, Judah Folkman suggested that tumors rely on the formation of blood vessels in order to acquire a blood supply and without it they would die. His research was largely rejected for over a decade. Today, millions of cancer patients receive drugs to block the growth of blood vessels to tumor cells.
In the early eighties, Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren begin presenting the idea that peptic ulcers are mostly caused by the bacteria H. pylori and not stress and excess acid, as was previously believed. This idea was met with initial criticism from the scientific community. In 2005, Marshall and Warren were awarded the noble prize for their discovery.
These are just a few famous examples. There are many more. What current scientific misconceptions could we be still be following? What do you think the next major breakthrough will be? Time will tell, but I bet some of those theories are already out there, underground ideas waiting to be accepted.
It was after arguing for the heliocentric model (which states in part that the earth revolves around the sun), that Galileo was put on trial on suspicion of heresy by the Roman Catholic church. He was found guilty, forced to recant his opinions, and was placed under house arrest for most of the rest of his life. Sometimes you have to be a dissenting voice in the face of opposition. And sometimes it sucks.
Oh yeah and 1 in 5 Americans thinks the sun revolves around the earth. Sorry, Galileo.