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Epistemology and philosophy of science reference intellectual, sagacious, scholarly vanguards such as Michael Servetus (who correctly explicated pulmonary circulation) and Dr Ignaz Semmelweis (who correctly advocated for handwashing) wrongfully condemned and contemned for averring their beliefs 'ahead of their time'.

I wish to learn more about such vanguards; so are there any books or lists or resources?

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  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget Galileo. $\endgroup$
    – vonbrand
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 0:54

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I would just like to point out a debatable element of selection in the question.

When you say "correct theory," you are implicitly seeking "scientists" martyred by religious authorities, which is our modern view of the matter. Hypatia, Giordano Bruno, and Galileo are the "poster-children" for this view.

One would never make this sort of claim for Jesus, St. Paul, Socrates, Robespierre, the Paris Communards, or the many socialists killed in counter-revolutionary actions. They did not have what we would call "correct theories."

Other cases are borderline. What about Newton's attacks on Leibniz, whose calculus notation in fact proved superior? Were Cantor and Boltzmann driven to their deaths for scientific nonconformism? What about the various scientists suppressed by Stalin and Lysenko or by the McCarthy hearings?

Interestingly, one of the first "scientific martyrs" reveals the antiquity of the rift and the early divorce between the sacred and the secular. This was the purported slaying of Hippasus by the Pythagoreans for revealing proofs of the irrationals. The Pythagoreans were, in turn, slain for their cultish hoarding of knowledge.

But let's return to Galileo, the most famous case. To be gratuitously provocative, one can make the case the Galileo was, in fact, persecuted by the Church for being insufficiently "scientific." He claimed his solar-centric views were "the truth," whereas the Church had allowed Copernican views, as long as they were explicitly qualified as "hypothesis only." In this respect, one could say the Church was closer to strict scientific methodology.

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One of the famous incident is of Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake in $1600$ in Rome for his theories about the Universe. He said that stars are just distant SUNs and may have their own planetary systems which probably holds intelligent life also. Also he said that there is no preferable center of the Universe. This ideas were true but against the many religious beliefs of that time. Galileo was also a victim of the wrong beliefs that the society had. He was kept as house arrest for opposing several ideas including geocentric astronomical system.

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One contemporary vanguard is the environmental movement and one aspect of this is anthropogenic climate change.

Global Witness, a London based rights organisation have documented more than 1500 environmentalists who have been killed whilst defending the environment in 50 countries between 2002 and 2017. During those fifteen years the rate of killings increased from 2 per week to 4 per week with the death toll in Brazil, Honduras, the Phillipines and Columbia accounted for just over 70%.

Amongst them is Lei Yang, an environmental scientist in China, who died whilst in police custody. The authorities stated that no charges would be brought against the officers involved. The case in China provoked a huge protest accusing the police of brutality.

According to John Knox, a former UN special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment:

murder is not the only way enviromental defenders are persecuted. For every 1 killed, there are 20 to 100 others who are harassed, unlawfully and lawfully persecuted, and sued for defamation amongst other intimidations.

I would expect that there are many more educated and working in the environmental sciences amongst the list.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not killed for their correct theories, but for posing a threat to certain groups. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Rodrigo de Azevado: Not directly killed for their theories but nevertheless had they not held these theories, they wouldn't have been advocating the positions that they were and which meant they became a threat to certain interest groups. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ The crux of the matter is that people with nonsensical "theories" can still pose a serious threat to certain groups. What matters is how quickly the "theory" spreads, not its correctness. Hard to put such "martyrs" and Semmelweis in the same bag. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ Once upon a time, Galileo went against medieval scholasticism. Nowadays, many of those who believe to be the intellectual descendants of Galileo are themselves the defenders of a modern form of scholasticism — and they do not even realize it! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Rodrigo de Azevado: I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one to have realised this! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 9:57

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