64 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

It seems ball lightning was disbelieved by scientists until around 1960. See Wikipedia . I knew a geologist who told us how his eye-witness account of ball lightning had been ridiculed. He had ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
  • 10.3k
58 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Maryam Mirzakhani, the first Iranian and first woman to win the Fields medal, died of breast cancer in July 2017. She was only 40 years of age.
Rieendstac's user avatar
56 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

In 1726's Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift mocked the learned scientists of Britain for not having solved the Longitude problem: Figure out a way to keep track of one's east-west location to within ...
Jasper's user avatar
  • 677
38 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Bernhard Riemann (1826–1866) died at the age of 39. Paraphrasing the following from Wikipedia: The son of a poor pastor, he enrolled at age 19 at the University of Göttingen to obtain a degree in ...
ShreevatsaR's user avatar
38 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

This isn't a topic I'm familiar with, just something I've read on Quanta, but according to this article, Richard Kershner of Johns Hopkins claimed to have a complete classification of convex pentagon ...
Kevin Long's user avatar
30 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

I think a famous example is the Monty Hall problem about switching doors. The problem was answered correctly by Marilyn vos Savant, but she got baskets of letters from experts that she is wrong.
Karl's user avatar
  • 409
29 votes

What are examples of serendipity in the history of the sciences and math?

One famous example is that of Alexander Fleming. He left a cup of staphylococci on his desk and later discovered that it was contaminated with some fungus. Instead of disposing this cup, he started to ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
28 votes

What are examples of serendipity in the history of the sciences and math?

In 1961, Edward Lorenz was running a numerical simulation of weather systems.  To restart a run half-way, he copied the initial values from a previous printout — but saw that the simulation began to ...
gidds's user avatar
  • 383
27 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Frank Ramsey died before his 27th birthday. He started Ramsey theory, which is a very active field in mathematics.
mau's user avatar
  • 1,277
27 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

Take meteorites, for instance. By the end of the XVIIIth century, educated people “knew” that no rock found on Earth could possibly have fallen from the sky, in spite of the evidence (...
José Carlos Santos's user avatar
26 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Yutaka Taniyama (12 November 1927 – 17 November 1958) was a notable Japanese mathematician known for the Taniyama–Shimura or Taniyama–Shimura–Weil conjecture now referred to as the Modularity theorem ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 2,163
24 votes

What scientists and mathematicians were afraid to publish their findings?

Mikhael Gromov started his career in the Soviet Union. When he decided to try to leave (which was not an easy thing to do at the time, as it is now), he stopped publishing his work, fearful that if ...
Mikhail Katz's user avatar
  • 5,763
23 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Felix Hausdorff, his wife, and his wife's sister committed suicide in 1942 after being ordered to a Nazi death camp. He was 74 at the time but his death is certainly tragic. Wikipedia
user4894's user avatar
  • 1,345
23 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

Just warning not to include pre-1920s medicine (and a lot of medical mantra thru the 20th century), as there was little to no science involved amongst physicians. Just look at how difficult it was ...
Carl Witthoft's user avatar
23 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

The Wright Brothers, both bicycle mechanics, solved both the control and power problems of heavier-than-air manned flight in 1902, beating the well funded aeronautical academic scientists of the ...
russelld's user avatar
  • 331
22 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

I'd be tempted to add Gregor Mendel, whose experiments on plants and his analysis demonstrated how genes work, to that list. It wasn't so much that the 'professional' scientists of the time considered ...
Mac Harwood's user avatar
22 votes

What are examples of serendipity in the history of the sciences and math?

It was well known that when you iterate $x\mapsto \lambda x(1-x)$, the following happens: when $\lambda$ is small, $x=0$ is an attracting fixed point; as $\lambda$ grows, at some moment $\lambda_1$ ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
21 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

Michael Ventris, an amateur philologist, (he was an architect) managed to decipher the Mycenean script known as Linear B, a problem that professional specialists had been trying to solve for decades.
xxavier's user avatar
  • 684
19 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

The Green Flash was described for the first time (at least in the Western literature) by Jules Verne, a science fiction writer. Many scientists did not believe until photographs were taken and ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
19 votes

Who are the youngest mathematicians that published an original research article in a peer-reviewed journal?

George Bergman, "A number system with an irrational base," Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 31, No. 2, Nov.-Dec. 1957, pp. 98-110. George Mark Bergman is an American mathematician who was born on ...
njuffa's user avatar
  • 6,516
18 votes

Examples of papers co-authored by parent/child, or siblings

Check out these mathematicians: A father, and two sons, all of whom co-authored papers in various combinations. David Borwein, father Peter Borwein, son Jonathan Borwein, son Peter's memorial to ...
Roger House's user avatar
18 votes

Works of scientists, philosophers and mathematicians that (re)surfaced after a long time

A major work of Archimedes, which is usually called "The Method of mechanical theorems" was thought to be lost since the late antiquity till 1906 when it was found as a palimpsest in a ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
17 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Jacques Herbrand (1908-1931) died et 23 in an accident during a mountain excursion. He made fundamental works in logic.
AntL's user avatar
  • 171
17 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

"This page features a collection of mathematicians who died under unfortunate or unfitting circumstances." Some of those not already mentioned in previous answers are Vladimir Markov, 1871-1897 (25, ...
Gerry Myerson's user avatar
16 votes
Accepted

What are examples of serendipity in the history of the sciences and math?

Teflon (Polytetrafluoroethylene) was discovered by Roy Plunkett while working on new refrigerant. There was a residue at the bottom of the bottle he was using, a bottle which should have been emptied ...
JohnHunt's user avatar
  • 276
15 votes

What are examples of serendipity in the history of the sciences and math?

One example is radioactivity. In 1896, Henri Becquerel was working on an experiment involving a uranium-enriched crystal. He believed that sunlight was the reason that the crystal would burn its image ...
José Carlos Santos's user avatar
15 votes

What scientists and mathematicians were afraid to publish their findings?

The moment I saw this Question , I connected it with $\sqrt{2}$ , which I think is the Earliest Example of hiding ( Mathematical ) Discoveries out of fear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
Prem's user avatar
  • 396
14 votes

Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way?

Oswald Teichmüller (1913–1943), was a gifted German mathematician who worked on Riemann surfaces, among other subjects. He was also a dedicated Nazi, who volunteered for combat on the Eastern Front ...
José Carlos Santos's user avatar
14 votes

Examples of when the professional scientists or mathematicians were wrong, but the nonprofessionals were right

Mathematicians have been looking for amicable numbers for millenia. The smallest pair $(220, 284)$ was known to the Pythagoreans, and several larger pairs and a formula for generating them were found ...
Spencer's user avatar
  • 592

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