49

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 learned not to mention it when he interviewed for jobs as a professor of geology.


45

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 a mile after making a round-trip across the Atlantic. This was one of the most important scientific challenges of the 18th century. The British Parliament ...


25

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 tilings in 1968, though he notably said that "The proof that the list in Theorems 1 and 2 is complete is extremely laborious and will be given elsewhere" and ...


24

By way of throat-clearing, what is Occam's razor? John Baez has a useful essay giving the history and some examples. William of Ockham's original formulation was Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily. In other words, don't assume the existence of something unless there is good evidence for it. Again quoting Baez, "In physics we use the razor to ...


23

I think a famous example is the Monty Hall problem` https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.


21

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 (eyewitnesses included) for their existence. As science journalist Kat Eshner wrote, “eighteenth-century rationalists […] thought the stories of rains ...


19

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 for Lister et. al. to convince hospitals, midwives, etc. to wash their hands and sterilize operating theatres. There are dozens of incorrect anecdotes ...


17

NO. See at least : William Gilbert with De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure (1600) Galileo Galilei with e.g. the Sidereus Nuncius (1610) William Harvey with Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus (1628) René Descartes with Discours de la méthode. Pour bien conduire sa raison, et chercher la vérité dans ...


17

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.


16

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 Smithsonian Institute, notably Samuel Pierpont Langley.


15

In a word, yes, but only interpreting "western" broadly. The tradition of precise and systematic astronomical observations comes from ancient Babylonians, i.e. from Mesopotamia, and even Alexandria, where many scientists worked during Hellenistic times, is in the middle east. John Philoponus (c. 490 – 570) working there wrote things like "but this [view of ...


15

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 published. Herbert Wells in 1914 described the use of nuclear energy for both bombs and peaceful applications. (His novel The world Set Free). At approximately the ...


14

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 that he was wrong - rather that they didn't even know of his results. In particular Darwin puzzled over what the mechanism for transfer of traits was and was ...


11

As user njuffa has commented, my original answer was not strictly to the letter of the OP. Here are some other examples : Fermi's 1933 paper on the weak interaction. Gell-Mann's 1953 paper on the classification of elementary particles. Higgs' 1964 paper introducing the Higgs Boson/Field - described as unimaginative by the publisher. Ernst's 1966 paper on ...


11

Probably the most famous conflict that satisfies your requirements is the conflict between "Ptolemy system" and "Copernic system", though few people understand this even today:-) This conflict became so famous because of the intrusion of a non-scientific authority, that is catholic church. From the point of view of astronomy, there are two aspects: a) the ...


11

In the 1960s the mathematical structure of Turing degrees was conjectured to be rather simple and homogeneous. This was consistent with what was known at the time. It later turned out that the opposite is true in a sense: the Turing degrees are as complicated as can be. Details in Ambos-Spies and Fejer, History of degree theory.


11

It is a strange idea that scientific laws can be only expressed with algebraic means. The Greek did discover several scientific laws. The oldest one is attributed to Pythagoras himself: it relates the length of the string to its pitch. This seems to be the oldest scientific law ever discovered. More laws were discovered in Hellenistic times: the law of ...


10

Quite a famous example from modern physics deals with the inherent randomness of quantum theory. In the early years of quantum mechanics when the formulation in terms of wave functions was developed, the question of interpretation arose. Copenhagen interpretation, developed mainly by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg became the most accepted of all the ...


10

A person's life and behavior are always shaped by a number of factors, not (in general) just one. I think it highly unlikely that any one of the three points you bring up is responsible for Grothendieck's success. At the same time, all of them may have contributed to his life. The point that I find singular about Alexander Grothendieck is his overarching ...


9

Usually Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is credited with "articulating the scientific method" in general, and not only "first in Europe", but just the first.


9

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 by Hindu and Arab mathematicians during the Middle Ages. Fermat, Descartes, and Euler rediscovered some of these and found some more. But in 1866, a 16-year ...


8

The Mpemba effect, named after a Tanzanian student who discovered that a hot ice cream mix freezes faster than a cold mix in cookery classes in the early 1960s was initially ridiculed. Quoting the wiki page on this topic: After [a lecture by Dr. Denis G. Osborne], Erasto Mpemba asked him the question, "If you take two similar containers with ...


7

Every scientific theory has some counter-examples or "discrepancies". But, in general, a "good" theory will not be rejected until a "better" new theory is available. "Little" discrepancies, like that involving Mercury's orbit were far less relevant that "big" successes like the correct prediction of the existence of a previously unseen planet; see ...


7

Euclid wrote an Optica (300 BC) — surely “Visual rays proceed in a straight line indefinitely” ranks with the best physical laws. So did Ptolemy (160 AD), and Hero wrote a Catoptrica (50 AD). Aristotle knew the principle of virtual work. Jim Holt’s physics don’t seem to fare much better than his math.


7

Hooke was not close (as far as we can judge from his surviving work) to what Newton accomplished. Yes, he conjectured the inverse square law. He understood correctly some simple qualitative features of the motion under this law. He probably performed some simple experiments suggesting these features. And he proposed to Newton to prove that the inverse square ...


7

Rogue/Freak waves. It seems that reports of these were considered myths by science for a long time until they were finally recorded. (However this is not an exact answer to the question - no non-professional had a theory about these waves, it was more of "ignoring observed facts which don't fit the accepted theory)


6

To the contrary, Young's point was to disprove the then dominant Newton's corpuscular theory of light by demonstrating light's wave properties, see How did Young perform his double slit experiment? The first "quantum" version of the experiment, with emission-absorption events creating a dotted pattern on the back screen, was performed by Taylor in 1909, ...


6

First, the prediction of Neptune was a big win for science in the eyes of the general public. It was not exactly spotless though, especially in the eyes of the scientists. Here is from Kelley's How was Neptune Discovered?: "The world was excited by the find, for never before had mathematics predicted a natural object. This confidence in the results was ...


5

As mentioned in his obituary, Leigh Van Valen's evolutionary law (1973), referred to more commonly as the Red Queen Hypothesis, has been repeatedly rejected. So much in fact that he decided to create his own journal (Evolutionary Theory) to publish it. For those not familiar with it, the 'Red Queen Hypothesis' is an evolutionary model driven by ...


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