Hal Hellman - Great Feuds in Science : Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever

According to Mormon scripture (Joseph Smith Translation of Ephesians 4:26 and 3 Nephi 11:29) contention is "of the devil". According to Hal Hellman, scientific feuds can be a very positive experience. They tend to lead to further and more precisely executed research. Scientific debate also increases the public's interest and awareness of the field.

While Hellman's book is certainly 'lively' as the title suggests, and I recommend it to those who are interested in the topic, it isn't quite 'meaty' enough for those who are already familiar with some or most of the debates covered. I would have liked to have seen a book of two to three times its length on these same ten debates. Generally, about two-thirds of each chapter is devoted to background information and the current (or after the key players passed on) status of the feud. Hellman only leaves a few pages to discuss the actual discourse that took place between the original participants. Many people, including myself, would have liked to have seen much more of the initial dialogue.

Hellman does an excellent job of weaving the feuds together. He also emphasizes how the feuds have been helpful for scientific progress. The accounts are not merely scientific however. Many involve very personal clashes where egos and differing personalities play key roles in the raging battles. Ultimately, the evidence wins out over the faith and presuppositions of the participants. Great Feuds in Science is a fun, educational, and accessible piece of popular science history and methodology.

From The Publisher:
The dramatic stories of historic feuds in science and how they altered the course of discovery and shaped the modern world.

Some of the biggest breakthroughs in science have caused battles that have raged over decades, even centuries. For instance, there was the long-standing feud between Lord Kelvin and Sir Charles Lyell over the age of the Earth (Kelvin was off by over a billion years), and that between Albert Einstein and the proponents of quantum mechanics, which inspired Einstein's famous quip, "God doesn't play dice with the universe." In Great Feuds in Science, internationally celebrated science writer Harold Hellman tells the fascinating stories of 10 of the most heated disputes in the history of science, from the 17th through the 20th centuries. He introduces readers to the major players and the times they lived, explains the scientific principles involved, and shows how such controversies are not only typical, but often necessary to the progress of science.

From Galileo vs. Pope Urban to Leaky vs. Johanson, this work covers 300 years of scientific discovery and brings to life the clash of ideas and personalities.

Hal Hellman (Leonia, New Jersey) is the author of numerous trade science books, including the six-volume World of the Future series, which has been translated into 10 languages. He has contributed to The New York Times, Reader's Digest, Omni, Geo, and Psychology Today.