“All science is either physics or stamp collecting” Ernest Rutherford.
In spite of physics having the biggest amount of the most mind-breaking discoveries, the history of this discipline has a huge number of followers who were not as wise in other aspects of their personal life. In this segment we will cover 8 iconic scientists from the perspective of their biggest contributions, as well as their biggest downsides.
Ludwig Boltzmann: Almost Every Field in Physics & SuicideLudwig Eduard Boltzmann (February 20, 1844, Vienna, Austrian Empire – September 5, 1906, Duino, Austria-Hungary) was a notable and hugely overlooked physicist from Austria. Creator of kinetic theory. One of the founders of statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics.
ContributionsResearch interests of Boltzmann covered almost all areas of physics (and a number of mathematical branches). He was the author of works on
- Elasticity theory;
- Electromagnetic field theory;
- Optics, thermodynamics;
- Kinetic theory of gases.
Boltzmann’s biggest and the most important contributions were works on the kinetic theory of gases and the statistical foundation of thermodynamics. Applying statistical methods to the kinetic theory of ideal gases, he derived the basic kinetic equation of gases, which now lies as the basis of physical kinetics. His most important merit is the study of irreversible processes and the statistical interpretation of the second law of thermodynamics. He was a zealous follower of Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. And he was also the author of the first experimental work on checking the validity of the conclusions of Maxwell’s theory of the electromagnetic field.
During his lifetime, his ideas were not properly understood and appreciated. But they would be endlessly appreciated and applied by the following generations of scientists. As a result, one cannot imagine modern physics without statistical methods, the founder and the propagandist of which was the great Boltzmann.
Boltzmann was an unusually simple and extremely gentle person. According to the recollections of his students, he “was full of kindness in his eyes, faith in ideals and reverence for the wonders of the laws of nature.” He had high moral foundations and his ideal was “the image of a person who forgets about his own interests.”
Although Ludwig did not catch in the era of Twitter and social-media bullying, he did live in the booming times of science, when the impact of discoveries would not only force some people to extend the boundaries of their understanding of the world, but would also provoke the others to ferociously defend their unupdated and stubborn belief systems.
The nervous system of Boltzmann was heavily exhausted from constant fiercely discussion battles with scientific opponents. His vision deteriorated to such an extent that he was even unable to read and he had to hire a woman to read scientific articles to him. His wife would write down his own articles. Pedagogical load with a combination of scientific work, exceeded what his health could withstand.
The last years of Boltzmann’s life were perhaps the most productive, but at the same time they were probably the most difficult. He admitted that it seemed to him that his final works were generally misunderstood by everyone. Oppressed by the pressure of the enemies of atomism, Ludwig fell into depression. On September 5th, 1906, he committed suicide without ever knowing that back in 1828 the English botanist Robert Brown made the first experimental confirmation of the realism of molecular kinetic concepts. Thus, in spite of being one of the greatest minds of humanity in the end, Boltzmann’s final decision was one of the most if not the most inadequate.
Isaac Newton: Basics of Physics & Astrology. And Religion. And Alchemy
Isaac Newton (January 4, 1643 – March 31, 1727) – an outstandingly groundbreaking and world-changing English scientist. One of the founders of classical physics. Newton’s scientific biography is incredibly rich, as he made numerous discoveries in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy and mechanics.
Isaac Newton outlined the law of universal gravitation and the three laws of mechanics that became the basis of classical mechanics. He described the universal laws of motion with formulas that are still used to calculate the trajectories of Mars exploration rovers.
Newton developed a theory of the motion of celestial bodies, creating the foundations of celestial mechanics. He developed differential and integral calculus, made many discoveries in the science of optics and color theory, and developed a number of other mathematical and physical theories. Newton’s scientific works were far ahead of the general scientific level of his time, and therefore many of them were incomprehensible to contemporaries of that era.
Many of his hypotheses and predictions turned out to be prophetic, such as the deflection of light in a gravitational field, the phenomenon of polarization of light, the interconversion of light and matter, the hypothesis of the flattening of the Earth at the poles, etc.
- Newton Considered meteorites a fiction and was an astrologist.
- Newton preached that in correlation of historical, archaeological and biblical data, the age of the Earth is less than 6000 years.
- In spite of all his gigantic scientific contributions, Newton had a secret hobby that he managed to hide from the public eye – a medieval pseudoscience known as “alchemy.”
Isaac Newton devoted about 30 years of his life to alchemical research. He never published his alchemical works, and very few people knew about these studies during his lifetime. In 1936, a huge archive of Newton’s manuscripts of religious and alchemical content were discovered. According to various sources, the amount of Newton’s alchemical legacy is around 1,200,000 words. The very first laboratory journals of Newton in the 1660s were lost, so it is not possible to establish for what purpose he began his experiments. The analysis of Newton’s alchemical studies is complicated by the fact that in his notes Newton used the terminology and symbols of his own invention.
P.S. While being a Master of the Royal Mint Isaac Newton also took part in hanging counterfeiter William Chaloner.