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4 Scientists That Were Disregarded During Their Time

Hands up who’s dedicated years of your life to a concept that has gone nowhere. It may come as scant consolation, but you are in distinguished company. Some of the people behind modern science’s greatest discoveries have failed to receive the recognition they deserved. Here are 4 unfortunate scientists who made crucial discoveries but were dismissed during their time.

1. Gregor Mendel 

Unbelievably Mendel’s work on genetic inheritance wasn’t read by anyone during his life. This certainly wasn’t due to lack of effort on his behalf. Even though Mendel attempted on many occasions to contact renowned scientists, they struggled to understand him and his theories. Attempts to replicate his experiments also proved problematic. Although his experiments on pea plants worked, when asked to reproduce this experiment on more complex plants, such as hawkweed, he couldn’t replicate similar results (we now know that Hawkweed has the ability to reproduce asexually). It wasn’t until the next century, 16 years after Mendel died, that his work was rediscovered and replicated. Interestingly, it was said that Charles Darwin had a copy of Mendel’s paper, and if he had read it, then the connection between evolution by natural selection and classical genetic hereditary would have been made much earlier.

2. Ignaz Semmelweis

A Hungarian physician working in Austria, Semmelweis noticed that one hospital of his had very high death rates. He theorised that this death toll could be lowered by surgeons washing their hands between patients. Semmelweis’s theory was correct. Greeted with such an easy way to reduce mortality, obviously, his fellow practitioners welcomed this research. Wrong! When Semmelweis talked about his findings to other medical practitioners, he was disregarded and accused of calling them dirty. After years of trying, he finally gave up and ended his days in an insane asylum. It wasn’t until around 20 years later that Louis Pasteur’s germ theory inclined more people to wash their hands often and, sadly too late for Semmelweis, he was proven right. 

3. George Zweig

A theoretical physicist, Zweig proposed the theory of quarks right after defending his PhD thesis and at the same time as rival Murray Gell-Mann. However, because Zweig was a young graduate student and not as well established, the journal that both scientists sent their respective papers to, accepted Gell-Mann’s after rejecting Zweig’s for the same theory. Gell-Mann then went to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work (a real kick in the quarks you could say).

4. Ludwig Boltzmann

Boltzmann developed equations and formulas which explain the properties of atoms and how they determine the physical nature of matter. Now it transpires that proposing a theory that disproves other laws of physics (and scientists) thought to be correct at the time does not make you particularly popular or appreciated. After years of fighting for atom theory to be accepted, Boltzmann committed suicide. This was only 3 years before Ernest Rutherford discovered the nucleus of an atom, proving Boltzmann’s theory.  

Do you know of any scientists that didn’t receive the recognition they deserve? Comment below and don’t forget to share and subscribe.