This book is a collection of the most vicious, scandalous, dirty, drawn-out, petty, personal, bad-tempered and downright violent feuds in the history of science. While most scientific chronicles present a triumphant march through time, with great thinkers and their revolutionary ideas and discoveries following on in orderly progression, the reality is somewhat different. Science is as much a story of personalities as ideas and it has often progressed through fierce struggles and epic battles for scientific and personal supremacy. Whether arguing over the credit for new discoveries or espousing rival theories, the disputes in this book have in many cases spurred the feuding parties on to great things and, in some, caused their ruin.
The book features such notable feuds as Huxley and Wilberforce's famous debate on Darwin's theory of evolution, Franklin and Wilkins' fight over the discovery of DNA, Galileo's trial by the Catholic Church for his heretic adoption of the heliocentric view and Tesla and Edison's 'War of Currents', which saw Edison electrocute dogs and horses in a vain attempt to discredit Tesla's alternating current electrical power system. From passionate rivalries to vindictive sniping, the arguments in this book prove that when it comes to the personalities behind the ideas, the world of science is far from cool and methodical.
Joel Levy is a writer and journalist specializing in science and history. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Poison: A Social History, the science, history and lore of poisons through the ages, The Atlas of Lost Treasures, on historical mysteries around the world, The Doomsday Book, a guide to scenarios for the end of civilization, and Lost Cities of the Ancient World. Joel lives in North London.