Brilliant Blunders

From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

Brilliant Blunders

Drawing on the lives of five great scientists, this “scholarly, insightful, and beautifully written book” (Martin Rees, author of From Here to Infinity) illuminates the path to scientific discovery.

Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein all made groundbreaking contributions to their fields—but each also stumbled badly. Darwin’s theory of natural selection shouldn’t have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Lord Kelvin gravely miscalculated the age of the earth. Linus Pauling, the world’s premier chemist, constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a “Big Bang” origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven). And Albert Einstein speculated incorrectly about the forces of the universe—and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps. As Mario Livio luminously explains in this “thoughtful meditation on the course of science itself” (The New York Times Book Review), these five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors.

“Thoughtful, well-researched, and beautifully written” (The Washington Post), Brilliant Blunders is a wonderfully insightful examination of the psychology of five fascinating scientists—and the mistakes as well as the achievements that made them famous.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439192375 | 
  • May 2014
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Mario Livio on Brilliant Blunders

Mario Livio shows how even geniuses make major mistakes and why errors are an essential part of achieving breakthroughs.

More Books from this Author

Is God a Mathematician?
The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved

About the Author

Mario Livio
Photograph (c) NASA, ESA, and J. Coyle Jr. (for Space Telescope Science Institute)

Mario Livio

Mario Livio is an internationally known astrophysicist, a bestselling author, and a popular speaker. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Livio is the author of The Golden Ratio, a highly acclaimed book for which he received the International Pythagoras Prize and the Peano Prize; The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved; Is God A Mathematician?; the national bestseller Brilliant Blunders; and The Accelerating Universe. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.