Nikola Tesla, 10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943, was a world-renowned inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer. He was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist, and died impoverished and forgotten at the age of 86. An ethnic Serb who later became an American citizen, he is best known for his revolutionary work in electricity and magnetism. His most lasting legacy is the alternating current electric power system, but he also played an important part in the development of radio and television, robotics, remote control, radar and computer science. He laid the foundation for expansions of ballistics, nuclear power and theoretical physics. However, some of his ideas have been taken up by enthusiasts for UFOs and new age occultism. He was a man who constantly thought ‘outside the box’ and was opposed by the scientific establishment. Today he has an SI unit named after him, but in 1943 he was regarded as a maverick.
David Bohm, 20 December 1917- 27 October 1992 was an American-born quantum physicist, who left America under McCarthyism to live variously in Brazil, Israel and England, yet made significant contributions in the fields of theoretical physics, philosophy and neuropsychology, and to the Manhattan Project. None of this is disputed, though by a strange irony, he was denied access to his own PhD thesis, which was classified ‘Top Secret’ as it was used to develop the atom bomb. But an important part of his later work concerned holograms and here despite reverence for his emminence as physicist, his ideas were regarded as crackpot.
Edward Jenner, 17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823 was an English country doctor who studied nature and his natural surroundings from childhood and practiced medicine in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. He is famous as the first doctor to introduce and study the smallpox vaccine. Yet his Fellowship of the Royal Society was given for his work on cuckoos. He discovered that it was the fledgling cuckoo that expelled the other eggs from the nest, and that for the first 12 days of its life the fledgling had an egg shaped depression in its back to enable it to do so. When he introduced the practice of vaccination he faced opposition from the medical establishment. “Stick to your cuckoos, Jenner!” the chided him. Not being an MD or an FRCP he couldn’t get it accepted in London, and indeed when it was finally shown to work, the ‘variolation’ cabal attempted to steal it from him.
These are three among many mavericks who dared to challenge the scientific paradigm of the day. Of course, there are hundreds who try and are proved wrong. I am not arguing for the rightness of mavericks, simply that scientists, in being too protective of the current paradigm, put a brake on advances.
Dream the impossible dream, goes the song.