Politics, Morality, Innovation, and Misrepresentation in Physical Science and Technology
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The pressures of politics, the desire to be first in innovation, moral convictions, and the potential dangers of error are all factors that have long been at work in the history of science and technology. And every so often, the need to reach a result may require leaving out a few steps here and there. Historians think and argue best through stories, so what follows are several tales, each of which exemplifies one or more of these aspects, though some reach back nearly 200 years. The first concerns the depletion of the ozone layer; the second involves the discovery of electric waves by Heinrich Hertz in 1888; the third concerns the controlled production of electromagnetic radiation by Guglielmo Marconi and John Ambrose Fleming in the early 1900s; the fourth portrays the circumstances surrounding Joseph von Fraunhofer’s discovery and use of the spectral lines in the 1810s; our final case involves a bitter controversy between the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz and the astronomer Friedrich Zöllner in the 1890s.