Re: [asa] science martyrs

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Mar 01 2009 - 13:02:32 EST

Gregory -

You beat me to a mention of Vavilov. Velikovsky did indeed get some unfair criticism from scientists who knew his ideas only superficially, but when one examines them in more depth they still turn out to be wildly wrong. Counting him as a martyr is pretty far off. A guy who was out of his depth in fields he didn't know much about would be a more accurate decription. I once heard him speak in the 70s when there was a bit of a Velikovsky revival - a rambling talk that was so long that the scheduled Q & A time had to be omitted.

In response to the original question: The traditional definition of a martyr in the Christian tradition is a believer who is killed "because of hatred of the faith" (per odium fide). A person who is persecuted because of the Christian faith but not killed for it is a "confessor." If we use similar criteria for scientists there have been very few "science martyrs" but a lot more "science confessors."


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: 'ASA list' ; Marcio Pie
  Sent: Sunday, March 01, 2009 8:54 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] science martyrs

        Hello Marcio,

        Not sure how many 'martyrs' you'll find in North America in the cause of 'science' but let me mention just two who lived and died in my current environment.

        1) Nikolai I. Vavilov (1887-1943) - botanist, geneticist, the mentor and bane of T. Lysenko, centres of origin, founder of 'the law of homologous series in variation'

        I am conducting research at the Institute dedicated to his name in St. Petersburg today, which includes the section on Evolutionary Biology and History of Science and Technology. The Vavilov seed bank is located about 10 minutes drive from my apartment.

        2) Nikolai D. Kondratiev (1892-1938) - economist, known for business cycles or 'Kondratiev waves'

        One could argue that Kondratiev was targetted for his political, rather than his scientific views. However, when it comes to human-social sciences, these things (politics and science) are much more integrated and intricately woven together.

        One could add Immanuel Velikovsky (martyred or sacrificed by the 'scientific community'), but he was not physically killed as the above two; rather 'persecution' would be the appropriate term.

        Hope it helps in your quest.


        --- On Sun, 3/1/09, Marcio Pie <> wrote:

          From: Marcio Pie <>
          Subject: [asa] science martyrs
          To: "'ASA list'" <>
          Received: Sunday, March 1, 2009, 4:21 PM

          Hi there,

          I got a simple question: what are the well-established cases of science martyrs? By that I mean cases of scientists (or, more appropriately, natural philosophers) that experienced persecution *because* of their scientific beliefs.

          There is the commonly cited but mistaken case of Galileo, which is part of scientific pop culture, but has been regarded as a myth by people like Ron Numbers. Also, I just learned that Giordano Bruno was not condemned because of his scientific views, as commonly stated, but rather due to his theological views on the trinity.

          So, is there any example of someone that was really persecuted (or martyrized) because of his/her scientific views?



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Received on Sun Mar 1 13:04:00 2009

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