To commemorate its 350th anniversary next year, the Royal Society, the world’s oldest science academy based in London, has released an interactive website about scientific history. Trailblazing features a timeline starting in 1650, tracing scientific breakthroughs throughout the centuries alongside major historical events to help put it the discoveries in context. It’s a well-designed site, with detail on the experiments and beautiful images, especially for the older works.
Working in a lab full of protocols and precedents makes me long for the olden science days, when scientists were true artists. So little study had been done that methods were endless tinkering, collecting and labor, and nothing was handed to you. True determination was necessary, a real lust for knowledge. Now science is a common job, and the need to publish something “legitimate” to retain funding feels restraining. The work is done mainly in fields that politicians or large companies have deemed worthwhile. The true crackpots are few and far between.
We should be readily mocked by our equals when presenting our findings, like Harry Whittington when he presented a reconstruction of a 500 million year old creature from the Burgess Shale, only to be right in the end. We should write down long-winded accounts of interesting people or weird diseases we encounter, just so they aren’t forgotten. We should hook-up our pets to our house appliances for the sake of science, like Robert Hooke did when he invented the air pump. (Well, maybe we shouldn’t torture our pets.) Y’get what I’m sayin’ here?
I’m nostalgic for a time and a feeling I’ve never experienced.