Scientist of the Day

Eric Lawes

November 16, 2018

Eric Lawes was a retired utility board worker, living in Hoxne in Suffolk, England, who received a metal detector as a retirement present.  On Nov. 16, 1992, Lawes was using his detector to look for a hammer that a tenant-farmer friend had lost in a field, when he...

William Herschel

November 15, 2018

William Herschel, an English telescope builder and astronomer, was born Nov. 15, 1738.  Two year’s ago, we celebrated Herschel’s birthday by discussing his first telescopes, with which he discovered the planet Uranus in 1781, with a promise that we would return one...

Xavier Bichat

November 14, 2018

Marie François Xavier Bichat, a French pathologist and anatomist, was born Nov. 14, 1771.  Bichat was the first to propose that tissue is a central element in human anatomy, and he considered organs as collections of often disparate tissues, rather than as entities in...

Abraham Flexner

November 13, 2018

Abraham Flexner, an American educator, was born Nov. 13, 1866. Flexner was so disillusioned by his graduate school experience that he wrote a book, The American College (1908), in which he was highly critical of the lecture system as a means of education, and even...

Wilfrid Voynich

November 12, 2018

Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish antiquarian bookseller, was born Nov. 12, 1865. By no measure was Voynich a scientist, but by giving him that title for a day, we get a chance to discuss his tantalizing namesake, the Voynich manuscript. After living the young life of a radical Polish revolutionary, Voynich settled down to a career as a London book dealer, doing well enough that he could eventually open a New York City branch. About this time, in 1912, Voynich bought 30 manuscripts from a Jesuit library in Italy. One of these was distinctive, because it consisted of some 120 vellum leaves, many of them attractively illustrated with hand-painted images of plants, constellations, and other natural objects, but with a text written in an unknown language.

Carl Sagan

November 9, 2018

Carl Sagan, an American astronomer and public science spokesman, was born Nov. 9, 1934. Sagan was a planetary scientist at Cornell and an adviser to NASA during the early years of the space program (i.e., the 1960s and 70s). Another space program of sorts was being launched at the same time, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, and Sagan was involved in that as well. He was adamantly resistant to the idea that ET has already visited earth (“extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is one of the more celebrated quotes from his later Cosmos series), but he was convinced that life, and probably intelligent life, existed elsewhere than Earth.