Friday, February 26, 2010


This is the third in a multi-part blog on the topic of FIRST CREDIT in the sciences.

"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."

- Carl Sagan

Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742 - 1786) made some of the most important discoveries in the field of chemistry, but, through a series of bad breaks, lost first credit for all of them. Scheele discovered Oxygen a full two years before Priestley, but Scheele sent his manuscript to a publisher who held the work for several years, during which time Priestley got his discovery into print. Today, Joseph Priestley (1733 - 1804) is widely held to be the discoverer of Oxygen. In 1774, Scheele laid the groundwork for the discovery of Manganese, but Johan Gottlieb Gahn (1745 - 1818) finished the task and received the credit. Also in 1774, Scheele isolated chlorine but failed to identify it as an element; credit eventually went to Humphry Davy (1778 - 1829). Scheele did great service to science during his 46 years on earth.

Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Source: Wikipedia, public domain

© 2010 Jules Berman

key words: history of science , specified life blog , Jules J Berman PhD, MD
Science is not a collection of facts. Science is what facts teach us; what we can learn about our universe, and ourselves, by deductive thinking. From observations of the night sky, made without the aid of telescopes, we can deduce that the universe is expanding, that the universe is not infinitely old, and why black holes exist. Without resorting to experimentation or mathematical analysis, we can deduce that gravity is a curvature in space-time, that the particles that compose light have no mass, that there is a theoretical limit to the number of different elements in the universe, and that the earth is billions of years old. Likewise, simple observations on animals tell us much about the migration of continents, the evolutionary relationships among classes of animals, why the nuclei of cells contain our genetic material, why certain animals are long-lived, why the gestation period of humans is 9 months, and why some diseases are rare and other diseases are common. In “Armchair Science”, the reader is confronted with 129 scientific mysteries, in cosmology, particle physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine. Beginning with simple observations, step-by-step analyses guide the reader toward solutions that are sometimes startling, and always entertaining. “Armchair Science” is written for general readers who are curious about science, and who want to sharpen their deductive skills.