Three connected incidents spread across two centuries make not only for interesting reading but also serve as a warning and an opportunity about the politicisation of modern science. I will leave each reader to interpret these three incidents as you will.
- In the year 1600, 17th February, Giordano Bruno an Italian philosopher and mathematician was burned alive, with a spike through his tongue so he couldn’t speak.
- In the year 1704, Isaac Newton was knighted by Queen Ann after his publication of Mathematica Principia.
- In the year 1845, Urbain Le Verrier a French astronomer used the method and calculations outlined in Mathematica Principia to predict or postulate that at a specified position in the sky ….. there should be another planet.
What ties these three incidents together is the assertion that the Earth and other known planets, could be be joined by the discovery of new planets in our system, all revolving around the sun. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by The Inquisition for stating that view. Isaac Newton was knighted for outlining mathematical procedures to identify such planets, which was believed, but no one had the ability or inclination to put the complex maths to the test. Urbain Le Verrier was the first person to use Newton’s method in this way, then gave his calculations to Johann Galle, the German astronomer, who after only an hour of searching the sky ……. and within 1 degree of Le Verriers calculations…….. discovered …… Neptune!
Now, you might say “so what?” But that’s 100 years of suppressing a reasonable hypothesis, plus 145 years of the world ignoring the means of proving the initial hypothesis. It couldn’t happen today of course! Or ……..