by Doug Linman, PhD
Most of us take Einstein’s name to be synonymous with genius, but he didn’t always display such greatness. Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his play time friends, teachers, and parents to think he was mentally handicapped, slow, maybe sporting an attention deficit disorder, and anti-social. Eventually, he was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. It might have taken him a bit longer, but most people would agree that he caught on pretty well later in his life, winning the Nobel Prize and changing the face of modern physics.
In his early years, another influencer Charles Darwin gave up on having a medical career and was often chastised by his father for being lazy and too dreamy. Darwin himself wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.” Perhaps they all judged him far too soon, as Darwin became well known for his scientific studies. In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of life sciences, explaining the diversity of all life. Incredible achievement for a less than “ordinary boy”!
If you ask around Planet Earth, you will discover that Robert Goddard is hailed for his research and experimentation with liquid-fueled rockets, but during his lifetime his ideas were often rejected and mocked by his scientific peers who thought they were outrageous, childlike and impossible. Today rockets and space travel are no longer far-fetched at all, due largely in part to the work of this scientist who worked against the feelings of his time and persevered. Goddard successfully applied three-axis control mechanisms, gyroscopes and steerable thrust to rockets, all of which allow them to be controlled effectively in flight. Professor Goddard received little public support for his research during his lifetime, and although his work in the field was revolutionary, he was further ridiculed in the press for his theories concerning spaceflight. As a result, he became protective of his privacy and his work. Years after his death, at the dawn of the Space Age, he came to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry and was the first not only to recognize the scientific potential of missiles and space travel but also to bring about the design and construction of the rockets needed to implement those ideas. In 1959 NASA agreed that his pioneering work was extraordinary and that his work would be memorialized and further directed to more achievements. In his honor the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center was dedicated to continuing his amazing work.
Another in my small group of influential friends is Isaac, who was undoubtedly a genius when it came to math, but he had some failings early on. He never did particularly well in school and when put in charge of running the family farm, he failed miserably, so poorly in fact that an uncle took charge and sent him off to Cambridge where he finally blossomed into the scholar we know today. Well, more than boyishly blossomed I think we all know by now! Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist and theologian, who has been considered by many “to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived." He laid the foundations for most of classical mechanics, and described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, which have dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for centuries. Newton showed that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws thus advancing the Scientific Revolution. His book, the Principia, is generally considered to be one of the most important scientific books ever written, due, independently, to the specific physical laws the work successfully described, and for the style of the work, which assisted in setting standards for scientific publication down to the present time. Newton also built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of color based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colors that form the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound. In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of differential and integral calculus! All this should display that your mind and knowledge are the two most power tools we hold, as our own.
These inventors, scientists and thinkers, as a basic study team, changed the face of the modern world, but not without numerous failed efforts along the way. Often regarded as some of the greatest minds of our century, they often had to face great obstacles, the ridicule of their peers and the animosity of society. Their histories will certainly inspire you and provide a foundation of what it takes to a set a course for contributing great deeds, ethically and unselfishly, for the advancement of our people.
So, I would tell you to never give up your considered dreams, read and live a life of significance in all that you do from now on. Then my friend Albert would tell you, “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value”.
Inspire yourself to be the best and to prosper; our world needs you and is waiting for you!