Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Days Of Inverse Worth

Picture - Isaac Newton laments that even this pioneering experiment will not make him as popular as Jade Goody.

I began reading a book last night that in the opening few paragraphs both inspired and then depressed me. The book is 12 Books That Changed The World by Melvyn Bragg, his personal selection of a dozen British works that have shaped and changed our understanding of the world and our place in it.

Bragg has picked a broad and interesting selection of works, Darwin's Origin Of The Species, Shakespeare's First Folio, Marie Stopes' Married Love. I was thinking that this sounded really good, a brief history of the writing of each of these works placing in their timeline and explaining how the author came to present his research, opinions or stories, informative and inspirational indeed.

The opening paragraph of the introduction to Isaac Newton's Principia Mathmatica says this about the funeral of the great man..."Voltaire, the most famous philosopher in Europe, witnessed Newton's state funeral in Westminster Abbey and praised an England which honoured a mathematician as other countries honoured a monarch."

Now the depression descended upon me, I cannot name a famous living mathematician beyond Stephen Hawking, I am struggling to name another popular philosopher after Richard Dawkins, or perhaps Dawkins is a scientist rather than a philosopher. I'm sure if I click to Google or grab some reference books from my library shelves then I could come up with a few more, but this is a pretty poor effort from me. The more depressing thing is, I bet I am not alone in being unable to name many, or indeed any, of the great thinkers and researchers of our time.

Oh, hang on, I think I've remembered another one (quick check on Google), oh dear, it appears Carl Sagan died in 1996, but do I get half a point for Sir Patrick Moore ?

We live now in an age where the population venerate shallow glossy 'talent' over real skill and intelligence. If Stephen Hawking and Cheryl Cole died tomorrow, the reporting of the latter that of the former, and yet Hawking is man whose incredible mind has shaped the thinking and research of his peers for decades and may continue to do so for decades to come. Cole on the other hand is the latest pretty pop star in a long line of manufactured celebrities with good looks, a great publicist, but a paucity of any real skill.

Who is there then that we can really look up to ? Can anyone suggest a few of the finest minds who can inspire us today ? Who are the people that we should aspire to be, the champions of the mind that we should exalt and glorify ? Answers in the comments please....


  1. How about Professor Brian Cox? He ticks quite a few of the requisite boxes. He’s a Lancastrian, but that aside……..

  2. He was in Dare ! I tried to book Dare once to do a gig at a metal night I was helping to run at a Leeds club, they sent a rider request that ran to about 3 sides of typed A4. The bookings manager looked it over, threw it back at me and said "Who do they think they are, fucking Aerosmith, tell them to fuck off."

    I've just been looking around his, and his wife's, websites, what a clever couple. Brian especially seems to be multi-talented, rock star, pop star, particle physicist, television and radio presenter, writer, broadcaster, he's an impressive lad.

  3. But he's still a Lancastrian!

  4. Anonymous1:46 am

    Dr. James Hansen, one of the leading scientist researching climate change. Check out his book titled The Storms of My Grandchildren.

  5. Anonymous9:33 pm