Forget Newton, Darwin and Einstein. The greatest scientist of the millennium was Alfred Kinseyby Thomas Barlow / January 20, 2000 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2000 issue of Prospect Magazine
Millennial fever has been spreading through the scientific societies. The primary symptom is a fad among society journals to survey readers with the question: who was the greatest scientist of the millennium?
Anyone with sense must know that this is a question without an answer, so I am surprised that scientists, trained to ask questions with answers, have indulged it. Yet they have, in large numbers. Indeed, it occurs to me that there are now more scientists thinking about this than at any other time in history.
Despite my reservations, then, not wanting to miss out on any great movement of human thought, I have decided to offer my own contribution to the “greatest scientist” debate. And the first thing that I want to establish is my antipathy to the three favourites-Newton, Darwin and Einstein.
I am totally against Isaac Newton, and not only because he was an alchemist and a theologian. The truth is that he was a bad-tempered, paranoid, megalomaniacal woman-hater who, in his spare time as a physicist, just happened to have a bit of luck with his principia thing. Although even that is of dubious merit. What use are the laws of motion to the man in the street? What good is the law of gravity when what the world needs is a bit more levity?
Newton was a mere hobbyist, a crank whose life was mainly directed at lumbering school students with calculus. Calculus schmalculus! He should have taken his flexions and his forces, and bottled and buried them.
Charles Darwin isn’t much better. I always thought it highly suspect that he married his first cousin and had ten children, as though driven by his own theory to procreate with an anti-Malthusian abandon. But even laying aside the man (as his cousin did), I think we could have done just as well without his poppycock theory, too. Natural selection was an inspiration for Nazis and evolutionary pop psychologists alike. It seems to bring out the worst in people, intellect…