Brilliant Blunders by Mario Livio
From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

77%

9 Critic Reviews

Wide ranging and entertaining, Brilliant Blunders might be picked up by readers who have been fooled into doing so by the notion of blunders, but they will certainly enjoy it for its brilliance.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

Drawing on the lives of five great scientists, this “scholarly, insightful, and beautifully written book” (Martin Rees, author of From Here to Infinity) illuminates the path to scientific discovery.

Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein all made groundbreaking contributions to their fields—but each also stumbled badly. Darwin’s theory of natural selection shouldn’t have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Lord Kelvin gravely miscalculated the age of the earth. Linus Pauling, the world’s premier chemist, constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a “Big Bang” origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven). And Albert Einstein speculated incorrectly about the forces of the universe—and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps. As Mario Livio luminously explains in this “thoughtful meditation on the course of science itself” (The New York Times Book Review), these five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors.

“Thoughtful, well-researched, and beautifully written” (The Washington Post), Brilliant Blunders is a wonderfully insightful examination of the psychology of five fascinating scientists—and the mistakes as well as the achievements that made them famous.
 

About Mario Livio

See more books from this Author
Mario Livio is an internationally known astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). He is the author of The Golden Ratio, a highly acclaimed book for which he received the International Pythagoras Prize and the Peano Prize; The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved; Is God a Mathematician?; and The Accelerating Universe. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
 
Published May 14, 2013 by Simon & Schuster. 354 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Science & Math, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Sep 22 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Brilliant Blunders
All: 9 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Carl Zimmer on Jun 07 2013

Livio’s book is a valuable antidote to this skewed picture. He profiles five great scientists — Einstein, Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin, Linus Pauling and Fred Hoyle...into a thoughtful meditation on the course of science itself.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw... | See more reviews from NY Times

Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 10 2013

With humor and precision, Livio reminds us: "Even the most impressive minds are not flawless; they merely pave the way for the next level of understanding."

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Robert Schaefer on May 14 2013

Wide ranging and entertaining, Brilliant Blunders might be picked up by readers who have been fooled into doing so by the notion of blunders, but they will certainly enjoy it for its brilliance.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Robert Schaefer on May 14 2013

Wide ranging and entertaining, Brilliant Blunders might be picked up by readers who have been fooled into doing so by the notion of blunders, but they will certainly enjoy it for its brilliance.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Curt Schleier on Jun 18 2013

“Brilliant Blunders” shows that while scientists make mistakes, they ultimately get things right. And we’d better start paying attention.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Washington Independent Review of Books

Good
Reviewed by Julie Dunlap on Jun 12 2013

Readers with dim memories of high school physics may sometimes grapple for comprehension, despite Livio’s heuristic talents. But stick with him. By examining these towering scientists through the high-powered lens of their worst lapses, Livio illuminates not just the individuals but also the vital process of discovery.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw...

Science News

Good
Reviewed by Allison Bohac on Jun 28 2013

The double helix may have eluded Pauling, but his mistake helped to galvanize James Watson and Francis Crick into a concentrated effort to find the correct structure. Livio’s ultimate message is that blunders — even big ones — can play a role in scientific discovery.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw...

Cornell

Above average
Reviewed by Glenn Altschuler on May 06 2013

Those of us who already know that all beliefs are shaped, in no small measure, by “local and temperamental biases,” however, are left at the end of Brilliant Blunders wanting more.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw...

Cozy Little Book Journal

Good
Reviewed by Beatnik Mary on May 07 2013

As for the actual science in the book, it's a little beyond my university physics and chemistry classes in some places...but I didn't find it all that difficult to follow. Mostly it was the story of what happened and why it was significant that was important, rather than the specifics of the science.

Read Full Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darw...

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73%

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