Weighing the Soul – The Evolution of Scientific Ideas

“This book tells the stories of scientists whose ideas appeared bizarre, peculiar or downright daft to their contemporaries, but who stuck to their guns through ridicule, oppression and persecution. Some of their ideas were daft, and most of these ideas (though by no means all!) rapidly became extinct. Others, seemingly every bit as bizarre, passed every test that could be thrown at them, and survived to be accepted and used by scientists such as myself as part of our everyday work.”

I suspect that this book might have sold better if I had called it “The Doctor Who Weighed the Soul” (after a story in the first chapter). As evidence I adduce the fact that I once found it in the religious section of a well-known bookshop!

Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2004

Chapter Headings

1. Weighing the Soul 
The story of an American doctor who attempted to weigh the soul, and the remarkable parallels with scientists’ attempts to weigh heat

2. Making a Move 
About Galileo

3. Two Fingers to Newton 
Thomas Young and the wave theory of light

4. The Course of Lightning Through a Corset 
Benjamin Franklin and the story of the lightning rod, not to mention the story of the lady whose underwear was removed by a bolt of lightning while her outer garments remained intact

5. Fool’s Gold?

6. Frankenstein Lives
Luigi Galvani and biological electricity

7. What is Life? 
Do living beings have a “vital force”?)

8. Necessary Mysteries 
The bizarre things that scientists are forced to believe

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