Sleeping Science Beauties

Posted: February 15, 2017, 6:17pm

Did you know that some of the most famous scientific researchers were often ostracized by their peers during their lifetimes for going against the grain and challenging the status quo? Case in point: Mendel.

Largely assumed to share the title of founding-father of the mechanism of evolutionary theory (i.e. genetics), Mendel was considered an outsider by many in science during his lifetime. It was not until 40-some years later when other reproduced his results and went back in the scientific literature that his fame increased. Mendel and his pea-pods were ahead of their time, especially for an uneducated amatuer scientist as he was.

Other research shows similar trends. A recent Indiana University study showed which fields are more likely to hold these “sleepy beauties” of research that lies dormant for years, even decades before gaining fame. One paper by Einstein published in 1935 laid dormant without much citation until 1993. Another paper was considered dormant for over 100 years!

Here is the chart of the frequency of sleeping beauty articles by field:

[Image source: http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2015/05/sleeping-beauties.shtml ]

What is it about physics?

Interestingly, many of the top ranked journals have the highest rate of dormancy. Perhaps these top rated journals produce much research that is ahead of its time and it takes the rest of the world a long time to catch up?

 

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