Amateurs that Changed the World

We have a few people that are heroes to amateur researchers, scientists, and philosophers like members of Freethinker Nation. These are people that didn’t have the credentials, the educations, or even the money to become intellectual innovators, and yet they did it anyway. They became leaders in their fields and changed the world’s views in the process. This is why Freethinker Nation wants to support the many like us, who have the ideas, the know-how and the ability. We simply lack the support. We believe that in order to build a real community of thinkers, we needed to provide them with a judgement free place to share their ideas. So let’s look at a few of the amateurs, like us, who sought to make a difference.

Gregor Mendel

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Gregor Mendel is the father of modern genetics. As the discoverer of the laws of inheritance, Gregor helped found the discipline of genetics. With a small amount of scientific training (in physics) he lived most of his life as a priest in a Czech abbey. It was there that he conducted his experiments with pea plants and discovered the recessive and dominant qualities of genes. His paper on the matter was widely ignored despite the fact that it later became the foundation of research in modern genetics.

Thomas Alva Edison

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Thomas Alva Edison is the most famous of our amateur heroes. His numerous achievements barely need mention, but it is worth noting that he became a popular inventor and innovator with no formal training or education. He was home-schooled as a child and read books and magazines on science while conducting experiments at home, while working a night shift at AP news wire service. He received his first acknowledgement as an inventor by creating and improving devices for the telegraph machine. His fame came with the inventions of the phonograph and the light bulb (although the light bulb invention is a subject of debate as Humphry Davy invented the first electric light in 1802; Joseph Wilson Swan also created a ‘light bulb’ in 1840, and Henry Woodward developed an electric lamp as well in 1874) However, Edison did help to  evolve the light bulb technology, which gave us the modern incandescent bulb that we use today. In  Nov 4, 1879, he filed a U.S. patent for an electric lamp using “a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected … to platina contact wires.”

Nov 4, 1879, he filed another U.S. patent for an electric lamp using “a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected … to platina contact wires.”

Robert Evans

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Robert Evans was born in 1937 and spent most of his life as a minister in the Uniting church of Australia. He is also credited with holding the all-time record for individual visual discoveries of supernovae in the world. His uncanny ability to spot supernovae is made only more astonishing when this amateur astronomer is known to use only a 12 inch telescope. Not just finding these anomalies, Evans also discovered a 1C supernova in 1983. He is still living as of this publishing.

Henrietta Swan Leavitt

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Henrietta Swan Leavitt wouldn’t be on this list if she were a male. However, not being able to be formally educated with her male counterparts, she was hired in 1893 by Edward Pickering of the Harvard Observatory to work as a computer. For women, this meant that she hired to sort and classify photographic plates of stars. While working, she discovered a group of stars called ceiphids. Having already discovered a system for measuring the brightness of stars, Leavitt applied this system to measure ceiphids. She learned that ceiphids have a close relationship to between their brightness period (how long they twinkle) and how bright they are. This allows us to develop a reference point in space so that we can now measure the distance between the stars. What this did for modern astronomy is unprecedented.

Michael Faraday

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Michael Faraday was an English scientist with little formal education, who would make huge contributions to the study of electromagnetism, and electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis. It was by his research on the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a direct current that Faraday established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics. Faraday also established that magnetism could affect rays of light and that there was an underlying relationship between the two phenomena. He also discovered the principles of electromagnetic induction and diamagnetism, and the laws of electrolysis. His inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology, and it was largely due to his efforts that electricity became practical for use in technology. Fun note: Albert Einstein kept a picture of Faraday on his study wall, alongside other innovators like Isaac Newton and James Clark Maxwell.