In an old post, we talked about scientific “one hit wonders”–scientists who made a single major contribution, but whose other work was not especially notable. In that post, I made the joking analogy to pop band Soft Cell and their hit “Tainted Love”. With which Jeff Ollerton quibbled, noting that while “Tainted Love” was Soft Cell’s biggest worldwide hit, Soft Cell actually had several other hits in the UK. Meaning that Soft Cell weren’t actually one hit wonders and really shouldn’t be remembered as such.
Soft Cell is far from the only such example, of course. The passage of time has a way of simplifying and flattening the memory of anybody. Wait long enough, and almost anybody who’s remembered at all will be remembered as a one-hit wonder.
Which got me thinking that it would be fun to talk about ecologists and other scientists who are remembered primarily for one thing, but who actually did other notable work.
Some opening bids:
- Sophie Germain, remembered most for her contributions to number theory, also deserves to be remembered for foundational work on the mathematics of elasticity.
- Alexander Fleming, remembered most for the discovery of penicillin, also deserves to be remembered as the discoverer of lysozymes.
- Claude Shannon, remembered most for information theory, also deserves to be remembered for pioneering the application of Boolean algebra to circuit design.
- Albert Einstein, remembered most for relativity and E=mc^2 (a two-hit wonder!), also deserves to be remembered for the photoelectric effect and the explanation of Brownian motion.
It’s also interesting to try to predict what single achievement someone with many notable achievements will be remembered for in the distant future. For instance, I bet
that in the long run R. A. Fisher is more likely to be remembered for a statistical idea than for the Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection or any of his other evolutionary contributions.