Are scientists always right about their predictions/theories?

Every scientist hopes to discover something or create some good theories. You learn about many of them in different subjects of Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology. Also, you will come across a handful of names many times in your daily life like Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Euler, Curie and others who were right in scientific discoveries.

These and many thousands of others are the scientists that gave us some elegant discovery. It seems they were all right about their theories or discoveries. So by that logic, we may think that scientists are the ones that are always right. Right?

No. That is wrong!

You will learn about the many contributions of all the scientists you come across in academics. But academics will not teach you that all of them were wrong, very very wrong, in many other predictions/theories/discoveries that they made. We learn only about the discoveries that proved to be correct. And we are not taught the false ones.

This incorrectly creates an image of a scientist as a person who is a genius and can make correct predictions or whatever. But instead, a scientist is as fallible a person as you and me.

When you dig deep into the histories of each of the scientists, you will find that each one of them made many mistakes along the way.

Einstein, whose special and general theories of relativity have stood the test of many experiments, made many mistakes in many other theories he was working on in his life. He was not able to complete his work of unifying all the forces of nature.

Newton, who gave us a hundred different tools in maths and physics, was wrong about how gravity actually works. Einstein corrected him.

Many scientists were wrong about the exact structure of an atom. Even now there is some dispute as to how an atom really is structured and how it all works. We just have rough ideas with the help of maths.

Many mathematicians were wrong about different theories in maths. Even now there are many problems that have not been solved in mathematics. Maybe you can take some of them.

So the next time when you come across a scientist who gave us some new idea of discovery, respect him/her of the work. But know in your mind that they were not some different genius breed of people. They are just like anyone else. They make mistakes, but the important thing is they stick to what they do and don’t give up due to some minor setbacks.

Studying science and about nature, thus, is not something only a select few can do. Do not fear mistakes, and do not worry about being perfect. Science is all about making mistakes and correcting them. If you cultivate the curiosity and protect it against all odds, then you too can gain pleasure in the pursuit of science, and maybe, just maybe, you will give the world some new discoveries on your own!

Stay curious.


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