The Art of Taking Credit

Some of the most challenging blogs I’ve written on Steemit have been about science. Usually I pick a topic with which I have passing familiarity. Then I hit the books (or Google Scholar) and study. This was the case with the blog I’m posting today. I think it turned out rather well. At least I achieved what I set out to do. I hope at least few people read this blog, and enjoy it.



Science advances not as much from the work of individuals as it does from collaboration. Isaac Newton once said, in homage to his antecedents, “If I see further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.


Democritus
Democritus2 Hendrick ter Brugghen public.jpg

(Public Domain picture)


Democritus (460-370 BC) is considered to be one of the first ‘atomists’. He postulated the existence of a basic unit of matter, and called it ‘atomos’. Many centuries later, in the nineteenth century, John Dalton, (the “Father of Chemistry”,) proposed a remarkably similar concept of the atom–and he used the word ‘atom’ to describe what he envisioned.


And yet, despite the presumed collegiality between scientists, there have been squabbles–downright feuds–throughout history about sharing information and receiving credit for breakthroughs. These disagreements have stained the records of more than one luminary. What are the rules of scholarship in science? How does one share and not encroach?

Louis Pasteur, and the Hunger for Recognition

Louis Pasteur
pasteur Albert_Edelfelt Louis Pasteur 1885.jpg

Public domain picture

Louis Pasteur’s name is probably one of the most recognizable in science. We’re all familiar with Pasteurization. The rabies and anthrax vaccines–these are both credited to Pasteur. However, there seems to be another, less well-known side to this scientist’s biography.


In 1995 a Princeton University professor, Dr. Gerald I. Geison, published a book in which he described Pasteur as having a less than collegial approach toward scholarship. According to Geison, when Pasteur claimed credit for developing the anthrax vaccine, he was actually appropriating the research of a competitor, Jean-Joseph Toussaint.

Pasteur, Shown with a Rabid Dog and a Vial of Rabies Vaccine
Louis Pasteur Colourlithograph by Amand Wellcome 4.0.jpg

This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Used under a CC 4.0 International license

One of Pasteur’s more discrediting rushes toward fame was his use of the rabies vaccine on nine-year-old Joseph Meister. Joseph had been bitten by a rabid dog. The parents begged Pasteur to use the vaccine, as yet untested on humans. Pasteur assured them that the vaccine he was about to use had been tested on many dogs. He lied. His notes reveal that a similar vaccine had been tested but not the one he used on Joseph. Everything worked out fine, but Joseph Meister and his parents were unwitting allies in Pasteur’s ambition to be first.


In The Subjectivity of Scientists and the Beysian Approach, authors James Press and Judith Tenur, explain that Pasteur wanted to be credited with priority in his work. In the science community, priority means being first. It means that the scientist has made an original, unique contribution. Being first means that a scientist will be mentioned in history books, and will win prizes.


Discovering the Structure of DNA


DNA2 double_helix_vertikal Jerome Walker, Dennis Myts.jpg

The issue of priority was at the heart of one of the most consequential scientific advances of the twentieth century: the ‘discovery’ of the double helix, the structure of DNA. History shows that one photo provided the final key to unraveling the secret of DNA’s structure. Who took that photo? Who owned the rights to that picture? How did Watson and Crick–credited with unraveling the secret of DNA’s structure–get their hands on this very consequential photo? Who ultimately deserved credit for being ‘first’?





Before this historic photo was produced, theories about the possible structure of DNA abounded. Several researchers were exquisitely close to solving the puzzle. The image in the photo–characterized ever after as Photo 51–was captured by using highly specialized technology, x-ray crystallography.

A review of the drama surrounding Photo 51 offers some insight into the issues of priority, attribution, and shared knowledge.



Photo 51

X-ray diffraction_pattern_3clpro Jeff Dahl 1,2,2.5 generic 3.0 unported.jpg

Credit Jeff Dahl. CC 3.0 Unported license

This is actually not Photo 51, but the image does show the kind of impression that can be captured through x-ray crystallography. What this picture shows is the x-ray diffraction pattern of a SARS enzyme. I cannot show you the original Photo 51 here because it is copyright protected. However, follow this link and you can view the famous photo.

The story of Photo 51 illustrates the tension that can and does arise between scientists sometimes in the race to achieve priority.


The Drama


The setting for the drama was England, in two research centers: Kings College and Cambridge University. The players: Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, Raymond Gosling, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.

Cambridge and Kings College are so close to each other, that it’s no surprise some of these researchers had worked together. However, the critical link between Cambridge and Kings College in the instance of Photo 51 turned out to be Maurice Wilkins, who worked with Rosalind Franklin at Kings, and then moved over to Cambridge, where he worked with James Watson and Francis Crick.


Maurice Wilkins, With an X-Ray Diffraction Camera He Developed
Maurice Wilkins work of us govt employe public.jpg

Public Domain photo: US gov’t


As I read through the obituaries of the various personalities in this story, different versions of the events were presented. However, one element was unavoidable, at least in the bios of several: the urge to get credit, to be first, was a prime motivation.

Here’s the broad outline of events: Wilkins was a researcher at Kings College, where he worked at perfecting x-ray diffraction in the hope of unraveling the mystery of DNA. During Wilkins’ tenure, Franklin was taken on to work in the same area of research. Gosling, a PhD student, was assigned to be Franklin’s assistant. Together, Franklin and Gosling, using x-ray crystallography, captured a clear, long–sought image of DNA–the historic Photo 51. This image revealed, indisputably, the double-helix structure. It was actually Gosling who took the picture.


Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology 4.0.jpg

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology: CC 4.0 International license


This very important photo came into Wilkins’ possession. He recognized its significance. Without telling Franklin or Gosling (this part is undisputed), he brought Photo 51 to Watson and Crick. This gave them the missing piece to the puzzle they had been working on. They published their findings: a description of DNA’s double-helix structure. Neither Watson nor Crick attributed the photo to Franklin. Neither did Wilkins.

Watson, Crick and Wilkins eventually shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. None of them mentioned Franklin, or Gosling. Not until Watson published his memoir, The Double Helix did Rosalind Franklin become known to the public. And that only happened because Watson’s portrayal of her in his book was so mean-spirited that it drew criticism from colleagues, including Crick and Wilkins. As a matter of fact, there were such strong objections to the book that Harvard University Press, which had originally agreed to publish, declined.

After the role of Franklin, and to a lesser extent, Gosling, became known, a London stage play and TV series were created based on the story.


Raymond Gosling, in His Later Years
Raymond_Gosling Davidruben at English Wikipedia 3.0 Unported.jpg

David Ruben, CC 3.0 Unported license

Raymond Gosling went on to have a distinguished career in medicine and was credited with making significant contributions to the field of diagnostic radiology.


While the outline of events surrounding Photo 51 seem clear, the story gets ambiguous in parts. Where does an idea originate? Who has the right to the results of research? Was it Wilkins’ ideas and research that enabled Franklin to take Photo 51? Were earlier photos that he took progenitors of Franklin’s photo? Was Wilkins entitled to Franklin’s photo because he had been working in the same research facility on the same technology (radioactive crystallography) that gave rise to it?

There’s another piece to this drama that adds to puzzlement over Watson’s role.

It turns out that Watson had attended a lecture given by Franklin, at which she described her work and her interpretation of the images she had captured. Later on, Watson said he hadn’t paid attention during the lecture.


James Watson
James D Watson Cold spring harbor unknown date public NIH.jpg

National Institutes of Health Photo: public domain

While he has been the target of much criticism in his life, not only for the Franklin affair but also for charges of racism, he has also been willing to stand on principle. While at Cold Spring Harbor (NY, USA) he resisted the policy of patenting the human genome. He believed that the human genome belonged to the people of the world, and not to nations. He lost his post at the laboratory over this issue.

Science as a Collaborative Discipline and the Issue of Priority



Throughout history, the urge to be first has spurred research. This was true when the Curies were investigating radioactivity. It was a time of great excitement and activity in science. Within the span of a few years, Roentgen, Becquerel and the Curies all investigated and worked on the mystery of radiation. They learned from each other’s work and each strove to be the first to make a breakthrough. Ultimately, the Curies ended up sharing their 1903 Nobel Prize in physics with Becquerel.




Priority

In what is considered a classic paper on priority Robert Merton analyzes the sociology of science. Merton states that “Science, with its emphasis on originality, and its assigning of large awards for originality, makes recognition of priority uppermost.” He explains that, unlike in other areas of ownership, once a scientist has shared knowledge, the scientist no longer owns it, so that “property rights get whittled down to just one thing: recognition.” Merton concludes that because a scientist’s only property rights, in the end, are focused on this one reward, recognition, the importance of priority becomes paramount, and even distorted.


Galileo
Galileo2 Justus Sustermans Galileo Galilei 1636.jpg

Public domain: 1640

A famous argument over priority arose between Galileo and a Jesuit priest, Christoph Scheiner. Each claimed to have been the first to discover sun spots. Some historians believe this dispute added to Galileo’s difficulties with the Catholic Church.


Patents, Copyrights and Open Source


Distinctions Between Science, Commercial Research and Open Source

In an era when living organisms have been patented, it’s a tricky business separating science scholarship from commercial endeavors. An organization, the IEEE tries to do just that. In a paper entitled, “Patents and Scientific Papers: Quite Different Concepts”, the IEEE describes scholarship that leads to copyright and trademark as being motivated by a desire to conceal, whereas pure science scholarship strives to explain everything clearly. Another distinction the organization makes is this: patent and copyright endeavors tend to be “greedy”, while pure science endeavors tend to be “generous”. If we think about the many battles throughout history over priority, we might view these distinctions as not exactly precise.

A less ambiguous distinction might be found between the open source movement, and the other two areas of endeavor. Open source authors seek neither priority nor compensation. Their contributions are often anonymous. For example, all the blogs I write for Steemit, are drafted in an open source program, Open Office. I’ve no idea to whom I owe a debt for this great service. And, when I format pictures, I use GIMP, another open source program. My benefactors, once again, are unknown to me. Open source culture not only allows me to research and function without cost, but it also allows me to share what I discover.

According to opensource.com, the open source movement began at MIT in the 1970s when a programmer, Richard Stallman, found he did not have access to essential software to fix a malfunctioning printer. The open source culture is motivated by intellectual growth and sharing.

Conclusion



accent accent.jpg

Please Note: all images are either in the public domain or are CC licensed. The label for each is on the photo itself, and also added underneath. Can’t be too careful 🙂


Obituaries (As of this writing, James Watson is still alive)

Maurice Wilkins
https://www.nature.com/articles/431922a

Francis Crick
https://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/30/us/francis-crick-co-discoverer-of-dna-dies-at-

Raymond Gosling
htmlhttps://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11624246/Professor-Raymond-Gosling-DNA-scientist-obituary.html

Rosalind Franklin
https://www.nature.com/articles/182154a0.pdf


Some Other Sources Used in Writing this Blog

https://www.americanscientist.org/article/on-the-shoulders-of-giants

https://www.iep.utm.edu/democrit/

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/democritus

https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Dalton/Atomic-theory

https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/the-lingering-heat-over-pasteurized-milk

https://www.the-scientist.com/foundations/the-rabies-vaccine-backstory-33441

http://www.strevens.org/research/scistruc/prioritas.shtml

http://blog.wellcomelibrary.org/2015/09/the-story-of-photograph-51/)

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jan/20/double-helix-james-watson-review

https://wellcome.ac.uk/press-release/francis-cricks-controversial-archive-first-public-display

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/nicole-kidman-photograph-51-theater-823204

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/photo51/

http://www.dnaftb.org/19/bio-3.html

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dna-pioneer-james-watson-loses-honorary-titles-over-racist-comments-180971266/

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/themes/marie-and-pierre-curie-and-the-discovery-of-polonium-and-radium/)

https://www2.hao.ucar.edu/Education/FamousSolarPhysicists/christoph-scheiner

http://www.lawinfowire.com/articleinfo/patents-living-organisms

https://www.ieee.org/about/index.html

https://www.openoffice.org/

https://www.gimp.org/

https://opensource.com/article/18/2/pivotal-moments-history-open-source

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An Art Adventure

Yesterday I promised to blog more on WordPress, and so here I am, with another blog that I posted on Steemit a couple of months ago.

Steem is a crytpocurrency, and Steemit is the social networking platform that uses Steem as a form of rewards. That’s a nice incentive to blog, but as you can see from the post below, I put far more effort into my blogs on Steemit than the small reward merits. This post was written for one of the many contests that you can find on the Steemit platform. The contest is very special for me, because I’m not an artist and yet I get to play around with art. The name of the contest is Let’s Make a Collage (LMAC). Each week (most weeks, anyway) the contest sponsor, @shaka gives the community an original photo to play with. Out of that photo we are supposed to make a collage, using only copyright-free elements. Most of the people who participate are graphic artists. Not me. I failed art in the eighth grade, but @shaka welcomes my participation anyway.

Without further ado, please enjoy (!) my evident enthusiasm below. If you follow the link, you can see what others did in this edition of LMAC.


Garden of Magic and Wonder

Let’s Make a Collage

shangri la 16 gif.gif

This is the photo @shaka gave us to work with

shaka march8.jpg


When I began to imagine ideas that might work in this picture, I recalled the early sixteenth-century triptych, Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch. Every inch of Bosch’s painting is filled with phantasmagorical details. The three panels that make up the piece tell a story: creation, fall from grace, and damnation.


wizard light.jpg

The Garden of Earthly Delights

Heronimus Bosch

Panel One, Upper Left Portion

heronimus bosch uppper left panel.jpg

Here we see the Garden of Eden. This is only the upper half of Panel One. The lower half shows God introducing Adam to Even. The theme is innocence. Light and beauty prevail.



Panel Two

Once again, only the upper portion of the panel is shown here. This is the largest of the three panels. Bosch does not spare us. He shows humanity depraved, insatiable, consumed by vice. Confusion and corruption prevail.



Panel Three



When I look at this panel (only the upper portion is shown here) I think of Dante’s Inferno. This is hell. It seems the damned are consumed by the appetites that drove them in life. Hell’s residents prey upon each other. Darkness and chaos prevail.

One well-known image from the lower portion of this panel is of a pig wearing a nun’s veil.



bosch pig nun.jpg


Trivia



Source for the following information is My Modern Met

The Painting
  1. 7′ by 13′
  2. Oil on oak
  3. When the panels are closed, there’s a picture of earth.
The Artist
  1. Year of birth is uncertain, although it is known he lived in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
  2. He was born in the Netherlands
  3. About twenty-five of his pictures remain.
  4. He was well-known in his lifetime.
  5. None of his writings have survived, so art critics can only guess at the meaning of his art.



My collage took shape in these steps:

shangri-la-326126_640.jpg

I downloaded a picture from Pixabay (credit: mariamichelle).

shaka march8 plu shangri-la.jpg

and connected that picture to @shaka‘s.

Then I went to Paint 3d and looked for greenery and magical images.

shangri la small gif.gif

Finally, I took that blended picture and headed over to GIMP, where I added lighting effects, and turned the whole thing into a GIF.



Haiku



I’ve been neglecting my blog here, because of all the writing I’m doing elsewhere, but WordPress will see more of me in the future. One way I can do this is to share my posts from other sites. This one, for example, was written for a contest on Steemit. The prize was insignificant, but the fun of writing the haiku was immeasurable. Only one haiku was asked of me. You can see how I got carried away. The theme: vehicles. I only stopped writing because it seemed unreasonable to continue. Feel free to write your own haiku about vehicles in a comment. You’ll see, it’s addictive.



Haiku About Vehicles


Open the windows
No air conditioning here!
We need a new car!!


I love my wagon
It takes me around the yard
When Mommy pulls me 🙂


wagon-148237_640.png




A plane overhead
Makes me think of travel
Where is it going?


A train zooms along
Faces in passing windows
What are they thinking?


train-303705_640.png


Trucks pound the highways
Carrying stuff here and there
The thread of commerce


That red bicycle
It’s the first I ever owned
I’m proud to ride it


bicycle-311656_640.png

My black SUV
Has clones all over the road
A bit boring, no?


The bus spews thick smoke
The people inside look tired
Even the driver


I’m in a balloon!
Scary to float free up here
But so exciting


hot-air-balloon-306007_640.png

Gliding off the cliff
I soar over rocky shores
This is really fun


My scooter goes fast
Much faster than my brother’s
He’s always behind!


My canoe, so sleek
Cuts easily through water
Watch out for rapids!


canoes-294561_640.png

Gigantic cruise ships
Travel the Caribbean
I’ve never tried one


Spiffy snowmobile
Speeds on past skis and snowshoes
Power is not green


snowmobile-34990_640.png