Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed’ said Blaise Pascal, the renowned French genius who was a mathematician, philosopher, inventor, physicist, and writer. Pascal perfectly explained the dynamic modern-day humans. It won’t take much to snuff life out of a human being, just a slash across the wrist or a gunshot can do the job, yet he has the powers to subjugate or destroy all other life forms.
Mankind has evolved tremendously in a relatively short period of time (in relation to the Earth’s age that was created approximately 4.5 billion years ago). Starting from the humble attempt to create fire by striking two stones to the invention of the Internet, human beings have made numerous extraordinary inventions that have allowed them to rule the roost over the lonely planet. This article endeavors to explain and highlight the hypotheses and famous dissertation prepared by some of the greatest minds that contained trivia about some of the most famous inventions that changed the world. Thesis writing is definitely an art but writing something that is valuable and changes the beliefs and revolutionizes a wide range of concepts.
1. Alan Turing-the pioneer of computer science
Alan Turing who died prematurely at the age of 41 was a genius in his own right. He was a theoretical biologist, cryptanalyst, logician, mathematician, and computer scientist all rolled into one. Turing is best known for pioneering research and development in theoretical computational science in the forties of the 20th cent and the invention of a hypothetical machine which was named after him-the Turing machine. It is this machine that paved the way for the development of modern computers. Alan was the first to suggest that a machine could have intelligence and even devised a test (the Turing’s test) to substantiate his hypothesis. He completed his dissertation on ‘computable numbers’ in 1936 while he was enrolled in King’s College, Cambridge for his Masters.
Turing was requisitioned by the British government to work as a cryptanalyst in the GC & CS (Government Code & Cypher School). The GC & CS functioned as a code deciphering or breaking centre and it was largely due to Turing’s painstaking efforts that the decoding of cryptic German ciphers was accelerated eventually enabling the Allied powers to bring the Nazis to their knees. The ingenious techniques developed by Turing allowed British cryptanalysts to crack leaked encrypted or coded messages that helped the Allied forces to defeat the armies of the Axis powers in several crucial campaigns. It is believed that Alan’s skills in interpreting German cryptic codes that were indecipherable to others not only helped in curtailing the time period of WWII but was instrumental in rescuing more than fourteen million people as well.
2. Albert Einstein-The father of modern physics:
Albert Einstein’s name will always figure whenever a researcher or chronicler attempts to draw up a list of the most famous dissertations or theses that have helped shaped human history in the last millennium. The German physicist who’s celebrated throughout the world for his ‘general theory of relativity’ (regarded as one of the two principal tenets of contemporary physics, the other being quantum mechanics) is credited with formulating the world’s most ubiquitous equation E =mc2. He was felicitated with the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 especially for his contribution towards the advancement of theoretical physics. His pioneering work on ‘photoelectric effect’ that served as a keystone for the evolution and progression of ‘quantum theory’ was what made him the top contender for the Nobel Prize in 1921.
1905 came to be considered as the illustrious scientist’s miracle year because it was in that particular year that Einstein made public four world-shattering dissertations. These dissertations were related to ‘mass-energy correspondence or equivalence’, ‘special relativity’, ‘Brownian motion’ and ‘photoelectric effect’. The publications of these dissertations put the spotlight on Einstein compelling physicists, scientists, and scientific researchers, and science scholars all over world to sit up and take notice of his groundbreaking theses. Einstein, realized quite early on in his academic and research career that Newtonian mechanics were insufficient to patch up the postulates of ‘electromagnetic field’ with the hypotheses of ‘classical mechanics’. The shortcomings of Newton’s ‘laws of mechanics’ was what inspired and egged Albert to devise the ‘special theory of relativity’. While he was immersed in developing the theory, he figured out that the same could also be extrapolated to the area of ‘gravitational fields’. It is estimated that Einstein issued over 300 scientific papers as well as nearly 150 non-scientific papers during the height of his career.
3. Marie Curie-Mother of Modern Physics:
Marie Curie who was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1876 as Marie Salomea Sklodowska was a physicist as well as a chemist earning many firsts to her credit. She was the first female to be awarded a Nobel Prize (jointly along with her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel); the first individual and the lone woman to win the coveted prize twice (first time in Physics and the next in Chemistry) and the only female to be decorated with the Nobel Prize in two distinct fields of science. She lays claims to two other noted firsts-first female professor in University of Paris and the first woman who was graved or interred in Paris on her own stature.
Although she was born and brought up in Warsaw, she later on migrated to Paris to pursue higher studies. She alongside her research colleague and husband, Pierre Curie, carried out path-breaking work on radioactivity (it was Marie who coined the term for the first time).
Innovative achievements that can be ascribed to Marie include laying the foundations for radioactivity theory; radioactive isotopes isolating processes, and the discovery of two key radioactive elements-radium and polonium. Marie Curie became the first woman in history to win the most feted Nobel Prize in 1903 in Physics and again in 1911 in Chemistry. Her research work which required her to time and again carry test tubes containing radioactive substances, led to her developing aplastic anemia which eventually led to her death in 1934.
4. Alexander Fleming- Inventor of the most popular life-saving drug-Penicillin:
Alexander Fleming who earned knighthood in 1944 (following which he was addressed to as Sir Alexander Fleming) is credited with the discovery of the first antibiotic in the world-Penicillin-that has saved countless lives and still continues to. He also has the distinction of inventing the enzyme called ‘lysosome’ in the year 1923. However, Fleming is best known for his serendipitous discovery of penicillin that led to his winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945. The Nobel Prize was jointly awarded to Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain, and Howard Foley. An opinion poll carried out by BBC TV for listing the ’100 Greatest Britons’ who contributed greatly towards societal development and making the world a safer place for human beings chose Fleming as one of the contributors.
It’d be more apt to say that Alexander Fleming stumbled upon the discovery (of Penicillin) rather than working on a method or technique for discovering it. Fleming had been carrying out pioneering work on the characteristics of staphylococcus bacteria in 1927. Following his return from a holiday the next year (in 1928), he entered his unkempt laboratory to separate the staphylococci cultures that he had stacked up in a bench before leaving.
He was pleasantly surprised on discovering that in one specific culture, the staphylococcus colonies had been exterminated due to a fungus strain contamination while the colonies in other culture batches were alive. Later on, Fleming developed the mold afresh and came to establish that the mold secreted a substance that had the potential of killing or sterilizing an array of pathogenic bacteria. Nevertheless, it was Howard Foley and Ernst Boris Chain who were more successful in extracting the substance in bulk.
5. John Forbes Nash Jr.-Renowned for making significant contributions to differential geometry, partial differential equations, & game theory
John Nash who was more well-known and popular within the research circles of universities and academia shot to worldwide fame following the stupendous success of the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’ that was based on his life and his struggles with schizophrenia. As a highly accomplished economist and mathematician, he carried out ground-breaking research in game theory, partial differential equations, and differential geometry. His dissertations have helped numerous governments and commercial organizations around the world to investigate factors that influence probability as well as decision-making related to complicated situations arising in everyday life. His meticulous research work led to his winning the Nobel Prize in 1994 in economic sciences that he shared with noted game theorists John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten.
Every attempt has been made to include those dissertation writings that have contributed maximally to human development and welfare. However, since the scope of selection is extremely limited (only 5 dissertations), the author was compelled to drop many significant thesis that played a key role in reshaping human history. Therefore, the reader may be tempted to feel that the author has been not able to full justice to the article. But it is fact that choosing the five best dissertations from a pile where every thesis seems as revolutionary as the other is indeed a monumental and challenging task.