5 Scientists with Ideas That Nobody Believed … Who Were Right

5 Scientists with Ideas That Nobody Believed … Who Were Right

[ ♪ INTRO ] The role of a scientist is to make observations, do experiments, and form hypotheses about how and why things happen. Sometimes, thousands of years of evidence
can support ideas, like the geometry of the Earth. But many people have struggled to understand
things in the past and present for a lot of reasons — from preconceived notions about
a field of research, to technological limitations. So it’s fun to look back at whose ideas
were ruled out by their contemporaries, even though we now know these 5 scientists were
onto something. Born in 1862, William B. Coley was a bone
cancer surgeon in New York. He had seen many a patient die even after
a tumor was removed or an entire limb was amputated. Physicians knew that rapidly-dividing cancer
cells could spread. But the mechanics behind metastasis, where
cells hitch a ride in blood or other fluid and start growing somewhere else, weren’t
well understood. So Coley was determined to find a more effective
way to stop cancer from taking lives. He began looking through records at the New
York Hospital, where he worked. And he came across a patient from 1883, who
had a cancerous tumor in his neck that couldn’t be removed through surgery. That tumor seemed to vanish after the patient
developed a skin infection called erysipelas, usually caused by Streptococcal bacteria. Coley tracked that patient down and found
that, 7 years later, the tumor hadn’t regrown. And he found dozens of papers describing infections
somehow reducing cancerous cells. So in 1891, Coley injected Streptococcal bacteria
into a patient dying of bone cancer, who made what seemed like a miraculous recovery. Now, keep in mind that the ethics of many
medical treatments at the time were super questionable or nonexistent. And this was no exception. After this first success, Coley kept trying. And while his next few patients had tumor
shrinkage, they died from bacterial infection. Coley published those findings. And then he tried to make his technique less
dangerous using a combination of a heat-killed Strep species with another bacterium. The mixture became generally known as Coley’s
Toxin. He treated nearly 1,000 cancer patients over
the next 40 years with it, and published more than 150 papers about his work. Although Coley was often reportedly successful,
his tests were inconsistent. For instance, he switched up the bacteria
he injected and the injection sites, and he didn’t reliably follow up with treated patients. Needless to say, this led to a great deal
of skepticism from other physicians. Which totally makes sense. In 1894, the Journal of the American Medical
Association released a statement that deemed Coley’s work a failure. It reported that “no well-authenticated
case of recovery” had been reported because of toxic injections. But Coley continued to practice with his toxins
until the end of his career in 1933. And by then, other doctors had started using
them too. Even Journal of the American Medical Association
changed its tune. In 1934, they agreed that these toxins may
have some medical value in treating persistent cancer. Once radiation and chemotherapy came around
in the mid-1900s, Coley’s Toxin all but disappeared. In 1962, the FDA refused to back it as a legitimate
way to treat cancer. It wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers
started looking into the idea of cancer immunotherapy. We started to understand ways the immune system
could be activated to recognize and kill rapidly dividing cancer cells, and now scientists
are working on all kinds of different treatments. Just… not with a bunch of questionably harmful
bacteria, and with patients’ consent. [2. Francis Peyton Rous] From 1909 to 1911, scientist Francis Peyton
Rous made what is now thought of as a major discovery in the field of virology. At the time, though, his work didn’t gain
much momentum. Rous was working at The Rockefeller Institute
in New York, when a woman came in carrying a hen with a massive tumor. Apparently that’s the kind of thing that
just… happened when you were doing cancer research back then? Scientists were already starting to think
that cancer could be transmitted between living things, based on observations of cervical
cancer in humans, lung cancer in sheep, and avian leukemia. These ideas weren’t given too much attention
at the time. But Rous was curious to see if material from
the hen’s tumor could cause cancer in a healthy chicken. And it did. To learn more, Rous passed more tumor material
through a filter that strained out bacteria. And he found the same thing: When he injected
a healthy chicken with the filtered tumor goop, it developed a tumor. At the time, this was enough evidence to rule
out bacteria as the perpetrator. So it led Rous to hypothesize that a virus
must be responsible. Rous kept at this research, and found that
other chicken tumors were transmissible too. So this hen wasn’t just a strange case study. Unfortunately, the scientific community’s
lack of interest meant that this discovery didn’t really make a splash. And there were bigger fish to fry: the U.S.
entered World War I in 1917 and Rous shifted his focus to blood transfusions and making
blood banks to help injured soldiers. Over a decade after the war, Rous’s research
into a connection between viruses and cancer was reinvigorated. And he was part of a team that discovered
a virus that caused benign tumors in rabbits. Still, progress was slow until the 1950s,
when an enzyme called reverse transcriptase was discovered by researchers. Reverse transcriptase helps convert RNA carried
by some viruses into DNA that can get into the host’s genome to churn out more viruses. Like how HIV works. With more molecular mechanisms coming to light,
viral oncology was picking up speed. Scientists were studying how viruses can cause
cancer, and discovering things like oncogenes — the genes that can cause a normal cell
to become cancerous. And in 1966, at 87 years old, Rous was awarded
the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, marking the longest time between a discovery
and a Nobel Prize being awarded. [3. Ignaz Semmelweis]
Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian-born physician who began practicing in Vienna in 1844. Semmelweis worked in obstetrics, delivering
babies and working with parents before and after birth. And he observed that people who had midwives
deliver their babies only had a mortality rate of 2%, compared to the much higher 13–18%
when physicians and medical students did it. Those deaths were largely due to puerperal
fever, a dangerous bacterial infection of the reproductive tract, which set in one day
to just over a week after giving birth. Giving birth can cause quite a bit of bodily
trauma, which makes people highly prone to infection. And this was back in the day when handling
corpses and doing autopsies was routine for medical students and physicians. So Semmelweis hypothesized that people not
washing their hands between handling corpses and delivering babies caused this sickness
and death. Semmelweis instituted a hand washing policy
for medical students and physicians with chloride of lime solution, which killed bacteria and
was used as a general disinfectant. After that, the mortality rate dramatically
fell to match when the midwives delivered babies. And eventually, Semmelweis disinfected the
medical tools and even more people lived. But Semmelweis’s superior was not a fan
of his ideas. He believed that the hospital’s new ventilation
system was responsible for this lack of death. That fit the popular miasma theory of disease
at the time: that diseases were caused by “bad air.” So Semmelweis basically got shunned from the
hospital in 1849, went back to Budapest, and became head of obstetrics at a hospital there. He instated hand washing for doctors and nurses
and, just like in Vienna, this lowered mortality rates. In 1861, Semmelweis wrote a book about puerperal
fever and his ideas about disinfectants, but the medical community didn’t bat an eye. And a few years later, he died in a mental
institution. Presumably, of frustration. It took researchers like Joseph Lister, Louis
Pasteur, and Robert Koch studying germ theory, the idea that microbes like bacteria can cause
disease, to have these ideas taken seriously. So even though recognition came too late,
Semmelweis was still considered a “savior of mothers” because of his strong belief
in disinfectants. And he’s still being honored today. Including by us, thank you. [4. Gregor Mendel] Gregor Mendel was born in 1822. He was an Augustinian friar living in what’s
now the Czech Republic. Mendel is best known for his experiments with
pea plants. He bred them and studied seven main traits,
from plant height and flower position to seed shape and color. He didn’t know it at the time, but this
was a lucky pick. These pea plant traits were only determined
by two alleles — or variations — of one gene. Usually genetics are much more complicated
than that. But because they were pretty straightforward,
Mendel noticed some clear patterns. For example, a tall pea plant bred with a
short pea plant would produce tall offspring. But if he bred those offspring, around a quarter
of the next generation was short again. Words like “allele,” and “gene” didn’t
exist yet because these experiments were pretty radical at the time. So Mendel called these things that influenced
traits factors. Each parent had two of them, and passed one
down at random. And he came up with recessive and dominant
to describe how some traits outweighed others in offspring. Plus, he proposed that different traits, like
seed color or plant height, are controlled by different genes that are passed down independently. All these ideas were wildly different from
the understanding at the time. Scientists were all-in on blending inheritance,
which is the idea that offspring are an average of their parents. Like, if one parent has dark brown hair and
the other has blonde hair, their child will have light brown hair. So even though Mendel published his work on
genetic inheritance in 1866, he didn’t get recognition for it and just sort of… went
on with his life. Around 1900, over a decade after Mendel’s
death, three scientists were studying plants and discovered Mendel’s then-obscure paper
and hypotheses along the way. Two also worked with peas, one worked with
evening primrose. And they all saw Mendel’s work as validation
for their own. In the early 1900s, our understanding of cells
and chromosomes sped forward. And eventually Mendel became known as the
“father of modern genetics.” [5. Alfred Wegener] In the early 1900s, German geophysicist, meteorologist,
and polar researcher Alfred Wegener proposed the idea of continental displacement, now
called continental drift. Wegener came across a paper in 1911 that talked
about identical plant and animal fossils on either side of the Atlantic ocean. At the time, things like that were explained
by land bridges that supposedly connected continents in the past and then sank into
the ocean. But Wegener did not buy it. He also noticed that maps of coastlines of
Africa and South America seemed to line up, and so did geological features like mountain
ranges. There were also other weird fossils that suggested
some sort of radical change, like tropical fern fossils discovered on an Arctic island. And all those observations planted a seed
of an idea: maybe these continents were once joined together but drifted apart. In 1915, Wegener’s book, The Origin of Continents
and Oceans, was published. In it, he coined the term Urkontinent, meaning
“original continent” in German. This became Pangea, roughly meaning “all
the Earth” in Greek. Although Wegener wasn’t the first to suggest
that continents were once connected, he did so with more evidence than before. But he was met with resistance, because there
wasn’t enough. One major flaw was that he couldn’t explain
how the continents moved. Wegener believed they just sort of plowed
through the ocean floor. Which, by the way, we now know was very very
wrong. So I guess you can’t really blame his contemporaries
for being skeptical. In the wake of this “meh” reaction, Wegener
went back to doing more meteorology research and died at a young age on an expedition to
Greenland. So he wasn’t around in the 1950s and 60s,
when researchers began making more discoveries about the ocean floor, Earth’s crust, and
phenomena like earthquakes and volcanoes. The idea of plate tectonics began to take
shape, and Wegener’s hypothesis about continental drift didn’t sound so controversial after
all. So science isn’t a straightforward path
to answers about ourselves or the universe, and sometimes hypotheses hold up decades after
they were dismissed. Thanks for learning about these scientists
here with us on SciShow, and thanks especially to our patreons on Patreon for helping us
make these videos. So if you want to join our community and support
free education online, you can go to patreon.com/scishow. [ ♪ OUTRO ]

100 thoughts on “5 Scientists with Ideas That Nobody Believed … Who Were Right

  1. The Holy Bible has many stories and instances where people's ages were well into the 3-4-5-600's. Wonder why this particular hypothesis wasn't proven or disproven?

  2. The practice of Science is a process of disbelief. It's purpose is to establish the most likely scenario of balanced cause-effect probabilities.
    If it takes a lot of work to do with Science and Technology to establish optimal conceptions and conditions, ..that's typically how evolution unfolds anyway, except for the "serendipitous" aspect.

  3. An Italian medicine man was curing cancer 350 years ago with toxins , herpes simplex virus, and rabies virus !
    What you must understand is there's way more money made by not curing cancer , and when you donate to the medical foundations 90% of those funds are to obtain legal representation to attack those un funded doctors that are curing cancer !
    So and not practicing the Hippocratic Oath organizations created the fight cancer do not fight it at all in fact they have become a cancer within themselves to prevent all true cancer cures from coming to the surface. !
    Now that end Behavior would invite the wrath of God for all the doctors that refuse to cure cancer to wind up dying from cancer. ! I've already seen that !

  4. Tectonic plate movement ? That's easy!
    The Atlantic ridge before Noah's time was above ground above water ! The Atlantic ridge has always been a falt line of opposing magnetic field that spewed over the top lava that just like any other volcano ! Hence no tectonic plate movement as in panga!
    Massive earthquake during Noah's flood dropped this Atlantic ridge under the water line !
    Now this lava was tempered rock of an opposing magnetic and moved these two tectonic plates apart very quickly ! Bible records in several places during Peleg 5th generation son of Noah these tectonic plates picked up enough speed to drift apart very rapidly!
    False good in science during rapid tectonic plate drift their is no earthquakes occurring it's only when they slowed down that the earthquakes become prevalent. !

    Oh buy the way lava molten iron molten rock has no magnetic value whatsoever until it turns solid ! Scientists that plane are magnetic poles an iron in the inside of the planet which happens to be totally melted are totally false nothing melted can produce a magnetic field it's only when it turns solid on the service that you have a magnetic field. ! and Earth's surface and tectonic plates are a reflection Magneto reflection of the Suns magnetic feels in an 11 year cycle that change. .! once these magnetic fields from the Sun are imposed on Earth in Solid Rock there's going to be no switching of poles from south to North. ! because magnetic poles only exist in Solid Rock not molten rock !
    Once a magnetic field set in solid Stone it does not change ! Sorry you pole swappers its scientifically impossible!

  5. We are living in fast times. Imagine any scientist today considering 100 year old research for their current project ^^

  6. That is simultaneously saddening and hilarious at the same time. I can just visualize Ignaz Semmelweis being dragged in a straitjacket by two mental ward doctors screaming:


  7. So, Where's the Flat Earth science fit in..? People still have a hard time understanding the Earth is not a round sphere.. .. !

  8. Great video. After Joseph Lister began identifying the cause of infections (and death) after surgery was unsanitary conditions, and made strides to ensure sterile operating rooms, a company developed a sanitary wash, naming it in his honor: Listerine. The Johnson & Johnson company, founded by three brothers, manufactured sterile gauze bandages, based on Lister's findings.

  9. This will be the course of flat Earth. Old dead hypothesis about rotundity will last for years to come all while they are tested and proven to be false. You can text and verify measured flatness. You can test and verify no measured curvature.

  10. Semmelweis' theory was covered in a BBC series about the advances in medicine. When I was getting my undergrad in statistics In 1989 Mendel was thought to have faked some of his stats. Now the pendulum has swung back and most believe he was accurate.

  11. In 1971 my 9th grade science project was the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. My teacher said that wasn't gonna happen and gave me an F. And now 50 years later I have built a chamber that restores DNA. And reverses the aging process. I doubt that I'll get a Noble for either.

  12. Pasteur had to move heaven and earth to sell his "germ theory" of disease, and to this day, it isn't fully accepted. There are many, many, many diseases with "unknown" causes that are actually caused by bacteria. Medical scientists just don't understand that not all infections show up in the bloodstream. They don't understand that wherever there is little blood flow to carry sufficient leukocytes, bacteria will live there in small numbers to take advantage. They do not understand that some diseases are caused by only millions of bacteria, not billions.

  13. The medical community in general kills more people than it saves, including up to present day. Seriously, look it up.

  14. Back when I was in Junior High school I had read an article about continental drift. I brought it up in science class and my teacher slammed me in front of the class. He said that it was stupid and continents didn't move. A short time later Nat Geo put out an article about. Never got an appology.

  15. Mendel was erased from the English speaking world but I'm not so certain that he was ever forgotten on the continent.

  16. It's so hard to get other people to look at and consider different ideas. For some reason humans are hardwired to only believe what is currently understood.

  17. The cancer institute doesn't want a cure for cancer. Billions maybe even trillions are spent on cancer patients every year. There is to much money to be had to cure cancer.

  18. The fact that science cannot recognize something as significant as emotion because it has no material aspect (physiological responses are not the emotion itself) places science in its proper place.

  19. Well, from all the flatards, moon walk deniers and Paul is dead gullible tinfoil conspiracy kooks, I DO KNOW DARWIN WAS WRONG, as majority of humans regressing not progressing. Darwinism was just a theory anyway.

  20. You’re talking waaay too fast. Are you attempting to transfer specific information, or trying to garner a Guinness record? Hate to tell you, the two are mutually exclusive. In addition, your information is shallow and could benefit from more details. On the whole, this video was a waste of my time.

  21. The lives of so many scientists are so sad. They are sort of like writers except that their work kills them.

  22. I hope I live long enough for a bunch more of the junk science to be exposed. the methods of validation today are weak.

  23. So anyone that says "the Science is settled" – doesn't understand science and should be treated accordingly!

  24. Despite being a formally trained scientist and sciences buff, this video put me to sleep by 3:00. Good thing you're not a teacher.

  25. Look up "Dr. Royal Raymond Rife", in the 1930's he made the only microscope that you could see a live virus without killing it, he also discovered that you could kill a virus by exposing it to it's resonant frequency. using $300 worth of HAM radio equipment, Big Pharma destroyed him.

  26. It's jarring to splice out every single second of silence in the presentation. For me, it makes it unpleasant to listen to. Makes me think, chill out, take a breath, please stop pushing me!

  27. I am a retired toxicologist and in the late 70's I became interested in Coley's toxins. Than in the early 80's I remember when the Japanese sequenced Tumor Necrosis Factor (It made the cover of Scientific American), and work began at the NIH under Rosenberg using Interleukin 2 and TNF. It was than that I made the prediction that immunotherapy would one day cure cancer. I'm still waiting. I still think it is the correct route to take.

  28. I am not a scientist, but I do understand the frustration.

    When I was 6 years old I had an argument with my entire kindergarten class. I claimed that if you take a cup and hold it upside down while submerging it under water, the air will remain in the cup, as shown by the bubbles when you turn the cup over. Everyone agreed that I was stupid for believing that air could exist under water, and I wouldn't be surprised if they still believe so.

    If the scientists described in the video had as stupid people around them growing up as I had, perhaps they would have learned that you can never win an argument against a stupid person and they wouldn't have ended up in asylums themselves, and maybe they would have chosen a different career.

  29. Dude

    Interesting case studies, but FFS please use a dictionary before rattling off words you aren't familiar with

    Puerperal: pyuˈɜr pər əl
    The emphasis is on the first syllable not the 3rd

  30. Let's have a countervailing video: one featuring scientists who believed bat-crap crazy things, and of whom history has judged them correctly as being crazy. Let's top the list with Sir Isaac Newton who practiced alchemy, believed demons could inhabit the human body, professed faith in the occult, and in biblical prophecies (which never came to pass save through creative scriptural revisionism). He also predicted the world would end in 2060. Wanna make a bet, Sir Issac?

  31. #5…"how the continents moved"…ask Noah. Genesis 7-8. People today don't know that "Theology" use to be called the "Queen of The Sciences" until the same thing happened to men that happened in the days of Noah: "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually Gen 6:5. Sadly, todays science is "consensus science" ex. the reason for climate change. If interested I'll explain further.


  33. The globe idea makes you think you are larger than you are. The world can only get larger when you make yourself smaller. Begin now at your first age, 0, your missing link, and be found.

  34. there is nothing complicated about REALITY, the reality Eternity: 10,000,000,002,019 surrounds you. What is complicated is realizing 2019 is the illusion, and it cannot be unseen until you have something more to look at: 10,000,000,002,019 and from 10,000,000,002,019 you will see what 2019 does to you. You can never know your motion is slow motion by measuring only your motion. Where would a fast mind go, inside a cage of space it is made to stay in? You do not wake up in the same space that puts you to sleep, DOROTHY.

  35. One time when l was doing Mushrooms l figured out how to fly. I forgotten to write anything down, now l can't remember the details. I didn't record my findings!!

  36. The thing about hypotheses are that they mind pictures, concepts. They are intangibles. They cannot be touched, held in the hand, tasted, seen etc. In a world, where there are still flat earth advocates, many of whom are powerful, the best hypotheses will be shut down, In spite of the quantum leaps already made in technology, and science. Kids have to be taught in science class that the scientific principles, accepted now were once hypotheses. Every kid can tell you what an atom looks like, even though it was never seen (at that time).

  37. Why do science podcasts have so many subs when most people don't know sh_t or care about science? Virtue signaling?

  38. Can you please put more natural-length pauses between your sentences, or learn to speak more than one sentence per shot? Thanks! (^_^)

  39. It would be nice if the human populace would all understand your concluding remarks about science. Maybe there wouldnt be so many climate deniers, and general conspiracy theories bieng taken as truth over what blatantly, logically, in blinking bold face warning siren alarm is presented in simple observations of humanity screwing up the earth more and more. Hell i dont think it even matters anymore, pretty sure 2019 is the "fall" of humanity, yes as in this fall. Find out in a few months, enjoy your summer

  40. They alll must of been republican scientists who didn't believe just like republicans today would rather let the world end then admit climate change is a real crisis

  41. It's always interesting to learn about indirect advancements in science. Can't remember his name but the guy who discovered fertilizer lived prior to our knowledge of photosynthesis and assumed plants had to get all their material from the ground. He was wrong and failed because the change in soil mass was so much smaller than that which the plants gained, but by finding out what the plants removed from the soil and adding more of it back into the same soil enabled the plants to grow bigger and better. Even though his science/theory/explanation was wrong his discovery effectively saved the 18th century from starvation by causing greatly increased crop yields.

  42. so science is more about general consensus of others they consider peers rather than simple data records and empirical evidence, gotchya.

  43. To quote the man with two brains
    "Nonsense! If the murder of twelve innocent people can help save one human life, it will have been worth it!"

  44. It is the duty of the scientific community to challenge new ideas. It lays at the heart of the Scientific Method itself. You establish the proof by failing to disprove. It's a scientist's job to disagree. He's a trained skeptic.

  45. One who aids the victim of bullying can't be a bully in that instance. You took the first swing. That's an important point. I'm a defender in this situation. If you don't think that the strength of the defense is fair, don't launch an offense. If you were to come over the top and damage me, that would be on me, now, wouldn't it? You'd be defending yourself. See how things work? There's logic everywhere. In words. In actions. It's like cold. In science, there's no cold. Only lack of heat, right? The same is true with logic. It's there whether you can sense it or not.

  46. Sister Elizabeth Kenney, Australian self-taught nurse who discovered that massage, warm baths, and exercise dramatically reduced the crippling effect of polio. Doctors laughed and scoffed. The conventional treatment was immobility of the body. I knew a lady who got Sister Kenney's treatments and 40 years on, just had a slight limp. People who got the conventional treatment were cripples.

    Two foreigners have been awarded un-restricted, no visa required to enter the US,the Marquis de Lafayette and Sister Elizabeth Kenney.

  47. No, Semmelweis was killed by colleagues in a mental hospital, tortured to death. He had broken the only rule.
    Saying the doctors was responsible for the death of the women. This is still the case.

  48. I'm curious about how do you stretch the idea of "Continents were once joined together and then split and moved to their current location" to fill a whole book about it..

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