Or take Barbara McClintock, who discovered genetic transposition in the 1940s. For her, movable DNA elements were part of an elaborate system of genetic control that she hypothesised to explain development and differentiation. This theory, however, was highly speculative and was actually widely rejected for decades. Furthermore, her ideas were being squashed, ridiculed and ignored so that, according to an interview, Barbara McClintock “stopped writing papers because no one seemed to be Reading them”. Things only changed when, in the 1970s, transposition was rediscovered in microorganisms and in 1984 Barbara Mc-Clintock was awarded the Nobel Prize, not least due to the notion that she had been completely right from the very beginning.
More examples? Well, what about Lynn Margulis, whose first paper on the endosymbiotic theory was rejected by about fifteen scientific journals (it finally appeared in The Journal of Theoretical Biology and, today is rightly considered a landmark achievement). Or, Stanley Prusiner who, in 1982, published his protein only theory of prion diseases. Three of his co-workers left his lab because they weren’t willing to stand by his “wild theories” and many other colleagues spitefully mocked him, for example in the following limerick: “Eureka!” cried Stan, “I have found it. Well ... maybe not actually found it. But I talked to the press Of the slow virus mess And invented a name to confound it!” The end of the story is well-known: Prusiner received the Nobel prize in 1997. What do these examples tell us, apart from the initial message that bold ideas and visions were quite often at the heart of many truly great discoveries? Another conclusion one might draw in