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By Peter Duren

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Although there is a pleasing innocence in this, it does reveal a rather poor grasp of what is usually thought to be the proper relationship between research findings and research conclusions. Felix Ehrenhaft’s critique Clearly, as the philosopher-historian Gerald Holton has shown, Robert Millikan was not dispassionately accepting what his data told him. And although he may have been vindicated in the following months and years, the experiments that made his name only ‘became’ conclusive once further evidence had accumulated from several different directions.

In the end, his career was intentionally destroyed by the dogged and resourceful efforts of Georges Cuvier, an arch-conservative, and the greatest naturalist of the early nineteenth century. During the 1860s the French Roman Catholic Church once more wielded immense spiritual and political power and was again dedicated to suppressing heresy. Not least because Emperor Louis Napoleon had secured the throne with the help of the Catholic Church, attacks on scriptural accounts of Genesis were guaranteed simultaneously to raise political as well as religious storms.

In November 1860, Pasteur’s attempts to deal with this objection took him 2000 metres above sea level on the Mer de Glace glacier in the 21 right for the wrong reasons Alps. Working on the assumption that the quantity of micro-organisms in air varies in accordance with the density of organic matter in the immediate environment, he had spent the previous weeks exposing pre-sterilized flasks of boiled, sugared yeast-water at various altitudes and locations: those carried up to the glacier were the final set.

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