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Friday, 23 March 2012 05:31

Louis Pasteur: Men of Ideas

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Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was a French Chemist and microbiologist. He is best known for discovering the germ theory of disease. His germ theory of diseases and consequent efforts to kill the germs that cause diseases prevent diseases. Before Pasteur’s time, folk did not understand how diseases were caused in the human body and his studies showed how germs enter the human body and cause it to malfunction. Pasteur also made the seminal discovery of how to prevent milk from rotting (caused by germs) through what is now called pasteurization (initially heating the milk to kill potential germs and then ceiling…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:30

Gregor Mendel: Men of ideas

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Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was a German, Augustinian priest who experimented with the inheritability of the traits of peas (and later of plants, crops, and by generalization, the inheritability of human traits). He is called the father of genetic studies. His name, Mendel, is synonymous with genetic studies. Mendel cultivated pea plants and tried to mix different varieties of the pea plants to produce hybrids of them. In the process he identified key concepts in the study of genes, such as, dominant genes, recessive genes, and alleles. Clearly, plants can be hybridized. Many of the common fruits we now consume, such…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:28

Charles Darwin: Men of Ideas

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Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) was an English biologist. Darwin is known for his contribution of the notion of natural selection. Early in his career as a naturalist, Darwin sailed to the Galapagos Island in South America, an Island little disturbed by man, and cut off from mainland South America; animals there were left to evolve differently from their kinds on the South American mainland. Darwin observed the behavior of animals on the island and noted that they had made some changes to their kind on the mainland of South America, a place from which they were cut off. In 1859…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:27

John Dalton: Men of Ideas

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John Dalton (1766-1844) was an English Chemist. His work was largely responsible for resurrecting the discarded Greek notion that the atom is the smallest, irreducible part of elements. He therefore contributed to our modern understanding of the elements, the atomic theory, and quantum mechanics. He also made some useful contributions in understanding color blindness in people. He said: “There can scarcely be a doubt entertained respecting the reducibility of all elastic fluids of whatever kind, into liquids; and we ought not to despair of affecting it in low temperatures and by strong pressure exerted upon the unmixed gases further.” Dalton…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:25

Robert Boyle: Men of Ideas

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Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was an Irish-English chemist and physicist. He developed what is now called Boyles law in Chemistry and is generally regarded as the father of modern Chemistry. In physics Boyle discovered the role of air in the propagation of sound, the forces involved in water becoming frozen, and studied, crystals, gems, hydrostatics and colors etc. In Chemistry Boyle advanced the view that elements (atoms) are the irreducible parts of matter; he contributed to the understanding of chemical mixtures and compounds. Boyle was one of the first persons to practice Francis Bacon’s empiricism, the insistence that knowledge should be…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:42

An Assessment of The Social Sciences

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During the month of March (2008) I lived social science. I devoted every spare time I had to thinking about the major social scientists and their contributions to their field of endeavor. I am now done with that task. However, I find myself wondering whether social science really is a science or a pseudo science? In this essay, I will try to answer my own question and if, perchance, similar questions exercise your mind you could benefit from my cogitations. To answer my question we first must have some clarity as to what is science? What is science? During the…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:41

Karl Marx: Men of Ideas

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Karl Heinrich Marx (1818-1883) was a German Jew who systematized socialism and tried to make the ideology a science worthy of academic study (his book, Das Capital has academic pretensions). Karl Marx and Frederic Engels collaborated in writing the Communist Manifesto (1848), a sort of Bible for Communist revolutionaries. Marx did not see himself as utopian but an utopian (social idealist) he was, for only such a person would disregard human nature and say: “from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs”. That is to say that all people should work together, each using his…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:40

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: Men of Ideas

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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) was a French writer whose writings come under the rubric of socialism, that is, social idealism. Proudhon is famous for saying that all property is theft. Proudhon chose to believe that everything in nature belong to all people and that any one who claims a part of it as his personal property has stolen it from the rest of us. Proudhon believed that what one produces is ones property. He agrees that the only legitimate justification for property is labor, but the individual’s labor. If I work for something directly that something is legitimately mine. But if…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:39

Robert Owen: Men of Ideas

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Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a British industrialist turned philanthropist and utopian socialist. Owen made money running factories and apparently took pity on the workers laboring in his factories and sought ways to ameliorate their plight. He came up with ideas on having workers work in a cooperative manner where they jointly owned the factories and jointly made management decisions on how to run the factories. He also sought ways to improve the workers living conditions and saw cooperative, communal living, as one way to go about this. Owen built communal communities where folk lived and worked together. He called his…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:38

Charles Fourier: Men of Ideas

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Francois Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837) is considered by many as one of the founders of the socialist movement. Actually, he is best characterized as a social idealist. The man saw the imperfect real world and did not like what he saw and used introspection to come up with how the world should be. His mind produced ideals for everything he saw and believed was imperfect. Alas, ideals are of the mind, are mentalistic and when tried in the real world the exigencies of the environment, space, time and social opposition alter them. Ideals never turn out as hoped when attempted…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:38

Arthur Laffer: Men of Ideas

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Arthur Laffer (1940- ) is an American economist of the Chicago school; that is, he believes in the Laissez Faire economic system. His claim to fame is his teaching that governments obtain more revenue by growing business (supply side) so that they produce goods and services, sell them and the economy expands. He does not want governments to over tax the goose that lays the golden egg. He would prefer that governments did not tax corporations and businesses at all but since governments cannot exist without revenue from taxation, that corporate taxes be very minimal. This does not mean that…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:36

Milton Friedman: Men of Ideas

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Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was an American economic historian (his book on the economic history of the United States is considered a classic). Friedman appeared to be an ideologue for capitalism; his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom, made the case that Capitalism is correlated with freedom; in fact, he seemed to believe that capitalism is the only economic system that can sustain freedom. Friedman devoted much of his academic career to making the argument that capitalism ought to be the preferred economic system of the countries of the world because it is, he believed, the only economic system capable of sustaining…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:36

Vilfredo Pareto: Men of Ideas

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Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who did significant work on income distribution and individual choices. He demonstrated that in most economies a handful of the population, 20 percent of the population, seems to have as much as the other 80% of the population. (Actually the percentages have worsened, in the USA one percent of the population own as much as the rest of the population; CEOs of America’s top corporations make as much as all their other employees lumped together. In modern societies, wealth is concentrated in a few hands.) Basically, what Pareto contributed to economic discourse is…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:35

Joseph Schumpeter: Men of Ideas

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Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) was a Moravian economist and political scientist. His major contribution to economic discourse is his work on Business cycles (developed in his book, The Theory of Economic Development). Schumpeter talked about the absence of innovations and circular flow which ultimately leads to stagnation of economic activities (sort of like negative equilibrium) until the business entrepreneur enters the picture with his new ideas on how to do things and jump starts the economy. The entrepreneurial businesses disturb the equilibrium and generate business development in the economy. Each business cycle allegedly lasts for about fifty years before stagnation sets…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:34

John Maynard Keynes: Men of Ideas

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John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) was a British economist whose ideas on how to deal with unemployment, inflation, recession and depression have had lasting impact on the world. In his book, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) Keynes outlined his understanding of what causes unemployment, interest rate issues and money supply issues. His causal analysis is routine economic analysis; his point of departure is what he recommended to solve those problems. His recommendation was not particularly original for in one form or another, governments have been doing what he recommended. However, he was the first to systematize these ideas…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:33

Thomas Malthus: Men of Ideas

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Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was an English economist (and Anglican pastor). He was the first formal professor of economics, which was then called Political Economy, in 1805. Malthus’ major contribution to economic discourse is his “Essay on the Principle of Population” (1798). He wrote this book to counteract the progressives’ optimism that through reason all the problems that beset mankind would be solved. Progressives like Jean Jacque Rousseau believed that through reason (French enlightenment) man and his society would become heaven like. (Rousseau was actually an idealist, a romantic rather than a realistic thinker.) Malthus set out to show that…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:32

David Ricardo: Men of Ideas

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David Ricardo (1772-1823) systematized the economic theory laid down by Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus and helped make the study of economics a formal academic discipline. In addition to systematizing the discipline, Ricardo added to the discipline with his Labor Theory of Value (explicated in his book, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation). Ricardo was not the first person to talk about labor added value but was the first to formally articulate it in an academic text book. That which exists in nature may or may not have value but it is the labor expended on it to make it…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:31

Adam Smith: Men of Ideas

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Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a Scottish economist that many believe is the founder of classical economics. Along with David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus he gave shape to what today is called the science of economics. Before his time folk studied economics, usually under philosophy; there was no separate discipline called economics. All these changed when Adam Smith published his “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations, in 1776 (the very year that the USA came into being and embraced his gospel of Laissez Faire Economics). Adam Smith wrote his book in reaction to the prevailing…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:30

Claude Levi-Strauss: Men of Ideas

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Claude Levi-Strauss (1908- ) is a French anthropologist noted for developing the concept of structuralism and functionalism for understanding so-called primitive societies. In so-called primitive societies many of the structures we take for granted in the Western world do not seem to exist. In the West, for example, when we talk of governance we talk of legislative bodies, executive bodies and judicial bodies. We talk of the legislature making laws, the executive implementing them and judges adjudicating disputes on the basis of the law. When we go to preliterate societies we might not see structures specifically called legislative, executive and…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:29

Margaret Mead: Women of Ideas

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Margaret Mead (1901-1978) was an American anthropologist. She did her field work in Samoa, in the Asian Pacific and wrote up her findings in a book called Coming of Age in Samoa. Her whole academic reputation rests on her findings during her field work in Samoa and the information she reported in the ensuing book. She claimed that the teenage girls of Samoa and their culture had a different attitude towards sex from what obtained in the West. Whereas in the Western world, the Judeo-Christian religion teaches abstinence from sex until a girl is married, Mead said that the Samoan…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:28

Bronislaw Malinowski: Men of Ideas

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Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) is considered one of the most important anthropologists of the twentieth century. Indeed, he was part of that elect group, which included Franz Boaz and Ruth Benedict that started the anthropological enterprise. His field work in what is now called Papua New Guinea and the Trobriand Islands is considered a classic of ethnographic studies. What is anthropology? Anthropology is the same as sociology. However, whereas sociologists tended to study what they called modern societies, anthropologists studied the same subjects studied by sociologists but this time on so-called primitive societies. In a manner of speaking, anthropology is sociology…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:27

Ferdinand Tonnies: Men of Ideas

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Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) was a German sociologist who, along with Max Weber, founded the study of sociology in Germany. Tonnies, sometimes spelled Toennies, wrote many articles and books but is primarily known for his differentiation between two types of sociological communities: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Gemeinschaft is what we might call natural groupings of human beings, such as families, clans’ men, tribes’ men, villagers and those who perceive themselves as in some way connected. Members of such groups tend to see each other as one of them and work for their mutual interests. The survival of the group is perceived as…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:26

Max Weber: Men of Ideas

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Maximilian Carl Emil Weber (1864-1920) was a German scholar who has come to be called everything from sociologist to political scientist and economist. Max Weber is a traditional German thinker who, in a different age, probably would be called philosopher but in our age of specialization and categorization folk see a need to see him as a sociologist. Indeed, some even consider him as one of the founders of the discipline of sociology. He called some of his major writings the sociology of this or that (sociology of Religion, for example) but those writings appear more like philosophical treatises than…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:25

Karl Mannheim : Men of Ideas

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Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) continued the work of establishing sociology as an academic discipline. Mannheim is considered the founder of the sociology of knowledge. Generally, many folk assume that knowledge is not a social construct. Mannheim showed that what is considered knowledge, or truth, is a social variable. It is what a group of people, at least, its opinion leaders, accept as true that is seen as true in any group. What is the truth is not self evident but is the consensus of the rulers of society. Truth is a social construct and not that which we all could look…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:23

Emile Durkheim: Men of Ideas

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Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is generally considered the father of the academic discipline of Sociology. Before him folks, of course, wrote on what might be construed as sociological, folks like Auguste Comte and George Sorel, but those could be subsumed under the rubric of philosophy. It was Emil Durkheim who made the argument that there is a particular way of looking at phenomena that is sociological. Sociology is that methodological approach to people that says that they are not free agents and that they are determined by their society. Society and its various units, such as family, siblings, peer groups, schools,…