I have finally finished reading “How The Hippies Saved Physics” by David Kaiser. It made me admire again people who have a passion for something and don’t give up, no matter what people advise them. Doubtless there are many, perhaps most, people for whom that strategy doesn’t work, but I’ve seen a bunch of them in physics or allied fields, and it’s inspiring.
The hippies book discusses John Clauser, the experimentalist who first tested Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. He was a grad student at Columbia in the late 60s, someone I knew of rather than really knew. After years of neglect by most of the academic community, he received the Wolf prize a year ago, together with Zeilinger and Aspect who did related work after him. He could never get an academic job.
Another was Steve Wiesner, also a student at Columbia the same time, who invented quantum encryption.
Two more people this brings to mind I remarked on in My Life as a Quant — Doug Hofstadter (Godel Escher Bach) and Mike Green (string theory), whom I knew better, and both did it Their Way to ultimate success despite people’s discouragement.
Nice to read about and ponder.