From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A gentleman scientist is a financially independent scientist who pursues scientific study as a hobby. The term arose in post-Renaissance Europe but became less common in the 20th century as government and private funding increased.
Self-funding scientists were more common in the days before large-scale government funding was available, up to the Victorian era, especially in England. Many early fellows of the Royal Society in London were gentleman scientists. The position significantly reduced during the 20th century as other forms of science funding increased.
Benefits and drawbacks
Self-funding has the disadvantage that funds may be more restricted, however it has the advantage of obviating a number of inconveniences such as teaching obligations, administrative duties, and writing grant requests to funding bodies. It also permits the scientist to have greater control over research directions, as funding bodies direct grants towards interests that may not coincide with that of the scientist. Peer-review is sidestepped. Furthermore, intellectual property of the inventions belongs to the inventor and not the employer.
Modern-day gentleman scientists
Modern-day equivalents are Stephen Wolfram who funds his own independent research through the sale of Mathematica software, Craig Venter, Julian Barbour, Aubrey de Grey, Barrington Moore, Susan Blackmore and James Lovelock
Speaking of Peter D. Mitchell, Peter Rich said "I think he would have found it difficult to have gotten funding because his ideas were rather radical." Mitchell went on to win the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1978. Chemist Luis Leloir funded the research institute he headed, the Institute for Biochemical Research, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1970.
Notable Gentleman Scientists
- Charles Darwin
- Robert Boyle
- Antoine Lavoisier
- Goldsworthy Gurney
- George Frederick Kunz
- Benjamin Franklin
- Henry Cavendish
- David Rittenhouse
- Martello, Robert, The Life and Times of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney: Gentleman Scientist and Inventor, 1793–1875 (review), Victorian Studies, Volume 42, Number 4, Summer 1999/2000, pp. 688–690. Indiana University Press.
- Porter, Dale H., The Life and Times of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, Gentleman Scientist and Inventor, 1793–1875. 1988. Lehigh University Press, ISBN 0-934223-50-5.
- Jon Cohen, Science, Vol. 279. no. 5348, pp. 178 - 181, DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5348.178, Scientists Who Fund Themselves
- Jonathan Keats, Craig Venter is the future Salon.com Dec. 2007. 
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