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The Lone Scientist Superstar : an article by: GF Willmetts

May 3, 2020 | By | Reply More

Back in the day, it was the likes of the solitary hero/scientist coming to the rescue against all calamity, especially in films with disasters and giant monsters tearing up the landscape. There is a logic in this because if you had the team effort, then you can’t be rooting for any particular character and lead actors wanting to be the star, not to mentioning developing each character. This applies across the genres, more so with private eyes and detective shows.

Oddly, there was some real reality logic to that as if you look at the earlier generations of scientists, many of them often did work alone or were even mavericks amongst their own communities when they had some crazy ideas like the Earth rotating around the Sun. Mind you, it was often the religions that tended to suppress such things as it went against their interpretation of their Bible. Various dogmas could be beaten in a generation providing you could convince enough people of high standing of your proof. Slowly, mankind moved into the modern age, even if mental relics from it still exists.

Even so, it still needed someone who leads the way and who will be remembered by the generations to come. You’re far more likely to remember the likes of scientists who have had science laws named after the rules they discovered, although oddly this never happened to Albert Einstein and Ernest Rutherford, although both have short-lived radioactive elements bearing their names. Outside of the scientific community could you remember who discovered the strands of DNA? Its Crick and Watson before you google. Although important, they didn’t get into the human psyche. Yet, it is a distinct discovery that has massive repercussions today. If anything, the human psyche takes so much for granted today than acknowledging people who made a significant change in the world.

However, the topic of this article should focus on the lone scientist superstar. More so, as they are major contributors to our reality. Name important people relevant to computers and some might come up with Babbage and yet he never made his computer or Alan Turning who programmed but did build the hardware. For the last century scientists, it was probably Richard Feynman for America and for us in the UK, Stephen Hawking, although I suspect more people will scratch their heads as to why in the decades to come as we’ve run out of elements to name after them and naming stars is two a penny.

Media tends to rule people than achievement, more so after their passing. Fame is ever more fleeting when they aren’t kept in the public domain. The 15 minutes of fame has to be re-enforced if it is to last. An unfortunate thing is often leaving people who are famous simply for being famous these days but I hope they are even more fleeting.

I think the awareness that with various science research companies or universities that it is now team efforts than genius super-stars coming to the fore. Very rarely does that become the name of legend, just the final product. Scientific research these days is just so much more…er…scientific. You can look at several different lines of research in different labs, as its currently being done to find an inoculation against corbid-19 without anyone jumping on anyone else’s toes. Once an inoculation is found and tested, a verification by different labs to ensure it is relatively safe and then a world-wide jabbing. Even so, will we know or acknowledge who found the inoculation or was it a team effort? With so many teams looking, I suspect it will be more a case of expediency and who gets there first than any massive new discovery.

Even so, in Science Fiction, authors still depend on the lead super-star, UK’s ‘Doctor Who’ is obviously a lead in this and he…er…she is an alien who comes to mankind’s rescue throughout its history. If anything, if various generations remembered the Doctor, then it is more likely as a saviour who appears when needed and goes than become a celebrity bore. Something, even the Time Lord has recognised as I’m paraphrasing from the modern series. In many respects, we don’t see book, TV or film heroes having too much downtime unless it’s pertinent to giving some background detail used in the stories. They either happen upon something happening or pursue some event that might have involved people they know. A cliché perhaps but its standard plotting elements. If you have more than one person, then you have a team or a group but it is always the leader that has the most interest, unless you work for an organisation like those Bond fellas, even if he does appear to be a one man show with nary a glimpse of his fellow 00 numbers. Even so, it’s the person in the middle of the action that you focus on, no matter the profession.

With the current Internet culture and social media, anyone with even minor celebrity status gets a full detailed biography through the press media depending on how much information is available. True heroes tend to not do things for fame and rather stay out of the spotlight. They’re the people who rise up to the occasion rather than for the recognition it would give them. After all, risking your life to save others could also be deemed reckless unless you’re trained in such activities. However, if you need rescuing, you’d be grateful for anyone willing to do it with the right verve.

Of course, someone with particular specialised abilities or physical talents would have to be in the right place and time to accomplish the assignment or task, which is really how fictional heroes and heroines works. To do it in reality would need someone from the likes of the armed forces like the SAS but then you also have to deal with military discipline and what rank are they. There’s a certain love of experts at work that is on par with the amateur having some luck with surviving.

If anything, the legendary solitary hero is becoming something of legend or fiction now. In reality, their exploits might be revealed or disclosed to the public when they are older or dead. Even in the days of media exposure, it is still possible to disappear into the shadows or denial that they were ever there. If a journalist pursues too much, he or she becomes the story far more than the ubiquitous hero.

Of course, people need heroes but really the dividing line between real and fiction seems to mix together. The appeal of fiction is whether we would be as meaningful in a similar situation. The real thing can be too intimidating. Most people are never likely to even face such a reality so the illusion is more important.

Do we need named heroes? Probably yes. We need a hook to hang our thanks to, especially the deserving.

We do need the right environment to cultivate the best situation for geniuses, even if they are maverick. Without that geeky outlook on life, we might never look at anything differently. All our developments have relied on such people than coming out of the same mould all the time with an inability to challenge authority, whether scientific or political, with better observation, evidence and solution. We also need to keep the lunatic fringe at bay who don’t know what they are talking about. Not an easy balancing act but clearly, in this day and age, something that is equally important.

© GF Willmetts

03 May 2020

Category: Culture, Offworld Report

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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