Genius: the Minds Behind the Modern World

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Humanity has gone a long way. We are no longer the hunter-gatherer that our ancestors once were. But we now have reached a point where we can take a man to the moon. These accomplishments are marvelous by themselves. But we must acknowledge the geniuses behind them.

We must tip our hats to those who made all these possible. They are not only tangible inventions. But some of them are ideas that were considered outrageous during their time. We must also recognize their importance. Let us now travel back in time to meet the great minds.

Nicolaus Copernicus

As creatures of comfort, we cannot see ourselves without technology. Our ancestors would have perished out of sheer happiness if they saw what we accomplished. But we must tip our hats to one of them as he stood valiantly for truth. He found enemies from other Christian sects and later his Church.

Copernicus’ book was better received than his intellectual successor, Galileo. Although both were religious Catholics, the former was given a free pass by the Church.

Upon his father’s death, Copernicus’ maternal uncle took him under his care. Although there are no surviving papers about young Copernicus, we assume that he benefited from his uncle’s intellectual contacts. Historians point out that he may have followed his uncle’s footsteps by studying in St John’s School.

He eventually studied at the University of Krakow. It was in this educational institution that Copernicus acquired the intellectual groundwork for his mathematical achievements. In 1495, his uncle pulled him out of school to install him in his court. But opposition within the canon hindered his elevation, so his uncle sent him, together with his brother, to study canon law in Italy.

Copernicus spent most of his time in Italy studying astrology. Upon returning to his homeland, he received an extension to his sabbatical to study medicine. It was during this period that ideas for his book finally took root. After completing his studies, he returned home and stayed there for the rest of his life.

As he worked as his uncle’s secretary and physician, Copernicus started his heliocentric theory. A few months after the death of his uncle in 1512, he wrote an outline of his hypothesis. Around this time, he built an astronomical tower where he studied the movement of heavenly bodies.

woman raising her fist

Suffragettes

Our concept of freedom has evolved. We no longer debate whether women can vote. But we are talking about a woman’s right to her body. Before all of these, the fairer sex fought the right to vote.

In ancient Athens, a woman was merely a commodity. They were part of the household. Thankfully, society did not hinder the woman’s capability to divorce her husband. Sadly, her former husband gets full custody of their children. The poor woman had no divorce attorney to fight for her right as a mother.

Women’s rights stagnated for several centuries. We saw how a future queen begged a newly crowned king to give her allowance for the upkeep of her children. The plight of Elizabeth Woodville was common. Even as late as 1911, fathers were given custody of the children.

The absurdity of the situation led to the rise to the rise of the suffragettes. They faced numerous challenges – both internal and external – in their quest for equality. In 1865, John Stuart Mill, a parliamentarian, introduced a law that included women’s rights. Sadly, his fellow parliamentarians turned his bill down.

In 1867, ladies from Manchester formed an organization to work with the Independent Labor Party (ILP). Their goal was to secure votes for women. Sadly, they found another roadblock as the national ILP was not as supportive as their local counterpart. The public eventually supported their cause after WWI.

Gregor Mendel

We know him as the father of genetics. It was through his pea experiments that we came to know heredity. Although the public nor other brilliant minds recognized his works, three scientists independently verified his findings three decades later.

In his youth, Gregor Mendel lived on a farm and studied beekeeping. He underwent more formal training at the University of Olomouc. Unfortunately, Mendel had to take a year off because of an ailment. He also had a hard time keeping up with his finances. His younger sister even had to give him her dowry to pay for his studies.

He eventually joined monastic life because he could continue studying without having to pay for it. He entered the Augustinian order. A few years later, he went to the University of Vienna to continue his studies. Upon his return in 1853, he taught physics. Unfortunately, he failed the oral portion of his certification as a teacher.

In 1867, he became an abbot. Unfortunately, his scientific research ended because he had to focus on his administrative tasks, especially since there was a conflict between the monastery and the local government regarding taxes. While he still had time, Mendel studied seven traits inherited from parent pea plants. From 1856 to 1863, he cultivated roughly 20,000 plants to observe them.

We should acknowledge their brilliance. After all, these great minds brought humankind from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. Without them, we would have remained wallowing in the Dark Ages.

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