By John Borghi
On March 16, 1926, Robert H. Goddard launched the first ever liquid-fueled rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts. Though this test did little to silence the mocking editorials and harsh criticisms that had followed Goddard since his 1920 proposal that liquid-fueled rockets would eventually reach beyond Earth’s atmosphere, it was a major breakthrough in modern rocketry. Collecting the pieces of his rocket from a snowed over cabbage patch late in the afternoon on the 16, Goddard probably could not have envisioned that his harshest critics would eventually turn to avid supporters. On July 17, 1969, the day after the launch of Apollo 11, the New York Times published an apologetic retraction of its criticisms of Goddard and hailed him as “the father of modern rocketry.”
Eighty-eight years almost to the day after Goddard’s launch, a group of scientists working at the State Hospital at Montpelier (SHAM) released a statement that no interesting stories could possibly emerge from science. “Science is serious business, obviously,” reads the statement, written primarily by the SHAM’s director of communication, Dr. P.H. Ony. “An engaging narrative requires interesting characters, a conflict, and a resolution. Unfortunately, science just doesn’t include any of those things. Have you ever read the methods section of a scientific paper? Pretty dry, am I right? I’m speaking as a scientist myself; there are just no interesting stories in science.”
Members of the scientific community have been quick to respond to Dr. Ony’s statement. On Facebook, the famed molecular biologist Dr. P. Seudo wrote “Nope, that’s completely incorrect,” and “Sometimes scientists get so wrapped up in their grants and lab work that they forget the drama of what is happening around them. Of course there are interesting stories. Science is full of people trying to solve problems, often while under a tremendous amount of stress.”
Dr. Ony could not be reached for comment, but a statement on his Twitter account stated his position simply: “Always remember, there is nothing exciting about molecular biology, rockets, or vindication.