As an example of how new ideas are generated, and what role academics vs. non-academics play, I put together a little timeline of the history of electricity:
- Independently weathy, spend his time doing science
- 1675: Realized that attraction & repulsion were mutual, the electric force was transmitted through vacuum
- Did experiments as a pensioner in his 60s.
- 1730: discovered that electricity can flow, distinguished conductors from non-conductors
Pieter van Musschenbroek
- Professor of natural philosophy and mathematics
- 1745: Invented Leyden jar
- Pharmacist and physician
- 1747: discharged Leyden jar through a circuit
- Business man in the printing business
- At the age of 43 he retired to do his hobby of science full time
- 1750s: electricity experiments
- Inherited a lot of money
- Military engineer
- 1773: published calculus of variations
- 1781: At 45 was so well renouned for his scientific work that he was appointed to French Academy of Sciecne
- late 1780s: demonstrated inverse square law for electric charges
Georg Simon Ohm
- Taught mathematics at a Gymnasium, did science at first for fun, then to publish so he could become a professor
- 1827: published Ohm’s law
James Prescott Joule
- Independently wealth, worked in his father’s brewery.
- 1840s: Worked on efficiency of electirc motors. Discovered P = IV.