Maverick Scientist: My Adventures as an Amateur Scientist – Forrest Mims
This is the sort of memoir which not only describes in detail the life and work of a remarkable individual but which, as the best memoirs do, describes the country and culture, noted scientific contributions. None of these contributions involve any theories or propositions but, rather, as the 19th Century amateur scientists who cataloged millions of animals and insects as well as plants, Forrest Mims created inexpensive and often hand held instruments to measure the ozone layer and other atmospheric constituents. His measurements were so accurate that he proved NASA’s satellites measurements were inaccurate, leading to decades of contracts with NASA.
Because I was involved in Forrest’s appearance before the National Press Club decades ago
and because I helped in a minor way with this particular book, I don’t feel that I can produce an honest and unbiased review so I am including a review by an expert in one of the fields where Forrest has contributed so much.
Forrest is a creationist, which cost him a column at Scientific American. We do not share religious beliefs, just a respect for science and facts.
The following was a letter to Forrest which I received exclusive permission to publish
Begin – Review of “Maverick Scientist,” Forrest M. Mims III’s Memoir
by Mike Dzeikan, VP Engineering at a CT Corporation
There are two kinds of people in this world – those who are told something can’t be done and they don’t bother trying, and those like Forrest Mims, who are told something can’t be done and do it anyway.
One thing that resonates throughout Forrest’s memoir is that if you are sure of the integrity of your data, then stick with the data and ignore someone else’s opinion.
Remember that it’s been said that one experiment is worth a thousand expert opinions.
Most scientists work in clean, safe, comfortable laboratory environments. Far fewer travel to the jungles of the Amazon to perform critical atmospheric research while experiencing sweltering heat, biting mosquitos, spiders, poisonous snakes, caimans, and piranhas.
About Forrest Mims
Forrest has shown himself to be one of those exceptional few that are equally at home in the classroom or the field.
With over 7.5 million books sold, he is one of the most prolific science and technical writers of all time.
Forrest was also one of the 1993 Rolex Award recipients for his work in ozone monitoring and the development of TOPS (Total Ozone Portable Spectrometer).
A life lived is a life well lived, and Forrest has certainly done his share of exploring the world. Some of that exploring is acquiring ozone data during a solar eclipse while on a cruise ship in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), monitoring air quality at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii, performing field measurements in the jungles of South America, to experiments with model rockets in Vietnam while serving during the Vietnam war.
He was also present for the development of the ALTAIR 8800 – the machine that launched the PC revolution. It was Forrest who wrote the user manual for the ALTAIR and was there when Microsoft was just getting started in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Microsoft wrote the initial BASIC software for the ALTAIR.
If you are a professional scientist, amateur scientist, engineer, a school kid looking for an innovative science fair project, someone who enjoys planting gardens or photographing sunsets you will be inspired to take that extra step to document your findings and possibly make a new discovery.
Forrest has had to fight against the bias of professional scientists when his inexpensive, home-made instruments had found an error in NASA’s, very expensive, TOMS (Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer) satellite.
The reader will be inspired by Forrest’s prolific scientific career.
When someone tells you that you are too inexperienced, don’t have the proper college education or scientific training, your equipment is too simplistic to make scientific measurements, or that you aren’t capable of doing high end science, ignore them and do it anyway.
Mike Dzeikan END
A Further Note About Why You Should Remember Forrest
I should perhaps mention just why every electronics worker or hobbyist should know Forrest by his work if not by name.Remember Radio Shack and that rack of introductory and project electronics books/booklets?
Radio Shack sold tens of millions of them.
Forrest wrote them.
As one of many coincidences in my writing career I also covered Radio Shack long before the PC was created by IBM and before the Internet, let alone the WWW, I wrote game reviews and some programs for Rainbow, Lonnie Falk’s KY based magazine about the Tandy Color Computer.
Therefore both Forrest and I had connections with Radio Shack/Tandy in the earliest days of personal computer experimentation predating Apple but using the Motorola 6809 cpu chip
The signed, hardback memoir is available for $50 plus shipping from Makershed:
John A. McCormick
And, because Groundhog Day approaches:
A Field Guide to Groundhog Day – a vacation guide to the Punxsutawney area: Includes extensive information warm weather attractions including an elk herd, covered bridge, and more. Kindle Edition
by John A. McCormick