'Sleeping beauties': Why some brilliant ideas get overlooked

The stories of Jansky, Mendel and Bayes hold out hope to those who feel that the world has not quite caught up with them

One view is that brilliant ideas are overlooked when delivered by obscure messengers. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
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(FINANCIAL TIMES) - In 1928, Karl Jansky, a young radio engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories, began researching static interference that might obscure voice transmissions. Five years later, after building a large rotating antenna and investigating every possibility he could think of, he published his remarkable conclusion: Some of the static was coming from the Milky Way.

His theory was eye-catching enough to be published in The New York Times, but scientists were unimpressed. Radio signals from outer space? Surely they were too weak to detect.

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