Pigeon-Blood Red is a fast-paced, suspenseful, crime thriller. It is the first book in the Pigeon Blood Red Trilogy, followed by The Last Straw (book 2) and Rico Stays (book 3). Each book in the series can be read as a standalone.
Pigeon-Blood Red tells the story of underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, who believed his next assignment to be an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.
As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?
Praise for the Pigeon Blood Red Trilogy:
“…It rips along like a .45 bullet rushing past your head….a crime novel in a style you don’t … see too often… a juggernaut of a story that just won’t quit.” – Monkey’s Book Review
“A fast-paced read with complex and morally ambiguous characters that leaves you on the edge of your seat!”– AllieReads.com
“Readers in search of a tight, well-written…crime/action/adventure will find…an engrossing story that will keep them involved to the end. And like me, they will find themselves eagerly awaiting the next installment.” – Mike Siedschlag’s Review
“This charming, classically-told crime thriller is a must for noir fans…refreshingly old-school pulp, inhabited by a familiar cast of gamblers, con men and hustlers found in Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard novels” – 5 Stars, Best Thrillers
“This Chicago set thriller is a pacy read, written with an edge and style… Ed Duncan’s series will sweep up fans as it goes along.” – Crime Thriller Hound
“With danger looming in every chapter… Duncan skillfully draws the reader into a complex web of characters… A few key twists within the storyline keep the reader intrigued… an outstanding crime thriller…”– 5 Stars, Red City Review
“…suspense from start to finish… a fast-paced read… Entertaining, Gritty and Nailbiting.” – The Bibliovert
Excerpt from Chapter 1
When Rico knocked on Jean’s door he was happy to hear the sound of footsteps. At least she was there. Maybe it was a good omen. Jean, a stunning redhead with a figure that made the heart leap, looked through the peephole, opened the door, and greeted him wrapped in a towel. She was even more tantalizing than she’d been in the car earlier that day. She wasn’t completely dry, and here and there tiny droplets of water glistened on her arms and shoulders. Rico inhaled the subtle fragrance of her shower gel, but before it could distract him, a voice in his head reminded him, “Point one percent.”
“I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” she began, a playful, sultry smile on her face.
From the doorway Rico scanned the living room and saw nothing amiss. He walked in and closed the door behind him. Too bad. He only knew how to do this one way. “Jean, how long have you known me?” he asked stoically.
She was baffled. “You know as well as I do. What kind of a question is that?”
“I never tried to hide from you how I make my living, true?” They stood face to face, inches apart, before she took a few halting steps backward. “So you know what happens to people who don’t tell me what I want to know, don’t you?”
“Rico,” she stammered, her voice trembling, “you aren’t making any sense. What’s this all about? I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I haven’t done anything, I swear.”
He took a straight razor from his coat pocket and opened it. As he walked toward her, she covered her face with her hands. He stepped behind her, thrust his left arm through the triangle formed by her hands pressing against her face, and grabbed her right shoulder. With his right hand he held the blunt side of the open razor against her right cheek.
“Where is it?”
“Please, Rico,” she sobbed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pressed harder and tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Please, please!”
“I don’t believe you.” He turned the sharp side to her cheek.
“Rico, not my face, please! I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her tears puddled where the razor met her skin.
As Jean cried out he let the razor fall from his hand and, in one uninterrupted motion, expertly muzzled her scream with the same hand before the razor hit the floor. She fainted.
When she came to, she was lying on the couch where Rico had carried her. He stood with his back to her, talking to Jerry on the phone. Jerry hadn’t been able to get past lobby security in Robert’s building.
“He palmed it, right?” Jerry asked.
Rico glanced over his shoulder at Jean. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He hung up. “I had to be sure,” he said unapologetically.
She shivered in her towel and glared at him, anger roiling in her eyes. He went to the bedroom and returned with a blanket, which she allowed him to drape around her shoulders.
“Sorry, baby. It was just business.”
Still too furious to speak, she defiantly turned her back to him and silently dared him to say anything about it. A small victory but it was something. Ignoring the gesture, Rico walked out and closed the door softly behind him.
She was enraged, as much at herself as at him, because she knew that the next time he called she would answer. She tried to justify her emotions by telling herself that he’d stopped short of actually harming her and that he never would have. But who was she kidding? She could hope but she could never know for sure.
When the cab pulled up in front of Robert’s building, Jerry was standing outside smoking a cigarette. It was an expensive high rise on the city’s Gold Coast along Lake Michigan’s north shore, with a security guard on duty twenty- four hours a day. There was no way around it; if they wanted to get into Robert’s apartment, one way or another they’d have to deal with him. This was admittedly a minor detail, more of an annoyance than anything else.
Jerry knew Rico hated cigarette smoke. An icy stare from him whenever Jerry lit up was as effective a deterrent as a punch in the gut, so he put the fag out as Rico left the cab. Rico kept his body rock solid by lifting weights at a neighborhood gym, jogging regularly, and minimizing his intake of junk food. He didn’t like the idea of second-hand smoke undoing any of his hard work.
“So what happened?” Jerry asked.
“She didn’t have it.”
“I could’ve told you that. She’s good people.”
“Don’t start with me.”
“But nothing. Anybody can cross the line.”
“Including me?” Jerry hoped Rico might exempt him
but didn’t expect it.
“Yeah, including you.” The two men stared at each
other for a long moment before Rico smiled. “No, not including you.” The smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared and his eyes narrowed. “You know better.”
The comment stung and Jerry hung his head a little, but it was true and he knew it. It wasn’t easy to get close to Rico and not many people did. He was loyal to a fault, yet distant and brooding. Deadly as a cobra but with a dry, sometimes biting sense of humor. Brutally honest, he lacked guile. Hated hypocrisy. Loathed arrogance. If you were in a fight for your life against hopeless odds and could pick just one person to help even them out, he would be your choice every time. But if you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a pat on the back, you’d have to think long and hard before you settled on Rico.
“Now, about this guy…” Rico said, ignoring Jerry’s reaction.
Jerry snapped out of it. “You have to tell the security guard who you want to see. He rings the apartment. If the person answers, the guard buzzes you in.”
“No wonder he’s always out of money.”
“How much traffic in and out?”
“Not too bad so far.”
Taking in as many details as his eyes could process in one sweep of the area, Rico slowly turned in a circle, looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything that counseled against getting on with the business at hand. Outside, there were pedestrians and cars passing everywhere, but it was a busy street, so there was nothing unusual about that. Inside, the foyer was empty except for the security guard. Nothing looked menacing. Nothing looked out of place. He nodded. “Okay?” Jerry nodded back. “Let’s go and talk to the man.”
They walked briskly to the entrance, donning sunglasses almost in unison, then glanced behind them one last time before opening the door. Rico nodded to a spot inside. Jerry planted himself there. Without slowing, Rico continued toward an oak-paneled counter facing the door, behind which sat an unarmed security guard casually reading a newspaper. He was about forty, with a gaunt face and stringy hair reaching below his collar. He was the kind of guy who went through life trying to keep from stepping on anyone’s toes and hoping everyone would try to avoid stepping on his. He looked up in time to see Rico, advancing quickly in his direction, throw open his coat and jerk a .45 out of a powder-blue shoulder holster. He leaped to his feet and raised his hands above his head. Rico slammed the gun on the counter.
“Put ’em down,” Rico said. Eyes bulging and hands shaking, the guard complied and his face took on the look of a condemned man who had just received word of a reprieve. “That’s right. Relax,” Rico said. “Now buzz Robert McDuffie’s apartment.” There was no answer. “Try again.” Still no answer. “Get the key and take me up there,” he ordered, then nodded in the direction of the .45 resting on the counter under his hand. “This’ll be pointed at the back of your head on the way. Any questions?” The guard shook his head. “Then let’s go.”
About the Author
Ed Duncan lives outside of Cleveland, OH. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years.
Ed Duncan is the author of the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. The first book in the series Pigeon Blood Red was released in September 2016, followed by The Last Straw, the second book in the series, released in December 2017. The third book in the series Rico Stays was released in May 2020, published by Next Chapter. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone.
“It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I am a lawyer – as is a pivotal character in the novel who is being pursued by a hit man – and I’m excited to be able to use my legal training creatively as well as professionally,” says Duncan.
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Ed Duncan, please contact Kelsey at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.
February 19, 2016 (Sydney, Australia) – Author Shannon O’Leary announced today that her memoir, The Blood on My Hands, is now available for purchase.
O’Leary states, “The title of the book reflects what happened to me. It is twofold; a metaphor for what I went through as a victim and also in one murder I literally had blood on my hands.”
Set in 1960s and ‘70s Australia, The Blood on My Hands is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years. O’Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.
The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemn the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.
The Blood on My Hands is a heartbreaking—yet riveting—narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.
“The Blood on My Hands is a powerful, dark memoir… O’Leary tells how she and her family suffered at the hands of an abusive father with a multiple personality disorder. O’Leary actually witnessed her father murder people and animals. No one, not even the authorities, would help O’Leary and her family. This is O’Leary’s story about how they eventually got away from her father, but never truly escaped him or his heinous acts… parts of the book are so graphic that you do not want to believe that these things actually happened. Parts like these made it hard for me to put the book down. I knew what was about to happen, but I could not force myself to look away… This is a story that is going to remain in my mind for a long time.” – Reviewed by Jessyca Garcia for Readers’ Favorite
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Shannon O’Leary, please contact Kelsey McBride at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.
February 18, 2016 (Los Angeles, CA) – After a lifetime of working for a secret international group, John Murray finally reveals his journey with the help of his wife, Sharon, and co-writer Abby. His memoir, Code Name: Papa – My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight, details his time within an organization that, while not connected to the US government, operated with the full blessing of top people in our government.
Murray stated, “With this book, I hope to educate the public and open up the conversation about what our country and others have really done on dangerous secret missions to help the world.”
In forty-three chapters over the course of several decades, the highlighted missions include the deaths of eight counter covert operators in a major Las Vegas hotel conference room during a mission that has stayed in Vegas until now; a European mission to save sex slaves from major drug dealers; a successful all-out effort to save a small European country from takeover, and much more.
“I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in what really happens to bad people who threaten the safety and well being of our world. It was a page turner that I could hardly put down.”
“I typically do not take the time to write reviews. However, this book was so incredibly riveting that I felt compelled to let other Amazon members know that it’s an honest-to-goodness page turner. I can’t wait to see what happens next…hopefully a sequel and movie!”
“The story is riveting, once you start reading you won’t want to put it down! Learning about these undercover missions involving the cooperation of several nations is mind boggling.”
A Vietnam vet, John Murray, later known as “Papa,” has spent the majority of his adult life working as an undercover agent for the U.S., Canadian and various European governments. During this time, he rose from agent to the head of US Operations. Now retired, he and his wife are living in a small rural Western town. As ‘normal’ as he tries to live, he will always be haunted by the visions of what he saw and what he tried to prevent or rectify.
For the sake of their own safety and that of their loved ones, the writers have chosen to move forward in revealing this story under aliases.
To learn more, please visit CodeNamePapa.com.
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview with John Murray, please contact Kelsey McBride at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.
February 17, 2016 (Sarasota, FL) – Pamela A. Sherrod, a Christian author, screenwriter, and producer, announced today that her memoir, Sammy Davis Jr.: The Writer Who Saved His Estate, is now available for purchase on Amazon. The memoir shares the story of how she unintentionally stumbled into the center of one of Hollywood’s longest and most vicious legal battles and played a vital role in the historic outcome of the Sammy Davis Jr. Estate.
When Sammy Davis Jr. died in 1990, after losing his fight with throat cancer, another war soon erupted, one which threatened to dismantle his legacy and the future of his estate. The $5 million debt that he’d left his widow, Altovise, represented just one chapter in a tumultuous story that was filled with unfathomable glamour, multiple scandals and the treachery that accompanied the greed of their associates.
In 2005, when Sherrod partnered with Altovise Davis to create inspirational and educational family films, she was introduced to the dark side of the entertainment industry. Sammy’s embattled estate teetered between the control of his wife – whose life was wracked by alcoholism – and the two men who were determined to seize it. The tragedies that followed would challenge, not only Sherrod’s faith in God, but the very essence of the work that she’d begun.
In this eye-witness account, Sherrod presents stunning revelations and testimonies about the famous couple’s life – including friends such as Bill Cosby and Elizabeth Taylor – as she documents, not only the final outcome of the Davis estate, but the tragic and triumphant events that preceded it.
“It’s more than just a story about Hollywood, the betrayal of friends, the theft of screenplays, the abandonment of allies and other horrific things that take place there,” says Sherrod. “It’s Sammy and Altovise’s story, but it’s also my story as a Christian writer. I was pulled into the Sammy Davis Jr. saga, although it wasn’t my intention, and (for better or worse) it made a lasting impression on my life. In many ways, I’m ‘the last little Indian,’ trying to finish the work that Sammy urged Altovise to do, and the work that I’d committed myself to do.”
Pamela lives in Sarasota, FL, where she’s raising her daughter. To learn more, go to: SammyDavisJrTheWriterWhoSavedHisEstate.com
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Pamela Sherrod, please contact Kelsey McBride at Book Publicity Services at email@example.com or 805.807.9027.
February 16, 2016 (Dallas, TX) – Andrea Amosson, author of the short story collection Told from the Hips, announced today that she will be holding a reading and signing event at the Wild Detectives in Dallas on March 16, 2016 at 7:30pm.
Andrea will read selections from Told from the Hips followed by a signing and discussion moderated by Doctor José Espericueta, a professor of Latin American Literature from the Modern Languages Department of the University of Dallas. The event is free and open to the public. Copies of Told from the Hips will be available for purchase.
Told from the Hips is a collection of short stories that feature strong women and the strength they have within them to handle any challenging situation that comes their way. These women come from all over the world with a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles, but the one thing they all have in common is solid hips. Their stories are inscribed upon their skin with inks of sweat and blood, turning their bodies into the pages narrating their lives. The stories in Told from the Hips are empowering, relatable, and thought-provoking.
“Told from the Hips was originally published in Spanish as Cuentos Encaderados,” says Amosson, “It was very important to me that the voices of each of the narrators was kept intact in the translation and I’m very happy to say they were. I’m excited that my characters and their stories are now able to reach readers in two languages.”
Andrea teaches a weekly creative writing class, the only one in Spanish language in the Dallas area, and she has founded a free, Spanish only, book club for the Hispanic population. The book club now has more than 30 members and celebrated it’s 2nd anniversary last October. She is also the founder of “La farmacia de la Ñ”, a literary group of Hispanic writers and poets of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, that offers free public literary events to the Hispanic population, in order to promote reading and writing; and to open space to share the Latin-American culture. To learn more, go to http://www.andreaamosson.com/
The Wild Detectives is located at 314 W Eighth St. Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX 75208. Further information about the bookstore can be found at http://thewilddetectives.com/.
For more information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Andrea Amosson, please contact Kelsey McBride at Book Publicity Services at (805) 807-9027 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The child of a serial killer, Shannon O’Leary revisits her traumatic past in her memoir, The Blood on My Hands.
Set in 1960s and ‘70s Australia, The Blood on My Hands is the dramatic tale of Shannon’s childhood years, growing up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.
The responses of those whom Shannon and her immediate family reached out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. No one, not even the authorities, would help them. Relatives were afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemned the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevented the police from interfering unless someone was killed.
The Blood on My Hands is a heartbreaking—yet riveting—narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding. The strength it took for Shannon to not just survive and escape from her father, but to flourish, heal, and triumph over the trauma she endured as a child is both powerful and moving.
“I used pseudonyms in the book order to protect my family. He was never charged despite the police knowing about his activity. The police investigations were case files and are not available to the public. People outside Australia would not be aware that many of the missing person files in NSW in the 1960s and 70s disappeared under one of the governments of the time (there are only about 6 files for the 1960s),” says O’Leary.
“The confusion, uncertainty, and sickening foreboding ring true and offer vital insights into the experience of abuse, including the fact that victims had few options, especially in the 1960s.” – Kirkus Reviews
“The work is crisp and painfully honest, moving from scene to scene both artfully and factually. Both the mundane and the impossible are treated with equal care, masterfully knitting together the various pieces of O’Leary’s tormented past.” – Red City Review
“The Blood on My Hands is a powerful, dark memoir… This is a story that is going to remain in my mind for a long time.” – 4 Stars, Readers’ Favorite
“Once I picked this up I could not put it down, I needed to see how they got away from the monster who called himself their father, who called himself a husband.” – Sarah on Goodreads
“I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite the subject matter and hope it manages to help at least one child know that it gets better, life gets better.” – 5 Stars, Sarah Purdy
I have felt the cold steel of a gun in my mouth and against my temple. I have tasted warm blood on my lips and witnessed horrific scenes of mutilation, where nameless people took their last breaths. In my life, I have experienced poverty, met people who had plenty, and lived through fire, floods, and drought. I have befriended the intellectually challenged and physically impaired and have known the mentally ill and misfits who were geniuses. I also assumed anonymity with my mother and brothers without people realizing we had disappeared.
In my youth I was exposed to many facets of raw emotion.
I’ve seen a living heart, beating and pulsating for its last time; seen broken fingers tossed in the wind; and watched a severed head dance. Tormented by recurring memories, I have chosen to write this book and put these ghosts to rest.
I first contemplated suicide at the age of four.
I devised my death plan down to the very last detail but never had the courage to see it through to completion. Instead, my mother’s face would keep interceding, begging me to stay alive. Faced with the fact that I could not inflict my death upon her, I’d pray for miraculous intervention. During hysterical bouts of entreaty, I would beg Jesus to strike us dead at exactly the same moment so that neither of us would feel the pain of enforced separation or the prolonged agony of death.
As a child, I dreamed of better things to come and lived in spiritualistic hope that one day my world would change. I thought my trauma was normal and didn’t know what other families experienced. I thought fear, sad- ness, and horror were just the by-products of a barely tolerable childhood. My self-esteem was nonexistent, and after a while I sought approval through the creative arts. I loved to sing, and as my voice was strong, I sang to cover my feelings of inadequacy and desolation. To me, music represented true happiness, a make-believe world where I could cling to melodious sounds instead of the tortured screaming of my nightmares.
As an adult, I have felt exhilaration when audiences clapped and called my name. At the same time, I have felt myself torn in two, experiencing the immobilizing fear of personal exposure when not protected by the proscenium arch of a stage. When I present myself without camouflage or without a scripted character to protect me, my gut wrenches itself into a catatonic knot, an all-enveloping state of fear. If I feel I am being examined on a personal level, my arms and legs become frozen, and I feel my soul moving toward automatic pilot. I smile and behave in the correct manner, but I’m mentally blank and devoid of all feeling.
I know what it’s like to be branded, to be labeled, and to work within the confines of a title. As a child I was called brilliant, genius, a child prodigy, and a precocious little troublemaker. I was also called an actress, liar, and evil. My teachers admitted they didn’t understand me and often left me to myself. As an adult, I experienced national fame as a children’s TV personality. I have brought joy to thousands of children by teaching them the elements of performance.
It brings me great fulfillment to see children experiencing happiness. It puts my own life in perspective.
I cannot find the words to describe my childhood. Words such as “passionately naive,” “emotionally lacerated,” and “holistically experiential” all pale in significance, in the shadow of living itself. My childhood was so creatively textured that it carried into adulthood without allowing me to become consumed by the insanity playing havoc around me. I am sane and strong, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have felt and seen extreme emotion. I have smelled my own flesh burning. I know what it feels like to have baby snakes wriggle across my body, to smell decay, and to see an eyeball popped between someone’s fingers. Alone, I have spent what seemed like hours in a blackened hole, a makeshift grave with a steel curtain, waiting for death.
Through all this, I stayed courageous and strong.
I treasure the power of love and the absurdity of shock, and I deal with these emotions on a day-to-day basis.
This is the story of my childhood.
About the Author:
Shannon O’Leary is a prolific writer and performer. She is the author of several books of poetry and children’s stories, and she has won many awards for song-writing.
Shannon has acted and directed on the stage and on Australian national TV, and she runs her own production company.
She has numerous graduate and post-graduate degrees in education, music, and science. She is a teacher and academic, has five children with her deceased former husband, and lives with her longtime partner in Sydney, Australia.
Her memoir The Blood on My Hands was published in February 2016 and is available for sale on on Amazon and Createspace.
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview with Shannon O’Leary, please contact Kelsey at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.
Whither Science? by Danko Antolovic is a series of essays that explore some of the questions facing modern science.
“In Whither Science?, we look at the history of science, question its practices and examine its potential,” says Danko Antolovic. “We examine the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific method, and we seek to understand the worldview that follows from it. Lastly, and most importantly, we inquire about the future of science and about the problems that science urgently needs to solve.”
Science and the scientific method have matured into a global endeavor, which influences all of contemporary life, and like other great human endeavors, science has its historical origins and intellectual foundations. It has a set of accepted principles, as well as current practices that do not always coincide with the professed principles, and it has choices to make for the future.
Whither Science? looks into the fundamental questions about the purposes, practices and future of science. These questions need to be asked because both scientists and the broader public, that is, all who benefit from science, should try to understand the social, historical and material consequences of science’s ubiquitous presence.
This book is written in non-technical language, and is intended to be easily accessible to general readers who are interested in science and its broader implications. It will also be of interest to scientists who seek to explore the intellectual context of their discipline.
Excerpt from Whither Science?:
The Age of Heroes
Foundational stories of the origins of peoples and cultures always exalt the past in order to validate the present, but we know that the here-and-now never quite measures up to the grand mythical past from which it supposedly descended. Heroic bygone days always give way to a mundane present, and not even the greatest historic rulers of ancient Greece had quite the stature of the legendary kings of the house of Atreus, or of Achilles and Odysseus, Homeric heroes of divine lineage. The latter heroes, for all their courage and wile, were in turn not the equals of their predecessors, the mythical gods who, in the beginning, shaped the world in blood-drenched acts of creation.
Our contemporary techno-scientific culture, which is close to being the global culture, has no foundational myth written in a great epic and chanted down the generations, but it does have a popularly accepted foundational narrative, which is retold in countless books on popular science, and which aims to explain science’s origins and validate its purpose. In this essay, we will briefly relate this narrative, and we will examine its transition into present-day science, a contemporary human endeavor for which the narrative still functions as the story of origin.
At the risk of being somewhat Eurocentric, by science we mean a systematic and uncompromising application of rational empirical inquiry to the material world. Of course, empirical inquiry is as old as the human kind, but its transformation into a fundamental outlook on the world, that is into “science,” took place in the 16th and 17th century Europe. Men who stand as symbols of that awakening are mainly the early astronomers: Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Giordano Bruno, Galileo Galilei; in popular imagination they live on as Promethean figures who defied authority and brought the gift of light to humanity, and some of them, like Prometheus himself, did so at great personal cost.
European Enlightenment of the 17-18th century, and the Industrial Revolution, stretching through 19th century, is the Age of Heroes of classical science. This is the time of larger than life figures, “fathers” of scientific fields: Newton (mechanics and calculus), Boyle and Lavoisier (chemistry), Kelvin (thermodynamics), Darwin (evolution), Faraday (electromagnetism); mathematicians Leibniz, Euler and Gauss also belong here. And so on: our purpose is not to produce a full list of credits, but to sketch out the popular narrative, incomplete as it inevitably is. The later part of that period, the 18th and 19th century, could also be called more prosaically the Age of Progress: many of the scientific names and discoveries from that time enjoy little popular recognition, but that was the period in which the breakthroughs of the heroic age matured into a way of life and formed the foundations for today’s technology-based society.
Early 20th century saw another, late heroic period, belonging to atomic physics and the theory of relativity; in popular imagination, this period in science’s history is represented by the slightly idiosyncratic visage of Albert Einstein, and by the mushroom cloud. The foundational narrative of science, as we outline it here, ends with the Second World War and the development of the atom bomb. This is the time when heroic ages come to a close, and science comes under the sway of earthly rulers, of history, and of politics.
Now, it is certainly true that scientific progress provided useful help to state power well before the atom bomb, and in any case heroic ages are always more allegorical than factual. But the development of the nuclear weapon is a historical marker of the changed status of science in society, since the magnitude of the bomb’s power made it clear that the very survival of nation states would depend on the national prowess in that application of empirical inquiry that we call science. Science would from then on be co- opted, managed and circumscribed by political powers.
Intellectual status of the scientist changed at the same time: he would no longer be the autonomous, intellectually esteemed and perhaps marginally irrelevant pursuer of esoteric quests, and would become society’s artisan, maker of useful things. Again, history is gradual, but two historical episodes serve as useful markers of that change:
Toward the end of the Manhattan Project, a sizable group of scientists who were involved in the development of the bomb, led by Leo Szilard, petitioned the United States government for restraint in its use. They were summarily ignored, and the bombing of population centers in Japan went ahead. The shiny new weapon that they had provided was not theirs to dispose of or haggle about – they were the craftsmen, not the decision makers.
After the war, Julius Robert Oppenheimer, a highly prominent scientific figure in the Manhattan Project, was accused of “communist sympathies,” investigated, and disgraced. Historians may argue about the merits of the charges, but this certainly was a cold- hearted destruction of a man who had contributed much to the technological basis of America’s nascent superpower status. Whether intentionally or otherwise, the Oppenheimer episode made it clear who was dispensable and who was not, in the emerging techno-scientific order.
Ironically perhaps, the fate of Oppenheimer wasn’t even a novel one. Long before him, mythical inventor Daedalus also discovered that skill and mastery over matter did not guarantee power, or even protection, in the world of men: disregarding his good service, the story tells us, Minos of Crete imprisoned and abused him in a fit of anger. He, Daedalus, was an artisan, maker of useful things; Minos was king.
Significance of the foundational narrative that we outlined above reaches beyond popular science classes. Today, the practitioner of science is almost without exception an employee of a larger corporate entity (a university or a company) or of a national government. He is hemmed in by the tangible constraints of his terms of employment and funding, and by the less tangible ones of departmental, institutional and funding politics. He labors in a crowded field, in which there are increasingly fewer stones left unturned, and he climbs the ladder of corporate seniority until he retires.
Since scientific development is fundamentally important to the well-being of modern societies, it is easy to see the benefits of exalting this decidedly un-adventurous walk of life with the help of a heroic foundation story. In the eyes of the supporting public, and in those of prospective practitioners, present-day science is the heir and descendant of the heroic achievements that dispelled the darkness of superstition, changed our image of the universe, and wonder-worked what we today know as the industrial world. And so it is, but we should examine the heir on his own merits.
Incidentally, science proper isn’t the only one claiming heroic validation. Industry based on science is eager to convince us that the past isn’t really over: heroic times are still with us, we are told that we now live in the “digital” age, and its tycoons are quick to claim the title of “genius,” closest modern equivalent of demigod. We should feel uneasy about these latter-day claims to heroic-age continuity: when king Alexander of Macedon elevated himself to divine status, that was an embarrassing overreach of a great man; when emperor Caligula did the same, it was the delusion of a fool.
About the Author
Danko Antolovic is a scientist and technologist whose professional activities and publications have included research in quantum chemistry and computational modeling of molecules, research in solar energy for space applications, design of systems for image analysis and robotic vision, and development of wireless communication technology. He received his doctorate and master’s degree in Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University, and a master’s degree in Computer Science from Indiana University.
Danko is the author of a monograph on wireless technology, “Radiolocation in Ubiquitous Wireless Communication” published by Springer in 2010. In addition to Whither Science? his non-technical writings include a recently published essay on the philosopher René Descartes, “Descartes’ Menagerie of Demons,” and an upcoming novella based on the Greek myths about the legendary inventor Daedalus, in which Daedalus retells the myths as his own life story.
Danko currently resides in Bloomington, IN. In his free time, he enjoys reading folk tales, fantastic and slightly surreal stories, and occasional science fiction. Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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