Joshua Eisenberg's Reviews > Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World

Banvard's Folly by Paul  Collins
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Mar 03, 08

Read in January, 2007

Everyone knows about famous people. That’s why they’re called famous. But what of all those people who accomplished great things, made great strides, and then were simply forgotten? That’s what Banvard’s Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn’t Change the World sets out to answer. The book chronicles the lives of thirteen interesting individuals who tried hard enough, but, for one reason or another, became nothing more than a footnote in history – if they’re lucky. Most notable among the stories is that of Ephraim Bull, the inventor of the Concord grape. Bull, the first to breed a hardy, sweet grape in America, was sure he would become enormously wealthy selling his grapes. The issue? More established farmers bought his grapes the first season and made their own. Or, consider was Rene Blondlot, a French scientist who became a worldwide sensation when he discovered a new kind of radiation he named N-Rays. Unfortunately, it was found out that Blondlot had simply been faking his results all along, and other scientists simply agreed because they didn’t want to look stupid. He was found out just months before he was expected to win the 1904 Nobel Prize. Banvard’s other stories are just as interesting (if not flat out ridiculous) accounts of people throughout history, some of whom were smart but unlucky, and others who were simply the Milli Vanillis of their day.
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