Feature: Radical Thinking: An Historical Perspective

By Norazlina Mohamad (norazlina_mohamad@oum.edu.my)

“Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”

– Albert Einstein.

This quote reflects the lives of great men in world history who have gone against the grain to produce ideas which have revolutionized the way we live. Their ideas and inventions were not meant for self-promotion but remain as their undying contribution to human civilization. Though their radical ideas may have met with stern resistance in the past, people at present will find it difficult to imagine life without the inventions and innovations which they have introduced.

The following are some of these great men who have immeasurably enriched our lives:

  1. Johann Gutenberg
    Johann Gutenberg is often regarded as the father of printing. The invention of movable type by Gutenberg ushered in a new age of mass production. Before movable type, block printing was the main method of producing books. The major drawback with block printing is that you need to come up with new sets of woodblocks to produce a large variety of books. Movable type allows the printer to rearrange the various elements of a document (letters, punctuation symbols) to come up with a whole range of possibilities on the printed page. This in fact is instrumental in the rapid dissemination of knowledge throughout Europe and the rest of the world, culminating in historical watersheds like the Renaissance.

  2. Joseph Lister
    Antiseptic surgery owes a great debt to the pioneering work of Joseph Lister, who himself was greatly influenced by Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease. At the time, many patients died of serious infections such as gangrene following surgery. Initially it was thought that noxious vapours caused these infections, but Lister thought better. He reasoned that microbes caused these infections, and that by killing the microbes before they were exposed to open wounds, a higher number of patients would survive surgery. He was right. By applying certain antiseptic procedures
    such as ensuring the cleanliness of surgical instruments and his hands, he managed to cut down postoperative have been saved because of the incisive thinking of one man.

  3. Nicolaus Copernicus
    In his book On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, Nicolaus Copernicus outlined his heliocentric theory which went against the prevalent notion at the time that the earth was the centre of the universe. Copernicus managed to prove that in fact the earth and other celestial bodies revolved around the sun. Copernicus’ discovery greatly influenced a long line of great astronomers such as Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei (who was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church and forced to recant his support for heliocentrism). His example paved the way for other
    great thinkers to question what was then considered to be evident and indisputable truths about our universe and existence. When the earth was believed to be the centre of universe, man was symbolically enthroned as the masters of all creation. Copernicus knocked man off his precarious perch and installed the sun (the light of truth) as the rightful centre of the universe.

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Encouraging them to think independently by giving them short essay tests
Encouraging them to work as a group
Adding variety to the assignments and encouraging them to think from a different perspective
Ensuring that the tutorial room is always conducive for the learners
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