Science correspondent for The Economist for over a decade, Matt Kaplan asks: How broken is science? How much innovation are we losing every year, how much more could there be? And is science more or less broken today than it has been in the past?

by Matt Kaplan
St. Martin’s Press, 2026)
(via Levine Greenberg Rostan)

What follows is a delightfully surprising trip through history. Kaplan centers this book on the story of Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweiss, one of the first to propose handwashing in the 1850s—a breakthrough that would ruin his life. Excoriated by his colleagues, Semmelweis was placed by them into a mental institution and died there after being beaten by guards. In order to tell this story, Kaplan looks to other Victorian contemporaries as counterexamples – Lister, Pasteur, Darwin. These figures, so celebrated by science, had many traits that Semmelweis lacked: powerful friends, wealthy families and donors—and in some cases, a willingness to cheat, lie, and commit fraud.

Kaplan takes us on a journey through not only the Victorian era, but into contemporary paleontology conferences with scientists screaming at one another, into esteemed academic circles, and shows why reporting on the Covid-19 vaccine upended everything he thought he knew about what was possible for scientific advancement.

Matt Kaplan is a science correspondent with The Economist. He has also contributed to National Geographic, New Scientist, Nature, and The New York Times. He is the author of the book The Science of Monsters. In 2014, Kaplan was awarded a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship which he used to study the sciences at MIT and folklore at Harvard.

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