Good Scientists, Bad Science? Clinging To A 'Dubious' Position Can Destroy A Career

Case Two: Harold Hilman’s attack on electron microscopy may have cost the British neurophysiologist his job Neurophysiologist Harold Hillman has a serious career problem. He’s out of step with his peers, and now he’s out of a job as well. For 15 years Hillman has been leading a scientist’s version of a double life. On the one hand, he has done mainstream neurological research and been a respected teacher of physiology. On the other, he has been questioning, needling,

Richard Stevenson
Jul 24, 1988
Case Two: Harold Hilman’s attack on electron microscopy may have cost the British neurophysiologist his job

Neurophysiologist Harold Hillman has a serious career problem. He’s out of step with his peers, and now he’s out of a job as well.

For 15 years Hillman has been leading a scientist’s version of a double life. On the one hand, he has done mainstream neurological research and been a respected teacher of physiology. On the other, he has been questioning, needling, and increasingly infuriating those fellow biologists who use electron microscopy to study cells. Hillman says that the things scientists do to prepare specimens for the electron microscope so distort the objects’ structure that all observations and conclusions are suspect.

Perhaps because of Hillman’s personal charm, he has until recently been allowed to plow his lonely—and, most would say, arid—furrow. But now his relentless challenge to the scientific establishment may have finally...