I next encountered Nabokov while working through my undergraduate English major. Due to his Russian roots, Nabokov fit nicely into the course materials for my international literature class. I read his memoir Speak, Memory which talks a lot about Nabokov's interest in lepidoptery, the study of butterflies.
|Karner Blue Butterfly. Source: Wikimedia Commons.|
Researchers at Harvard University (where Nabokov was curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology) decided to do a genetic analysis on the butterflies to test Nabokov's 30-year-old theory. The results showed that Nabokov was right all along, Polyommatus blues are genetically linked to butterflies in Asia. Genetic analysis has also been used to validate Nabokov's hypothesis that Karner Blue Butterflies are a distinct species.
By this point you might be wondering why it matters that this long dead Russian novelist has been vindicated as a legitimate scientist by new technological advances, so I'll get to my point. Nabokov is an example of how members of the scientific community can be quick to dismiss the work of anyone who isn't an expert.
If we hold anyone who does scientific research to the same standard of peer review (analysis by other scientists, and the ability to replicate a study or experiment and get the same results as the original researcher) then even people who don't have their doctorate in a specific science can still contribute new knowledge.
Please note that I'm not advocating that any quack with a theory should be taken seriously by the scientific community. But if promising research or theories are developed by people who might not call science their profession, their value should still be evaluated.