For something I’m working on, I’m trying to come up with good examples of interdisciplinarity making a difference in science. Specifically, I’m looking for cases where somebody with training in one field was able to make a major advance in another field because their expertise let them look at a problem in a different way, and bring a different set of techniques to bear on it.
I can think of a decent number of examples within physics– techniques from NMR being adopted by atomic physicists, atomic physics techniques being used to address problems in condensed matter, the whole Higgs boson business coming in part from condensed matter ideas– but a lot of those are kind of subtle and technical. I feel like I must be missing something bigger and more obvious.
(I know about Schrödinger’s turn toward biology late in life, but I’m not sure biologists find that as impressive as physicists do…)
So, help me out, here. What’s the best example you know about of somebody from one field using their knowledge from that to make dramatic progress in another field? It doesn’t need to involve a physicist, either (so I’ll cross-list this in the life science channel at ScienceBlogs)– chemists revolutionizing biology or geology (or vice versa) would be great, too.