Errol Morris feels that Thomas Kuhn saved him from a career he was not suited for—by having him thrown out of Princeton. In 1972, Kuhn was a professor of philosophy and the history of science at Princeton, and author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which gave the world the term “paradigm shift.” As Morris tells the story in his recent book, The Ashtray, Kuhn was antagonized by Morris’ suggestions that Kuhn was a megalomaniac and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was an assault on truth and progress.
To say the least, Morris, then 24, was already the iconoclast who would go on to make some of the most original documentary films of our time. After launching the career he was suited for with The Gates of Heaven in 1978, a droll affair about pet cemeteries, Morris earned international acclaim with The Thin Blue Line, which led to the reversal of a murder conviction of a prisoner who had been on death row. In 2004, Morris won an Academy Award for The Fog of War, a dissection of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a major architect of the Vietnam War. His 2017 film, Wormwood, a miniseries on Netflix, centers on the mystery surrounding a scientist who in 1975 worked on a biological warfare program for the Army, and suspiciously fell to his death from a hotel room.