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In science, priority is the claim and recognition of first discovery or theory. Fame and honors usually go to the first person or group to publish a new finding, even if several researchers arrived at the same conclusion independently and at the same time.
Priority disputes 
Priority becomes a difficult issue usually in the context of priority disputes, where the priority for a given theory, understanding, or discovery comes into question. In most cases historians of science disdain retrospective priority disputes as enterprises which generally lack understanding about the nature of scientific change and usually involve gross misreadings of the past to support the idea of a long-lost priority claim. Historian and biologist Stephen Jay Gould once remarked that "debates about the priority of ideas are usually among the most misdirected in the history of science."
In the cases of scientists who have since achieved incredible levels of popularity, such as Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, priority questions are often rooted in taking too seriously the myth of the "lone genius" which is often cultivated around such quasi-mythic figures (see Great Man theory and Whig history). In an attempt to laud such scientists as visionaries, the context in which they worked is often neglected by popularizers, making it appear as if they worked without assistance or without reference to other work, something which is rarely the case.
- Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1977), on 35.
Further reading 
- Barbalet, J., "Science and Emotions", pp. 132–150 in Barbalet, J.(ed), Emotions and Sociology (Sociological Review Monograph), Blackwell Publishing, (Oxford), 2002.
- Boring, E.G., "Cognitive Dissonance: Its Use in Science", Science, Vol.145, No.3633, (14 August 1964), pp. 680–685.
- Boring, E.G., "The Problem of Originality in Science", The American Journal of Psychology, Vol.39, Nos.1-4, (December 1927), pp. 70–90.
- Hanson, N.R., Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry into the Conceptual Foundations of Science, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1962.
- Merton, R.K., "Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science", American Sociological Review, Vol.22, No.6, (December 1957), pp. 635–659.
- Merton, R.K., "Science and Democratic Social Structures", pp. 604–615 in Merton, R.K., Social Theory and Social Structure (1968 Enlarged Edition), The Free Press, (New York), 1968 [originally published as "A Note on Science and Democracy", Journal of Legal and Political Sociology, Vol.1, Nos.1-2, (1942), pp. 115–126].
- Samelson, F., "History, Origin Myth and Ideology: “Discovery” of Social Psychology", Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, Vol.4, No.2, (October 1974), pp. 217–232.
- Samelson, F., "Whig and Anti-Whig Histories — And other Curiosities of Social Psychology", Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol.36, No.4, (Fall 2000), pp. 499–506.
See also 
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