Multiple discovery

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The concept of multiple discovery (also known as simultaneous invention)[1][better source needed] is the hypothesis that most scientific discoveries and inventions are made independently and more or less simultaneously by multiple scientists and inventors.[2][page needed] The concept of multiple discovery opposes a traditional view—the "heroic theory" of invention and discovery.[not verified in body]

Multiples[edit]

When Nobel laureates are announced annually—especially in physics, chemistry, physiology-or-medicine, and economics—increasingly, in the given field, rather than just a single laureate, there are two, or the maximally-permissible three, who often have independently made the same discovery.[according to whom?][citation needed]

Historians and sociologists have remarked on the occurrence, in science, of "multiple independent discovery". Robert K. Merton defined such "multiples" as instances in which similar discoveries are made by scientists working independently of each other.[3][4] Merton contrasted a "multiple" with a "singleton" — a discovery that has been made uniquely by a single scientist or group of scientists working together.[5] As Merton said, "Sometimes the discoveries are simultaneous or almost so; sometimes a scientist will make a new discovery which, unknown to him, somebody else has made years before."[4][page needed] [6]

Commonly cited examples of multiple independent discovery are the 17th-century independent formulation of calculus by Isaac Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and others, described by A. Rupert Hall;[7][page needed] the 18th-century discovery of oxygen by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Joseph Priestley, Antoine Lavoisier and others;[citation needed] and the theory of evolution of species, independently advanced in the 19th century by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.[8][better source needed] What holds for discoveries, also goes for inventions.[according to whom?][citation needed] Examples are the blast furnace (invented independently in China, Europe and Africa),[citation needed] the crossbow (invented independently in China, Greece, Africa, northern Canada, and the Baltic countries),[citation needed] and magnetism (discovered independently in Greece, China, and India).[citation needed]

Multiple independent discovery, however, is not limited to only a few historic instances involving giants of scientific research. Merton believed that it is multiple discoveries, rather than unique ones, that represent the common pattern in science.[9]

Mechanism[edit]

Multiple discoveries in the history of science provide evidence for evolutionary models of science and technology, such as memetics (the study of self-replicating units of culture), evolutionary epistemology (which applies the concepts of biological evolution to study of the growth of human knowledge), and cultural selection theory (which studies sociological and cultural evolution in a Darwinian manner).[citation needed]

A recombinant-DNA-inspired "paradigm of paradigms" has been posited, that describes a mechanism of "recombinant conceptualization."[10] This paradigm predicates that a new concept arises through the crossing of pre-existing concepts and facts.[10] This is what is meant when one says that a scientist or artist has been "influenced by" another—etymologically, that a concept of the latter's has "flowed into" the mind of the former.[10] Not every new concept so formed will be viable: adapting social Darwinist Herbert Spencer's phrase, only the fittest concepts survive.[10]

Multiple independent discovery and invention, like discovery and invention generally, have been fostered by the evolution of means of communication: roads, vehicles, sailing vessels, writing, printing, institutions of education, telegraphy, and mass media, including the internet.[according to whom?][citation needed] Gutenberg's invention of printing (which itself involved a number of discrete inventions) substantially facilitated the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times.[citation needed] All these communication developments have catalyzed and accelerated the process of recombinant conceptualization,[clarification needed] and thus also of multiple independent discovery.[citation needed]

Humanities[edit]

The paradigm of recombinant conceptualization (see above)—more broadly, of recombinant occurrences—that explains multiple discovery in science and the arts, also elucidates the phenomenon of historic recurrence, wherein similar events are noted in the histories of countries widely separated in time and geography. It is the recurrence of patterns that lends a degree of prognostic power—and, thus, additional scientific validity—to the findings of history.[11][page needed]

The arts[edit]

Lamb and Easton, and others, have argued that science and art are similar with regard to multiple discovery.[2][page needed][10] When two scientists independently make the same discovery, their papers are not word-for-word identical, but the core ideas in the papers are the same; likewise, two novelists may independently write novels with the same core themes, though their novels are not identical word-for-word.[2][page needed]

Civility[edit]

Discoverers understandably take pleasure in their accomplishments and generally seek to claim primacy to their discoveries.[according to whom?][citation needed] When it transpires that a discovery has multiple originators, they may either agree to share the credit or insist on their own exclusive primacy.[according to whom?][citation needed]

After Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz had exchanged information on their respective systems of calculus in the 1670s, Newton in the first edition of his Principia (1687), in a scholium, apparently accepted Leibniz's independent discovery of calculus. In 1699, however, a Swiss mathematician suggested to Britain's Royal Society that Leibniz had borrowed his calculus from Newton. In 1705 Leibniz, in an anonymous review of Newton's Opticks, implied that Newton's fluxions (Newton's term for differential calculus) were an adaptation of Leibniz's calculus. In 1712 the Royal Society appointed a committee to examine the documents in question; the same year, the Society published a report, written by Newton himself, asserting his priority. Soon after Leibniz died in 1716, Newton denied that his own 1687 Principia scholium "allowed [Leibniz] the invention of the calculus differentialis independently of my own"; and the third edition of Newton's Principia (1726) omitted the tell-tale scholium. It is now accepted that Newton and Leibniz discovered calculus independently of each other.[12]

In another classic case of multiple discovery, the two discoverers showed more civility. By June 1858 Charles Darwin had completed over two-thirds of his On the Origin of Species when he received a startling letter from a naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, 13 years his junior, with whom he had corresponded. The letter summarized Wallace's theory of natural selection, with conclusions identical to Darwin's own. Darwin turned for advice to his friend Charles Lyell, the foremost geologist of the day. Lyell proposed that Darwin and Wallace prepare a joint communication to the scientific community. Darwin being preoccupied with his mortally ill youngest son, Lyell enlisted Darwin's closest friend, Joseph Hooker, director of Kew Gardens, and together on 1 July 1858 they presented to the Linnean Society a joint paper that brought together Wallace's abstract with extracts from Darwin's earlier, 1844 essay on the subject. The paper was also published that year in the Society's journal. Neither the public reading of the joint paper nor its publication attracted the least interest; but Wallace, "admirably free from envy or jealousy," had been content to remain in Darwin's shadow.[8][better source needed]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Griswold, Martin (2012-11-25). "Are Inventions Inevitable? Simultaneous Invention and the Incremental Nature of Discovery" (self-published blog). The Long Nose: Technology and the Economy. Retrieved 17 April 2016. [self-published source]
  2. ^ a b c Lamb, David; Easton, S. M. (1984). "Originality in art and science [Ch. 9]". Multiple Discovery: The Pattern of Scientific Progress. Amersham, ENG[verification needed]: Avebury Publishing. ISBN 0861270258. [full citation needed]
  3. ^ Merton, Robert K. (1963). "Resistance to the Systematic Study of Multiple Discoveries in Science". European Journal of Sociology 4 (2): 237–282. doi:10.1017/S0003975600000801.  Reprinted in Merton, Robert K., The Sociology of Science, op. cit., pp. 371–382.
  4. ^ a b Merton, Robert K. (1973). The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. Chicago, IL, USA: The University of Chicago Press. [full citation needed]
  5. ^ Merton, Robert K. (1996). Sztompka, Piotr, ed. On Social Structure and Science. Chicago, IL, USA: The University of Chicago Press. p. 307. [full citation needed]
  6. ^ Sommer has introduced the term "nulltiple" to describe a scientific discovery that is suppressed or blocked from publication or dissemination via normal scientific channels, see Sommer, Toby J. (2001). "Bahramdipity and Nulltiple Scientific Discoveries" (PDF). Science and Engineering Ethics 7 (1): 77–104. doi:10.1007/s11948-001-0025-7. . Per Sommer, nulltiple discoveries are often made serendipitously as part of an otherwise directed research program.[verification needed] As such, they are less likely to be re-discovered by others as is the case with many multiples. Sometimes nulltiples do eventually come to light, but often within circumstances of historical research rather than as a primary scientific disclosure.[verification needed]
  7. ^ Hall, A. Rupert (1980). Philosophers at War: The Quarrel between Newton and Leibniz. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521227321. [full citation needed]
  8. ^ a b Reeve, Tori (2009). Down House: the Home of Charles Darwin. London, ENG: English Heritage. pp. 40–41. [better source needed]
  9. ^ Merton, Robert K., "Singletons and Multiples in Scientific Discovery: a Chapter in the Sociology of Science," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 105: 470–86, 1961. Reprinted in Merton, Robert K., The Sociology of Science, op. cit., pp. 343–70.
  10. ^ a b c d e Kasparek, Christopher (1994). "Prus' Pharaoh: the Creation of a Historical Novel". The Polish Review (article) 39 (1): 45. 
  11. ^ Trompf, G.W. (1979). The Idea of Historical Recurrence in Western Thought, from Antiquity to the Reformation. Berkeley, CA, USA: University of California Press. ISBN 0520034791. [full citation needed]
  12. ^ Durant, Will & Durant, Ariel (1963). The Age of Louis XIV: A History of European Civilization in the Period of Pascal, Molière, Cromwell, Milton, Peter the Great, Newton, and Spinoza, 1648-1715. The Story of Civilization: Part VIII. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. pp. 532–34. 

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