Do individuals most often convert science?

  1. Is one person, as distinct from scientific communities, more likely to establish an revolutionary application of the scientific method; i. e., have individuals themselves shifted an existing paradigm more often and profoundly than groups of scientists?
  2. jcsd
  3. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    Very often the answer to that question is not one, but two.

    Newton had to deal with competitors: Hooke had the idea for the inverse square law, and Leibniz developed Calculus independently.

    Similarly Einstein was ghosted by Poincare on special relativity and by Hilbert on general relativity.

    Quantum mechanics was invented independently by Heisenberg and Schroedinger. QED was invented FOUR times: by Schwinger, Tomonaga, Feynmann, and Stueckelberg! Three men got the Nobel for the electroweak theory.

    Then you get into influences. Maxwell couldn't (it seems) have developed his theory without the prior work of Faraday. But everyone including Faraday agreed that he could never have done it.

    Since about 1930, the rapid growth of science and mathematics have made it harder for a single individual to turn a whole field around.
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