Sunday, July 01, 2012

The nature of genius

Reading Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, like Bel Canto about opera singing genius, this is about scientific genius where she compares a mygologist to Van Gogh. . But I think its view of science is totally wrong. The Great Man Theory is great for stories but doesn't fit with my view of science anyway, or the scientists I know. A nice recent radio lab points out that while our stories of science always involves great people as the protagonists, in fact, the people themselves are ancillary to the system. That Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent for the phone just an hour ahead of his competitor. That Edison's lightbulb was just one of dozens of lightbulbs invented at the same time. For me, my favorite examples was always Newton's invention of calculus which was matched by Leibniz or Einstein's theory of special relativity, which really was a small tweak on the equations that Lorenz had already derived.

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