Synchronicity in Science

The famous Canadian physician William Osler once wrote, “In science the credit goes to the man who convinced the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.” When we examine discoveries in science and mathematics, in hindsight we often find that if one scientist did not make a particular discovery, some other individual would have done so within a few months or years of the discovery. Most scientists, as Newton said, stood on the shoulders of giants to see the world just a bit farther along the horizon. Often, several people create essentially the same device or discover the same scientific law at about the same time, but for various reasons, including sheer luck, history sometimes remembers only one of them.

In 1858, the German mathematician August Möbius independently discovered the Möbius strip simultaneously with another German mathematician, Johann Benedict Listing. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz independently developed calculus at roughly the same time. British naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both developed the theory of evolution by natural selection independently and simultaneously. Similarly, Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai and Russian mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky seem to have developed hyperbolic geometry independently and at the same time.


Clifford Pickover on the phenomenon of many scientists making the same discovery at once, because new knowledge has allowed them to see further over the horizon to see the same things.

Folksonomies: science discovery synchronicity

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Isaac Newton:Person (0.905975 (neutral:0.000000)), Clifford Pickover:Person (0.712291 (positive:0.407513)), János Bolyai:Person (0.673389 (neutral:0.000000)), William Osler:Person (0.647375 (neutral:0.000000)), Alfred Russel Wallace:Person (0.610792 (positive:0.622014)), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz:Person (0.601453 (neutral:0.000000)), August Möbius:Person (0.560960 (neutral:0.000000)), Charles Darwin:Person (0.533768 (positive:0.622014)), Nikolai Lobachevsky:Person (0.522160 (neutral:0.000000)), scientist:JobTitle (0.511264 (neutral:0.000000)), Johann Benedict:Person (0.499160 (neutral:0.000000)), theory of evolution:FieldTerminology (0.488618 (positive:0.622014)), Möbius:Company (0.469125 (neutral:0.000000))

Gottfried Leibniz (0.978431): dbpedia | opencyc | yago
Charles Darwin (0.943650): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Alfred Russel Wallace (0.935265): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Natural selection (0.889263): dbpedia | freebase
Evolution (0.866642): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mathematics (0.789481): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Science (0.673633): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Isaac Newton (0.672967): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago

 This Will Make You Smarter
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Brockman , John (2012-02-14), This Will Make You Smarter, HarperCollins, Retrieved on 2013-12-19
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  • Folksonomies: science