[SIGCIS-Members] Debunking the myth of individual genius

Dag Spicer dspicer at computerhistory.org
Fri Oct 23 09:08:00 PDT 2020


Hi there,

Maybe of interest?  Robert Merton’s classic essay, "Singletons and Multiples in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science," notes that simultaneous invention — not lone genii working in isolation — are how invention and discovery usually happen.

Dag

Merton paper:
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
Vol. 105, No. 5, The Influence of Science upon Modern Culture, Conference Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the Birth of Francis Bacon (Oct. 13, 1961)<https://www.jstor.org/stable/i240641>, pp. 470-486 (17 pages)
Published By: American Philosophical Society

——
Dag Spicer
Senior Curator
Computer History Museum

1401 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
dspicer at computerhistory.org<mailto:dspicer at computerhistory.org>

On Oct 22, 2020, at 11:18 AM, Theodora Dryer <tjdryer at gmail.com<mailto:tjdryer at gmail.com>> wrote:

Thank you, Barbara! I'm looking forward to your work on "Creation Myths"

It's not new, but Leila McNeill's piece is another great short read on this topic: https://thebaffler.com/outbursts/surely-youre-a-creep-mr-feynman-mcneill<https://nam10.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fthebaffler.com%2Foutbursts%2Fsurely-youre-a-creep-mr-feynman-mcneill&data=04%7C01%7Cdspicer%40computerhistory.org%7C12087b26a05c40ac0b9708d876b6db04%7Cb6a9c12a29ee4c5f8f93f0d7a8e2db2f%7C0%7C0%7C637389875040624781%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=KwwnNg0Ws6Pai%2FjRUizKJf0s7q6TQDODfAODEQDPbKM%3D&reserved=0>.


On Thu, Oct 22, 2020 at 11:42 AM Barbara B Walker <bbwalker at unr.edu<mailto:bbwalker at unr.edu>> wrote:
Hi, everybody,

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Here is an article on the importance of looking beyond the mythologies and cults of genius in the history of science and tech.

https://undark.org/2020/10/22/the-fiction-of-individual-genius/<https://nam10.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fundark.org%2F2020%2F10%2F22%2Fthe-fiction-of-individual-genius%2F&data=04%7C01%7Cdspicer%40computerhistory.org%7C12087b26a05c40ac0b9708d876b6db04%7Cb6a9c12a29ee4c5f8f93f0d7a8e2db2f%7C0%7C0%7C637389875040624781%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=575NfovQIRD%2BHmVmURXcygoUZ2D9kMTGrtJtbFtDNW4%3D&reserved=0>

However, I would argue that in computer history as everywhere else in the history of science and tech, debunking is not enough – we must understand the reasons, cultures and process of cult-formation and myth-making that plays such an influential role in our understanding of the past. That’s something I’m exploring in an article on John von Neumann that I recently submitted for publication review (“Creation Myths”). Am also looking at the formation of political personality cults in a seminar I am teaching this semester.

Barbara Walker


Barbara Walker
Associate Professor
Department of History/308
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno NV 89557

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--
Theodora Dryer, Ph.D.
Lead Research Scholar, Climate + Water
AI Now Institute | New York University
https://www.theodoradryer.com/<https://nam10.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theodoradryer.com%2F&data=04%7C01%7Cdspicer%40computerhistory.org%7C12087b26a05c40ac0b9708d876b6db04%7Cb6a9c12a29ee4c5f8f93f0d7a8e2db2f%7C0%7C0%7C637389875040654761%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=bEcb%2BGYY8dwNCV%2BF4Uu%2FMLIgHrRvQYlUE3H4AQZtzsE%3D&reserved=0>


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