All of us have observed in our scientific work that many discoveries have been made by different investigators at widely scattered places, but at the same time. Some of these instances are so striking that it becomes of interest to consider the matter and make an attempt to explain the condition in the hope that we may understand the phenomenon. The particular cases chosen for illustration are all from the fields of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Furthermore, they are scattered examples which have happened to come to our attention over a number of years. The same observation can undoubtedly be made in other fields of science, and in fact, in any region of human endeavor. Why is it that hundreds of illustrations can be given, showing the simultaneity of discovery and invention? Is it only a matter of chance that produces these coincidences? Are there so many new ideas that we may expect a very definite fraction of the whole to be happening at the same time? To be sure, if we are satisfied with this answer, we refer the question to the realm of probability, thus admitting our inability to assign a satisfactory reason for this simultaneous appearance of new ideas. We are unwilling to make such an admission, or at least will only consent to it if all our efforts at explanation fail. There is however what appears to be a logical interpretation of this interesting phenomenon.
Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science
©1941 Iowa Academy of Science, Inc.
"Simultaneity and Originality in Human Thought - Paper Presented at the Fifty-Fifth Annual Meeting,"
Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science, 48(1), 83-90.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/pias/vol48/iss1/10