Springs of Scientific Creativity

Springs of Scientific Creativity: Essays on Founders of Modern Science

Rutherford Aris
H.Ted Davis
Roger H. Stuewer
Copyright Date: 1983
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 356
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Springs of Scientific Creativity
    Book Description:

    Springs of Scientific Creativity was first published in 1983. Mathematician Henri Poincaré was boarding a bus when he realized that the transformations of non-Euclidian geometry were just those he needed in his research on the theory of functions. He did not have to interrupt his conversation, still less to verify the equation in detail; his insight was complete at that point. Poincaré’s insight into his own creativity -- his awareness that preliminary cogitation and the working of the subconscious had prepared his mind for an intuitive flash of recognition -- is just one of many possible analyses of scientific creativity, a subject as fascinating as it is elusive. The authors of this book have chosen to search for the springs of scientific creativity by examining the lives and work of a dozen innovative thinkers in the fields of mathematics, physics, and chemistry from the seventeenth down to the mid-twentieth century. First prepared for delivery in a lecture series held at the University of Minnesota, these essays delve into the social, psychological, and intellectual factors that fostered creativity in the lives of Galilei Galileo, Isaac Newton, J. P. Joule, James Cler Maxwell, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Lord Rayleigh, Elmer Sperry and Adrian Leverkühn, Walter Nernst, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Michael Polyani, and John von Neumann. The contributors are Thomas B. Settle, Richard S. Westfall, Donald S. L. Cardwell, C. W. F. Everitt, Martin J. Klein, John N. Howard, Thomas P. Hughes, Erwin N. Hiebert, Stanley Goldberg, Linda Wessels, William T. Scott, and Herman H. Goldstine.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5527-4
    Subjects: Mathematics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Chapter 1 Galileo and Early Experimentation
    (pp. 3-20)
    Thomas B.Settle

    In the last two decades scholars have provided much new evidence of Galileo’s use of experiment. Argument continues about particulars, but it can now at least be safely assumed that he did design and use experiments in the course of his many researches.¹ Some basic questions, however, are still unanswered: how early did he begin the practice, how mature or developed was his experimental sense when he first began, and did he begin out of nothing, from scratch, or rather did he build on and possibly transform an already existing tradition?

    That he did not uniquely invent the art of...

  5. Chapter 2 Newton’s Development of the Principia
    (pp. 21-43)
    Richard S. Westfall

    By nature I am incurably empirical. Faced with the assignment to contribute to a book on the springs of scientific creativity, I turned spontaneously to a specific example. I offer no excuse, however, for I am convinced that the entire history of science affords no other example of a creative leap forward equal to that made by Newton in the period of two and a half years that culminated in the publication of thePrincipia.If we can find the springs of scientific creativity anywhere, surely we can find them here. If we cannot find them here, it is probably...

  6. Chapter 3 The Origins and Consequences of Certain of J. P. Joule’s Scientific Ideas
    (pp. 44-70)
    Donald S. L. Cardwell

    It is easy to assume that inevitability is the hallmark of the historical progress of science; that, in other words, each scientific advance contains the germs of, and points towards, the next advance. It is also easy to believe that every scientific revolution poses a stark choice between right and wrong, between the new theory and the old one. But the inevitability of scientific progress is refuted by the wellknown fact that few, if any, scientists have successfully predicted the future course of science, in general or in particular. And the choice available at any time of crisis or revolution...

  7. Chapter 4 Maxwell’s Scientific Creativity
    (pp. 71-141)
    C. W. F. Everitt

    James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) is properly regarded along with Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as one of the three supreme creative geniuses of modern theoretical physics. Others have contributed magnificently to the development of physical theory (one thinks of Lagrange and Laplace) or to changing the world view underlying it (one thinks of Bohr and Heisenberg), but these three men, Newton. Maxwell, and Einstein, are hewn on a grander scale, and both in personal stature and pervasiveness of influence they demand the attention of all who wish to understand scientific creativity.

    Maxewell’s two largest achievements are his creation of the...

  8. Chapter 5 The Scientific Style of Josiah Willard Gibbs
    (pp. 142-162)
    Martin J. Klein

    The scientific writings of Josiah Willard Gibbs quickly acquired the well-deserved reputation for difficulty that they continue to enjoy in the scientific community. About fifteen years after their initial publication Wilhelm Ostwald translated Gibbs’s papers on thermodynamics into German and collected them in one volume. In the preface to this book Ostwald warned his readers that they were embarking on a study that would “demand extraordinary attentiveness and devotion.” He pointed out that Gibbs had chosen his mode of exposition, “abstract and often hard to understand,” in order to achieve “the greatest possible generality in his investigation and the greatest...

  9. Chapter 6 Principal Scientific Contributions of John William Strutt, Third Baron Rayleigh
    (pp. 163-187)
    John N. Howard

    What makes Lord Rayleigh remarkably different from most other scientists is that he was born rich. Not fabulously rich, but comfortably rich. His father, John James Strutt (1796-1873), the second Baron Rayleigh, was a prosperous Essex farmer, who raised a large family of six sons and a daughter. In spite of J. J. Strutt’s being an Oxford man himself, his eldest son, John William Strutt (1842-1919), showed such a mathematical bent that it was decided to send him to Trinity College, Cambridge. (He established such a reputation at Cambridge that some of his younger brothers also went there.) When John...

  10. Chapter 7 Elmer Sperry and Adrian Leverkühn: A Comparison of Creative Styles
    (pp. 188-202)
    Thomas P. Hughes

    To test the hypothesis that the study of creativity need not be restricted by disciplinary bounds, this essay compares Elmer Sperry (1860-1930), a hard-nosed American inventor known for his probity and common sense, and Adrian Leverkuhn (1885-1940), a fictional German composer driven to insanity by syphilis. The comparison is facilitated by the availability of a detailed biography of Sperry¹ and by Thomas Mann’s masterful novel,Doctor Faustus,which is about Leverkühn and creativity.²

    Elsewhere I have attempted a disciplinary approach to the understanding of creativity by drawing generalizations from the case histories of several inventors other than Sperry.³ In this...

  11. Chapter 8 Walther Nernst and the Application of Physics to Chemistry
    (pp. 203-231)
    Erwin N. Hiebert

    Walther Nernst was a physicist by training who early in his career turned his attention to the application of physical principles to the solution of chemical problems. He was a bold and resourceful theoretician and quick to latch on to new ideas, but he also possessed a keen and imaginative intuition for what was experimentally feasible and credible. In Göttingen and Berlin, over a period of four decades, Nernst and his colleagues and students managed substantially to illuminate those borderland areas where physics and chemistry converge.

    Nernst established his reputation as a prominent physical chemist with his early work on...

  12. Chapter 9 Albert Einstein and the Creative Act: The Case of Special Relativity
    (pp. 232-253)
    Stanley Goldberg

    On December 31, 1978 a small notice tucked away on p. 17 of the first section ofThe New York Timesannounced that at the time of his death in 1955, Albert Einstein’s brain had been removed from his body and entrusted for study to a team of experts headed by Dr. Thomas S. Harvey, the pathologist at Princeton Hospital, where Einstein died. At the time Harvey had said that although “it looks like any body else’s [brain] ,” clues to the source of Einstein’s genius would be sought in the tissues and fluids that remained.

    Now, twenty-three years later...

  13. Chapter 10 Erwin Schrödinger and the Descriptive Tradition
    (pp. 254-278)
    Linda Wessels

    Erwin Schrödinger is best known for his contributions to quantum theory. He discovered the basic dynamic equation of the theory, the Schrödinger equation. He developed methods for applying that equation, methods that form the core of what we now call wave mechanics.¹ He was also one of the most persistent and eloquent critics of the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics, the “Copenhagen interpretation.” His 1936 analysis of compound quantum systems made precise the interpretational challenge raised by Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen in their famous 1935 paper on the completeness of quantum theory.² And even now, amidst the recent revival of...

  14. Chapter 11 Michael Polanyi’s Creativity in Chemistry
    (pp. 279-307)
    William T. Scott

    Michael Polanyi is well known to physical chemists for his work in surface phenomena, strength of materials, and rates of chemical reactions, and to social scientists, philosophers, and theologians for his views of the knowing process and the relation of persons to the world. To the public, however, his reputation is not yet what this profound and sensitive genius deserves. This essay is an account of his scientific creativity along with some glimpses of his new way of looking at the world and at the position of ourselves in the world. Michael Polanyi offers us a new theory of society...

  15. Chapter 12 The Role of John von Neumann in the Computer Field
    (pp. 308-328)
    Herman H. Goldstine

    John von Neumann was one of the world’s great mathematicians. His virtuosity, originality, and profundity have seldom been equalled. He was moreover one of those whose natural interest spanned almost the entire spectrum of mathematics from formal logics at one end to applications to biology, economics, physics, and computers at the other. In what follows I am going to try to give some indications of how this great mathematical genius and warm, fun-loving human being contributed to one application: the computer field.

    I delimit the field in this way since any attempt to depict von Neumann’s entire scientific career would...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 329-330)
  17. Index
    (pp. 333-342)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 343-343)