Heroic theory of invention and scientific development

The heroic theory of invention and scientific development is the hypothesis that the principal authors of inventions and scientific discoveries are unique heroic individuals  "great scientists" or "geniuses"[1]. A competing hypothesis ("multiple discovery") is that most inventions and scientific discoveries are made independently and simultaneously by multiple inventors and scientists.

The multiple discovery hypothesis might be especially relevant in the development of mathematics since mathematical knowledge is highly unified and any advances that happen need to be built from previously established results through a process of deduction, as a general rule. For instance, the development of infinitesimal calculus into a systematic discipline did not occur until the development of analytic geometry, the former being credited to both Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz and the latter to both René Descartes and Pierre de Fermat.

See also


  • Hypothesis and experiment in the early development of Kekuleacute's Benzene theory Alan J. Rocke, Annals of Science, Volume 42, Issue 4 July 1985, pages 355 - 381
  • Industrial Invention: Heroic, or Systematic? - Ralph C. Epstein, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Feb., 1926), pp. 232–272
  • Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science Robert K. Merton, American Sociological Review, Vol. 22, No. 6, 635-659. Dec., 1957.
  • Singletons and Multiples in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science 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), pp. 470–486
  • Business strategies for sustainable profits: systems thinking in practice - William K. Shireman, Global Futures - The Future 500
  • The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation - Frans Johansson. ISBN 1-4221-0282-3
  • Apperceptual: The Heroic Theory of Scientific Development, Peter Turney, January 15, 2007

  1. Epstein, Ralph C. (1926). "Industrial Invention: Heroic, or Systematic?". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 40 (2): 232–272. doi:10.2307/1884619. ISSN 0033-5533. JSTOR 1884619.
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