Early Scientists Chose Influence Over Credit

Last June I wrote:

If what you want is influence, instead of credit, the choice should be easy: you should want people to steal your ideas

A recent Nature illustrates

The popular caricature locates the origins of modern science in the natural philosophies of ancient Greece and the rediscovery of their spirit during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. It passes decorously over the intervening period, deemed to be a hotbed of superstition. In fact, the notion of a Universe governed by laws accessible to human reason – the precondition for science – emerged in Western Europe largely during the twelfth century, several hundred years earlier than we have come to imagine. …

One of the most active translators, the Englishman Adelard of Bath, was a startlingly original and perceptive thinker. Rueing how difficult it was to get his ideas accepted, he wrote: "Our generation … refuses to accept anything that seems to come from the moderns. Thus when I have a new idea, if I wish to publish it I attribute it to someone else." This is why so many of the works of natural philosophy from antiquity to the Renaissance have apocryphal attribution: a book apparently by Pliny or Aristotle was more likely to be read. The progressive thinkers of the early Middle Ages hid their new wine in old flasks, so that others would take them seriously.

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