How important are individuals in science?

So, in our classes on Friday I mentioned the question of the role of individuals vs. institutions in driving the Scientific Revolution.  Coincidentally, Renaissance Mathematicus has a guest blog post on the question of  “hero worship” of scientists (e.g, Galileo the heroic scientist struggling against Church oppression, or Newton the heroic loner working on his own in his study to develop his theory of universal gravitation).  Since it seemed so relevant to what come up in class on Friday, I thought I would post a link here.  The authro suggests that while the reality of science is not individualistic (“the deepest illusion of the scientists is that science is something that individual scientists do”), the motivation to do science has to be individualistic.  You have to imagine yourself as a “scientific hero” to do the work.  If you’re interested, you can find the post here.

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One Response to How important are individuals in science?

  1. Nikita says:

    After, reading the post Heroes for the laity I came to further understand the need for heroes in science. Other than the fact that implementing the title of “hero” in the discipline of science can influence one’s quality and development in their research, science also motivates people to believe in a hero who is in a sense quite ordinary. The author of this post states that because science is so dry, it is necessary for “the centrality of the individual, or at least the name of the individual” to be built into science. However, in science, the individual is invariably part of many different networks, which are often times working towards or competing to achieve the same goal. Though the goal of science may be to expand man’s body of knowledge, the temptation of being deemed a modern-day hero can taint science’s reputation while at the same time creating a breeding ground for real heroes. In some cases, the controversy behind science can also spark some interest. In Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, the portrayal of Galileo as a complex personality through his internal conflicts with autocracy is what makes science so appealing to study. Still, heroism has its place in science and adds an irreplaceable dimension to the outputs of science.

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