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Posted by Paul R. Martin on October 21, 2001 17:55:15 UTC

Hi Harv,

You are right Harv. I think there has been a lot of unfairness in the history of who received credit for what ideas. Of couse, that history is so intricately interwoven with interdependencies it would be impossible to make it fair.

Rather than a clear picture of one genius standing on the shoulders of his or her predecessor genius, as Newton suggested, I think the picture is more like a pile of straw with each individual straw being supported by myriad unidentifiable straws below and providing miniscule contributions of support for those straws above.

Two of my favorite historical contributors are Robert Hooke and Evariste Galois. even though I probably wouldn't have liked either one of them if I had known them personally and had to deal with their abrasive personalities. Both men were brilliant innovative thinkers who made original contributions. The irascible Hooke didn't follow through on most of his ideas and so the credit went to those who did. Galois had such contempt for the rest of humanity and their (relative to his intellect) stupidity that chose to opt out, frantically jotting down most of his astoundingly important and original ideas on scraps of paper the night before he essentially committed suicide.

I think, however, if we step back far enough for individual personalities to blur into the mass of humanity, the overal picture is positive and encouraging. Our rate of progress as a species is accelerating. Even though we stumble and blunder from time to time, and bring some of our most serious problems on ourselves, the way seems clear for us to colonize the stars with positive enlightened civilization. At least that's the way it looks to me.

Warm regards,


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