Progress of the History of Thought

The progress of science is divided between

  • periods characterized by a slow accumulation of ideas, and
  • periods when, owing to the material of thought that has been patiently collected, some genius by the invention of a new method or point-of-view suddenly transforms the whole subject on to a higher level.

The genius who has the good fortune to produce the final idea which transforms a whole region of thought does not necessarily excel all his predecessors who have worked at the preliminary formation of ideas. In considering the history of science it is both silly and ungrateful to confine our admiration with a gaping wonder to those men who have made the final advances toward a new epoch.

An Introduction to Mathematics by Alfred North Whitehead

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