Field of Science

Woodward, and the importance of being born at the right time

Woodward as a freshman at MIT (Image: CHC)
On his blog Derek has a contemplative post on the conditions necessary for seeing titans in particular fields, and whether these conditions can be replicated again. I completely concur with his viewpoint that it’s possible to discover the structure of DNA, or formulate general relativity, or revolutionize organic synthesis, just once.

Putting it another way, the question to ask is whether the general problem has been solved. Woodward is certainly a case in point...

Read the rest of the post on my Scientific American Blog


  1. great article, but looks a little "I wrote it in a rush!".
    3rd p: disocvery
    5th p: strychinine (1954) and strychinine (1956)
    6th p: rcognized

  2. The Tick actually had an episode based around this point. The villian, "The Mother of Invention," was frustrated that all the easy inventions had already been discovered. So he built a time machine to allow himself to go back and take credit for the work of da Vinci, Edison, etc.

  3. Interesting, must take a look. It's important to tread the fine line between advocating "End of Science" scenarios and admitting the existence of solutions for fundamental problems. We all like to make fun of Lord Kelvin who declared fundamental physics to be over in 1900, but a Lord Kelvin saying the same thing in 2000 would make some sense.


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