
Re: most famous codiscoverer gets credit (Matthew Effect) [was: This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics (Week 112)]
Posted:
Nov 27, 1997 7:51 PM


In article <y8zoh36n2z1.fsf__@berne.ai.mit.edu>, Bill Dubuque <wgd@berne.ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>Also keep in mind the Matthew Effect, which says that attribution >tends towards the most famous of codiscoverers
Sometimes attribution goes to the more effective exploiter of the result, irrespective of fame. The classic example is Stokes's Theorem, discovered by Kelvin: K was probably more famous than S. K told S about the theorem but seems to have thought of it purely as an exercise in calculus. Four years later, when K had still not published it (!), S needed a question for an exam he was about to set (I think M axwell was one of the students: he would presumably have been up to proving the theorem having never seen it before), and it was S who realised that curl v was a useful vector function of position if v was. When I teach vector analysis I tell this story: it must be nonobvious if K and S failed to see the use of "Stokes's" theorem for four years.
John Harper School of Math+Comp Sci Victoria Univ Wellington New Zealand john.harper@vuw.ac.nz phone (+64)(4)471 5341 fax (+64)(4)495 5045

