Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stigler's Law Of Eponymy: Oh The Irony

Apart from iconic figures like Darwin and Einstein, most scientists labour in obscurity. One of the few ways in which they can gain lasting recognition is by having a scientific discovery named after them.

However, the system does not always work smoothly. Indeed, naming disputes are so common that there is even a rule of thumb called the Zeroth theorem, which states that eponymous discoveries are, more often than not, wrongly attributed.

Appropriately enough, the theorem is also known as Stigler's law of eponymy even though it was originally formulated by Robert Merton of Columbia University in New York.

You can read of five examples here.

Some questions:
-Should these discoveries be renamed to honor the one who found them?
-Should it really matter?
-Is this an issue of pride or of giving credit where credit is due?
-Do you know of any other examples?

No comments: