Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for April 7th, 2018

The ideal mechanician

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Generally speaking, people have a very erroneous idea of the type of talent proper to the ideal mechanician. He is not a geometrician who, delving into the theory of movement and the categories of phenomena, formulates new mechanical principles or discovers unsuspected laws of nature…In most other branches of science are to be found constant principles; a multitude of methods offer to the genius inexhaustible possibilities. If a scholar poses himself a new problem, he can attack it fortified by the pooled knowledge of all his predecessors. No elementary textbook contains the principles of this science; no one can learn its history. The workshops, the machines themselves, show what has been achieved, but results depend on individual effort. To understand a machine it has to be divined. This is the reason why talent for mechanics is so rare, and can so easily go astray, and this is why it is hardly ever manifested without that boldness and the errors which, in the infancy of science, characterize genius.

Nicolas de Condorcet, quoted by Daniel J. Boorstin in The Discoverers

Written by nevalalee

April 7, 2018 at 7:30 am

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