Is Scientific Genius Extinct?

//
Have scientific geniuses like Albert Einstein gone extinct?
Corbis

Modern-day science has little room for the likes of Galileo, who first used the telescope to study the sky, or Charles Darwin, who put forward the theory of evolution, argues a psychologist and expert in scientific genius.

Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California, Davis, says that just like the ill-fated dodo, scientific geniuses like these men have gone extinct.

PHOTOS: Inventors Killed by Their Own Inventions

"Future advances are likely to build on what is already known rather than alter the foundations of knowledge," Simonton writes in a commentary published in today’s (Jan. 31) issue of the journal Nature.

An End to Momentous Leaps Forward?

For the past century, no truly original disciplines have been created; instead new arrivals are hybrids of existing ones, such as astrophysics or biochemistry. It has also become much more difficult for an individual to make groundbreaking contributions, since cutting-edge work is often done by large, well-funded teams, he argues.

What's more, almost none of the natural sciences appear ripe for a revolution.

"The core disciplines have accumulated not so much anomalies as mere loose ends that will be tidied up one way or another," he writes.

PHOTOS: Da Vinci's Inventions

Only theoretical physics shows signs of a "crisis," or accumulation of findings that cannot be explained, that leaves it open for a major paradigm shift, he writes. (Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds)

Prior Predictions

This isn't the first time someone has predicted that science's most exciting days are over.

Before the arrival of quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of relativity, two theories physicists have not yet been able to reconcile, 19th-century scientists predicted that all major discoveries had been made, Sherrilyn Roush, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out.