Selfishness Prevents Advancement

As science advances up the mountain range of discovery the way it’s history has been recorded and shared has had multiple changes as well along the way. Joseph Priestley was without a doubt one of the most innovative and documented scientists of his time. I believe that he set the stage for all scientists after him not only in their discoveries, but in how they capture and circulate new found information. “Priestley saw the value in tracing a chain of events, turning it into a narrative of scientific progress” (Johnson, p. 28). While Priestley so carefully made sure to record anything he recognized to be valuable, he had the intent to share his discoveries selflessly with other scientists as well as the public to normalize the advancement of science within society. I believe that Priestley was his own historian at the time. Priestley would ask questions, try different combinations, and work with other colleagues to gain opinion. One way that his scientific advancements are different than present day discoveries would be how open he was with any new information he discovered. Today, scientists and entrepreneurs hide their new ideas until they can patent it to share with the world. “And the lack of a monetary incentive made it easier for Priestley and the Honest Whigs to share their ideas as freely as they did” (Johnson, p. 129). You can tell that during this time Priestley did not view his gained knowledge as something to monopolize upon and I believe that is why he was able to progress in his discoveries so quickly and extremely within his life. Overtime, the mountain of scientific discoveries that we ascend constantly has been ever-changing. As developed technology has allowed, historians now are able to go into much greater detail within each part of the ecosystem impacting a certain case study or interest. I believe that current day historians are now more than ever asking the question “why?” and have the technology and resources to get closer to answering it.

One thought on “Selfishness Prevents Advancement

  1. I believe that the whole idea of keeping scientific discoveries private in modern time is absolutely ridiculous. As you wrote, Priestly was a selfless scientist who was more passionate about simply making discoveries rather than privately profiting from his work. I think an important lesson from the Honest Whigs was that with collaboration and a genuine passion for science, new discoveries come quicker. Imagine if modern day discoveries, such as vaccines, were more openly shared in a common thinker space. The collaborative environment that was presented by the Honest Whigs acted as such a catalyst for science. I don’t understand why, besides money, modern day scientist have become so secretive until protected by law. I really appreciated your idea about “normalizing the advancement of science.” If people today cared more about discovery than profit we would be so much more advanced and better off than we currently are; at least that’s my opinion.


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