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From the Great Hall of the Cooper Union in New York City. National Educational radio presents the Cooper Union forum series all peace love and creativity. The hope of mankind. These programs are recorded by station WNYC. Aired I was the chairman of the company you can for Dr. Johnson. He Fairchild. Good evening ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Cooper Union for your tour of the drugs and the birds I was speaking to you from the great horror Cooper Union where we are going to meet with the program of the final moment of creativity the whole way through. The discussion for the moment has to do with creativity in society. And those figure is Dr. Professor those naval professor University Professor at Columbia University.
His background has to do with the City College of New York. Also Columbia University has been a Guggenheim a moral foundation. Well on several occasions when the editor of The Journal of philosophy formally added to the Journal of symbolic logic co-author of an intervention do logic and the scientific method. All through such things as a logic of measurement logic of some sort of a reason logic without metaphysics. Oh. The structure of society and all of things which I am not going to give to you because you can look them up with a coworker meaning in the hallway. He's contributed to a chapter in the coop for a publication basically leaves in the title of that one of the philosophic concepts of atheism.
But then they go smoke them of those blood form on numerous occasions and were very happy to welcome them back to the Cooper Union forum. Dr Ernest may go today I'm Cyrus I can I repeat. And thank you very much. It is a great pleasure to come down and talk about at Cooper Union. Despite the inclement weather but the subject itself perhaps can one up a little bit. My theme is creativity in science. And I think I want to say at the beginning that there are a great number of aspects of this problem. About which it would be desirable to
talk but the subject itself is vast and I don't know wouldn't have the time even if I had the ability to. Span the relevant issue that I raised. I do want to say also that I will address myself pretty much to science as we know it today. Science itself is something that has had a very long history. It had undergone various kinds of changes. And the fact the change itself of course is one symptom of one indication of creative energy usage within or in science itself. Perhaps the question I want to talk about the subject is someone who is taking part in the sciences. I myself have had no
first had an experience with I'm a scientist and cannot report on any person exposure that I've had on the other hand there may be some advantage in an outsider. To deal with this topic because while he may not have very much to say about the individual trees you may see a bit more of the forest. And I indicated there are so many at. Which are the subject that I've been compelled really to select a few by which I want to. Say something in the three main subordinate questions to what you do want to address myself. What is creative particularly in science and what is the word creativity. Me. Secondly here what are we making is in the psychological and other which may be involved in the creative process.
And thirdly and this is perhaps the affidavit that I'd like to dwell on at greater and greater feeling is at what point in the science is creativity involved. So let me begin with a first issue what is creativity. I think it is pertinent to raise this question because the word itself is they. And there appear to be very sorts of things that we can do understand by creativity and I like to canvas some aspects of the many I mean many of the many many sided. In the first place I suppose everybody would agree that in some fashion rather creativity in science and with those who are certainly scientists associated with what is new what is religion. And so for example you say that the Haydn was a creative
musician and not merely because a composer. More than 100 symphonies and other works of music but it was introduced in develop a novel pattern of symbolic composition. Similarly you would generally be regarded as being a creative scientist and a great creative scientist because among other things he developed a general method for obtaining the canyons to occur. That is he was one of the. Discoveries of what is now known as the differential calculus. And then he and curricle science and physics in particular he analyzed like that comes from the sun. In a way that. No one did before him so that
originality novelty in the sense is certainly a mark or at least one of the essential ingredients of being creative in science. But then if we stop to think a moment I think you would say that it isn't just the originality that counts to be regarded as being creative in and science. For example would you be inclined to say that a man lacks creativity if his events have been anticipated by somebody else and I don't think we could have a straightforward answer on this in some places we would say yes you know the case is not. The history of science is full of a lot of them called independent discoveries of the same way. That is two or more scientists have found out the same thing is all the work in ignorance of
one another. As a matter of fact one of my colleagues at Columbia as American as a general thesis that the simultaneous discoveries are the rule. And discovery by air or something by just one individual is he thinks you're somewhat of an exception. But in any case you can cite something million examples of independent discovery. For example Newton and Leibnitz both discovered the calculus simultaneously independent of one another. They used to be a great controversy as to who stole from home and then now I think everybody's agree that there was no plagiarism involved. Each one may be discovered independently again in more recent days. The great American cities will agaves develop a branch of physics that is known as mystical mechanics
and then a few years after that independently of gave Einstein did something pretty much the same. He wasn't familiar with gives his works are not in jail now in this case I think you would agree that both of them are who are original and that they were creative. But there are the cases I suppose that we would say that a man doesn't really have originality. If you want him to supply discoveries you remain dormant. Nobody paid any attention to them already. The anticipation of it had been made and have made no impact. On science I think you would say you are not a creative thinker a sign. Take one illustration of an absurd one but you'll make a point.
If for example I had never heard of Newton and somehow I was able somehow to reconstruct. The contents of Newton's great work and keep the mathematics. In one cutting last year when I really hadn't read your mind. On the other hand since. Discovery of this kind would have no impact on science because in any case if I were to simply rediscover the same thing that he did independently of him I would not really be contributing anything to the ongoing process. Science has already been done. So that in this case the route was original. I think the title of being a creator scientist would be to me. And there are also a great number of individuals who think well they
really have a very original idea. Sometimes they're regarded cranks. But if they make no impact on the science even though nobody else had the idea or if they present their ideas in such a way that doesn't conform to standards that are generally accepted by the scientists and given a tightly being creative minds would probably be benign to them and so it isn't entirely clear on the what conditions you will accept to be a creative science. Or take a somewhat slightly different aspect of it. If a man want to write about a single power even though you regard being really a magnificent composition. We would not normally I think calling it a creative forward. And similarly I think if a man were to make one contribution to science
and nobody else. Again I think you would deny the type of creative scientists to him that we seem to be reserving the creative for those who either make a fairly large number of new contributions or if they don't make a very large one large number at least they make a contribution that is in some sense regarded being very old. If a city were to spend his life. You know painting creasing a more precise measurement of the velocity of light you say you might have made a valuable contribution to science and important to know our precise value for the speed of light. But I think we would not regard him as being a creator.
Let's take an example. From mathematics. You were to remap this in the 19th century one of them was in German the name of God. Who really fructify can feel because he worked in so many different areas. He contributed important work and geometry in number theory in electricity and magnetism. He will undoubtedly create a creative mind. But because of the number of contributions but also because of the importance of each of them partly to many of them. On the other hand there are the French mathematician by name of Galois G.L. a life here. Who died at the age of
19 I think it was it was one of 20 I believe he died in a do. He had submitted a paper to an outstanding French periodical some years before. It was not accepted publication but the night before he went to a duel he wrote out some of his ideas and this was really just one area of mathematics. Now I know his contributions partly because of the brevity of his life. Were few in number that he dealt with what is now known as group theory. And this. It was an important application too. Sorry equations in algebra. You remember this area of research. And so the sheer number of his contributions are not important and not important in his case. Here I think
no one would hesitate to deny him the highly creative creative mathematician a creative scientist. And you know I think we all generally recognize that there are degrees of creativity and of course there are degrees of creativity and if there are no rules for measuring them then certain in a certain sense arbitrary with an individual is going to be called Creative or not. I mean there's kind of a difficulty. Now let me turn from this to another aspect of the question as to what we mean by creativity. I think crime largely talk about creativity in science. We associate the characterization with the introduction of new I'll be new I'll be somebody who was in the sinews data room of miscellaneous fact. There will be they'll be very large numbers which fat
city not be regarded. As a creative crime. And exploring geography you're name a very valuable contribution. And he was involved because you know regular activity in integration but I think he would perhaps not because creative and creative time some important idea on the large explorations or even with explorations in some way challenge. Some accepted idea about various aspects of the earth's surface. Take a slightly different illustration. I doubt anybody would call Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first man to scale the Southwest face of Mt. Everest. A creative explorer or a
mountaineer and I think we would not call it created because you know what he didn't contribute any ID. So I I think in some way creativity in science is associated with not so much in what you do by way of some kind of action that you gave you but what kind of idea you even introduce into science or what kind of ideas you tend to disprove by some thing that you do. Take one other illustration that I think bears on this. Anybody who is an experimental scientist obviously is involved like you got. His mom was awesome. Experimentation surely involves action but I think we would all experiment to a creator scientists merely because he is able
to manipulate various sorts of instruments. But because he design and design your experiment may be more important than the actual physical labor of executing it. Take one example of each kind. Newton was not only a creative theoretical physicist he was also a creative experiment. He did experimental work in optics. And he used the prism you know to to show that light coming from the sun and that there are various colored rays that contain Apparently white light comes from the sun. Now Newton not only designed the experiment but he also actually performed more on the other hand there are very
great very distinguished experimental physicist. Some are alive today. One of my colleagues at Columbia who is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for our. Experiment in physics is very inept in handling apparatus. But he supply the basic idea here for constructing the various instruments for running them and so on. And so again I think you're an experiment to actually be a meaningless param and not primarily because of his own word behavior likely to be because of the kind of ideality in previews to design an experiment to evaluating the significance of the experiment and so on. One other point I'd like to make in this connection with this first issue is to what we are now banned by creativity as I can with
the distinction that we often make between creativity and discovery. Now we can distinguish between creative creation or invention on the one hand. And discover and in many cases this is very clear. Captain Cook I think everybody would say discover he didn't invent it. He didn't create a continent. We would say I suppose that Edison invented the electric light. Although sometimes he discovered it. But if we say that he discovered it we don't quite mean the same thing that Columbus discovered America. I mean electric light was not there. It went through fine. But he had some way to reconstruct it I was available
and put into some kind of a new force. But in other places especially in the realm of ID it is more difficult to say whether a man. Been a creator or whether he's been a discoverer. Take some examples from very elementary. Mathematics. I suppose you all heard about so-called negative numbers or imaginary numbers and numbers like minus 2 or minus seven. These are the negative numbers and then there are so-called imaginary numbers like the square root of minus one. Now what shall we say about the mathematicians of the 15th 16th century. You introduce the notion that they discover the negative numbers of the day and then.
Or take an example from geometry when we are given a problem and we are asked to prove something wrong and we do give a proof. What do we do that we discover the truth or did we invented it we created the. Mathematician themselves are not of like mind done recently psychologically. You have a feeling of discovering it with you if you can provide proof for something that you didn't know me who did you know before. Many people have the feeling that well they're sort of exploring a continent in the same way in which Columbus explored various parts of the surface of the earth and the other hand many mathematicians claim that no they are not. Discovering they are really there.
They are inventing things that other people sometimes say they discover. Want to take one of the illustration taken from the physical sciences. Kepler often said to have been the discovery of the more that the planets move on Lipsey around the sun. But what could I back up with to discover the floor or did he invent it. I mean after all the planets don't move laterally on elliptical orbits precisely and recall and the supposition that there were the planets moving around and all that you had to do was somehow get to a point whose physically far away and there you would see the planets moving a little bit. This is a very naive view even if you were in that position you wouldn't see this happen.
In some sense Apple introduced something into the material a way of looking at this and it was he himself who introduced this way of looking at things. So in this sense he could be said to have been an inventor of a new perspective here and not just the discovery of something was already there. Now these questions as to whether what scientists do is creation or Discovery are difficult questions to answer and they certainly raise a very fundamental issues in understanding the nature of science and I want to come back to some of the matters that later on. But in this connection I think it might be helpful or not sure how far it is but the cutter knew that might be helpful to distinguish between what seem to be at least on the face of it the different types of creativity.
And let me begin by kind of a biological analysis. Every ritual as you know possesses certain genes. Many of which inherit from his parents. And a man who knows you very of from his parents are a selection from the gene of his parents. But the dream reflected appearing new combinations the genes are already there and what he did or what happened to him was a new combination of elements that were already there. What were transmitted to it to be in the review. This is one in which every biological individual is a unique individual mainly that part of the
star consists in the recombination of some of the genes that parents had. But there's also another feature about an individual that maybe genes that if undergoes a mutation some kind of a chain because of various sorts of influence upon him for example he was exposed to. Radiation crime tape and unity would be unlike anything like this here and there. So the phenomenon that an individual in some way represents one can distinguish two sorts of things that involve some kind of a recombination of what is already there and that which involve the introduction of something that is brand new and compelling that wasn't already. Now taking this
analogy I think you might perhaps distinguish two kinds of creativity in the realm of my dear. One would would the kind of creativity which consists in putting older and familiar idea new combinations. Take some very familiar faces. There are no uniforms. There are no animals that have it appears of a horse with us. On the far right. On the other hand the notion of a heartening notion of a of a horn need work a million notions and who've written to the notion of a unicorn and simply combining two ideas which already in some way evaded or if you have ever read any of the dr doolittle story you see in the movie I haven't seen the movie but I know that some of the books. There is no push in your group. It had. Roughly the period of a.
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Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
Creativity in science, part one
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features the first part of a lecture by Ernest Nagel, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University.
Other Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Fairchild, Johnson E.
Speaker: Nagel, Ernest, 1901-1985
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-28 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:55
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Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in science, part one,” 1968-06-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 21, 2022,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in science, part one.” 1968-06-13. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 21, 2022. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in science, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from