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Old 05-08-2020, 04:03 PM
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How long did it take scientific theorems/laws to catch on?


Ironclad laws and theorems such as: Newton's laws of "for every action there is an equal and opposite action" or "energy can be neither created nor destroyed," or the Pythagorean Theorem, or e=mc^2.

Did the scientific community say "yeah, there we go" and embrace these discoveries quickly, or did Newton, Pythagoras, Einstein have to do some intellectual arm-wrestling with them for a long while in order to get them to buy into it?

Last edited by Velocity; 05-08-2020 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 05-08-2020, 04:18 PM
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What makes you say they are "ironclad"? That might give you a hint to your answer.
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Old 05-08-2020, 04:55 PM
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I am sure it varies based on the field, how much the discovery goes against established belief, how advanced communication technology is, etc.

I think there is a 20 year gap in between scientific research and clinical practice in medicine.

In the middle ages, it was far longer sometimes. For example the idea that limes could combat scurvy was known off and on for hundreds of years before becoming canon.

then again, didn't the guy who theorized blood was circulated have his theory taken seriously almost instantly? edit: I looked it up, it took 20 years for that to be accepted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harvey#Reception

Germ theory and the washing of hands took a while to be accepted by the medical community.
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Old 05-08-2020, 05:04 PM
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There's no general rule.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection was widely embraced by many scientists shortly after it was proposed in 1859, although there were holdouts. It fell somewhat out of favor as a mechanism (although evolution was accepted) later in the 1800s. It wasn't until the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis from the early 1900s to the 1940s that united natural selection and genetics that it came to be nearly universally accepted. So that's perhaps 80 years.

Einstein proposed general relativity in 1915, and tests confirming its prediction concerning the bending of light were conducted in 1919. The theory became widely accepted by scientists after that. So that's four years.

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Old 05-08-2020, 05:29 PM
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Einstein proposed general relativity in 1915, and tests confirming its prediction concerning the bending of light were conducted in 1919. The theory became widely accepted by scientists after that. So that's four years.
I find this the most astonishing example for quickly confirming a scientific theory I've heard of (given how revolutionary and outlandish the theory was), and I think that Eddington's achievement in this was almost as great as Einstein's. First thing I thought about when I read the OP.

ETA: a counterexample are Wegener's plate tectonics. Like Darwin, he didn't have an explanation for the process, so it took a long time to be confirmed.
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Old 05-08-2020, 05:43 PM
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ETA: a counterexample are Wegener's plate tectonics. Like Darwin, he didn't have an explanation for the process, so it took a long time to be confirmed.
Another good example of delayed acceptance. Like Darwin, who didn't know about genes or Mendelian genetics, Wegener had a theory but no good mechanism. He first proposed "continental drift" in 1912, but it didn't become widely accepted until 1965, after sea-floor spreading had been discovered. When I was in college in the early 1970s it was still considered a kind of flaky theory.

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Old 05-08-2020, 05:59 PM
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It'll depend on what the state of knowledge was before the new discovery. For instance, it was known long before Pythagoras that a 3-4-5 triangle has a right angle, and probably also known for some other triples like 5-12-13. So when Pythagoras came up with a proof for the general rule, it would have been no surprise. Similarly, at the time of Darwin, many biologists suspected that organisms evolve from other organisms, based on the observed similarities and differences between them: Darwin merely provided the mechanism for how it happens.
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Old 05-08-2020, 06:00 PM
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He first proposed "continental drift" in 1912, but it didn't become widely accepted until 1965, after sea-floor spreading had been discovered. When I was in college in the early 1970s it was still considered a kind of flaky theory.
Mrs. Cretin was baffled by this in her late 60's college days. She thought the theory was a slam dunk, obviously correct. In the mid 70's a (Scripps) oceanographer I knew told me that "nobody serious" was doubting it any more.
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Old 05-08-2020, 06:01 PM
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For example the idea that limes could combat scurvy was known off and on for hundreds of years before becoming canon.
Of course, it wasn't limes specifically, but vitamin C, which is found in lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and also (in limited quantities) in some fresh meat.

Citrus fruits are excellent sources, but limes are actually far from the best - oranges and lemons are better.
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Old 05-08-2020, 06:59 PM
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He first proposed "continental drift" in 1912, but it didn't become widely accepted until 1965, after sea-floor spreading had been discovered. When I was in college in the early 1970s it was still considered a kind of flaky theory.
I was in junior high in the late 70s, and I asked my science teacher if he believed in continental drift. He told me that it was established science. I'm not sure where I got the idea that some people accepted it and others didn't, but it's good to know that I wasn't completely off-base.
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:27 PM
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Einstein proposed general relativity in 1915, and tests confirming its prediction concerning the bending of light were conducted in 1919. The theory became widely accepted by scientists after that. So that's four years.
But this theory was a generalization of his 'special relativity' from 10 years earlier, which evolved from even earlier work by Lorentz. So scientists were kind of 'prepared' for this, and thus when experimental test seemed to confirm it, they mostly readily accepted it. In fact, even running tests that soon is an indication that the theory was being seriously considered. Some hypothesis sit untested for years because they are considered too weird.
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:44 PM
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Of course, it wasn't limes specifically, but vitamin C, which is found in lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and also (in limited quantities) in some fresh meat.

Citrus fruits are excellent sources, but limes are actually far from the best - oranges and lemons are better.
Yeah, the fact that nobody knew what vitamin c was until the 1930s didn't help.

I think some ships thought it was the acid in limes that prevented scurvy so they tried vinegar to no avail. Some thought limes that were pre cut would work, but those lose vitamin c due to oxidation. I think there were also issues with pipes destroying vitamin c of some fruit based beverages.

There were so many unknowns that probably stopped adoption.

There was a documentary about developing world diseases. Some researcher discovered that kids who got vitamin A supplements had lower death rates from infectious diseases.

The idea wasn't taken too seriously until someone discovered that vitamin A plays a role in the immune system. Without an easy to explain mechanism, people seem to be more likely to reject the new idea.
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:48 PM
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I wonder if there is some deeper motivation to this question? Perhaps the OP has a hunch about some knowledge that they think the scientific community is wrongly dismissing?
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Old 05-08-2020, 09:35 PM
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Galileo got a lot of grief for some of his ideas for quite a long time.
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Old 05-08-2020, 09:47 PM
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What makes you say they are "ironclad"? That might give you a hint to your answer.
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I wonder if there is some deeper motivation to this question? Perhaps the OP has a hunch about some knowledge that they think the scientific community is wrongly dismissing?
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Let's not question the motivations for a question in GQ. Instead you should try to provide factual information. In particular, your first post wasn't really pertinent in this forum. If you can't contribute to answering a question, there is really no need for you to post in this thread.

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Old 05-08-2020, 09:59 PM
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Mrs. Cretin was baffled by this in her late 60's college days. She thought the theory was a slam dunk, obviously correct. In the mid 70's a (Scripps) oceanographer I knew told me that "nobody serious" was doubting it any more.
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I was in junior high in the late 70s, and I asked my science teacher if he believed in continental drift. He told me that it was established science. I'm not sure where I got the idea that some people accepted it and others didn't, but it's good to know that I wasn't completely off-base.
As I mentioned, the theory began to become widely accepted by geologists and other professional scientists around 1965. It took maybe 10 years for the message to reach the general public via high school and university courses. So acceptance became more generally from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s.
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Old 05-08-2020, 10:33 PM
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Old 05-08-2020, 10:40 PM
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ETA: a counterexample are Wegener's plate tectonics. Like Darwin, he didn't have an explanation for the process.
I'm not following this. Darwin did have an explanation for the process: natural selection.
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Old 05-08-2020, 10:41 PM
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When a new killer hypothesis comes forward it has to two things, which happen at different speeds and possibly to different audiences in the discipline.

Firstly, it has to explain known reality better than the existing theories, which means having to look at eminent Professor Plum's work and not just trashing it, but clearly explaining why New Theory has better explanatory power on the same evidence as Plum had, and why it can pick up/ explain/ categorise / count/ label evidence in a better way [and what 'better' actually means].

Secondly, it has to not just be neater on existing evidence, it has to be validated in some way on new data and to show that it has greater predictive ability and robustness for deriving new information.

Depending on the discipline this has to happen as existing multi-year programmed research agendas and career trajectories unfold, as Professor Plum decides he's only years from retirement and does not need this shit, as pushy young researchers look at opportunities to make reputations as they seek tenure.

Its not just the sheer force of the idea but a whole bunch of social and professional factors that influence the take-up of new ideas.
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Old 05-08-2020, 10:44 PM
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As I mentioned, the theory began to become widely accepted by geologists and other professional scientists around 1965. It took maybe 10 years for the message to reach the general public via high school and university courses. So acceptance became more generally from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s.
I took Earth Science 1965 - 1966 in junior high, and I don't think it was in our textbook. I did a paper on the accepted cause of mountain building at the time.
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Old 05-08-2020, 11:29 PM
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I'm not following this. Darwin did have an explanation for the process: natural selection.
As noted, Darwin didn't have a mechanism for the details of the process. Mendel's experiments were published in an obscure journal in German in 1866. They didn't become widely known until they were "re-discovered" in the early 1900s by several geneticists. Darwin had fallen back on pangenesis as a mechanism, which was not correct. It was the integration of Mendelian inheritance with natural selection that produced the modern synthesis starting in the early 1900s.

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Old 05-08-2020, 11:38 PM
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Loren Eiseley's Darwin's Century is a must-read, detailing the development of evolutionary theory during the 1800's. Darwin himself began doubting his own theory, equivocating in later editions of Origin. (Though his admirer and fellow evolutionist Alfred Russel Wallace convinced Darwin to avoid publishing some of the equivocating.)

Darwin was beset by mathematicians who pointed out mutations would quickly be diluted by 50:50 mixing. He was also beset by physicists led by (the future) Lord Kelvin who "proved" that the Earth's age was only tens of millions of years, not giving enough time for advanced mammals to evolve from the simplest organisms. To circumvent these problems, later editions of Origin partially embraced the rival ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck!

Both these impediments were solved after Darwin's death: Gregor Mendel demonstrated that rather than a 50:50 mixture diluting a gene each generation, half the next generation would get the full gene. (Mendel published while Darwin was alive, but Darwin never saw the paper.) And knowledge that the Earth was dozens of times older than Lord Kelvin had computed needed to wait for the discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel and Marie Curie.

ETA: Ninja'ed by Colibri.
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Old 05-08-2020, 11:42 PM
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To the OP: If you aren't already familiar with the concept of a paradigm shift (as discussed by Thomas Kuhn), you may want to look into it.
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Old 05-08-2020, 11:45 PM
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To be clear, Darwin accomplished two things in Origin of Species. He amassed all available information from paleontology, anatomy, development, and biogeography that supported the idea that descent with modification, i.e., evolution, had taken place. This in itself was an accomplishment. This summary of the evidence helped many scientists to accept that this had taken place.

He also provided a mechanism, natural selection, that was independently proposed by Alfred Russell Wallace. But the details of this mechanism were vague. While this mechanism also caused many scientists to support his ideas, more information was really needed to nail it down.
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Old 05-08-2020, 11:56 PM
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Newton's theory of gravitation was published in 1687 in Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

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One of the seminal predictions of Newton's theory of gravity is that a rotating, self-gravitating mass such as the earth will be an oblate spheroid - i.e., it will be flattened at the poles and bulging at the equator.... This became the touchstone of the Newton/Descartes debate - if the earth is in fact an oblate spheroid then Newtonian physics is probably right; if it is a prolate spheroid (contracted at the equator) then Newtonian physics is definitely wrong.... Bernoulli made some calculations in the spirit of DesCartes' vortex model and came up with a prolate spheroid...

If the earth is oblate, then a degree of latitude near the arctic circle will be longer than a degree near the equator. The scientific debate over Newton's physics, combined with the cartographic significance of the question, led France to mount two expeditions to measure a degree of latitude at widely separated locations on earth. The Academie Royale des Sciences sent expeditions to Lapland and to Peru to make the measurements. These were extraordinarily ambitious and difficult undertakings that lasted years, exposed the scientists to extremes of climate and physical risk, and required making precise, painstaking geodetic measurements over hundreds of miles of rugged terrain.
Maupertuis published the results of these expeditions in 1738, 51 years after Newton published on Gravitation. Spoiler alert: Newton's prediction was spot-on.
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Old 05-09-2020, 02:35 AM
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The 1919 astronomical observations proving Einstein's General Theory remain controversial — some think Eddington fudged ambiguous data — but Einstein himself had noticed experimental evidence supporting his theory by 1916 — the precession of Mercury's orbit.

The atomic theory of matter had a very long history before its final acceptance. It was proposed in ancient Greece by Leucippus and Democritus, defended by Isaac Newton, and seemingly implied by Dalton's Law of Multiple Proportions published in 1804. However, many scientists accepted Dalton's Law but didn't agree it implied an atomic theory. The final proof of the atomic theory was established by Albert Einstein in his 1905 paper on Brownian motion.

Another controversy of physics where Einstein played a role was the question of whether light was wave or particle. This controversy raged for centuries, but during the 19th century physicists abandoned Newton's particle theory to embrace a wave theory. This conclusion was overturned, again in 1905, by Einstein's discovery of the photon. Light was both wave and particle. But the idea that electro-magnetic waves could also be particles remained controversial until Arthur Holly Compton's discovery of the "Compton shift" of X-rays in 1923.
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Old 05-09-2020, 02:39 AM
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Modern ideas about medieval history have still not penetrated through to the general public, more than 25 years after Susan Reynolds published Fiefs and Vassals, and nearly 50 years after Peter Brown published The World of Late Antiquity.

99% of the general public today still hold outdated ideas about 'the fall of the Roman empire', the 'dark ages', the 'feudal system', etc. - wrong ideas dating back to the 18th and 19th century, now superceded and universally dismissed by professional historians.

The old concepts have been shown to be wrong by modern systematic analysis of large quantities of medieval documents, and by modern archeology.

But the old ideas are still fed to the public by existing school textbooks, and by innumerable books and movies, so it may be generations before the new understandings become general.

"The medieval period could thus be seen as a random invention, a confidence trick perpetrated on the future by a few scholars. But it has become a powerful image, as more and more layers of ‘modernity’ have built up."
  — Prof. Christopher Wickham, emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford, Medieval Europe (2016)
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Old 05-09-2020, 08:44 AM
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Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity was an idea whose time had come. It was surprising, but there was lots of groundwork there, in the works of Lorentz, Maxwell, Michelson, and many others (maybe also Minkowski; I'm not sure if any of his work was before Einstein's). But while General Relativity followed on from Special (and also from the work of Riemann), it was a much bigger leap. The eclipse of 1919 is often cited as the proof of the theory, but in fact, the error bars in the data were large enough to encompass both Newton and Einstein. I think that it was the fact that it explained the perihelion precession of Mercury that really nailed it down for most physicists, though that wasn't exactly a "prediction" of the theory: It was already known, and one of the puzzles of science, at the time that Einstein published (there's a tale, possibly apocryphal, that one of the great scientists of the turn of that century stated that the perihelion advance of Mercury and the blackbody spectrum were the only two puzzles remaining to physics, and that once we explained those, physics was a completed discipline).

And Kelvin's calculation of the age of the Sun was in conflict with Darwin's theory of evolution, but it was also inconsistent with what geologists of the time were starting to conclude about the age of the Earth. So it wasn't quite the slam-dunk refutation of evolution that it might appear to be.
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Old 05-09-2020, 08:52 AM
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Modern ideas about medieval history have still not penetrated through to the general public, more than 25 years after Susan Reynolds published Fiefs and Vassals, and nearly 50 years after Peter Brown published The World of Late Antiquity.

99% of the general public today still hold outdated ideas ...
Explain, please. What are some of the wrong ideas people have, and what is the real history?

That may be a big question, but can you cite just a few examples, briefly?
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Old 05-09-2020, 09:43 AM
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There is no general answer, but when experimental or observed evidence repeatedly confirms the predicted values.
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Old 05-09-2020, 10:04 AM
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Explain, please. What are some of the wrong ideas people have, and what is the real history?

That may be a big question, but can you cite just a few examples, briefly?
It is a long story, and that's a large part of the problem. There's no simple, quick, glib explanation.

Let's take one example:
"Why did the Roman empire fall? The short answer is that it didn’t."
  — Prof. Christopher Wickham, Medieval Europe (2016)
Okay, so then what did happen to the Roman empire? It's too long a story to go into the details - but the idea that 'barbarians' conquered Rome at some specific point in time, and that there was then a 'dark age' is simply wrong.

Some points to go on with:

The Goths, Vandals, Franks, etc. who took over most of the Western part of the Roman Empire were Christians, before they invaded. They mostly left the framework of the Christian Church, the Pope, the bishops, etc. intact. (Except the Vandals in North Africa who were fanatical Arian Christians and tried to suppress Nicene Christians.) Many of their leaders were literate, spoke Latin, and some had indeed served as officers in the Roman army. They mostly kept the Roman tax systems, administration, and commercial systems as intact as they could, even keeping Roman officials in place.

There was no huge discontinuity, but rather a gradual breakdown of central control, and fragmentation into separate kingdoms over a period of time, under peoples who didn't consider themselves to be Roman, but in general didn't destroy what previously existed either. The fact of fragmentation meant that the new kingdoms were poorer and trade was reduced.

From the wiki article on the Vandal Kingdom:

Quote:
Although primarily remembered for the sack of Rome in 455 and their persecution of Nicene Christians in favor of Arian Christianity, the Vandals were also patrons of learning. Grand building projects continued, schools flourished and North Africa fostered many of the most innovative writers and natural scientists of the late Latin Western Roman Empire.

The Eastern Roman Empire remained intact, and anyway had been administratively separate from the Western half since the 4th century. We call them Byzantines, but they considered themselves Romans, and continued to call themselves Romans, right up to the end. There was no break with the Roman past. The Emperor Justinian reconquered Italy and some southern parts of what is today France and Spain in the 5th century (later lost). The Eastern Roman Empire remained wealthy and influential, despite Muslim conquests, through most of the medieval period.

These are only the briefest few isolated comments about a long, complex unfolding story of what happened to Rome.

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Old 05-09-2020, 10:37 AM
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On the new understanding of feudalism, see this excellent article:

The Problem With Feudalism
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Old 05-09-2020, 11:06 AM
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On the new understanding of feudalism, see this excellent article:

The Problem With Feudalism

From the article:

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Perhaps most significantly, no one had presented a reasonable model or explanation to use in place of feudalism. Some historians and authors felt they had to provide their readers with a handle by which to grasp the general ideas of medieval government and society. If not feudalism, then what?

Yes, the emperor had no clothes, but for now, he would just have to run around naked.
[my bold]

Interesting article, but unfortunately, this important question remains unanswered, the quote is the last paragraph. So what was the predominant societal system in the middle ages?
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Old 05-09-2020, 11:16 AM
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On the new understanding of feudalism, see this excellent article:

The Problem With Feudalism
I clicked to read this article with great interest. And was greatly disappointed. It repeats the same message over and over:
Quote:
Scholars viewed land agreements and social relationships through the warped lens of the feudalism construct and either disregarded or dismissed anything that didn't fit into their version of the model.
OK. The feudalism construct is wrong. But what model does fit the real land agreements and social relationships?
The feudalism construct has very specific ideas. Which of them are wrong, and Why?

Did the article link to a Part-Two follow-on I neglected to click?


ETA: Ninja'ed by EinsteinsHund.

Last edited by septimus; 05-09-2020 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 05-09-2020, 11:54 AM
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Another good example of delayed acceptance. Like Darwin, who didn't know about genes or Mendelian genetics, Wegener had a theory but no good mechanism.
Similarly, Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor practising in Vienna, proposal that doctors should wash their hands with a disinfectant, each time they were about to examine a woman who had just given birth.

He was able to show that doing so greatly reduced the spread of puerperal fever, which was a killer disease in hospital maternity wards, but he couldn't advance any reason for it. He was widely mocked and professionally ridiculed by other physicians who refused to accept that there could be transmission of disease in this way.

It wasn't until Pasteur published about germ theory that it was confirmed that hands could appear completely clean, and yet contain microscopic particles that could cause disease.

Pasteur's discovery came too late for Semmelwis: he'd been committed to an insane asylum, and died a couple of weeks later, from a gangrenous infection that was likely caused by a beating from the guards.
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Old 05-09-2020, 01:09 PM
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Similarly, Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor practising in Vienna, proposal that doctors should wash their hands with a disinfectant, each time they were about to examine a woman who had just given birth.

He was able to show that doing so greatly reduced the spread of puerperal fever, which was a killer disease in hospital maternity wards, but he couldn't advance any reason for it. He was widely mocked and professionally ridiculed by other physicians who refused to accept that there could be transmission of disease in this way.

It wasn't until Pasteur published about germ theory that it was confirmed that hands could appear completely clean, and yet contain microscopic particles that could cause disease.

Pasteur's discovery came too late for Semmelwis: he'd been committed to an insane asylum, and died a couple of weeks later, from a gangrenous infection that was likely caused by a beating from the guards.
Semelweis' opposition came from self-important doctors of the time. They did not deride the theory so much as take offense at the idea that they, highly educated upper class members of Viennese society, could have hands as filthy as a common ditch-digger. The implication was the insult. the facts were worse. Doctors were looking for the cause of puerperal fever, and would go from autopsies of dead mothers to deliveries while merely wiping their hands, deliberately spreading the fever. the ward run by nurses and midwives, which did not do autopsies, apparently had a significantly lower rate of fever.
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Old 05-09-2020, 01:29 PM
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So what was the predominant societal system in the middle ages?
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
OK. The feudalism construct is wrong. But what model does fit the real land agreements and social relationships?
The feudalism construct has very specific ideas. Which of them are wrong, and Why?
To answer EinsteinsHund and Septimus:

The medieval period was incredibly diverse and often rapidly changing. You simply can't make any generalizations.

From one end of Europe to the other, there were different political and social systems, different types of taxation and land use, different power structures, different legal systems, different religious views and different relationships between religious and secular powers - and these were not fixed. Even in the same area or 'country', all these things changed over time.

I've just been re-reading Wickham's book (hence my quotes from it), and when you look at the big picture - and even the brief overview he gives takes nearly 500 densely written pages - the overall impression is that there is no one pattern of medieval history, or even 20 patterns. Every locality did things differently, and things didn't stay the same over time.

To say that "medieval people thought in this way" or "medieval society was structured like this" becomes laughable.

All you can say is,

This is how it was in 12th century Denmark, this is how it was in 9th century Aragon, this is how it was in 11th century Flanders, this is how it was in 13th century northern Italy, this how it was in 10th century Byzantium...
This how it was in 12th century 'France' (a vague term), and in the 13th century it changed to this, and in the 14th century it changed to this, and in the 15th century it changed to this...
This is how trade and industry were in southern Europe in the 11th century, and it was like this in eastern Europe at the same time, and like this in Scandinavia, with this and this exception...
The general tendency in this area changed in this direction during this period...

  #38  
Old 05-09-2020, 01:36 PM
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As I mentioned, the theory [continental drift] began to become widely accepted by geologists and other professional scientists around 1965. It took maybe 10 years for the message to reach the general public via high school and university courses. So acceptance became more generally from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s.
Just for kicks, and because I have a 1953 Compton's Encyclopedia, I looked up "continental drift." There was just one reference, tucked in the article titled "Earth," to wit:
Quote:
An American and an Austrian geologist suggested that the continents had drifted to their present positions. The Austrian, Alfred Wegener, pictured one huge early continent that began to break up about 230 million years ago. Its sections then moved over a fluid layer which might have been melted by radioactive heat. North and South America drifted westward; Africa pulled away from Europe; Antarctica went to the South Pole. Asia swung northward, while Australia drifted far to the east.

Each of these theories explains some facts, but fails to explain others; and objections can be found to all of them. The continental drift theory meets this objection, for example, that centrifugal force ought to have sent drifting masses toward the equator.
The other theories include a proposal that when the Earth was molten, heavier regions sank to become ocean bottom and lighter ones were pushed upward, forming continents. I guess that's not wrong, but not sufficient.

There is no entry in this edition under Sea Floor Spreading, Seafloor Spreading, or even Spreading which lends credence to Colibri's timeline of acceptance ca. 1965.
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Old 05-09-2020, 02:33 PM
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All you can say is,

This is how it was in 12th century Denmark, this is how it was in 9th century Aragon, this is how it was in 11th century Flanders, this is how it was in 13th century northern Italy, this how it was in 10th century Byzantium...
This how it was in 12th century 'France' (a vague term), and in the 13th century it changed to this, and in the 14th century it changed to this, and in the 15th century it changed to this...
This is how trade and industry were in southern Europe in the 11th century, and it was like this in eastern Europe at the same time, and like this in Scandinavia, with this and this exception...
The general tendency in this area changed in this direction during this period...

That's nothing new. That was the basic approach my prof in medieval Europe history took, all those [mumblety-mumble] years ago. He was particularly interested in the differences between feudalism in "France", compared to feudalism in England, and the fact that the great lords of "France" were generally more powerful than their nominal feudal overlord, the King of France, compared to the much different power structure in England under the Conqueror.
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Old 05-09-2020, 03:04 PM
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Modern ideas about medieval history have still not penetrated through to the general public, more than 25 years after Susan Reynolds published Fiefs and Vassals, and nearly 50 years after Peter Brown published The World of Late Antiquity.

99% of the general public today still hold outdated ideas about 'the fall of the Roman empire', the 'dark ages', the 'feudal system', etc. - wrong ideas dating back to the 18th and 19th century, now superceded and universally dismissed by professional historians.

The old concepts have been shown to be wrong by modern systematic analysis of large quantities of medieval documents, and by modern archeology.

But the old ideas are still fed to the public by existing school textbooks, and by innumerable books and movies, so it may be generations before the new understandings become general.

"The medieval period could thus be seen as a random invention, a confidence trick perpetrated on the future by a few scholars. But it has become a powerful image, as more and more layers of ‘modernity’ have built up."
  — Prof. Christopher Wickham, emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford, Medieval Europe (2016)
Two more books on my to buy list
  #41  
Old 05-09-2020, 03:11 PM
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That's nothing new. That was the basic approach my prof in medieval Europe history took, all those [mumblety-mumble] years ago. He was particularly interested in the differences between feudalism in "France", compared to feudalism in England, and the fact that the great lords of "France" were generally more powerful than their nominal feudal overlord, the King of France, compared to the much different power structure in England under the Conqueror.
Probably even [mumblety-mumble] years ago, ideas were changing among professors of medieval history...

But they have been changing more rapidly since the 1990s, due to more and more information from primary sources being analysed, and more and more archaeological work being done.

For those who are interested in the complexity and diversity of the middle ages, I've made some extracts from the last chapter of Prof. Wickham's book on Medieval Europe, with his final conclusions:

(Spoilered for length)

SPOILER:
CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Conclusion

What really changed in Europe in the medieval millennium? I listed what I see as the most important single moments of change at the start of Chapter 1, and we have followed them across the whole of this book. Now, however, we need to step back a little, and get a sense of Europe as a whole, with some wider generalisations, ending up with the late medieval world we have been looking at in the last three chapters. One thing which remained constant throughout the middle ages was the importance of the old Roman imperial frontier.
...

That was a marker of structural continuities, then, across the agrarian world of the middle ages. But there were plenty of structural changes too. As we saw in Chapters 7 and 11, the population of Europe went through some sharp shifts; after a decrease in the early middle ages, it picked up again around 900, and tripled in size between then and 1300, after which the Black Death halved it again. This had an effect on agricultural production, which, by and large, followed these developments quite closely, the central middle ages being a period of intensification and land clearance, and the late middle ages being a period in which agrarian specialisation became more widespread, as there was a less intense demand for grain as the basic staple for human life. The long boom also produced a commercial complexity, focused on Flanders and northern Italy, which was sufficiently well based that it could survive the Black Death, and indeed increase its geographical range in the later middle ages. Economic activity was much more broadly based at the end of the middle ages than it had been at the beginning, then, and it was beginning to lessen even the long-standing economic differences between north and south.

As to cultural change: the Christianisation of most of Europe, spreading outwards from the ex-Roman provinces to the north and east of the continent in the second quarter of the middle ages in particular, was one major shift, even if, as I argued in Chapter 5, its effects were very regionally diverse. It brought the structures of the church with it, which meant that from the twelfth century onwards there was a single ecclesiastical hierarchy which covered the whole of Latin Europe, although not the more decentralised Orthodox east. Church leaders tried to use that structure to impose consistent patterns of belief, or at least observance, across over half the continent. They failed – Europe never became culturally homogeneous, a point I will come back to – but it is at least significant that they tried. Perhaps more important than this, however, was the slow extension of literate practices across more and more of Europe, and also, from the thirteenth century onwards, to a greater range of social strata: from lay élites to townspeople, then even, occasionally, to a few sectors of the peasant majority.
...

If we focus on these sociopolitical changes, in fact, we can see a particularly clear division between the first half of the medieval millennium and the second. The political developments in Latin Europe after the Black Death which we have looked at in the last two chapters had earlier roots, but these went back, above all, to the eleventh century. The eleventh century indeed marked more of a break in the history of medieval western Europe than any century after the fifth, in several crucial respects. Before then, despite the dramatic regionalisation of the post-Roman world, which led to the loss of wealth and power of most rulers and élites (except in part in Francia), the larger early medieval kingdoms, Spain, Francia and Italy, had inherited from the Roman empire a political practice and a sense of a public power which lasted for centuries. This public world led to some very ambitious politics indeed under the Carolingians, when kings, lay aristocrats and clerics worked more tightly together to further political ‘reform’ than in any other period of the middle ages.
...

In the west, the political practice of the eleventh century onwards was however very different. We have seen in the last half of this book how it initially depended on three underlying changes. First, the breakdown of Carolingian political structures in much of western Europe, into a network of counties, lordships and local urban and rural communities, in the so-called ‘feudal revolution’, at different moments between 950 and 1100 or so. Second, the reconstruction of political power in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which was henceforth, however, set against the cellular network of these partly autonomous communities. Third, the long economic boom of the tenth to thirteenth centuries, just mentioned, which left a Europe with considerable economic prosperity and flexibility, continuing into the later middle ages. The second and third of these, put together, allowed the development of more complex forms of taxation by some rulers, which in their turn allowed for the expansion of new strata of paid officials, who were more often trained, in universities and other schools, institutions by now themselves made possible because a more complex economy could sustain them. Most of these developments can soon be found, in slightly different forms, in the Ottoman empire as well; but there the processes of development were more continuous, after the decentralisation of the period 1200–1400 in south-eastern Europe, for the Ottomans inherited so much from Byzantium – notwithstanding sharp changes, of course, in their religion and political language.

And this brings us back to the late middle ages. By 1350 in the west, legal expertise was sufficiently widely spread that written law could become more visible in localities, a process that would extend literate practices further and further into the different communities of Europe. And after 1350 the steady extension of tax-raising powers itself contributed in much of Europe to the development of communities of taxpayers, whether cities or newly appearing collective kingdom-wide bodies, that is to say parliaments. But a greater access to writing, and a reaction to a growing intrusiveness of central power, themselves contributed to the coherence of local communities, and to their capacity to react against outsiders, whether rival communities, out-groups, or the state. Rulers were thus stronger, but so were the communities of the ruled. In this environment, the need to consent to taxation, and often legislation, created a public sphere which after 1350/1400 was stronger than it had ever been before in the middle ages, except in the high days of Carolingian assembly politics.
...

To repeat, however: this apparently Europe-wide politics was not homogeneous. European cultures, it is true, had moved closer together in some ways, as communications, and indeed commerce, linked nearly everywhere, at least at a couple of removes – and that again included the Ottoman world too, and even Muscovy, where Italian architects were building churches and secular buildings in the Moscow Kremlin from the 1470s.1 The fact that Scandinavian kings in their dealings with their parliaments sometimes look as if they are trying to imitate the immensely richer and more powerful kings of France is a sign that some practices did indeed cover almost the whole of Europe. Perhaps only Lithuania and Muscovy at one edge of Europe, and the Irish princes at the other, had by now presuppositions about political action which would have been really unfamiliar to other Europeans. Some form of parliamentary politics was close to universal, at least in Latin Europe, and intellectuals moved about in it everywhere, including to (and from) Poland, Sweden and Scotland. But, once again, this was a far from complete process. The growth of vernaculars, which reintroduced problems of translation, actively impeded it; so did the revival of nationally focused churches in the fifteenth century, and the increasing antagonism between the Ottomans and the Latin polities. We have seen that similarities in political practices covered up major differences in political resources. And other aspects of local society and culture travelled much less well than the patterns of politics.
...

But these divergences do not detract from the basic argument of the second half of this book. Which is that the strength of local, cellular, politics, plus the extension of literate practices to ever-wider social groups, plus a continuing high-equilibrium economic system, plus a newly intrusive state, made possible by taxation, communications and, once again, literacy, helped to create political systems across Europe which allowed engagement, nearly everywhere. This marks the last century of the middle ages, not the supposedly late medieval features which mark so many textbooks: crisis, or anxiety, or the Renaissance, or a sense that the continent was, somehow, waiting for the Reformation and European global conquest. And it is one of the main elements that the medieval period handed on to future generations.
  #42  
Old 05-09-2020, 04:34 PM
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Did the article link to a Part-Two follow-on I neglected to click?
Huh! You are quite right. The second part of that article is missing.

I tracked it down:

The F-Word - The Problem with Feudalism (Part 1 - 5 pages)

The F-Word - The Problem with Feudalism (Part 2 - 3 pages)
  #43  
Old 05-09-2020, 05:24 PM
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Huh! You are quite right. The second part of that article is missing.

I tracked it down:

The F-Word - The Problem with Feudalism (Part 1 - 5 pages)

The F-Word - The Problem with Feudalism (Part 2 - 3 pages)
Ok, I haven't read on yet, but that explains why the first part ended with such a crucial cliffhanger .
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  #44  
Old 05-09-2020, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenWyvern View Post
Huh! You are quite right. The second part of that article is missing.

I tracked it down:

The F-Word - The Problem with Feudalism (Part 1 - 5 pages)

The F-Word - The Problem with Feudalism (Part 2 - 3 pages)
Quote:
Originally Posted by EinsteinsHund View Post
Ok, I haven't read on yet, but that explains why the first part ended with such a crucial cliffhanger .
Well, in the meantime I have read the rest of the article, and while it expanded on the theory a bit, it still didn't provide much of alternative explanations. I understand that the classes weren't as rigidly separated as we've learned at school, and that social mobility was looser than we might have thought, but there still had to be some kind of common thread in social relationships across Europe in that time (even if you would just restrict it to, say, the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century, for example). And the article doesn't really come up with convincing alternatives.
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  #45  
Old 05-09-2020, 06:35 PM
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Just for kicks, and because I have a 1953 Compton's Encyclopedia, I looked up "continental drift." There was just one reference, tucked in the article titled "Earth," to wit:
The other theories include a proposal that when the Earth was molten, heavier regions sank to become ocean bottom and lighter ones were pushed upward, forming continents. I guess that's not wrong, but not sufficient.

There is no entry in this edition under Sea Floor Spreading, Seafloor Spreading, or even Spreading which lends credence to Colibri's timeline of acceptance ca. 1965.
Yeah, it's an interesting contrast with evolution. Darwin established that evolution occurred, postulated a mechanism that upon further discussion appeared to have serious flaws, so others (Haeckel in particular) postulated other mechanisms - but no one of note doubted that the phenomenon was real (and of course, once Mendel's work was rediscovered, Darwin's mechanism was recognized as being real as well).

Wegener proposed a mechanism (continental drift) to explain the matchup between coastlines of the various continents. This mechanism had obvious flaws and the matchups tended to be dismissed as coincidence. Mid-20th century however, additional evidence (maps of the continental shelves that matched even better than the coastlines, and magnetic reversals), and a better mechanism (plate tectonics) led to relatively quick acceptance of the new theory.

Lessons learned -

Proving that a phenomenon is real and requires explanation is different than establishing that a possible explanation is right. Phenomena that have no known reasonable explanation generally fall into scientists' "Let's think about this later" file. A good explanation explains a lot of different phenomena not previously recognized as being related.
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Old 05-10-2020, 12:34 AM
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Just a note: Theories are not "promoted" to laws. A law is an equation.* A theory is a testable model supported by the preponderance of data. (Except legal "theories", but I won't go there.) A hypothesis lacks such support but invites exploration. Theories evolve as more data creeps in. As suggested, acceptance of new models may require "paradigm shifts" i.e. the old-school folks croak and the youngsters muddle drive on. See Kuhn. Also see a philosophical view of scientific change

* All equations are correct if elements are properly defined. Thus Ohm's Law: E=IR with known units of electrical potential, current, and resistance. And 1+1=3 for large enough values of 1.
  #47  
Old 05-10-2020, 02:11 AM
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For instance, it was known long before Pythagoras that a 3-4-5 triangle has a right angle, and probably also known for some other triples like 5-12-13.
No "probably" about it: it's incontrovertible that the general concept of a "Pythagorean" triple, including many different specific numerical triples was known to Old-Babylonian scholars nearly 4000 years ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
So when Pythagoras came up with a proof for the general rule, it would have been no surprise.
It's highly unlikely that Pythagoras himself (if that somewhat legendary philosopher ever actually existed) made any kind of breakthrough in "coming up with a proof for the general rule". Some sort of geometric rationale for the general rule was probably widely known for centuries or millennia before him, even if it didn't have the more rigorous form that it acquired in, e.g., the later Elements of Euclid.

Logical mathematical demonstration isn't something that a few named early Greek philosophers just suddenly invented out of nothing, even though later Greek historians sometimes described it that way.
  #48  
Old 05-10-2020, 03:33 AM
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Let's take one example:
"Why did the Roman empire fall? The short answer is that it didn’t."
  — Prof. Christopher Wickham, Medieval Europe (2016)
OK, what happened when Constantinople fell? More to the point: If the Roman Empire never fell... where is it? I get that this is meant as a joke, more-or-less, but it does lead into my actual point:

Quote:
[The] idea that 'barbarians' conquered Rome at some specific point in time, and that there was then a 'dark age' is simply wrong.
There's a fundamental disconnect here:

Historians are reacting against people who think the Dark Ages meant European Civilization completely fell down and was replaced with Vikings torching picturesque Irish monasteries and everyone living in shit. That's wrong. That's very wrong. So historians want to break that idea quickly, and deny the existence of any so-called "Dark Ages" in the strongest terms... even though, yeah, the period preceding 1000 CE wasn't as nice to the peoples of Western Europe as previous eras might have been, and the Roman Empire lost Rome around that time, and other little things which seem a bit dark to those of us who see cities as a hallmark of civilization.

Now, add a bunch of people who apparently cannot see shades of gray, and watch the historical method burn. Burn like Lindisfarne.
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  #49  
Old 05-10-2020, 05:21 AM
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No "probably" about it: it's incontrovertible that the general concept of a "Pythagorean" triple, including many different specific numerical triples was known to Old-Babylonian scholars nearly 4000 years ago.
...
Logical mathematical demonstration isn't something that a few named early Greek philosophers just suddenly invented out of nothing, even though later Greek historians sometimes described it that way.
The Pythagorean theorem was known in ancient Mesopotamia, ancient China, ancient India and ancient Egypt. Some of these ancient cultures could also solve quadratic equations, and so on. BUT the idea of theorems rigorously proved from axioms seems to have been an invention unique to classical Greece, beginning with Thales, the Pythagoreans, Hippocrates of Chios, Theaetetus, Euclid, etc. No?
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Old 05-10-2020, 07:39 AM
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The concept of proving things logically of course emerged gradually over the course of time. But for any individual mathematical theorem, there was still some single individual who first proved it. The guy who first proved what we now call the Pythagorean Theorem might or might not have been the leader of that weird cult, and he might or might not have been named Pythagoras, and it's quite possible that his true identity has been lost to history. But he was somebody. My guess would be that it was some lower-ranking member of Pythagoras' cult, but that's just a guess. And Euclid, the best-known of the classical Greek mathematicians, mostly just compiled the work of others whose names we mostly don't remember (though he probably had some novel ways of proving things that had already been proven in other ways, and he probably advanced knowledge in some other ways).

In any event, though, special cases of that equation were certainly known before that formal proof, and the general formula may well have been known, so the proof wasn't completely revolutionary.
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