After making many discoveries and inventions, people have gained legendary status in the world. In no particular order and without having favourites, let us consider some of them, namely Issac Newton, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein.
As we are aware, each of these have legendary positions in world history, particularly in science and technology. But, is it correct to state, as I have heard a couple of times, that their discoveries and inventions would not have happened at all, had they not been discovered / invented by these people? In other words, many a time, it is said that these discoveries / inventions would not have happened if they had not been discovered / invented by these people.
I believe that this particular point of view is not correct. While giving due credit to these stalwarts, it is incorrect to state that discoveries / inventions would not have happened without these people.
In case of Issac Newton, it is stated that he discovered gravity. But, the phenomenon of gravity was known to a certain extent even before Issac Newton postulated it. What Newton did is to study the phenomenon and quantify it using mathematics. Similarly, Calculus was attributed to Newton for a long time. But, Leibniz was also developing similar concepts around the same time.
In recent time, Steve Jobs is considered to be a true visionary, which is very true. But, stating that inventions like the GUI or the smartphone would not have happened, is quite incorrect. GUI technology was invented by Xerox PARC and was demonstrated to Steve and his team. Steve had the vision to see the potential of that technology, to which its creators were also blind. Similarly, Microsoft had a smartphone for quite some time and also had a ‘tablet’. But they completely lost the plot by insisting that the ‘Desktop’ metaphor be followed on all devices, irrespective of their form factor and suitability. To top that, for the mobile versions, Microsoft created incompatible versions of one of their best selling products – MS Office.
What I believe is this. Inventions and discoveries would have happened in due course without these people, but the course of science, technology and history and the manifestation of the discovery / invention would have been very different.