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December 1960

Patterns of Discovery : An Inquiry into the Conceptual Foundations of Science.

Arch Intern Med. 1960;106(6):908-909. doi:10.1001/archinte.1960.03820060160039

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There has been surprisingly little systematic analysis of mental or other processes by which discoveries are made or of the role of theory in leading to scientific, and especially medical, discoveries. A great many poets have written about their own inspiration. Lowe's magnificent "Road to Xanadu" comes close to telling us exactly where Coleridge got many of his ideas for the "Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan." Some biographies of scientists include comments on the circumstances under which inspiration occurred and led to important new insights in medicine. But for the most part there is silence and a void. What people forget so regularly is that discovery is not very apt to come from the analysis of vast quantities of more or less mechanically collected data; that ideas and the insights which go to make up theory and lead to discovery have just as real impetus from inspiration as do the

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