The Function of Socialization in Social Evolution

Chapter 3: Origination as a Function of Socialization
I. The Social Heritage

Ernest W. Burgess

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The rôle of socialization in invention is not confined to securing the survival of the innovation. The social mental organization of the group conditions and governs the originating process as well. Different phases and products of the socio-psychic activity, as the state of knowledge of the group, the social organization, social stimuli and demand are fundamental elements in the invention activity. These various interrelations of the person and the group provide the individual with his stock of ideas, afford opportunity for specialization, and stimulate the activity of the inventor. The further question remains, In what concrete way and to what extent does socialization function in the act of origination?

First of all, we should recognize that invention, like the other aspects of human activity, is a mental process. In every inventive act, psychic factors, such as memory, association, and imagination, are the forces immediately operative. The influence of differences in congenital equipment in invention, particularly in determining the personnel of the inventors, cannot be overlooked in any study of invention, although for the present analysis these differences must be assumed rather than analyzed. What is important for our purpose is how the mode of participation in the inter-mental activity of the group facilitates or impedes the play of the mental processes immediately involved.

"Invention," says Thomas, "means that the mind sees a round-about way of reaching an end when it cannot be reached directly. It brings into play the associative memory, and involves the recognition of analogies."[1] Jevons gives an objective statement of the inventive act : "It would be an error to suppose that the great discoverer seizes at once upon the truth, or has any unerring method of divining it. . . . Fertility of imagination and abundance of guesses at truth are among the first requisites of discovery; but the erroneous guesses must be many times as numerous as those which prove well founded." [2]

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An analysis of these definitions will disclose other factors than the neural involved in invention. According to these statements, invention cannot be called "a flash of lightning out of a clear sky." Such phrases as "the associative memory," "fertility of imagination," "abundance of guesses," imply that the content of ideational experience and the development of mental ability, as well as the congenital neural equipment, condition invention. The content of experience and mental development, in turn, indicate the presence of social factors. The ideas and ideals of persons, the methods of life-control, whether mystical or mechanical, the activities of the person and the group are the material and mechanism of the inter-mental texture and process. Even if, as we admit, the energy and the potential capacity of the individual are largely determined by his neural endowment, yet his neural and mental development and organization take place in the social environment through the play of factors which we are about to analyze.

These social influences may be considered from three stand-points. First of all, the individual depends for his stock of ideas almost entirely upon the group. Then, the possible efficiency of the individual is relative to the degree of the division of labor and to the scope of personal freedom. Finally, the direction of the attention of the individual is largely determined by social stimuli and demand. We shall now seek to show that these three factors, namely, the state of the social heritage, the character of the social organization, the nature of social stimuli and demand, not only are phases of socialization, but also make possible, facilitate, and direct the play of individual initiative and originality.

The social heritage is not itself the socializing process, but rather the product, the increment of socialization. For example, communication is an inter-mental activity ; but language, the symbols and means of communication, is the product of the process. The social heritage, the outcome of the associated life of men, is the capital which each succeeding generation receives from the past. Considered abstractly, the social capital is the stock of ideas. Ward[3] has emphasized the paradox that, while only a few heirs benefit at present by participation in the common inheritance of scientific knowledge, the admittance of all on equal terms would not diminish the share. The question, therefore, to what extent participation in

( 23) the social estate conditions the augmentation of the social capital is of first-rate importance in social policy.

The dependence of the originator upon the stock of ideas current in the group shows itself in three ways : (a) in the organic relation of the new to the old idea; (b) in the development of a particular attitude toward ideas ; (c) in the participation of the person in- the fund of knowledge. In all these cases it will be seen that the person as an innovating factor necessarily participates in the social heritage before he can add an iota to the social capital.

a) The physical resources of the globe, land in the economic. sense, have been the common material for the activities of thousands of generations of men. All human changes are transformations and transpositions of these forces and substances. Yet these mutations, petty singly, but epoch-making in their cumulative effect, constitute the social capital of each generation. This social heritage—ideas, methods, tools—so becomes the medium and the material for personal expression that all further modification is impossible without its use. Thus, the language of the tribe twists the tongue of the child ; and a new word or a new mode of expression is determined largely by the roots available and by the idioms in use. This control which present copies exert over modification evinces the strength of the influence which folk-ways of thinking and acting exert over the person. A forcible statement of the dominance of folk-products over the course of invention has been given by Vierkandt. "Every civilization represents a sum of fixed forms. Whether we think of language, custom, law, technique, industry, or of political and social conditions, or of art, science, and religion, all these cultural goods constitute definite grooves in which the life of the whole moves. Civilization consists of a series of objective structures, which are free from the caprice and the accidental judgment of the individual, and which stand over against him as a given and coercive force." [4]

Vierkandt's conception of the continuity of culture stresses, first, the survival of the cultural element in the group, a process which we have already emphasized; secondly, and primarily, the independence of the evolution of culture of the individual, his dependence upon it, and its arbitrary control of subsequent origination. There is a certain advantage, perhaps, in regarding the sum-total of technique

( 24) as the extra-organic equipment of the group. Vierkandt, however, because of this objective point of view, fails to emphasize sufficiently the fact that the stock of ideas becomes psychically possessed by the individual through personal appropriation by means of the processes of imitation, suggestion, desire, and habit. It is not the fact of the continuity of invention that is significant, so much as it is that the totality, of human technique comprising all the elements of culture is not only the result of the interaction and integration of the individual and collective activity of generations of men, but also constitutes, at any given time, the attained level of culture upon which further progress is dependent.

A few concrete illustrations will help to show how custom and habit and the group store of ideas hamper and confine the free play of invention, determining the actual course of improvement. The organic connection between the new and the old is shown in the structure of many innovations. In the transition from basketry to pottery, the ceramic worker appears to have imitated the structure of the woven object.[5] Many of the geometric designs in pottery are traced back by the ethnologists to pictures of animals and men.[6] The first automobiles resembled carriages ; the railroad cars in Europe are a slight modification of the old road coaches.[7] The tyranny of known processes over attempts at new processes is strikingly illustrated in the transition from handwork to machinery. The principle upon which many of the earlier experiments in mechanical sewing were based was that of the through-and-through stitch with short thread. "This principle was persistently followed up by inventors long after the introduction of the eye-pointed needle and continuous thread." [8] A phonograph was constructed by Faber in direct imitation of the human vocal cords, lungs, and esophagus [9]

These instances indicate in a concrete way the control which the materials supplied by the group exert upon the person. The objects, the copies at his hand, are his; only because of his membership in the community. His share in this mental life of the group provides

( 25) him with the stuff of thought and the tools of action, but at the same time stamps its mark upon his personal contribution. His bow and arrow with all the improvement which he can add still disclose a long line of ancestors, just as the Springfield rifle of today exhibits its pedigree from the shotgun of the Middle Ages. The continuity of invention reveals in a cold, objective way that the improvements of the individual rest upon the achievements of the race.

b) Up to this point, our attention has been upon social heredity as a whole ; we must now distinguish between method and content. Method itself is also an idea, a definite way of utilizing the content of experience. What, then, is the influence of method on the inventive process? Is method in invention something acquired, or is it some-thing innate in man?

History has clearly revealed that the attitude of the experimenter to the body of facts presented to him by his predecessors and con-temporaries, or his attitude to the new percepts and ideas or new combinations of ideas which rise to his consciousness, is of utmost importance for discovery and invention. Thus the use of magic by the savage was a waste of effort; the theological interpretation of reality in the Middle Ages distracted attention from the present to the future life and delayed progress. Modern civilization is the outcome of the empirical movement which, under the impulse of Bacon, Descartes, and Comte, loosed physics, psychology, and sociology from their metaphysical moorings, and directed them into the scientific course. The moment of the self-conscious employment of the scientific method, observation, experimentation, and comparison, for the control of life, rather than the Discovery of America,the Capture of Constantinople, or the Collapse of Feudalism, marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Era.

The simplicity of the scientific method would seem to indicate that it was an original personal possession. "The whole secret of the art of discovery . . . [is as follows] : The entire field of possibilities is divided into sections which can be controlled by the means at our command, and each section is separately examined. By this method the particular part of the field which contains the solution of the problem cannot escape discovery."[10] In short, the scientific

( 26) method is no more nor less than controlled trial and error. In spite of the simplicity of the scientific method, the long repression of science by magic, theology, and metaphysics indicates that the employment of the scientific method is not innate, but a socially acquired characteristic. So far from being a natural faculty of the human mind, the acquirement of the scientific method has been one of the most difficult, as it has proved the most dynamic of human achievements. The difficulty is only increased by the fact that any specific application of the experimental method requires the development of a new technique for the specific problem. This technique is often no more than a simple idea. Yet numerous examples .may be brought forward of the credulity even of scientists outside of their own field or in an undeveloped territory. The reader of Hobbes, Berkeley, and Hume, not to multiply these names with those of philosophers before their time, is struck with amazement at their abrupt change of attitude in passing from an examination of natural to spiritual data. Even the great skeptic Hume, who maintained that "the proof against a miracle . . . is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined," [11] stated "that, upon the whole, we may conclude that the Christian Religion . . . was at first attended with miracles." [12] We can find conspicuous examples of the same scientific inconsistency in our own time. Sir Alfred Wallace, codiscoverer of the doctrine of evolution, was deceived[13] by the tricks of spurious mediums which less able men, by the introduction of controlled experiments, were competent to expose. The German "thinking" horse, "Clever Hans," baffled scientists until a young student devised a simple control[14] —merely the introduction of a screen between the horse and the observer.

The scientific attitude is essential to scientific discovery and mechanical invention. The extension of this method, developed in the narrow habitual, perceptual, and mechanical areas of life, to the solution of all the problems of the universe was a co-operative process in space and time. While the achievement of the scientific

( 27) method for the total control of life was a difficult undertaking worthy the united efforts of the loftiest men of genius of all the ages, its simplicity and practicability render its diffusion easy. The possession of the scientific attitude is the criterion which distinguishes the mod-ern from the primitive and the mediaeval man.

c) Not only does previous invention influence further innovation, not only is the scientific attitude indispensable for rational progress in technical control, but the actual participation of the individual in the social estate and in the socializing process is functionally related to invention. Historically, the higher stages of socialization may be divided according to the development of the technique of communication : (x) communication by language, (y) ability to read and write, (z) accessibility to scientific knowledge. Each of these stages represents a higher degree of socialization, and each, in turn, contributes an increasing quota to human progress.

(x) Talk is the great instrument of civilization and socialization. The capacity for utilizing the experience of others is one of the biggest factors in the development of personal efficiency. For millenniums, oral communication was the means by which the social capital was transmitted from one generation to the next. Only in the nineteenth century have reading and writing become the possession of the mass of the people. Does illiteracy constitute a barrier to invention?

The distinction should be made between education in general and school education. We are too prone to make the ability to control the printed page and the pen the test for ability to control the actual problems of life. Many of the greatest inventions[15] have been made by men who were illiterate or in possession of the mere rudiments of a common school education. It is only recently that writing and reading have had any considerable part in technical progress. Brindley, who achieved the great engineering feat of his day, the construction of the Manchester Canal, "remained to the last illiterate, hardly able to write and quite unable to spell."[16] Hargreaves, the inventor of the spinning-jenny, was a hand-loom weaver, "illiterate and

( 28) humble."[17] Edison, to mention a living inventor, had little formal school instruction. But all the men enumerated here were highly educated men, all expert in a particular division of practical mechanical activity, all closely in touch with the needs of society. Books are only one method—and a highly artificial, sophisticated manner at that—of participating in the accumulated store of knowledge. Communication is the medium by which knowledge is appropriated ; the particular method may be talking or reading. While a person is not excluded by illiteracy from the rivalry for achievement, he is placed under a severe handicap.

(y) This relation of formal education to achievement shows the advantage of the conscious over the unconscious control of initiating the person into the knowledge of the group. Even with our failure to adapt the content of education to the actual needs and life of society, our system of public schools has promoted the appropriating process. But the mere possession of the symbols of reading and writing is not a guaranty of accessibility to scientific information. At the present time, the augmentation of the scientific estate implies the highest possible degree of the integration of the inter-mental process. Participation in scientific discovery is becoming more and more an exceedingly artificial function made possible only by our complex socialization.

For any particular purpose the character of the knowledge acquired is important. Familiarity with Latin and Greek is not likely to be of much assistance in the improvement of industrial machinery. Mr. Crane's charge against college and technical education is quite largely justified if we accept his economic valuation of social ends. Of what practical value for an electrical engineer is three or four years spent in the study of higher mathematics when all the calculus he will use may be reduced to a page or two of formulae easily mastered in an hour or two by the average man of common school education? The poet may dispense with scientific information for a poem invention; the chemist, with familiarity with the latest phase of higher criticism; or the physician, with an acquaintance with the recent archaeological discoveries in Egypt. But a Shakespeare was not possible without a perfected technique of dramatic form and the intense social interest of his time in dra-

( 29) -matic representation. The same preconditions are necessary in science. Pasteur[18] had all the resources of chemistry at his command, and Harvey could not have made his epoch-making discovery without a complete mastery[19] of the anatomical knowledge of his age. So the ability to read, while not essential to mechanical invention, is the prerequisite to scientific discovery. The conscious use of the scientific method, acquaintance with, if not mastery of, all the important experimental work accomplished in a given department of science, are indispensable to original contribution to knowledge and are practically out of the reach of the man who has no control of written symbols.

(2) As important as the scientific body of knowledge is the technique which is evolved to control the experimentation. This technique consists of skill, method, and apparatus. The achievement of skill is facilitated by the personal contact of student and teacher. The question of apparatus involves objective preconditions. The establishment of physical laboratories is in general beyond the means of the individual scientist and must be provided by public or private institutions. One illustration will exhibit the conjunction of the inventor and the organized support of the community. The possession of such a refined instrument of measurement as the interferometer[20] devised by Michelson to detect movements through one five-millionth of an inch puts a scientist in a class all by himself in the solution of a problem demanding infinitesimal accuracy in the measurement of length or motion.

Scientific discovery and mechanical application not only require specialized knowledge and refined equipment, but are becoming increasingly dependent upon the ability to use mathematics either in minute measurement or in its higher theoretical forms. Mathematics, certainly no innate human accomplishment, is indispensable for many inventions. Comte recognized in mathematics the discipline fundamental to all sciences and the method common to all.

The rôle of the employment of mathematics in pure science is well stated by an anonymous writer in the Educational Review:

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"In the work of pure science, . . . mathematics is growingly important. It first became important in astronomy, where its field was immensely widened by the great Newton, leading to its crowning success in the discovery of Neptune by Leverrier and Adams. The next great success was in electricity, where Clerk Maxwell, by his brilliant mathematical instinct, was able to predict the existence of those electric waves in the ether which now form the basis of wireless telegraphy. Its latest achievements are the breaking up of the chemical atom, by radioactive action, into thousands of corpuscles, and the endowment of physicists with such infinitely delicate analytical apparatus that fragments of matter millions of times smaller than the smallest hitherto recognizable can now be measured and traced through the most complicated transformations. At the moment, it offers, in conjunction with the spectrum analysis, the prospect of a knowledge of the conditions in which one substance becomes converted into another. . . . . Mathematical work is therefore increasingly important in leading to scientific discovery." [21]

The employment of mathematics in practical inventions has resulted in more complete control of experimental conditions. The crude, empirical method of trial and error has given place to "pencil and paper" trial and error. "In the engineering world . . . the great use of mathematics is the shortening of the time taken in perfecting invention. . . . Mere trial and error might take years of time and more money than the whole invention would be worth, but by the right use of mathematics a prediction can be made of the relative proportions which the parts should bear to one another."[22] These illustrations from mathematics drive home the point that personal participation in the scientific heritage is necessary before even the loftiest natural genius can add an iota to the fund of scientific knowledge. A consideration of the conditions underlying the simultaneity of discovery and the utilization of the accidental in invention may clarify the rôle of the factors involved in the process.

The significance of the function of the state of knowledge in invention is revealed by the simultaneity of discovery or invention,

( 31) the situation where two or more men independently come upon an identical solution for the same problem. Even Galton, the sponsor for the theory of the irrepressibility of genius, could not shut his eyes to the implications of this fact. He says : "It is notorious that the same discovery is frequently made simultaneously and quite independently by different persons. . . . It would seem, that discoveries are usually made when the time is ripe for them; that is to say when the ideas from which they naturally flow are fermenting in the minds of many men."[23]

The phrases, "when ideas are floating in the air," "when the time is ripe," "the fermentation of ideas," indicate the presence of the inter-mental functioning which we call socialization. So independent is the invention of the individual inventor that Ross[24] has formulated the laws of invention. So little does the advance of science depend upon the personnel of its promoters that Thomas[25] points out that the retirement of the chemists of the first grade of importance would have only a transitory effect upon chemical progress. Let us analyze, then, this inter-mental ferment which even Galton recognizes as a factor in invention.

The most famous, as well as the most instructive, illustration of the simultaneity of invention is that connected with the names of Darwin and Wallace in their independent formulations of the hypothesis of the natural selection of the fittest in the struggle for existence as the explanation of organic evolution. The factors involved in this situation are typical of discovery and invention. All conditions seemed ripe for the formulation of the solution. The development of the natural sciences, of biology in particular, had arrived at a stage where the discovery could not be much longer averted. In the inter-mental tension between the conflicting old theories and the accumulating new facts, persons would be found competent to recognize and to state the new correlation. Indeed, attempts had already been made to harmonize theory with facts. Lamarck had shown the closeness of the adaptation of the organism to its environment and elaborated the theory of the variability of structure with change of function. The hypothesis of the descent of species from simple varieties had been formulated by "such

( 32) eminent naturalists as Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Dean Herbert, Professor Grant, von Buch, and some others." [26] The attention of natural scientists had been drawn to the question of the origin of the species, though both scientific and popular opinion was favor-able to the doctrine of "special creation." An immense body of facts was accumulating, and it was only a question of time when the underlying principle of classification would be pointed out. Certain striking coincidences in the conditions under which Darwin and Wallace independently arrived at the same conclusion only strengthen the recognition of the importance of social factors.

If the ripeness of time in this instance was dearly a social fact, so also was the requisite state of mind of the inventor. The solution of the problem could hardly have come from a person saturated with religious dogmas or under the narcotic influence of the prevailing theory, nor yet from a man without participation in the biological knowledge of his time. Neither Darwin nor Wallace was an academic biologist, though the former from a youth was in intimate relations with the leading English naturalists, and the latter had kept himself abreast of the literature of natural history.[27] Both men were familiar with, if not sympathetic toward, the dissent from the prevailing views. Darwin was acquainted with Lamarck's ideas and the Zoönomia of his grandfather in which similar views were expressed. Wallace had already accepted the theory of the author of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, in which the progressive development of species, both animal and plant, from primitive forms was maintained. Both confess their indebtedness to the work of Sir Charles Lyell, the great English geologist. Nor could the discovery have been made by a man without intimate personal acquaintance with biological phenomena. Each of the rivals for the honor of discovering the law of evolution was an early and enthusiastic collector[28] of zoölogical specimens. The turning-point in the lives of each and for the advancement of sciencewas a voyage in which the object of each was the study and collection of zoölogical or botanical specimens. Darwin's voyage to South America in 1831-36 and Wallace's trip to the Amazon in 1848-52

( 33) and the Malay Archipelago in 1854-62 forced on the attention of each the necessity for an explanation of the modification of species. As Darwin says : "During the voyage of the `Beagle' I had been deeply impressed by discovering in the Pampean formation great fossil animals, covered with armor like that on the existing armadillos ; secondly, in the manner by which closely allied animals re-place one another in proceeding southward over the continent; and, thirdly, by the manner in which they differ slightly on each island of the group; none of the islands appearing to be very ancient in a geological sense."[29] Wallace was struck[30] by the rigid dividing line in the Malay Archipelago which separated fauna as diverse as those of Africa and South America, even where the boundary passes between the islands closer together than others belonging to the same group.

But the final and indispensable precondition seems to have been a familiarity with the generalization of the relation of the increase of the food supply to the growth of population. In fact, both admit that they found the cue to the explanation in Malthus' Essay on the Principle of Population. Fifteen months after Darwin had commenced his great inquiry, a chance[31] reading of this book brought to his mind the function of the struggle for existence in the formation of new species. During an attack of intermittent fever, Wallace recalled[32] Malthus' theory read twelve years before, and the problem that had so long puzzled him was solved.

What is the conclusion to be drawn from this striking paralIelism of facts? A brief résumé will bring them to mind : (1) freedom from the dominant theological and academic dogma of special creation; (2) familiarity with the work of predecessors and con-temporaries ; (3) intimate connection with the phenomena of natural science; (4) special opportunity of investigation at first hand of recent geological changes ; (5) familiarity with Lyell's work, and more especially, with the Malthusian theory of the relation between population and food supply. All these factors taken together minimize the individual and magnify the social factors. Points (1), (2), and (5) indicate that the nature of the participation of the individual in the social heritage facilitated and promoted scientific discovery. No man who believed in the literal accuracy of the

( 34) Genesis account of creation or who was unacquainted with the scientific advance of the time could possible have made the generalization.Points (3) and (4) show that the social organization provided the leisure and opportunity for personal specialization upon which the discovery rested. Only a highly complex social organization enables certain of its members to spend years in collecting zoölogical specimens. The inter-mental aspect of private property and inheritance, not to mention other relations involved in our present social order, was the prerequisite of any such unproductive activity. There-fore, though I do not deny that "the flash of similarity . . . between the rivalry for food in nature and the rivalry for man's selection was too recondite to have occurred to any but exceptional minds," as James asserts,[33] I do maintain that the social factors are quite as essential and, in this case, paramount. Elsewhere, James recognizes this other aspect. "Some thoughts act almost like mechanical centers of crystallization; facts duster of themselves about them. Such a thought was that of the gradual growth of all things, by natural processes, out of natural antecedents." [34]

The list of simultaneous inventions and discoveries might be pro-longed indefinitely. We mention only certain ones of common knowledge. Darwin[35] assigns priority by publication to E. Forbes of a theory earlier developed independently by him in which both men explain by means of the Glacial Period the marked resemblances of the fauna and flora in the Arctic region and on distant mountain tops. The independent reference by both Adams and Leverrier of the minute irregularities of the orbit of Uranus to a hypothetical planet whose position they indicated[36] will suffice to close the case for scientific discovery. In mechanical invention, the simultaneous perfection of the telephone by Bell and Gray, and that of the telegraph by Morse in America, Steinheil in Germany, Cooke and Wheatstone in England, represent the numerous instances in which priority is difficult of determination.

The rôle of the accidental in invention is sometimes urged as an argument against the dependence of invention upon acquired knowledge. The objection assumes that invention is often a mere coincidence, a "happy chance."Bain indicates the fallacy of this position when he directs attention to the factors determining both

( 35) the occurrence of the accident and its utilization: "The inventions of the scarlet dye, of glass, of soap, of gunpowder, could have come only by accident; but the accident, in most of them, would probably fall into the hands of men engaged in numerous trials upon the material involved."[37] The ability of the person to utilize the accident is the vital factor, and an examination of the typical instances of the part played by accident will indicate that the mental discipline necessary to take advantage of the accident is the result of participation in the science and activities of the group.

It is true that a cut finger[38] turned Nobel's attention to collodion, and it was an impulse of the moment, no doubt, that led him to pour it into some nitroglycerine. This accident, if you wish to call it so, gave him an active absorbent for dynamite. Yet all the materials with which he was working, all his expert training, the opportunity to devote himself to this special pursuit, were the result of his relation to the inter-mental unity which makes the achievements of all men in the past the basis of future achievement. The accident simply shortened the time of eventual discovery. Then, too, was it mere chance which enabled Edison to perceive[39] in the humming noise emitted by the passing of the indented paper over a rotating cylinder under a tracing point—an apparatus designed to repeat Morse characters—a resemblance to human speech? No, this association of ideas which resulted in the phonograph was due to his fertile and disciplined imagination. And this discipline of his mental powers was largely a social product derived from the friction of his mind with the minds of other men. We read that a mere accident in the home circle, the chance upsetting of a mixture of rubber and sulphur,[40] was responsible for the discovery of the process of vulcanization which renders rubber insensible to both heat and cold. This cursory account overlooks the following facts : (1) that Goodyear was actively engaged at the time in solving this problem; and (2) that he was working on the basis of the previous labors of Hayward. The tendency of the human mind is to

( 36) neglect the fundamental commonplace factors in invention and to seize upon and to emphasize the sensational and the personal.

Similar to the rôle of accident in invention is the suggestion utilized from folk-practice, except that here the group origin of the discovery is undeniable. Jenner's prolonged study of vaccination was due[41] to the fact that his attention was called to the belief of the English country folk in the efficacy of cowpox as a preventive of smallpox. Whatever are the merits of the sour-milk cure for old age, its discovery was the outcome of a vacation[42] spent by Metchnikoff in the Caucasus Mountains during which he associated the longevity of the inhabitants with their sour-milk diet. The utilization of ribbed and maze glass to increase effective light was the discovery[43] of an American visitor in an English factory, surprised by the fact that the reason for the use of rough glass was because of its local reputation for better and more uniform light. In all these cases cited, a practice is in common use in a restricted area : in the first two instances a specialist, in the last case a man keenly alive to commercial possibilities, stumbles upon a group practice ; in all three cases a vast amount of experimentation is undertaken before the discovery is perfected and given to the world. The decisive moment in all these instances seems to have been the moment of actual contact between the isolated group mind and the highest integration of verifiable human experience as em-bodied in the mind of the specialist.

This examination of inventions where accidents have apparently played an important part reveals the fact that the accident is the lesser factor in the situation. The dominant and dynamic factors are, first, the direction of attention, and, secondly, the special knowledge of the inventor, both of which, as has been indicated, are organically related to personal participation in the thinking and the action of the group.

The study of the simultaneity of discovery, and the rôle of the accidental in invention simply enforce the truth that the personal functioning in the social heritage is the decisive factor in scientific

( 34) discovery and mechanical application. That the knowledge which the individual possesses is social in its origin ; that the knowledge-getting process of which the person is a part is a social activity has been recognized over and over again. We close this part of the discussion with such a statement of the dependence of the individual upon the group. "The mass of our knowledge," says Patten, "we derive at second hand from the society of which we are members. Acquired knowledge is not a part of our heredity, nor are its data ever fully presented to the senses. Each generation impresses its thought, language and civilization on the next. The social process on which the continuation of this knowledge depends is outside of individuals and acts according to its own laws. A child growing up in such a society has his ideas shaped and the content of his knowledge determined by the contrasts and agreements which the social process presents and enforces. The mass of our knowledge is derived from our civilization and not from personal experience. The testing of acquired knowledge by individuals is incomplete, and could not of itself be made the basis of its reliability."[44] A mathematical estimate of the ratio of importance of the individual and social factors is offered by Mr. Bellamy. "All that a man produces today more than did his cave-dwelling ancestor, he produces by virtue of the accumulated achievements, inventions, and improvements of the intervening generations, together with the social and industrial machinery, which is their legacy. . . Nine hundred and ninety-nine parts out of the thousand of every man's produce are the result of his social inheritance and environment."[45]


  1. Source Book For Social Origins, 1909, pp. 166-167.
  2. Principles of Science, 1874, p. 577.
  3. Applied Sociology 1906, p. 300.
  4. Stetigkeit im Kulturwandel, 1908, p. 103.
  5. Holmes, “Form and Ornament in Ceramic Art,” in Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, IV (1882-83), 499, 461.
  6. Pitt-Rivers, The Evolution of Culture, 1906, pp. 39-44.
  7. Iles, op. cit., pp. 1170118.
  8. Twelfth Census, loc. cit., p. 414.
  9. Iles, op. cit., p. 343.
  10. Ostwald, "Art of Discovery," in the Scientific American Supplement, LXX (1910), 123-24, translated from Die Forderung des Tages, 1910, p. 158; see also his Erfinder and Entdecker, 1908.
  11. Hume, Essays, edited by Green and Grose, 1889, II, 93.
  12. Ibid., p. 108.
  13. My Life, 1905, II, 293-367.
  14. Pfungst, Clever Hans (Rahn's trans., 1911).
  15. Philips, "Relation of the Course of Study to Higher Wages," in Education, XXVI (1906), 470-73, classifies the odd score of greatest inventors as follows : illiterate, 1; no education, 11; rudimentary education, 5; college, 4.
  16. Dictionary of National Biography, VI, 345.
  17. Baines, History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain, 1835, p. 156.
  18. Pasteur recognized this when he said, "In the field of observation chance only favors those who are prepared."—Encyclopaedia Britannica. XX, 893.
  19. Tarde's Laws of Imitation (Parsons' trans., 1903), pp. 44-45.
  20. Iles, op. cit., p. 214.
  21. "Influence of Mathematics on Scientific Discovery," in the Educational Review, XXXIX (1910), 355-56.
  22. Ibid., p. 353.
  23. Hereditary Genius, 2d ed., 1892, p. 185.
  24. Social Psychology, 1908, pp. 359-60.
  25. Sex and Society, p. 261.
  26. Wallace, Darwinism, 1889, p. 6.
  27. Wallace, op. cit., I, chaps, xx—xxii; Life and Letters of Charles Dar-win, 1888, I, 83.
  28. Wallace, op. cit., I, 237; Life and Letters, I, 38ff.
  29. Life and Letters, I, 82.
  30. Wallace, op. cit., I, 358-59.
  31. Life and Letters, I, 83.
  32. Wallace, op. cit., I, 361-62.
  33. Psychology, 1890, II,360-61.  
  34. Memories and Studies, 1911, p. 124.
  35. Life and Letters, I, 88.
  36. Iles, op. cit., p. 378.
  37. Bain, Senses and Intellect, 1868, 3d ed., p. 596.
  38. Iles, op. cit., p. 411.
  39. Edison, "The Perfected Phonograph," in the North American Review, CXLVI (1888), 643.
  40. Twelfth Census, loc. cit., III, 777.
  41. Vierkandt, op. cit., p. 22.
  42. Williams, "Metchnikoff, 'Seeker after Eternal Youth,'" in the Cosmopolitan, LIII(1912), 440—46; cf. Metchnikoff, The Prolongation of Life (R. C. Mitchell's trans., 1908).
  43. lles, op. cit., pp. 72—73.
  44. "Pragmatism and Social Science," in the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, VIII (1911), 655-56.
  45. "What Nationalism Means," in the Contemporary Review, LVIII (1890), 18.

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