“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” -Isaac Newton


COMMENT: A team of researchers recently wrote a computer algorithm to identify what the most creative scientific papers all have in common. There were no clear trends in terms of length, subject matter, or author seniority. However, what these articles do share is an approach: they are significantly more likely to include references to past papers that have never been cited together before. Thus, the most innovative papers are ones in which the authors have combined existing ideas in novel ways. They did not create innovation out of thin air. This trend repeats itself throughout history. Gutenberg openly admitted that the printing press was simply the combination of a wine press and a coin punch. Edison combined elements of the telegraph, the arc light, and even existing gas lighting technology to create the light bulb. And Isaac Newton, one of the most “original” thinkers in history, stresses the same idea in today’s quote; his work directly builds on that of his predecessors. In what ways do you benefit from the work of those who came before you in your work or you every day life?

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