Tue 16 Dec 2008
Major breakthroughs in science have historically been the province of individuals, not institutes. Galileo and Copernicus, Edison and Einstein, toiling away in lonely labs or pondering the cosmos in private studies.
But in recent decades — especially since the Soviet success in launching the Sputnik satellite in 1957 — the trend has been to create massive institutions that foster more collaboration and garner big chunks of funding.
Although it’s getting harder for a single person to make strides in technology simply because science is getting more and more complicated, this says something about the way we’re evolving as a species. Increasingly collaborative efforts are more efficient at generating innovation in a field. Open source software is a good example of how collaborative efforts have made things better for all of society. Many modern operating systems, for example, run off open source projects such as BSD, and many of the best medical advancements were done by research labs as opposed to individual theorists.