The Flash of Genius

The Flash of Genius

The Flash of Genius

The Flash of Genius


I believe that students deserve to know the events that led up to a discovery -- to learn about the kind of thinking done by the discoverer -- to be challenged by the mystery of the trigger-tripping process that leads to the birth of a new idea. Birth is and will always be a miracle to me -- whether it is of a baby or an idea, it is a miracle.

I believe that the case study is an interesting and effective method of learning about the universe; and I believe in the value of the original literature as the main source of these case studies.

I believe in making use of the human interest element in the "discovery" stories.

I believe that teachers and students alike should be concerned with the search for the profile of the creative mind.

I believe that a search for an understanding and a mastery of the creative process is one of the greatest challenges to man the intellectual.

For these several reasons I have written this book -- furthermore, it has been fun.

To many of my colleagues I owe a debt of gratitude for help in gathering material for this book. I wish specially to recognize Louise Rothemund Hanold, Reginal Paul, Mrs. Satya Sharma, Richard Hartman, and my daughter, Carol.

To my friend Theodore Ashford goes the credit of pointing out to me that the step of the scientific method which we often term "devising a theory" should be called "the flash of genius"; and to my friend and colleague of many years of teaching together Professor Joseph Haskins my many thanks for the hours we have spent together exchanging discovery stories.

And finally to you who read these stories I covet the opportunity to capture some of the contagious enthusiasm shown by these men of science in their search for new ideas. May you too be inspired.


Columbus, Ohio October 1962

There are moments in man's mortal years
When for an instant that which long has lain
Beyond our reach is on a sudden found
In things of smallest compass, and we hold
The unbounded shut in one small minute's space
And worlds within the hollow of our hand. . . .

H. B. Carpenter . . .

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