29 novembre 2020

On the Meaning of Discovery

If I said that Newton did not discover the force of gravity because the force of gravity existed before Newton discovered it, you would rightly take me for a fool.
Lately, the thesis has spread in US universities that Columbus would not have discovered America because America was already inhabited by natives before Columbus landed there. The point that escapes the sublime minds of American universities is that "discover" means "lead to knowledge" and the American natives were unaware of their geographical location with respect to the rest of the world, as well as the Vikings who landed without knowledge on the coasts, centuries before Columbus.
In the scientific field, an important peculiarity of the discovery is the unprecedented communication: the authorship of the discovery is assigned to the first person who announces it, as the adage goes "if you didn't publish it, it didn't happen". This is the case of the telephone invented by Meucci but first patented by Bell. The discovery of America was announced only after Columbus's expedition, this does not exclude that other men had arrived there before him, without announcing it and without even having the awareness of being there.

To those who assert that Columbus discovered America, the TPI responds that:

This statement is wrong. It cannot be said that he discovered it, if thousands if not millions of people already lived there.

According to Potere al Popolo:

America didn't need to be discovered. Millions of people have lived there for millennia.

Instead of criticizing Columbus's detractors, Italian intellectuals slavishly copy overseas sermons.

Finally, it could be argued that Columbus accidentally stumbled upon the American continent while searching for a shortcut to the Far East. But Fleming also discovered penicillin by accidentally overturning the tubes: intentionality is not a requirement of discovery.

The original text is in Italian language, special thanks to Roxana for the English translation.

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