Many-a-times, when we read about some theory named after a scientist, like Ising Model of ferromagnetism, (which we read in class today) we naturally think that it would have been discovered by a scientist named Ising.
But there is a Stigler’s law of eponymy which says that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. And Stigler himself named Robert K. Merton as the discoverer of “Stigler’s law”.
It can be best described using Mark Twain’s words,
“It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite — that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.”
Examples of the Stigler’s effect are,
1. Cavendish Balance, which is famous for measuring the universal gravitational constant, was first constructed by John Michell.
2. Chandrashekhar limit, which states that every star with mass approximately 1.4 times of sun’s mass or less can remain stable as a white dwarf. But if its mass is greater than 1.4 solar mass, it will either become a Neutron star or a Black hole depending on the mass of star. This limit was actually described in papers published by Wilhelm Anderson and Edmund Clifton Stoner and later independently discovered and improved by Chandrashekhar when he was 19 years old.
3. The Ising model was invented by physicist Wilhelm Lenz. He gave the problem to his student Ernst Ising. And Ising solved the one dimensional model in his PhD thesis.