Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels,


The professor was in a very large room with forty pupils about him. After salutation, he said perhaps I might wonder to see him employed in a project for improving speculative knowledge by practical and mechanical operations. He flattered himself that the world would soon be sensible of its usefulness. Everyone knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas by his contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge and with a little bodily labor, may write in philosophy, poetry, politics, law, mathematics, and theology without the least assistance from genius or study.

He then led me to a frame, twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. Bits of wood were covered with paper pasted on them, and on these papers were written all the words of their language in their several moods, tenses, and declensions but without any order. The professor then desired me to observe his engine at work. The pupils, at his command, each took hold of an iron handle around the edges of the frame, and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then commanded six and thirty of the lads to read the several lines softly as they appeared; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys who were scribes.

Six hours a day the young students were employed in this labor, and the professor showed me several volumes in large folios already collected of broken sentences, which he intended to piece together, and out of those rich materials to give the world a complete body of all arts and sciences.

I made my humblest acknowledgment and promised, if ever I had the good fortune to return to my native country, that I would do him justice as the sole inventor of this wonderful machine.

Jonathan Swift

Thomas S. Kuhn

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,


Normal science is a highly cumulative enterprise, eminently successful in its aim, the steady extension of the scope and precision of scientific knowledge. Yet one standard product of the scientific enterprise is missing. Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none. New and unsuspected phenomena are, however, repeatedly uncovered by scientific research, and radical new theories have again and again been invented by scientists. History even suggests that the scientific enterprise has developed a uniquely powerful technique for producing surprises of this sort. If this characteristic of science is to be reconciled with what has already been said, then research under a paradigm must be a particularly effective way of inducing paradigm change. That is what fundamental novelties of fact and theory do. Produced inadvertently by a game played under one set of rules, their assimilation requires the elaboration of another set. After they have become parts of science, the enterprise is never quite the same again.

Examining selected discoveries, we shall quickly find that they are not isolated events but extended episodes with a regularly recurrent structure. Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly, i.e., with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm-induced expectations that govern normal science. It then continues with a more or less extended exploration of the area of anomaly. And it closes only when the paradigm theory has been adjusted so that the anomalous has become the expected. Assimilating a new sort of fact demands a more than additive adjustment of theory, and until that adjustment is completed—until the scientist has learned to see nature in a different way—the new fact is not quite a scientific fact at all.

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