Who’s On First?

Stigler’s Law of Eponymy states that “no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.” Examples:

  • Arabic numerals were invented in India.
  • Darwin lists 18 predecessors who had advanced the idea of evolution by natural selection.
  • Freeman Dyson credited the idea of the Dyson sphere to Olaf Stapledon.
  • Charles Wheatstone invented the Playfair cipher.
  • Salmonella was discovered by Theobald Smith but named after Daniel Elmer Salmon.
  • Copernicus propounded Gresham’s Law.
  • Pell’s equation was first solved by William Brouncker.
  • Euler’s number was discovered by Jacob Bernoulli.
  • The Gaussian distribution was introduced by Abraham de Moivre.
  • The Mandelbrot set was discovered by Pierre Fatou and Gaston Julia.

University of Chicago statistics professor Stephen Stigler advanced the idea in 1980.

Delightfully, he attributes it to Robert Merton.