Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

List of examples of Stigler's law

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Stigler's law concerns the supposed tendency of eponymous expressions for scientific discoveries to honor people other than their respective originators.


Examples include:

"Since that definition predated Boyce and Codd's own definition by some three years, it seems to me that BCNF ought by rights to be called Heath normal form. But it isn't."


  • Aharonov–Bohm effect. Werner Ehrenberg and Raymond E. Siday first predicted the effect in 1949, and similar effects were later rediscovered by Yakir Aharonov and David Bohm in 1959.
  • Arrhenius equation. The equation was first proposed by the Dutch chemist J. H. van 't Hoff in 1884; five years later in 1889, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius provided a physical justification and interpretation for it.
  • Auger effect. First discovered by Lise Meitner in 1922 and then, independently, in 1923 by Pierre Victor Auger.
  • Avogadro constant. While the work of Amedeo Avogadro predicted the idea of a set number of molecules in a set weight of a substance, the actual constant was discovered by Jean Baptiste Perrin some 53 years after Avogadro's death.
  • B

  • Bechdel Test, a gender bias test for films popularised by and named after Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip writer Alison Bechdel, despite her repeated insistence that the test was devised by her friend Liz Wallace.
  • Benford's law, named after physicist Frank Benford, who stated it in 1938, although it had been previously stated by Simon Newcomb in 1881.
  • The Bessemer process was discovered by William Kelly in 1851. Henry Bessemer was the first to obtain a patent in 1855.
  • Betz' law, which shows the maximum attainable energy efficiency of a wind turbine, was discovered first by Frederick W. Lanchester. It was subsequently independently rediscovered by Albert Betz and also Nikolai Zhukovsky.
  • Bode's Law of 1772 states that the distances of the planets from the sun follow a simple arithmetical rule. But it was first stated by Johann Titius in 1766, not Johann Elert Bode.
  • Burnside's Lemma, a counting technique in Group Theory was discovered by Augustin Louis Cauchy, or possibly others. William Burnside originally attributed it to Ferdinand Georg Frobenius. Ironically, Burnside made many original contributions to Group Theory, and Burnside's Lemma is sometimes jokingly referred to as "the lemma that is not Burnside's".
  • Boyce–Codd normal form, a normal form used in database normalization. Definition of what we now know as BCNF appeared in a paper by Ian Heath in 1971. Date writes:

    "Since that definition predated Boyce and Codd's own definition by some three years, it seems to me that BCNF ought by rights to be called Heath normal form. But it isn't."

  • C

  • Cantor-Bernstein-Schröder theorem (also known by other variations, such as Schröder-Bernstein theorem) first proved by Richard Dedekind
  • Cantor set: discovered in 1874 by Henry John Stephen Smith and introduced by German mathematician Georg Cantor 1883.
  • Cartan matrices: first investigated by Wilhelm Killing.
  • Cardano's formula: The solution to the cubic function, it was discovered by Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia.
  • Cavendish balance: for measuring the universal gravitational constant, first devised and constructed by John Michell.
  • Chandrasekhar limit: The mass upper limit of a white dwarf, it was first discovered by Wilhelm Anderson and E. C. Stoner, and was only later improved by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
  • Chernoff bound: A bound on the tail distribution of sums of independent random variables, named after Herman Chernoff but due to Herman Rubin,
  • Cobb–Douglas: A production function named after Paul H. Douglas, and Charles W Cobb, developed earlier by Philip Wicksteed.
  • Cooley–Tukey algorithm named after J.W. Cooley and John Tukey but invented 160 years earlier in 1805 by Carl Friedrich Gauss.
  • Curie point: a critical temperature of phase change in ferromagnetism. Named after Pierre Curie, who reported it in his thesis in 1895, but the phenomenon was found by Claude Pouillet before 1832.
  • Currying: a technique for transforming an n-arity function to a chain of functions. Named after Haskell Curry, though it was originally discovered by Moses Schönfinkel.
  • D

  • Deming Cycle of continuous improvement. Deming himself always referred to it as the "Shewhart cycle".
  • Dyson spheres are named after Freeman Dyson, but Dyson himself has credited the original idea to Olaf Stapledon.
  • E

  • Euler's number: the "discovery" of the constant itself is credited to Jacob Bernoulli, but it is named after Leonhard Euler.
  • Euler's formula: an equivalent formula was proved by Roger Cotes 30 years before Euler published his proof.
  • F

  • Farey sequence. Cauchy published the proof to a conjecture put forth by Farey. Unknown to both men, similar results were published earlier by Charles Haros.
  • Fermi's golden rule, a quantum mechanical calculation, was discovered by Paul Dirac.
  • The Fermi paradox, stated by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1933, long before Fermi.
  • The Floyd-Warshall algorithm for finding shortest paths in a weighted graph is named after Robert Floyd and Stephen Warshall who independently published papers about it in 1962. However, Bernard Roy had previously published an equivalent algorithm in 1959.
  • The Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum were first noted by William Hyde Wollaston twelve years before they were rediscovered and studied systematically by Joseph von Fraunhofer.
  • Fresnel Lens. The idea of creating a thinner, lighter lens by making it with separate sections mounted in a frame is often attributed to Georges-Louis Leclerc.
  • Frobenius elements in a Galois group of global fields were first created by Dedekind.
  • Fibonacci numbers. Fibonacci was not the first to discover the famous sequence. They existed in Indian mathematics since 200 BC (Fibonacci gave the series in 1202 AD)
  • G

  • Gauss's Theorem: first proved by Ostrogradsky in 1831.
  • Gaussian distribution: the normal distribution was introduced by Abraham de Moivre in 1733, but named after Carl Friedrich Gauss who began using it in 1794.
  • Gaussian elimination: was already in well-known textbooks such as Thomas Simpson's when Gauss in 1809 remarked that he used "common elimination."
  • Gibbs phenomenon: named for Josiah Willard Gibbs who published in 1901. First discovered by Henry Wilbraham in 1851.
  • The Graetz circuit, also known as the diode bridge, was invented and patented in 1896 by Karol Pollak a year before it was published by Leo Graetz.
  • Gresham's law was described by Nicolaus Copernicus in 1519, the year of Thomas Gresham's birth.
  • Gröbner basis: the theory was developed by Bruno Buchberger, who named them after his advisor, Wolfgang Gröbner
  • HI

  • Halley's comet was observed by astronomers since at least 240 BC, but named after Edmond Halley who computed its orbit and accurately predicted its return.
  • Hasse diagrams were used by Henri Gustav Vogt three years before the birth of Helmut Hasse.
  • Higgs field is named after Peter Higgs but was first theorized by Robert Brout and François Englert, albeit not published before Higgs had submitted his own paper.
  • Hodrick–Prescott filter was popularized in the field of economics in the 1990s by economists Robert J. Hodrick and Nobel Memorial Prize winner Edward C. Prescott. However, it was first proposed much earlier by E. T. Whittaker in 1923.
  • Hubble's law was derived by Georges Lemaître two years before Edwin Hubble.
  • J

  • Jacobson's organ was first discovered by Frederik Ruysch before 1732.
  • Joukowski transformation was first derived by Otto Blumenthal in 1913.
  • K

  • Kasiski analysis: invented by Charles Babbage who recorded it in his diary but didn't otherwise publish it.
  • Kepler's Supernova was first observed by Italian astronomers several days before Johannes Kepler
  • Killing form: invented by Élie Cartan
  • Kuiper belt: theoretically described by a number of astronomers before Gerard Kuiper; Kuiper theorized that such a belt no longer existed.
  • Kodály Method: was conceived and developed for music teaching by Jenő Ádám; a pupil of Kodály.
  • Kronecker product: Johann Georg Zehfuss already in 1858 described the matrix operation we now know as the Kronecker product
  • L

  • L'Hôpital's rule to calculate the limit of quotient of functions at a point were both functions converge to 0 (or both converge to infinity) is named after Guillaume de l'Hôpital, but is generally believed to have been discovered by Johann Bernoulli.
  • Lamarckism is generally used to refer to the idea of inheritance of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance, but the idea predates Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and was not the central part of his theory of transmutation of species.
  • Lambert–Beer law was discovered by Pierre Bouguer.
  • Leibniz formula for π: The formula was first discovered by 15th-century Indian mathematician Madhava of Sangamagrama, but it is named after Gottfried Leibniz after the latter discovered it independently 300 years later.
  • Lexis diagram is named after Wilhelm Lexis but was previously theorized by Gustav Zeuner and Otto Brasche.
  • The Liebig condenser, which Justus von Liebig popularized, was attributed to Göttling by Liebig himself, but had already been developed independently by Poisonnier, Weigel, and Gadolin.
  • Lhermitte's sign in neurology, the "barber chair phenomenon" was first described by Pierre Marie and Chatelin. French neurologist Jean Lhermitte published his first report three years later.
  • Linus's law: named after Linus Torvalds, but actually described by Eric S. Raymond in The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
  • M

  • Madelung rule, describing the order in which electron orbitals are filled, named after Erwin Madelung but first discovered by Charles Janet.
  • Matthew effect, named by Robert K. Merton after the writer of the Gospel of Matthew quoting the words of Jesus.
  • Meadow's Law, the formulation that one cot death in a family is tragic, two suspicious, and three murder, originally described by D.J. and V.J.M. Di Maio.
  • Metropolis–Hastings algorithm. The algorithm was named after Nicholas Metropolis, who was the director of the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory at the time of writing the paper Equation of State Calculations by Fast Computing Machines. However, Metropolis did not contribute to that study in any way, as confirmed by various sources. The research problem was proposed by Augusta H. Teller and solved by Marshall N. Rosenbluth and Arianna W. Rosenbluth. Furthermore, according to Roy Glauber and Emilio Segrè, the original algorithm was invented by Enrico Fermi and reinvented by Stan Ulam.
  • N

  • Newton's first and second laws of mechanics were known and proposed in separate ways by Galileo, Hooke and Huygens before Newton did in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Newton owns the discovery of only the third one.
  • Norman's Law, proposed by Donald Norman, is a general restatement of Stigler's Law, "No saying or pronouncement is named after its originator." This law was named for Norman as an example of Stigler's Law -- which was, itself, not named after its originator.
  • O

  • The Oort cloud around the solar system was first postulated by Ernst Öpik in 1932 and independently introduced by Jan Oort in 1960.
  • Olbers' paradox was formulated by Kepler in the 17th century, long before Olbers was born.
  • PQ

  • Pascal's triangle: named after and discovered by Pascal, but identified several times before him independently.
  • Pell's equation, studied in ancient India, but mistakenly attributed to John Pell by Leonhard Euler. Apparently Euler confused Lord Brouncker (first European mathematician to find a general solution of the equation) with Pell.
  • Penrose triangle, an impossible object, first created by the Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvärd in 1934. The mathematician Roger Penrose independently devised and popularised it in the 1950s
  • Playfair cipher, invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1854, but named after Lord Playfair who promoted its use.
  • The Poincare disk model and the Poincare half-plane model of hyperbolic geometry are named after Henri Poincare who studied them in 1882. However, Eugenio Beltrami published a paper on these models previously in 1868.
  • Poisson spot: predicted by Fresnel's theory of diffraction, named after Poisson, who ridiculed the theory, especially its prediction of the existence of this spot
  • Prim's algorithm: the algorithm was developed in 1930, 27 years before Prim independently did, by the Czech mathematician Vojtěch Jarník.
  • Prinzmetal angina: also known as variant angina, referring to angina (chest pain) caused by vasospasm of the coronary arteries. Described twice in the 1930s before being published by Prinzmetal in 1959.
  • Pythagorean theorem, named after the mathematician Pythagoras, although it was known before him to Babylonian mathematicians (although it is not known if the Babylonians possessed a proof of the result; yet it is not known either, whether Pythagoras proved the result).
  • R

  • The Reynolds number in fluid mechanics was introduced by George Stokes, but is named after Osborne Reynolds, who popularized its use.
  • S

  • The Sankey diagram was invented by Charles Joseph Minard
  • The Schottky diode was neither discovered by Schottky nor its operation correctly explained by him. The actual nature of the metal–semiconductor junction was noted by Hans Bethe.
  • Simpson's paradox, a term introduced by Colin R. Blyth in 1972; but Edward Simpson did not actually discover this statistical paradox.
  • Snell's law of refraction, named after Willebrord Snellius, a Dutch scientist, also known as Descartes law of refraction (after René Descartes) was discovered by Ibn Sahl.
  • the Snellius–Pothenot problem was solved by Willebrord Snellius only, and restated by Laurent Pothenot 75 years later
  • Stigler's Law, attributed by Stephen Stigler himself to Robert K. Merton
  • Stirling's approximation, which was presaged in published work by Abraham de Moivre.
  • Stokes's theorem discovered by Lord Kelvin
  • TU

  • The Tetralogy of Fallot was described in 1672 by Niels Stensen, but named after Étienne-Louis Arthur Fallot who also described it in 1888.
  • Taylor's law in ecology was discovered by H. Fairfield Smith in 1938 but named after L. R. Taylor who rediscovered it in 1961.
  • V

  • Venn diagrams are named after John Venn, who popularized them in the 1880s, but Leonhard Euler had already introduced them in 1768.
  • Vigenère cipher was originally described by Giovan Battista Bellaso in his 1553 book La cifra del. Sig. Giovan Battista Bellaso, but later misattributed to Blaise de Vigenère in the 19th century.
  • The Von Neumann architecture of computer hardware is misattributed to John von Neumann because he wrote a preliminary report called "First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC" that did not include the names of the inventors: John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert
  • Voronoi diagrams are named after Georgy Voronoy, who defined and studied the general n-dimensional case in 1908, but have already been used by Descartes (1644), Lejeune Dirichlet (1850) and Snow (1854).
  • W

  • Wang tiles were hypothesized by Hao Wang not to exist, but an example was constructed by his student Robert Berger.
  • Wheatstone bridge, an electrical measuring instrument invented by Samuel Hunter Christie in 1833, but named after Sir Charles Wheatstone who improved and popularized it in 1843.
  • Wike's law of low odd primes, a principle of design of experiments, was stated by Sir Ronald A. Fisher in 1935 but named by Edwin Wike in 1973.
  • XYZ

  • Yagi-Uda antenna, a successful and popular beam antenna, whose primary inventor was Shintaro Uda, but which was popularized by, and formerly popularly named for, his collaborator Hidetsugu Yagi.
  • Zipf's law states that given some corpus of natural language utterances, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. The law is named after George Kingsley Zipf, an early twentieth century American linguist. Zipf popularized Zipf's law and sought to explain it, though he did not claim to have originated it.
  • Similar cases

  • Bailey–Borwein–Plouffe formula was discovered by Simon Plouffe, who has since expressed regret at having to share credit for his discovery.
  • References

    List of examples of Stigler's law Wikipedia

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