A Theory That Missed the Mark

Although many scientists must narrowly fail to make an important discovery, it is hard not to feel guilty for not having pushed oneself just that little bit harder. Early in my career as a psychologist, I began to study vision in the octopus. I chose this strange beast because it was an invertebrate; hence its visual system, though highly developed, has evolved from structures very different from that of vertebrates. I believed (perhaps rather naively) that by finding the differences betwee

Stuart Sutherland
Sep 6, 1987

Although many scientists must narrowly fail to make an important discovery, it is hard not to feel guilty for not having pushed oneself just that little bit harder.

Early in my career as a psychologist, I began to study vision in the octopus. I chose this strange beast because it was an invertebrate; hence its visual system, though highly developed, has evolved from structures very different from that of vertebrates. I believed (perhaps rather naively) that by finding the differences between the ways in which octopuses and vertebrates classify and recognize two-dimensional forms, it would be possible to correlate them with differences in the neuroanatomy of the two kinds of visual systems and hence throw light on both. Prof. J.Z. Young of University College, London, who originally prompted me to work on octopuses, was at the time studying their neuroanatomy and behavior.

I must admit to having other reasons for...

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