Science Fictions: The triumph of the imagination and the invention of scientific creativity


The Inaugural Lecture of Professor Robert Iliffe

In this lecture Prof Iliffe will describe the various attacks on the imagination launched by natural philosophers in the seventeenth century, and account for the dramatic change in its reputation that occurred in the middle of the eighteenth century, when a powerful imagination became the defining characteristic of the recently-invented scientific genius.  It continues to play a key role in modern accounts of scientific creativity, but the ways in which the potential dangers of scientific theorizing have been emphasised shows that the imagination, while essential to areas such as modern physics, is still seen by many as posing an existential threat to science.