Ortega hypothesis

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The Ortega hypothesis is a statement by the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset about the importance of the contributions of individual scientists for scientific progress in a subject area. The term was first used by the brothers Jonathan R. and Stephen Cole in an article in the scientific journal Science (178, pp. 368-375) in 1972; It was disseminated through frequent citations of this article in contributions to scientometry .

In La rebelión de las masas (Madrid 1929; Eng. The uprising of the masses , Stuttgart 1936) Ortega y Gasset stated that scientific progress is based on the work of all scientists, ie above all on the work of a large number of scientists mediocre talent who would produce less significant results, but the sum of all these minor advances constitutes an essential part of overall scientific advances.

The Coles attempted to refute this hypothesis using a citation analysis in the specialist literature on physics. From the observation that only a few scientists from the broad mass of scientists are cited, but these few are cited very often, they concluded that, contrary to the Ortega hypothesis, significant advances in science are based primarily on the work of less gifted scientists.

Your interpretation of the alleged Ortega hypothesis is, however, controversial; according to Endre Száva-Kováts, it follows from a misinterpretation of Ortega. The Coles would have taken the quotations out of context and thus falsified the original meaning in order to support their own hypothesis.


  • Jonathan R. Cole, Stephen Cole: The Ortega Hypothesis . In: Science . tape 178 , no. 4059 , 1972, ISSN  0036-8075 , pp. 368-375 , doi : 10.1126 / science.178.4059.368 .
  • Endre Száva-Kováts: The false "Ortega Hypothesis". A literature science case study . In: Journal of Information Science , Volume 30 (2004), Number 6, pp. 496-508, ISSN  0165-5515
  • Marco Fuhrländer: José Ortega y Gasset . In: Joachim Kaiser (ed.): The book of 1,000 books. Authors, history, content and effect , Harenberg, Dortmund 2002, ISBN 3-611-01059-6 , p. 830 f.