There’s an interesting contrast between creativity in the arts and the sciences. I mean in the arts, whether you’re outstanding or just average, your work has individuality but it may not last. If you’re a scientist, in most cases, your work may last — you’ve added one brick to the edifice of public knowledge — but it doesn’t have individuality. If you hadn’t done it, someone else would have done it. And that’s true of almost all of science. Einstein is almost an exception to that, in that if Einstein hadn’t existed, the ideas that we now associate with him would have gradually emerged, but it would have taken much longer.
So he made a far more distinctive imprint in that he was motivated not by some kind of observations. The ideas weren’t already in the air, as they normally are when science advances, but it was pure thought that led him to this, and had it not been for Einstein it would have been maybe decades before we had an equivalent theory of gravity.
So he made, I think, an especially distinctive imprint and therefore had more individuality in what he contributed to science. In most cases, it doesn’t really matter, because if A doesn’t do something B soon will.
One of my favorite scientific authors is Peter Medawar and he had a lovely statement in one of his books, where he expressed this contrast by saying that if a scientist doesn’t do something someone else will. But he said that when Wagner took ten years off in the middle of the Ring Cycle to compose Meistersinger and Tristan, he didn’t think that someone was going to scoop him on Götterdämmerung. So that’s the big difference between creativity in the arts and in sciences.