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Difference Between Invention and Discovery

Invention vs Discovery

You invent something that did not previously exist.  You discover a real thing that is already existent.

Invention and discovery appear to have one and the same meaning, but they do not actually bear the same meaning.  You invent something that did not previously exist.  You discover a real thing that is already existent.

The physicist invents a transistor where as a biologist discovers the molecular structure of DNA.  By inventing something you would have thought upon it and put it into that form.  You discover something that was already there but you have come upon it with a view to find it out.

By inventing something you create a product that was not existent on earth before.  By discovering a thing, you find that thing which was on earth even before your discovery.  Invention is purely original in the sense that it is the result of your brain work.  Your experimentation has resulted in the invention.  Discovery of a thing has led people to know about it now though it existed well before it was actually found out.

Can you still call discovery an accident.  It cannot be called an accident though since it has a purpose.  The scientist or the biologist purposefully found out the thing.  Therefore discovery cannot be called an accident.  Invention does not necessarily involve exploration, whereas discovery necessarily involves exploration.

When something is discovered, it is made public so that people could understand it and its concept.  Columbus discovered America and hence the place was made known to people.  The place already existed even before Columbus found it.  Invention amounts to creation.  Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone.  People still came to know about it when the announcement was made that Bell invented it.

There is a kind of philosophical binding too between invention and discovery.  You invent something sometimes by using a principle or law that was discovered earlier.  The converse may not be true at all times. Yet it can be true also. You might discover something with the help of an invention, for example a scientific tool or appliance.  Thus each is not exclusive totally of the other.  They can be mutually dependent too.  Logically speaking you can say that discovery is a subset of invention.

Invention is a process, whereas discovery need not be a process.  Invention can be the result of experimentation, whereas discovery is the determination of an existence.  You determine the existence of something in a discovery, whereas you create something by experimentation in an invention.

Invention has nothing to do with nature, whereas discovery has everything to do with nature and surroundings.  Discovery involves civilizations whereas invention does not involve civilizations.  Mohenjodaro was a discovery whereas aeroplane was an invention.  Mohenjodaro has to do with a civilization while aeroplane has nothing to do with civilization.

The difference between invention and discovery can be summarized as follows:

Invention is something you create by experimentation, whereas discovery is finding out something that already existed but not known.

Invention is a process whereas discovery is not a process.

Invention has nothing to do with nature, where as discovery has everything to do with nature.

Invention is scientific whereas discovery is natural.


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  • AngryFox

    I see where you’re coming from Olivia, but like all semantic arguments you fall victim to your own preconceptions.

    >”You invent something that did not previously exist. You discover a real thing that is already >existent.”

    I believe “something” and “a real thing” are, if not synonyms, then at least concepts that overlap. Therefore, I maintain you could equally have said: “You invent a real thing that did not previously exist. You discover something that is already existent.” (Side note, “already existent” is redundant; what you mean is “preexisting.”) If we subtract the language common to both definitions, in addition to any redundant wording, we’re left with what I believe is the thrust of your argument: “You invent [what] did not exist. You discover [what] preexists.”

    >”Can you still call discovery an accident. It cannot be called an accident though since it has a >purpose. The scientist or the biologist purposefully found out the thing. Therefore discovery cannot >be called an accident.”

    Having been a biological scientist myself for 10 years I can tell you quite conclusively that it has no basis in fact or logic. Some of science’s greatest “discoveries” were made by “accident” or “serendipity.” Quite frequent a scientist will be conducting an experiment with a specific purpose in mind only to discover that (usually) by some failure of design, or execution, or conditions, or understanding, the scientist has discovered something they weren’t looking for.

    >”Invention is a process, whereas discovery need not be a process. Invention can be the result of >experimentation, whereas discovery is the determination of an existence. You determine the >existence of something in a discovery, whereas you create something by experimentation in an >invention.”

    Again, I’m going to have to stop you here and say that is a poorly conceived argument. It’s a generally accepted principle that ANYTHING can happen by accident. Invention need not be the result of the process of experimentation (and make no mistake, experimentation is a process.) Likewise, in modern science, virtually ALL discoveries (what you call “determination of an existence”) are the result of experimentation. Therefore I propose what your last sentence should state is: “Through the purposeful process of experimentation X1 (which is a form of exploration), or inadvertently (through error or circumstance), a scientist may determine the existence of (or discover) X2. Similarly, through the purposeful process of experimentation Y1 (which is a form of exploration), or inadvertently (through error or circumstance), an individual may determine the existence of (or create, or invent) Y2.”

    >”Invention has nothing to do with nature, whereas discovery has everything to do with nature and >surroundings. Discovery involves civilizations whereas invention does not involve civilizations. >Mohenjodaro was a discovery whereas airplane was an invention. Mohenjodaro has to do with a >civilization while airplane has nothing to do with civilization.”

    Here you draw an over-broad conclusion, indeed a generalization, based on a very specific example. Inventions rely on the principles and laws that govern nature (e.g., the Bernoulli principle for generating lift from an airplane wing) and may even exclusively employ the products of nature (e.g., genetically-modified organisms). Moreover, civilizations may be the driving force behind the impulse to invent (e.g., prehistoric man’s transition to an agrarian lifestyle from a nomadic one.)

    And so, Olivia, I proffer a revised summary on the difference between invention and discovery should read as follows:

    An invention is a man-made creation, whereas a discovery is the awareness and/or understanding of an existing natural phenomenon.

    Both invention and discovery can result from a preconceived systematic process of experimentation, or by completely unintended consequences.

    Invention, which relies on the physical laws and principles governing the existence and activity of our universe, requires man-made manipulation of environment to produce an intended consequence that would otherwise have not occurred. On the other hand, discovery is the elucidation of the very physical laws and universal principles from which invention is possible.

    • Peter Green

      a revised summary on the difference between invention and discovery should read as follows:
      Your “revised summary” is an improvement because it distinguishes what is man made from what exists in nature. “An invention is a man-made creation, whereas a discovery is the awareness and/or understanding of an existing natural phenomenon.” But it utterly fails because it makes no attempt to explain the novelty, or newness, of either inventions or discoveries.

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