A letter in the Financial Times makes a good point.
FT reader Tim Hammond writes,
Sir, Andre Geim (“Oh for a eurocrat who actually understands science”, January 6) makes too much of the role of science in innovative technologies. Many of our most basic and fundamental technologies – fire, the wheel, bronze, iron, pottery – were in widespread use before science was even a concept.
Many of our more advanced technologies were in use before we had any inkling of the science behind them. We flew, used electricity, took quinine and vaccinated long before we understood how or why, and even today we do not know how general anaesthetics work.
Thankfully the regular revisions to our scientific knowledge do not invalidate our technology. Quantum mechanics did not stop apples falling or satellites orbiting, and the discovery that Prozac acts in an entirely different way than originally thought does not make it any less effective.
The simple truth is that most of our technologies were not invented by scientists and were not invented because of a breakthrough or advance in science. They came from the efforts of individuals and teams trying to make things work in different and better ways. Science is a wonderful thing, but it is not a prerequisite for innovative technology.