Patents are a curious matter. Doubtless, invention prospers with the incentive proferred by a patent. Technology is certainly dependent upon invention and, therefore, in debt to the patent system, Since scientific advances often require improved technology to supply requisite data, it may be argued that science is also in debt to the patent system. Yet, the discoveries made in scientific areas are usually published in the open literature for all to share. In fact, the general character of a scientist’s nature is to publicize his achievements. Seldom does a scientist hide his discovery in anticipation of personal gain. Exceptions exist, of course, and a consideration of the discovery of the achromatic lens might be cited as a case in point.
The achromatic lens, which Newton had said could not be made, was perfected in 1733 by the barrister Chester Moor Hall. He practiced his art in secrecy and for nearly a quarter century prevented an invasion of his concealed capability. By 1758, John Dollond had found out the mystery, patented the process, and presented an account to the Royal Society.
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