Bibles and Dissertations

On August 24, 1456, Johannes Gutenberg finished the printing process for his first bible. And, you wouldn’t be able to finish your dissertation if he hadn’t…

The invention of the movable-type printing press did more to promote the dissemination of knowledge than anything since the invention of paper and until the invention of the World Wide Web.

Prior printing technologies included manual transcription and wood-block printing. Manual transcription required very little preparation but an immense effort to create a single copy.

Wood-block printing, on the other hand, required an incredible amount of preparation. An image of each page had to be carved into a wooden block, an effort commiserate with the carving of a clay tablet in pre-paper days. That investment in creating the wooden blocks paid great dividends when it came time to print, as many copies of each page could be produced rapidly. However, the wooden blocks were both porous and fragile, greatly limiting their quality and longevity.

Gutenberg’s metal movable-type printing press solved multiple problems. First, artisans were only required to produce individual letters and small group of letters, rather than entire pages of text. These letters could then be combined by less skilled laborers (though still quite educated at the time) to form the pages of the book. Second, since the type was made of metal, it allowed for much more precise, detailed printing. The type was also far more durable, allowing for many more prints of a given page and the reuse of the type for multiple books.

Printing had become economical. Books were now more accessible than ever. In fact, the Gutenberg press is one of the primary factors that lead to the Renaissance in Europe. The Renaissance produced wonderful works of art, but also an awesome revolution in science.

The scientific method itself was born of the Renaissance. The very process you use in your dissertation to propose a problem and a means of investigation. The notion of collecting data and holding them to account. The idea the science is built on empirical investigation rather than philosophical musing can all be attributed to Johannes Gutenberg and his bible!

So, now you know who to blame!

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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