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'Pre-paradigmatic' seems like an apt term insofar as the dominant paradigm
today wrt diffusion processes assumes s-shaped, scalable, exponential
curves embedded in models of proportionate growth. If one drills into the
literature that's been cited in this thread and the references therein,
quantitative approaches to understanding diffusion processes began with
Gompertz in 1825, followed by Verhulst's logistic curve about 10-15 years
later. My view is that Gompertz has not been given sufficient credit for
having developed the first statistical model that was truly *nonlinear in
the parameters --* a nontrivial contribution. In terms of 20th c
contributions, Torgen Hagerstrand stands out as having done some of the
most significant work in processes of cultural and geo-spatial diffusion.

Historians, too, have weighed in on this question. A good example is Lynn
White's 1966 book *Medieval Technology and Social Change*, which traces the
development of medieval warfare to innovations in horse saddlery,
specifically, the introduction of the foot stirrup around the 6th CE.
However, her description of the process(es) associated with the 'spreading'
and adoption of saddle stirrups is considerably lumpier than any smooth,
s-shaped curve would suggest.

To clarify my intent in posing this query to the listserv, I am hoping that
someone will be able to suggest books, research or speculation published
earlier than Newton's *Optical Lectures* in 1728. However, at the end of
the day I may be forced to concede that work on diffusion earlier than
Newton's simply does not exist.

Thank you all,
Thomas

On Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 2:05 PM, Thomas William Valente <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:

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>
> We classified those studies as pre-paradigmatic, quite a few studies on
> the diffusion of arrowheads and other archeologic evidence. The paradigm,
> however, coalesced with the Ryan & Gross publication which strongly
> influenced the Rural Sociology tradition.
>
>
>
> *From:* George Barnett [mailto:[log in to unmask]
> <[log in to unmask]>]
> *Sent:* Monday, December 04, 2017 10:03 AM
> *To:* Thomas William Valente
> *Cc:* [log in to unmask]
> *Subject:* Re: [SOCNET] History and origins of diffusion processes
>
>
>
> Tom & Thomas,
>
>    It actually goes back a whole lot further to the work of Galton
> (cultural trait diffusion), and then  Pemberton (the diffusion of postage
> stamps) and Stuart Chapin. I haven't looked at the early research in 40+
> years, but there was lots of research which preceded Ryan and Gross.
>
>
>
> George
>
>
>
>  George A. Barnett, Ph.D.
>
> Distinguished Professor Emeritus
>
> Department of Communication
>
> 393 Kerr Hall
>
> University of California – Davis
>
> Davis, CA 95616-8695
>
>
>
> [log in to unmask]
>
>
>
>
>
> On Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 9:00 AM, Thomas William Valente <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>
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> Thomas
>
> Although this isn’t quite what you are looking for, in the 1990-1991 time
> frame I interview (along with Everett Rogers) a number of early pioneers of
> diffusion of innovations research. We published our findings in this paper:
>
>
>
> Valente, T. W., & Rogers, E. M. (1995). The origins and development of the
> diffusion of innovations paradigm as an example of scientific growth. *Science
> Communication: An Interdisciplinary Social Science Journal*. *16*,
> 238-269.
>
>
>
> The abstract reads:
>
> This article traces the emergence of the basic paradigm for early
> diffusion research created by two rural sociologists at Iowa State
> University, Bryce Ryan and Neal C. Gross. The diffusion paradigm spread to
> an invisible college of midwestern rural sociological researchers in the
> 1950s and 1960s, and then to a larger, interdisciplinary field of diffusion
> scholars. By the late 1960s, rural sociologists lost interest in diffusion
> studies, not because it was ineffective scientifically, but because of lack
> of support for such study as a consequence of farm overproduction and
> because most of the interesting research questions were thought to be
> answered.
>
>
>
> -Tom
>
>
>
> Thomas W. Valente, PhD
>
> Professor and Interim Chair
>
> Department of Preventive Medicine
>
> Keck School of Medicine
>
> University of Southern California
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> If one looks up the word 'diffusion' in the *Dictionary of the History of
> Science*, you get the standard explanation that 'diffusion' originated in
> the 19th c with Graham and Maxwell and has a Latin etymology in the word,
> *diffundere*, which means "to spread out." There has to be more to the
> story than this, right?
>
>
>
> Earlier references might include the  "diffusion of refracted light" in
> Robert Greene (1727) and "diffusion of light" in Newton's *Optical
> Lectures* (1728).
>
>
>
> My question for these listservs is, does anyone have any additional
> insight into the history and origins of the abstract idea of 'diffusion?'
>
>
>
> Thank you,
>
> Thomas Ball
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Thomas W. Valente, PhD
>
> Professor and Interim Chair
>
> Department of Preventive Medicine
>
> Keck School of Medicine
>
> University of Southern California
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