[Ads-l] "spherical cow" antedated (?) 1970

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Mon Jul 2 16:52:01 UTC 2018

A professional joke that circulated among scientists a few years ago may guide us. It seems that a large dairy company had been losing money for some time. All the usual curative tactics had been tried [....] In desperation the directors voted to get a scientist as a consultant [....] Eventually a brilliant young theorist was found and hired at high pay [....] In due time he did summon them, sat them down in front of his blackboard, and began, 'You have employed me to analyse your troubles and work out solutions. We scientists know that the main thing is to select first the essentials of the problem, leaving secondary matters for later corrections. I shall start (Fig. 2.2) by postulating a spherical cow...'.

A.O. Williams Jr in Underwater Acoustics, ed. RWB Stephens (London, 1970, p. 25).

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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