The Eureka Moment


“Eureka! – I have found it!”



I have often wondered about Eureka moments, sometimes known as an epiphany, which incidentally comes to us from the ancient Greeks, signifying a manifestation or striking appearance.   In the past, it was considered an insight given by the divine, or the supernatural, whereas today, it has lost much of this nuance.  Even so, when someone has an epiphany it usually means there has been a scientific, religious or philosophical breakthrough of grand proportions.

Archimedes is a shining example of this form of the extraordinary.  Diotima and her idea of Platonic love and Hipparchia’s decision to embrace the Cynic’s lifestyle, in my opinion, fit into this category.  In fact, all of the ancient great thinkers seemed to have encountered a new and deeper understanding or perspective. While we gratefully acknowledge their contribution, there is within all of humanity a wistful desire to experience a Eureka insight.

So let us consider the idea that most of us have, indeed, felt that moment without recognizing its profound meaning. We may be expecting a thunderbolt, when the reality may come as a gentle whisper.  Eureka insights usually signal a dramatic shift in thinking.  Some people consider it an “ah ha” moment. The catalyst may be a simple conversation, a line of a poem, or a book that challenged.

The ancients gave substance to their thoughts and ideas by sharing, teaching, documenting and living in accordance with their fresh awareness. Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success suggested that, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good.  It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

“People think of these eureka moments and my feeling is that they tend to be little things, a little realisation and then a little realisation built on that.”

Roger Penrose, Mathematical Physicist, Recreational Mathematician and Philosopher