Metaphor is at the core of nearly every scientific breakthrough throughout history, and celebrated scientists like Niels Bohr, Richard Feynman and Albert Einstein relied on metaphor to help them make new discoveries. At all levels of society—personal, cultural, scientific, social, political—fundamental change depends upon our ability to engage with metaphor.
Aristotle claimed that his soul never thought without an image. Einstein said that words did not have much to do with his own thought process. Rather, it was visual and kinesthetic images that helped him formulate his mathematical and scientific concepts…words had to be laboriously found in a “secondary state.” August Kekule said his discovery of the benzene ring arose from a vision he had of a snake taking hold of its own tail. And Velcro was invented when George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, noticed that the cockleburs that were stuck to his pants had tiny hooks on them.