Thomas Kuhn and Peter Galison largely approach scientific breakthroughs in different ways. There are a few similarities, in that both men address the innovative approaches of individuals as driving forces behind changes that occur in science: a select few can think outside the box, so to speak. Kuhn, however, believes that those individuals operate within a larger realm in which the broader range of their training and experience, along with the availability of an audience of like-minded people, is equally as important as the new idea itself. The innovator must have enough background to assess the importance of an anomalous approach, and other people must be willing to believe in the innovation, or it will never become incorporated into general knowledge. This acceptance is most likely to occur when the innovator is operating within an intellectual framework that has already undergone, or is very close to experiencing, a transformation. He terms this widespread change a “paradigm shift.”
One difference in Peter Galison’s approach is that he is focusing on a particular era in which scientists in a particular field were trying to solve a specific problem. In the early twentieth century, physicists were intent on discovering the true nature of time. Although this was an abstract concept, Galison argues that close attention to the real world was an essential component of solving the problem. Whereas most interpreters of Einstein’s work process have emphasized abstraction, Galison focuses on a very specific, concrete issue that concerned Einstein—simultaneity—and the way he addressed it through the synchronizing of clocks.
For Einstein, “time was identified with timekeeping.” He not only worked as a technical expert in the Swiss patent office and held numerous patents himself, but also came from a family in which there was considerable expertise on electromechanical devices; all of these practicalities influenced Einstein’s way of understanding time more generally. Clocks—the embodiment of the mechanics of timekeeping—constitute the “machines” in Galison’s phrase, while the overarching universal truth is the "metaphysics."