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Ockham's Razor

Ockham, Ocham, Occam, or Ocham?

Spelling Trivia

William Ockham of Ockham's razor

Ockham's name is misspelled quite often in literature. My best information shows that the original and correct spelling is Ockham. Some of the misspellings I've seen are Ocham and Occham.

William came from Ockham which is near Guildford, S.W. of London, just off junction 10 of the M25 with the A3. Medieval spellings were "rubbery" and while the village is now named `Ockham', the spelling `Occam' is frequently used in connection with William. Occam is the Latinized spelling of Ockham

My Webster's shows the razor man to be "Ockham, William of" or "Occam, William of, see Ockham" neither of which is 'Ocham'.

William Ockham was an English monk philosopher theologian and probable victim of the black death who provided science with a key principle 700 years ago.

'What can be done with fewer assumptions is done in vain with more', he said. Or more simply, in explaining any phenomenon, we should prefer to use the simplest explanation with the least number of causes. Newton had his own version: "Do not needlessly multiply causes."

What happens when we ignore Ockham's razor? Let's ponder the following quote.

"Give me four parameters and I can fit an elephant.
Give me five and I can wag its tail -- (The source? Variants have been attributed to C.F. Gauss, Niels Bohr, Lord Kelvin, Enrico Fermi.)

In other words, if you have 4 variables you can fudge, you can prove most anything (sounds like the problem with the CO2 induced global warming model?).

Special thanks to Don Lancaster for his help in solving the riddle of the correct spelling of Ockham.

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