Simplifiers give one a better overall picture of how the world works, whereas constructors are trying to build something. The balance seems to be shifting, for instance in physics:
Within the Physics label…we find the simplifiers dominated three quarters of the Nobel Prizes from 1952 to 1981, but more recently constructors have edged the balance with more than half of those from 1982 to 2011.
There is also a shift toward constructors in chemistry, though it is less abrupt. In the fields of physiology and medicine, however, simplifiers reign supreme and there has been no shift across time. Three-quarters of the prizes are still going to simplifiers.
Does that mean we should be relatively bullish about progress in those areas, based on forthcoming fundamental breakthroughs?
All these points are from Jeremy J. Baumberg’s new and interesting The Secret Life of Science: How It Really Works and Why It Matters.