Combinatorics and creativity by Wilhelm Ostwald

“Combinatorics doesn’t replace productive imagination only, but is superior to it!”

So creativity included for Ostwald not only “productive imagination” but also “combinatorics”. From his view ideas and discoveries are often only “a novel combination of existing components”. Newly-discovered facts in scientific research also has to be combined with diverse existing facts to create new insights. His idea on creativity corresponds with modern views concerning an alternative exposure to copyright and intellectual property within the “Creative Commons” licences: “Share, reuse, and remix – legal” (

Combinatorics Crossword

Wilhelm Ostwald (1929). Combinatorics and productive imagination (Kombinatorik und schaffende Phantasie. In: Forschen und Nutzen: Wilhelm Ostwald zur wissenschaftlichen Arbeit (pp. 28-30). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1978.