I think you are quite right, Peter.
I think when thinkers in all different disciplines are separated from their usual colleagues, usual influences and the peer-pressure that results in people grouped together thinking thinking similarly, original and useful thoughts are very likely to result. Also there is likely to be less distracting day-to-day administrative activity, enabling deeper thought.
I recall the comment of Joseph Haydn, about his period spend at the court of Price Esterhazy in Bohemia, that he was isolated from all the influences he had had in Vienna, and so he was forced to be original, writing his best music there.
I have also been spending a lot of time in the shed at the bottom of my garden, waiting for inspiration to strike.