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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Arithmetic Quotes (40 quotes)

A New Arithmetic: “I am not much of a mathematician,” said the cigarette, “but I can add nervous troubles to a boy, I can subtract from his physical energy, I can multiply his aches and pains, I can divide his mental powers, I can take interest from his work and discount his chances for success.”
In Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver (1914), Vol. 3, 40.
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All the modern higher mathematics is based on a calculus of operations, on laws of thought. All mathematics, from the first, was so in reality; but the evolvers of the modern higher calculus have known that it is so. Therefore elementary teachers who, at the present day, persist in thinking about algebra and arithmetic as dealing with laws of number, and about geometry as dealing with laws of surface and solid content, are doing the best that in them lies to put their pupils on the wrong track for reaching in the future any true understanding of the higher algebras. Algebras deal not with laws of number, but with such laws of the human thinking machinery as have been discovered in the course of investigations on numbers. Plane geometry deals with such laws of thought as were discovered by men intent on finding out how to measure surface; and solid geometry with such additional laws of thought as were discovered when men began to extend geometry into three dimensions.
Lectures on the Logic of Arithmetic (1903), Preface, 18-19.
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Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in the state of sin.
Remark made at a symposium on the Monte Carlo method. 'Various Techniques Used in Connection with Random Digits', Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Standards, Appl. Math. Series (1951), 3, 36-38; Collected Works, Vol. 5, 5. As quoted in Herman Heine Goldstine, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann (2nd Ed. 1993), 297.
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Arithmetic must be discovered in just the same sense in which Columbus discovered the West Indies, and we no more create numbers than he created the Indians.
The Principles of Mathematics (1903), 451.
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As agonizing a disease as cancer is, I do not think it can be said that our civilization is threatened by it. … But a very plausible case can be made that our civilization is fundamentally threatened by the lack of adequate fertility control. Exponential increases of population will dominate any arithmetic increases, even those brought about by heroic technological initiatives, in the availability of food and resources, as Malthus long ago realized.
From 'In Praise of Science and Technology', in Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1975, 2011), 43.
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As to the need of improvement there can be no question whilst the reign of Euclid continues. My own idea of a useful course is to begin with arithmetic, and then not Euclid but algebra. Next, not Euclid, but practical geometry, solid as well as plane; not demonstration, but to make acquaintance. Then not Euclid, but elementary vectors, conjoined with algebra, and applied to geometry. Addition first; then the scalar product. Elementary calculus should go on simultaneously, and come into vector algebraic geometry after a bit. Euclid might be an extra course for learned men, like Homer. But Euclid for children is barbarous.
Electro-Magnetic Theory (1893), Vol. 1, 148. In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 130.
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At the Egyptian city of Naucratis there was a famous old god whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis was sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters.
In the Phaedrus. Collected in Plato the Teacher (1897), 171. A footnote gives that Naucratis was a city in the Delta of Egypt, on a branch of the Nile.
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Calculating machines do sums better than even the cleverest people… As arithmetic has grown easier, it has come to be less respected.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 5. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 46.
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God does arithmetic.
Attributed. Quoted in A.L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 100.
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I am coming more and more to the conviction that the necessity of our geometry cannot be demonstrated, at least neither by, nor for, the human intellect...geometry should be ranked, not with arithmetic, which is purely aprioristic, but with mechanics.
Quoted in J Koenderink, Solid Shape (1990).
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I compare arithmetic with a tree that unfolds upwards in a multitude of techniques and theorems while the root drives into the depths.
Grundgesetze der Arithmetik (1893), xiii, trans. Ivor Grattan-Guinness.
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I do not believe there is anything useful which men can know with exactitude that they cannot know by arithmetic and algebra.
Oeuvres, Vol. 2, 292g. Trans. J. L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries: A Study of Early Modern Physics (1979), 42.
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I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.
From Lecture 7, (7 Oct 1884), in Baltimore Lectures on Molecular Dynamics and the Wave Theory of Light (1904), 76.
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I then began to study arithmetical questions without any great apparent result, and without suspecting that they could have the least connexion with my previous researches. Disgusted at my want of success, I went away to spend a few days at the seaside, and thought of entirely different things. One day, as I was walking on the cliff, the idea came to me, again with the same characteristics of conciseness, suddenness, and immediate certainty, that arithmetical transformations of indefinite ternary quadratic forms are identical with those of non-Euclidian geometry.
Science and Method (1908), trans. Francis Maitland (1914), 53-4.
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I was just going to say, when I was interrupted, that one of the many ways of classifying minds is under the heads of arithmetical and algebraical intellects. All economical and practical wisdom is an extension or variation of the following arithmetical formula: 2+2=4. Every philosophical proposition has the more general character of the expression a+b=c. We are mere operatives, empirics, and egotists, until we learn to think in letters instead of figures.
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858), 1.
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Iamblichus in his treatise On the Arithmetic of Nicomachus observes p. 47- “that certain numbers were called amicable by those who assimilated the virtues and elegant habits to numbers.” He adds, “that 284 and 220 are numbers of this kind; for the parts of each are generative of each other according to the nature of friendship, as was shown by Pythagoras. For some one asking him what a friend was, he answered, another I (ετεϑος εγω) which is demonstrated to take place in these numbers.” [“Friendly” thus: Each number is equal to the sum of the factors of the other.]
In Theoretic Arithmetic (1816), 122. (Factors of 284 are 1, 2, 4 ,71 and 142, which give the sum 220. Reciprocally, factors of 220 are 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11 ,22, 44, 55 and 110, which give the sum 284.) Note: the expression “alter ego” is Latin for “the other I.”
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If an angel were to tell us about his philosophy, I believe many of his statements might well sound like '2 x 2= 13'.
Lichtenberg: Aphorisms & Letters (1969), 31.
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If scientific reasoning were limited to the logical processes of arithmetic, we should not get very far in our understanding of the physical world. One might as well attempt to grasp the game of poker entirely by the use of the mathematics of probability.
Endless Horizons (1946), 27.
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In fact, Gentlemen, no geometry without arithmetic, no mechanics without geometry... you cannot count upon success, if your mind is not sufficiently exercised on the forms and demonstrations of geometry, on the theories and calculations of arithmetic ... In a word, the theory of proportions is for industrial teaching, what algebra is for the most elevated mathematical teaching.
... a l'ouverture du cours de mechanique industrielle á Metz (1827), 2-3, trans. Ivor Grattan-Guinness.
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It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity and the great ease which it has lent to computations put our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions; and we shall appreciate the grandeur of the achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.
Quoted in Return to Mathematical Circles H. Eves (Boston 1988).
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It seems to me, that if statesmen had a little more arithmetic, or were accustomed to calculation, wars would be much less frequent.
Letter to his sister, Mrs. Jane Mecom (1787) just after the close of the Constitutional Convention. In Jared Sparks (ed.) The Works of Benjamin Franklin (1840), Vol. 10, 445.
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Lucy, dear child, mind your arithmetic. You know in the first sum of yours I ever saw there was a mistake. You had carried two (as a cab is licensed to do), and you ought, dear Lucy, to have carried but one. Is this a trifle? What would life be without arithmetic, but a scene of horrors.
Letter to a child (22 Jul 1835). In Sydney Smith, Saba Holland, with Sarah Austin (ed.), A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith by his Daughter, Lady Holland (4th ed. 1855), Vol. 2, 364.
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Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. … Aristotle, so far as I know, was the first man to proclaim explicitly that man is a rational animal. His reason for this view was … that some people can do sums. … It is in virtue of the intellect that man is a rational animal. The intellect is shown in various ways, but most emphatically by mastery of arithmetic. The Greek system of numerals was very bad, so that the multiplication table was quite difficult, and complicated calculations could only be made by very clever people.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 5. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 45.
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Mathematics is not arithmetic. Though mathematics may have arisen from the practices of counting and measuring it really deals with logical reasoning in which theorems—general and specific statements—can be deduced from the starting assumptions. It is, perhaps, the purest and most rigorous of intellectual activities, and is often thought of as queen of the sciences.
Essay,'Private Games', in Lewis Wolpert, Alison Richards (eds.), A Passion for Science (1988), 53.
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Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and arithmetic [number theory] is the queen of mathematics. She often condescends to render service to astronomy and other natural sciences, but in all relations, she is entitled to first rank.
I>Sartorius von Waltershausen: Gauss zum Gedächtniss (1856), 79. Quoted in Robert Edouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica (1914), 271.
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O comfortable allurement, O ravishing perswasion, to deal with a Science, whose subject is so Auncient, so pure, so excellent, so surmounting all creatures... By Numbers propertie ... we may... arise, clime, ascend, and mount up (with Speculative winges) in spirit, to behold in the Glas of creation, the Forme of Formes, the Exemplar Number of all things Numerable... Who can remaine, therefore, unpersuaded, to love, allow, and honor the excellent sciehce of Arithmatike?
John Dee
'Mathematicall Preface', in H. Billingsley, trans. The Elements of Geometry of the most Aunceint Philosopher Euclide of Megara (1570), in J. L. Hellbron, Weighing Imponderables and Other Quantitative Science around 1800 (1993), 2.
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Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard, you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.?
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 22.
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Physics is NOT a body of indisputable and immutable Truth; it is a body of well-supported probable opinion only .... Physics can never prove things the way things are proved in mathematics, by eliminating ALL of the alternative possibilities. It is not possible to say what the alternative possibilities are.... Write down a number of 20 figures; if you multiply this by a number of, say, 30 figures, you would arrive at some enormous number (of either 49 or 50 figures). If you were to multiply the 30-figure number by the 20-figure number you would arrive at the same enormous 49- or 50-figure number, and you know this to be true without having to do the multiplying. This is the step you can never take in physics.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 68, 88, 179.
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Science has hitherto been proceeding without the guidance of any rational theory of logic, and has certainly made good progress. It is like a computer who is pursuing some method of arithmetical approximation. Even if he occasionally makes mistakes in his ciphering, yet if the process is a good one they will rectify themselves. But then he would approximate much more rapidly if he did not commit these errors; and in my opinion, the time has come when science ought to be provided with a logic. My theory satisfies me; I can see no flaw in it. According to that theory universality, necessity, exactitude, in the absolute sense of these words, are unattainable by us, and do not exist in nature. There is an ideal law to which nature approximates; but to express it would require an endless series of modifications, like the decimals expressing surd. Only when you have asked a question in so crude a shape that continuity is not involved, is a perfectly true answer attainable.
Letter to G. F. Becker, 11 June 1893. Merrill Collection, Library of Congress. Quoted in Nathan Reingold, Science in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History (1966), 231-2.
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The analysis of variance is not a mathematical theorem, but rather a convenient method of arranging the arithmetic.
Remarking on the paper, ‘Statistics in Agricultural Research’ by J. Wishart, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Supplement (1934), 1, 52. As cited in Michael Cowle, Statistics in Psychology: An Historical Perspective (2005), 210.
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The arithmetic of life does not always have a logical answer.
Westfield State College
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The mathematics of cooperation of men and tools is interesting. Separated men trying their individual experiments contribute in proportion to their numbers and their work may be called mathematically additive. The effect of a single piece of apparatus given to one man is also additive only, but when a group of men are cooperating, as distinct from merely operating, their work raises with some higher power of the number than the first power. It approaches the square for two men and the cube for three. Two men cooperating with two different pieces of apparatus, say a special furnace and a pyrometer or a hydraulic press and new chemical substances, are more powerful than their arithmetical sum. These facts doubtless assist as assets of a research laboratory.
Quoted from a speech delivered at the fiftieth anniversary of granting of M.I.T's charter, in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 352.
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The method of producing these numbers is called a sieve by Eratosthenes, since we take the odd numbers mingled and indiscriminate and we separate out of them by this method of production, as if by some instrument or sieve, the prime and incomposite numbers by themselves, and the secondary and composite numbers by themselves, and we find separately those that are mixed.
Nicomachus, Introduction to Arithmetic, 1.13.2. Quoted in Morris R. Cohen and I. E. Drabkin, A Sourcebook in Greek Science (1948), 19-20.
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The primes are the raw material out of which we have to build arithmetic, and Euclid’s theorem assures us that we have plenty of material for the task.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 99.
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The same algebraic sum of positive and negative charges in the nucleus, when the arithmetical sum is different, gives what I call “isotopes” or “isotopic elements,” because they occupy the same place in the periodic table. They are chemically identical, and save only as regards the relatively few physical properties which depend upon atomic mass directly, physically identical also. Unit changes of this nuclear charge, so reckoned algebraically, give the successive places in the periodic table. For any one “place” or any one nuclear charge, more than one number of electrons in the outer-ring system may exist, and in such a case the element exhibits variable valency. But such changes of number, or of valency, concern only the ring and its external environment. There is no in- and out-going of electrons between ring and nucleus.
Concluding paragraph of 'Intra-atomic Charge', Nature (1913), 92, 400. Collected in Alfred Romer, Radiochemistry and the Discovery of Isotopes (1970), 251-252.
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There still remain three studies suitable for free man. Arithmetic is one of them.
As quoted in James R. Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 1, 212.
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Thus died Negro Tom [Thomas Fuller], this untaught arithmetician, this untutored scholar. Had his opportunities of improvement been equal to those of thousands of his fellow-men, neither the Royal Society of London, the Academy of Science at Paris, nor even a Newton himself need have been ashamed to acknowledge him a brother in science.
[Thomas Fuller (1710-1790), although enslaved from Africa at age 14, was an arithmetical prodigy. He was known as the Virginia Calculator because of his exceptional ability with arithmetic calculations. His intellectual accomplishments were related by Dr. Benjamin Rush in a letter read to the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.]
From obituary in the Boston Columbian Centinal (29 Dec 1790), 14, No. 31. In George Washington Williams, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880 (1882), Vol. 1, 400
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You cannot ask us to take sides against arithmetic.
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You propound a complicated arithmetical problem: say cubing a number containing four digits. Give me a slate and half an hour's time, and I can produce a wrong answer.
Cashel Byron's Profession (1886, 1901), xxiii.
Science quotes on:  |  Cube (9)  |  Mathematics (392)  |  Problem (190)  |  Solution (116)

[Boswell]: Sir Alexander Dick tells me, that he remembers having a thousand people in a year to dine at his house: that is, reckoning each person as one, each time that he dined there. [Johnson]: That, Sir, is about three a day. [Boswell]: How your statement lessens the idea. [Johnson]: That, Sir, is the good of counting. It brings every thing to a certainty, which before floated in the mind indefinitely.
Entry for Fri 18 Apr 1783. In George Birkbeck-Hill (ed.), Boswell's Life of Johnson (1934-50), Vol. 4, 204.
Science quotes on:  |  Certainty (65)  |  Number (97)

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton