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Who said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
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Century Quotes (38 quotes)

Almost every major systematic error which has deluded men for thousands of years relied on practical experience. Horoscopes, incantations, oracles, magic, witchcraft, the cures of witch doctors and of medical practitioners before the advent of modern medicine, were all firmly established through the centuries in the eyes of the public by their supposed practical successes. The scientific method was devised precisely for the purpose of elucidating the nature of things under more carefully controlled conditions and by more rigorous criteria than are present in the situations created by practical problems.
Personal Knowledge (1958), 183.
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Animals, even plants, lie to each other all the time, and we could restrict the research to them, putting off the real truth about ourselves for the several centuries we need to catch our breath. What is it that enables certain flowers to resemble nubile insects, or opossums to play dead, or female fireflies to change the code of their flashes in order to attract, and then eat, males of a different species?
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 131.
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Arts and sciences in one and the same century have arrived at great perfection; and no wonder, since every age has a kind of universal genius, which inclines those that live in it to some particular studies; the work then, being pushed on by many hands, must go forward.
In Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1880), 45.
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Cosmology, for centuries consisting of speculation based on a minimum of observational evidence and a maximum of philosophical predilection, became in the twentieth century an observational science, its theories now subject to verification or refutation to a degree previously unimaginable.
Opening sentence in 'Philosophical Values and Observation in Edwin Hubble's Choice of a Model of the Universe', Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (1982), 13, No. 1, 41.
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During the last two centuries and a half, physical knowledge has been gradually made to rest upon a basis which it had not before. It has become mathematical. The question now is, not whether this or that hypothesis is better or worse to the pure thought, but whether it accords with observed phenomena in those consequences which can be shown necessarily to follow from it, if it be true
In Augustus De Morgan and Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (ed.), A Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 2.
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Electricity is but yet a new agent for the arts and manufactures, and, doubtless, generations unborn will regard with interest this century, in which it has been first applied to the wants of mankind.
In Preface to the Third Edition ofElements of Electro-Metallurgy: or The Art of Working in Metals by the Galvanic Fluid (1851), viii.
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However, the small probability of a similar encounter [of the earth with a comet], can become very great in adding up over a huge sequence of centuries. It is easy to picture to oneself the effects of this impact upon the Earth. The axis and the motion of rotation changed; the seas abandoning their old position to throw themselves toward the new equator; a large part of men and animals drowned in this universal deluge, or destroyed by the violent tremor imparted to the terrestrial globe.
Exposition du Système du Monde, 2nd edition (1799), 208, trans. Ivor Grattan-Guinness.
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I saw [Linus Pauling] as a brilliant lecturer and a man with a fantastic memory, and a great, great showman. I think he was the century’s greatest chemist. No doubt about it.
From transcript of audio of Max Perutz in BBC programme, 'Lifestory: Linus Pauling' (1997). On 'Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA' webpage 'I Wish I Had Made You Angry Earlier.'
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I suspect that the changes that have taken place during the last century in the average man's fundamental beliefs, in his philosophy, in his concept of religion. in his whole world outlook, are greater than the changes that occurred during the preceding four thousand years all put together. ... because of science and its applications to human life, for these have bloomed in my time as no one in history had had ever dreamed could be possible.
In The Autobiography of Robert A. Millikan (1951, 1980), xii.
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I think that the discovery of antimatter was perhaps the biggest jump of all the big jumps in physics in our century.
From 'Development of Concepts in the History of Quantum Theory', in Jagdish Mehra (ed.) The Physicist's Concept of Nature (1973), Vol. 1972, 271.
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If the great story of the last century was the conflict among various political ideologies—communism, fascism and democracy—then the great narrative of this century will be the changes wrought by astonishing scientific breakthroughs
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, column also distributed by United Press Syndicate, American Know-How Hobbled by Know-Nothings (9 Aug 2005). In Eve Herold, George Daley, Stem Cell Wars (2007), 21.
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In the past century, there were more changes than in the previous thousand years. The new century will see changes that will dwarf those of the last.
Referring to the 19th and 20th centuries.
Lecture, 'Discovery of the Future' at the Royal Institution (1902). Quoted in Martin J. Rees, Our Final Hour: a Scientist's Warning (2004), 9.
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Indeed, we need not look back half a century to times which many now living remember well, and see the wonderful advances in the sciences and arts which have been made within that period. Some of these have rendered the elements themselves subservient to the purposes of man, have harnessed them to the yoke of his labors and effected the great blessings of moderating his own, of accomplishing what was beyond his feeble force, and extending the comforts of life to a much enlarged circle, to those who had before known its necessaries only.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia' (Dec 1818), reprinted in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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Indians walk softly and hurt the landscape hardly more than the birds and squirrels, and their brush and bark huts last hardly longer than those of wood rats, while their more enduring monuments, excepting those wrought on the forests by the fires they made to improve their hunting grounds, vanish in a few centuries.
John Muir
In My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), 73. Based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the Sierra.
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It is clear that we cannot go up another two orders of magnitude as we have climbed the last five. If we did, we should have two scientists for every man, woman, child, and dog in the population, and we should spend on them twice as much money as we had. Scientific doomsday is therefore less than a century distant.
Little Science, Big Science (1963), 19.
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It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these western woods ... Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time—and long before that—God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools.
John Muir
In 'The American Forests', Atlantic Monthly (Aug 1897), Vol. 80, 157.
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It was basic research in the photoelectric field—in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today's GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.
Speech to the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting (27 Apr 2009).
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It's important to always bear in mind that life occurs in historical time. Everyone in every culture lives in some sort of historical time, though it might not be perceived in the same way an outside observer sees it. It's an interesting question, “When is now?” “Now” can be drawn from some point like this hour, this day, this month, this lifetime, or this generation. “Now” can also have occurred centuries ago; things like unfair treaties, the Trail of Tears, and the Black Hawk War, for instance, remain part of the “Now” from which many Native Americans view their place in time today. Human beings respond today to people and events that actually occurred hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Ethnohistorians have played a major role in showing how now is a social concept of time, and that time is part of all social life. I can only hope that their work will further the understanding that the study of social life is a study of change over time.
From Robert S. Grumet, 'An Interview with Anthony F. C. Wallace', Ethnohistory (Winter 1998), 45, No. 1, 127.
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James Watt patented his steam engine on the eve of the American Revolution, consummating a relationship between coal and the new Promethean spirit of the age, and humanity made its first tentative steps into an industrial way of life that would, over the next two centuries, forever change the world.
In The Hydrogen Economy: The Creation of the Worldwide Energy Web and the Redistribution of Power on Earth (2002), 2.
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John Dalton's records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war.
In Anu Garg, Another Word a Day (2005), 210. If you know a primary print source, please contact Webmaster.
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Newton advanced, with one gigantic stride, from the regions of twilight into the noon day of science. A Boyle and a Hooke, who would otherwise have been deservedly the boast of their century, served but as obscure forerunners of Newton's glories.
A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts (1845), 5.
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Nothing holds me ... I will indulge in my sacred fury; I will triumph over mankind by the honest confession that I have stolen the golden vases of the Egyptians to build up a tabernacle for my God, far away from the confines of Egypt. If you forgive me, I rejoice ; if you are angry, I can bear it. The die is cast; the book is written, to be read either now or by posterity, I care not which. It may well wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer.
As given in David Brewster, The Martyrs of Science (1841), 217.
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Over the last century, physicists have used light quanta, electrons, alpha particles, X-rays, gamma-rays, protons, neutrons and exotic sub-nuclear particles for this purpose [scattering experiments]. Much important information about the target atoms or nuclei or their assemblage has been obtained in this way. In witness of this importance one can point to the unusual concentration of scattering enthusiasts among earlier Nobel Laureate physicists. One could say that physicists just love to perform or interpret scattering experiments.
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1994), in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1994 (1995).
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Philosophy would long ago have reached a high level if our predecessors and fathers had put this into practice; and we would not waste time on the primary difficulties, which appear now as severe as in the first centuries which noticed them. We would have the experience of assured phenomena, which would serve as principles for a solid reasoning; truth would not be so deeply sunken; nature would have taken off most of her envelopes; one would see the marvels she contains in all her individuals. ...
Les Préludes de l'Harmonie Universelle (1634), 135-139. In Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 316.
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Reason must approach nature with the view, indeed, of receiving information from it, not, however, in the character of a pupil, who listens to all that his master chooses to tell him, but in that of a judge, who compels the witnesses to reply to those questions which he himself thinks fit to propose. To this single idea must the revolution be ascribed, by which, after groping in the dark for so many centuries, natural science was at length conducted into the path of certain progress.
Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn (1855), Preface to the Second Edition, xxvii.
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The advance of science is not comparable to the changes of a city, where old edifices are pitilessly torn down to give place to new, but to the continuous evolution of zoologic types which develop ceaselessly and end by becoming unrecognisable to the common sight, but where an expert eye finds always traces of the prior work of the centuries past. One must not think then that the old-fashioned theories have been sterile and vain.
The Value of Science (1905), in The Foundations of Science: Science and Hypothesis, The Value of Science, Science and Method(1946), trans. by George Bruce Halsted, 208.
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The advancement of science is slow; it is effected only by virtue of hard work and perseverance. And when a result is attained, should we not in recognition connect it with the efforts of those who have preceded us, who have struggled and suffered in advance? Is it not truly a duty to recall the difficulties which they vanquished, the thoughts which guided them; and how men of different nations, ideas, positions, and characters, moved solely by the love of science, have bequeathed to us the unsolved problem? Should not the last comer recall the researches of his predecessors while adding in his turn his contribution of intelligence and of labor? Here is an intellectual collaboration consecrated entirely to the search for truth, and which continues from century to century.
[Respecting how the work of prior researchers had enabled his isolation of fluorine.]
Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1897). In Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to July 1897 (1898), 262.
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The field of scientific abstraction encompasses independent kingdoms of ideas and of experiments and within these, rulers whose fame outlasts the centuries. But they are not the only kings in science. He also is a king who guides the spirit of his contemporaries by knowledge and creative work, by teaching and research in the field of applied science, and who conquers for science provinces which have only been raided by craftsmen.
While president of the German Chemical Society, making memorial remarks dedicated to the deceased Professor Lunge (Jan 1923). As quoted in Richard Willstätter, Arthur Stoll (ed. of the original German) and Lilli S. Hornig (trans.), From My Life: The Memoirs of Richard Willstätter (1958), 174-175.
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The improvement of forest trees is the work of centuries. So much more the reason for beginning now.
Letter to C. S. Sargent, 12 Jun 1879. In David Lowenthal, George Perkins Marsh: Versatile Vermonter (1958), 255.
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The progress of synthesis, or the building up of natural materials from their constituent elements, proceeds apace. Even some of the simpler albuminoids, a class of substances of great importance in the life process, have recently been artificially prepared. ... Innumerable entirely new compounds have been produced in the last century. The artificial dye-stuffs, prepared from materials occurring in coal-tar, make the natural colours blush. Saccharin, which is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, is a purely artificial substance. New explosives, drugs, alloys, photographic substances, essences, scents, solvents, and detergents are being poured out in a continuous stream.
In Matter and Energy (1912), 45-46.
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The ruthless destruction of their forests by the Chinese is one of the reasons why famine and plague today hold this nation in their sinister grasp. Denudation, wherever practiced, leaves naked soil; floods and erosion follow, and when the soil is gone men must also go—and the process does not take long. The great plains of Eastern China were centuries ago transformed from forest into agricultural land. The mountain plateau of Central China have also within a few hundred years been utterly devastated of tree growth, and no attempt made at either natural or artificial reforestation. As a result, the water rushes off the naked slopes in veritable floods, gullying away the mountain sides, causing rivers to run muddy with yellow soil, and carrying enormous masses of fertile earth to the sea. Water courses have also changed; rivers become uncontrollable, and the water level of the country is lowered perceptibly. In consequence, the unfortunate people see their crops wither and die for lack of water when it is most needed.
Statement (11 May 1921) by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning the famine in China in seven out of every ten years. Reported in 'Blames Deforestation: Department of Agriculture Ascribes Chinese Famine to it', New York Times (12 May 1921), 12.
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The story is told of Lord Kelvin, a famous Scotch physicist of the last century, that after he had given a lecture on atoms and molecules, one of his students came to him with the question, “Professor, what is your idea of the structure of the atom.”
“What,” said Kelvin, “The structure of the atom? Why, don’t you know, the very word ‘atom’ means the thing that can’t be cut. How then can it have a structure?”
“That,” remarked the facetious young man, “shows the disadvantage of knowing Greek.”
As described in 'Assault on Atoms' (Read 23 Apr 1931 at Symposium—The Changing World) Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1931), 70, No. 3, 219.
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The wintry clouds drop spangles on the mountains. If the thing occurred once in a century historians would chronicle and poets would sing of the event; but Nature, prodigal of beauty, rains down her hexagonal ice-stars year by year, forming layers yards in thickness. The summer sun thaws and partially consolidates the mass. Each winter's fall is covered by that of the ensuing one, and thus the snow layer of each year has to sustain an annually augmented weight. It is more and more compacted by the pressure, and ends by being converted into the ice of a true glacier, which stretches its frozen tongue far down beyond the limits of perpetual snow. The glaciers move, and through valleys they move like rivers.
The Glaciers of the Alps & Mountaineering in 1861 (1911), 247.
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These two orders of mountains [Secondary and Tertiary] offer the most ancient chronicle of our globe, least liable to falsifications and at the same time more legible than the writing of the primitive ranges. They are Nature's archives, prior to even the most remote records and traditions that have been preserved for our observant century to investigate, comment on and bring to the light of day, and which will not be exhausted for several centuries after our own.
Observations sur la Formation des Montagnes', Acta Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae (1777) [1778], 46. Trans. Albert Carozzi.
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To excavate is to open a book written in the language that the centuries have spoken into the earth.
In Who Said what (and When, and Where, and How) in 1971 (1972), 9.
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True science is at length disencumbered of the empirical determinations which had accumulated in the course of many centuries.
Franz Cumont, translated by J.B. Baker, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (1912, 2007), 6.
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Truths are immortal, my dear friend; they are immortal like God! What we call a falsity is like a fruit; it has a certain number of days; it is bound to decay. Whereas, what we call truth is like gold; days, months, even centuries can hide gold, can overlook it but they can never make it decay.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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We need go back only a few centuries to find the great mass of people depending on religion for the satisfaction of practically all their wishes. From rain out of the sky to good health on earth, they sought their desires at the altars of their gods. Whether they wanted large families, good crops, freedom from pestilence, or peace of mind, they conceived themselves as dependent on the favor of heaven. Then science came with its alternative, competitive method of getting what we want. That is science’s most important attribute. As an intellectual influence it is powerful enough, but as a practical way of achieving man’s desires it is overwhelming.
In 'The Real Point of Conflict between Science and Religion', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 140-141.
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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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Sophie Germain
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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
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
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
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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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
Archimedes
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
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton