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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index A > Sir George Biddell Airy Quotes

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Sir George Biddell Airy
(27 Jul 1801 - 2 Jan 1892)

English astronomer and mathematician who was the seventh Astronomer Royal. He made a mathematical study of the rainbow, researched optical interference fringes. Airy computed the density of the Earth by swinging a pendulum at a deep mine. He determined the mass of Jupiter, its rotational period and orbits of comets.


Science Quotes by Sir George Biddell Airy (3 quotes)

Portrait of Airy wearing wide lapel coat, seated diagonal to left in wooden chair with wicker side, 3/4 body facing forward
George Biddell Airy (1883)
Oil painting by John Collier (source)
I had made considerable advance ... in calculations on my favourite numerical lunar theory, when I discovered that, under the heavy pressure of unusual matters (two transits of Venus and some eclipses) I had committed a grievous error in the first stage of giving numerical value to my theory. My spirit in the work was broken, and I have never heartily proceeded with it since.
[Concerning his calculations on the orbital motion of the Moon.]
— Sir George Biddell Airy
Private note (29 Sep 1890). In George Biddell Airy and Wilfrid Airy (ed.), Autobiography of Sir George Biddell Airy (1896), 350.
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In the hands of Science and indomitable energy, results the most gigantic and absorbing may be wrought out by skilful combinations of acknowledged data and the simplest means.
— Sir George Biddell Airy
From Introduction to Lecture on the Pendulum-Experiments at Harton Pit (1855), iv. The quote comes from the printed Introduction in the published booklet, but was not part of the printed lecture itself. At the request of a “deputation of gentlemen of South Shields,” the printed version of the lecture was written “in extenso, from memory,” after the original talk was given on 24 Oct 1854 at South Shields, County Durham, England.
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On Sept 15th [1852] Mr Goulburn, Chancellor of the Exchequer, asked my opinion on the utility of Mr Babbage's calculating machine, and the propriety of spending further sums of money on it. I replied, entering fully into the matter, and giving my opinion that it was worthless.
— Sir George Biddell Airy
In George Biddell Airy and Wilfrid Airy (ed.), Autobiography of Sir George Biddell Airy (1896), 152.
Science quotes on:  |  Ask (411)  |  Charles Babbage (54)  |  Calculating Machine (3)  |  Chancellor (8)  |  Exchequer (2)  |  Machine (257)  |  Matter (798)  |  Money (170)  |  Opinion (281)  |  Propriety (6)  |  Reply (56)  |  Spending (24)  |  Sum (102)  |  Utility (49)  |  Worthless (21)


See also:
  • 27 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Airy's birth.
  • Sir George Biddell Airy - Lecture on the Pendulum Experiments at Harton Pit (1854)

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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