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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index A > Saint Magnus Albertus Quotes

Saint Magnus Albertus
(1193 - 15 Nov 1280)

German scholar and theologian.


Science Quotes by Saint Magnus Albertus (9 quotes)

Do there exist many worlds, or is there but a single world? This is one of the most noble and exalted questions in the study of Nature.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
Quoted in Grant McColley, 'The Seventeenth-Century Doctrine of a Plurality of Worlds', Annals of Science (1936), 1, 385. As cited in George Sarton and Frances Siegel, 'Forty-Ninth Critical Bibliography of the History and Philosophy of Science and of the History of Civilization', Isis (May 1937), 27, No. 1, 174-175.
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Evidence of this [transformation of animals into fossils] is that parts of aquatic animals and perhaps of naval gear are found in rock in hollows on mountains, which water no doubt deposited there enveloped in sticky mud, and which were prevented by coldness and dryness of the stone from petrifying completely. Very striking evidence of this kind is found in the stones of Paris, in which one very often meets round shells the shape of the moon.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
De Causis Proprietatum Elementorum (On the Causes of the Properties of the Elements) [before 1280], Book II, tract 3, chapter 5, quoted in A. C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo (1959), Vol. 1, 126.
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It seems wonderful to everyone that sometimes stones are found that have figures of animals inside and outside. For outside they have an outline, and when they are broken open, the shapes of the internal organs are found inside. And Avicenna says that the cause of this is that animals, just as they are, are sometimes changed into stones, and especially [salty] stones. For he says that just as the Earth and Water are material for stones, so animals, too, are material for stones. And in places where a petrifying force is exhaling, they change into their elements and are attacked by the properties of the qualities [hot, cold, moist, dry] which are present in those places, and in the elements in the bodies of such animals are changed into the dominant element, namely Earth mixed with Water; and then the mineralizing power converts [the mixture] into stone, and the parts of the body retain their shape, inside and outside, just as they were before. There are also stones of this sort that are [salty] and frequently not hard; for it must be a strong power which thus transmutes the bodies of animals, and it slightly burns the Earth in the moisture, so it produces a taste of salt.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
De Mineralibus (On Minerals) (c.1261-1263), Book I, tract 2, chapter 8, trans. Dorothy Wyckoff (1967), 52-53.
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Now it must be asked if we can comprehend why comets signify the death of magnates and coming wars, for writers of philosophy say so. The reason is not apparent, since vapor no more rises in a land where a pauper lives than where a rich man resides, whether he be king or someone else. Furthermore, it is evident that a comet has a natural cause not dependent on anything else; so it seems that it has no relation to someone’s death or to war. For if it be said that it does relate to war or someone’s death, either it does so as a cause or effect or sign.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
De Cometis (On Comets) [before 1280], trans. Lynn Thorndike, from ed. Borgnet, IV, 499-508, quoted in Lynn Thorndike (ed.), Latin Treatises on Comets between 1238 and 1368 A.D. (1950), 75.
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Sarcophagus is a stone that devours dead bodies, for in Greek σάρκος means “flesh” and φαγώ “eating”. Some of the ancients first made coffins for the dead of this stone because in the space of thirty days it consumed the dead… . For this reason stone monuments are called sarcophagi.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
From De Mineralibus (c.1261-1263), as translated by Dorothy Wyckoff, Book of Minerals (1967), 116.
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The beaver is an animal which has feet like those of a goose for swimming and front teeth like a dog, since it frequently walks on land. It is called the castor from “castration,” but not because it castrates itself as Isodore says, but because it is especially sought for castration purposes. As has been ascertained frequently in our regions, it is false that when it is bothered by a hunter, it castrates itself with its teeth and hurls its musk [castoreum] away and that if one has been castrated on another occasion by a hunter, it raises itself up and shows that it lacks its musk.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
De Animalibus (On Animals) [1258/62], Book XXII, tract 2, chapter 1 (22), trans. K. F. Kitchell Jr. and I. M. Resnick (1999), Vol. 2, 1467.
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To say that there is a soul in stones simply in order to account for their production is unsatisfactory: for their production is not like the reproduction of living plants, and of animals which have senses. For all these we see reproducing their own species from their own seeds; and a stone does not do this at all. We never see stones reproduced from stones; ... because a stone seems to have no reproductive power at all.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
De Mineralibus (On Minerals) (c.1261-1263), Book I, tract I, chapter 4, trans. Dorothy Wyckoff (1967), 20.
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We say in general that the material of all stone is either some form of Earth or some form of Water. For one or the other of these elements predominates in stones; and even in stones in which some form of Water seems to predominate, something of Earth is also important. Evidence of this is that nearly all kinds of stones sink in water.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
From De Mineralibus (c.1261-1263), as translated by Dorothy Wyckoff, Book of Minerals (1967), 12.
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We say that, in very truth the productive cause is a mineralizing power which is active in forming stones… . This power, existing in the particular material of stones, has two instruments according to different natural conditions.
One of these is heat, which is active in drawing out moisture and digesting the material and bringing about its solidification into the form of stone, in Earth that has been acted upon by unctuous moisture… .
The other instrument is in watery moist material that has been acted upon by earthy dryness; and this [instrument] is cold, which … is active in expelling moisture.
— Saint Magnus Albertus
From De Mineralibus (c.1261-1263), as translated by Dorothy Wyckoff, Book of Minerals (1967), 22.
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Quotes by others about Saint Magnus Albertus (2)

Albertus [Magnus] ... debased the doctrine of Aristotle with the itch of the chemists flowing with the bloody flux of quicksilver and the stench of sulphur.
De Orta et Causis Subterraneorum Lib. V (1546), 46, trans. John Howes.
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Enhydros is a variety of geode. The name comes from the water it contains. It is always round, smooth, and very white but will sway back and forth when moved. Inside it is a liquid just as in an egg, as Pliny, our Albertus, and others believed, and it may even drip water. Liquid bitumen, sometimes with a pleasant odor, is found enclosed in rock just as in a vase.
As translated by Mark Chance Bandy and Jean A. Bandy from the first Latin Edition of 1546 in De Natura Fossilium: (Textbook of Mineralogy) (2004), 104. Originally published by Geological Society of America as a Special Paper (1955). There are other translations with different wording.
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See also:
  • 15 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Albertus's death.

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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