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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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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Eric Temple Bell Quotes

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Eric Temple Bell
(7 Feb 1883 - 21 Dec 1960)

Scottish-American mathematician and writer who contributed to analytic number theory. He wrote for the layman in Men of Mathematics (1937).

Science Quotes by Eric Temple Bell (9 quotes)

For some months the astronomer Halley and other friends of Newton had been discussing the problem in the following precise form: what is the path of a body attracted by a force directed toward a fixed point, the force varying in intensity as the inverse of the distance? Newton answered instantly, “An ellipse.” “How do you know?” he was asked. “Why, I have calculated it.” Thus originated the imperishable Principia, which Newton later wrote out for Halley. It contained a complete treatise on motion.
— Eric Temple Bell
In The Handmaiden of the Sciences (1937), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Astronomer (50)  |  Calculate (15)  |  Discuss (14)  |  Ellipse (4)  |  Edmond Halley (8)  |  Motion (127)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)  |  Principia (6)  |  Problem (362)  |  Treatise (19)

In his wretched life of less than twenty-seven years Abel accomplished so much of the highest order that one of the leading mathematicians of the Nineteenth Century (Hermite, 1822-1901) could say without exaggeration, “Abel has left mathematicians enough to keep them busy for five hundred years.” Asked how he had done all this in the six or seven years of his working life, Abel replied, “By studying the masters, not the pupils.”
— Eric Temple Bell
The Queen of the Sciences (1931, 1938), 10.
Science quotes on:  |  Niels Henrik Abel (12)  |  Accomplishment (57)  |  Charles Hermite (2)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Study (331)

Poincaré was a vigorous opponent of the theory that all mathematics can be rewritten in terms of the most elementary notions of classical logic; something more than logic, he believed, makes mathematics what it is.
— Eric Temple Bell
Quoted in Thomson Gale, Online, 'Jules Henri Poincaré', World of Mathematics (2006).
Science quotes on:  |  Logic (187)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Henri Poincaré (67)

The full impact of the Lobatchewskian method of challenging axioms has probably yet to be felt. It is no exaggeration to call Lobatchewsky the Copernicus of Geometry [as did Clifford], for geometry is only a part of the vaster domain which he renovated; it might even be just to designate him as a Copernicus of all thought.
— Eric Temple Bell
From a page of quotations, without citations, in G.E. Martin The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1975), 225. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
Science quotes on:  |  Axiom (26)  |  Challenge (37)  |  Nicolaus Copernicus (44)  |  Designation (10)  |  Domain (21)  |  Exaggeration (7)  |  Geometry (99)  |  Impact (21)  |  Method (154)  |  Renovation (2)  |  Thought (374)

The only royal road to elementary geometry is ingenuity.
— Eric Temple Bell
In The Development of Mathematics (1940, 1945), 322.
Science quotes on:  |  Elementary (30)  |  Geometry (99)  |  Ingenuity (27)  |  Road (47)  |  Royal (10)

These estimates may well be enhanced by one from F. Klein (1849-1925), the leading German mathematician of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. “Mathematics in general is fundamentally the science of self-evident things.” ... If mathematics is indeed the science of self-evident things, mathematicians are a phenomenally stupid lot to waste the tons of good paper they do in proving the fact. Mathematics is abstract and it is hard, and any assertion that it is simple is true only in a severely technical sense—that of the modern postulational method which, as a matter of fact, was exploited by Euclid. The assumptions from which mathematics starts are simple; the rest is not.
— Eric Temple Bell
Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Science (1952),19-20.
Science quotes on:  |  19th Century (22)  |  Euclid (28)  |  Felix Klein (5)  |  Mathematics (587)

Undeterred by poverty, failure, domestic tragedy, and persecution, but sustained by his mystical belief in an attainable mathematical harmony and perfection of nature, Kepler persisted for fifteen years before finding the simple regularity [of planetary orbits] he sought… . What stimulated Kepler to keep slaving all those fifteen years? An utter absurdity. In addition to his faith in the mathematical perfectibility of astronomy, Kepler also believed wholeheartedly in astrology. This was nothing against him. For a scientist of Kepler’s generation astrology was as respectable scientifically and mathematically as the quantum theory or relativity is to theoretical physicists today. Nonsense now, astrology was not nonsense in the sixteenth century.
— Eric Temple Bell
In The Handmaiden of the Sciences (1937), 30.
Science quotes on:  |  16th Century (3)  |  Astrology (35)  |  Astronomy (175)  |  Belief (400)  |  Failure (118)  |  Harmony (55)  |  Johannes Kepler (72)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Mystical (7)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Nonsense (32)  |  Orbit (58)  |  Perfection (71)  |  Persecution (9)  |  Planet (199)  |  Poverty (29)  |  Quantum Theory (55)  |  Relativity (50)  |  Theoretical Physicist (12)  |  Tragedy (19)

[As a young teenager] Galois read [Legendre's] geometry from cover to cover as easily as other boys read a pirate yarn.
— Eric Temple Bell
Men of Mathematics (1937, 1986), 364.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (181)  |  Évariste Galois (3)  |  Geometry (99)  |  Adrien-Marie Legendre (2)  |  Pirate (2)  |  Read (83)

“Obvious” is the most dangerous word in mathematics.
— Eric Temple Bell
In The Queen of the Sciences (1938), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Dangerous (45)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Obvious (54)  |  Word (221)

See also:
  • 7 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Bell's birth.
  • The Search for E.T. Bell: Also Known as John Taine, by Constance Reid, William Watkins. - book suggestion.

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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