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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Marcellin Berthelot Quotes

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Marcellin Berthelot
(27 Oct 1827 - 18 Mar 1907)

French chemist and science historian.


Science Quotes by Marcellin Berthelot (4 quotes)

La Chimie n’est pas une science primitive, comme la géométrie ou l’astronomie; elle s’est constituée sur les débris d’une formation scientifique antérieure; formation demi-chimérique et demi-positive, fondée elle-même sur le trésor lentement amassé des découvertes pratiques de la métallurgie, de la médecine, de l’industrie et de l’économie domestique. Il s’agit de l’alchimie, qui prétendait à la fois enrichir ses adeptes en leur apprenant à fabriquer l’or et l’argent, les mettre à l’abri des maladies par la préparation de la panacée, enfin leur procurer le bonheur parfait en les identifiant avec l’âme du monde et l’esprit universel.
Chemistry is not a primitive science like geometry and astronomy; it is constructed from the debris of a previous scientific formation; a formation half chimerical and half positive, itself found on the treasure slowly amassed by the practical discoveries of metallurgy, medicine, industry and domestic economy. It has to do with alchemy, which pretended to enrich its adepts by teaching them to manufacture gold and silver, to shield them from diseases by the preparation of the panacea, and, finally, to obtain for them perfect felicity by identifying them with the soul of the world and the universal spirit.
— Marcellin Berthelot
From Les Origines de l’Alchemie (1885), 1-2. As quoted by Harry Shipley Fry in 'An Outline of the History of Chemistry Symbolically Represented in a Rookwood Fountain', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (1 Sep 1922), 14, No. 9, 868.
Science quotes on:  |  Alchemy (28)  |  Amassed (2)  |  Astronomy (175)  |  Chemistry (239)  |  Constructed (3)  |  Debris (7)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Disease (257)  |  Domestic (12)  |  Economy (46)  |  Enrich (6)  |  Felicity (2)  |  Finally (10)  |  Formation (54)  |  Found (11)  |  Geometry (99)  |  Gold (55)  |  Half (35)  |  Identifying (2)  |  Industry (91)  |  Manufacture (12)  |  Medicine (322)  |  Metallurgy (2)  |  Obtain (21)  |  Panacea (2)  |  Perfect (46)  |  Positive (28)  |  Practical (93)  |  Preparation (33)  |  Previous (8)  |  Scientific (169)  |  Shield (4)  |  Silver (26)  |  Slowly (10)  |  Soul (139)  |  Spirit (113)  |  Teaching (99)  |  Treasure (35)  |  Universal (70)  |  World (667)

I do not want chemistry to degenerate into a religion; I do not want the chemist to believe in the existence of atoms as the Christian believes in the existence of Christ in the communion wafer.
— Marcellin Berthelot
Said to Alfred Nacquet in a debate on chemical education. Quoted in 'Berthelot', Berichte, 1908, 41, 4855.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (251)  |  Religion (210)

We all teach ... the chemistry of Lavoisier and Gay-Lussac.
— Marcellin Berthelot
Comment made in 1877. Cited in Maurice Crosland, Gay-Lussac, Scientist and Bourgeois (1972), 248.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemistry (239)  |  Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (7)  |  Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (33)

Within a hundred years of physical and chemical science, men will know what the atom is. It is my belief when science reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys and will say to humanity, 'Gentlemen, it is closing time.'
— Marcellin Berthelot
Quoted in Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (251)  |  God (454)  |  Progress (317)


See also:
  • 27 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Berthelot's birth.

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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