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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > James Boswell Quotes

James Boswell
(29 Oct 1740 - 19 May 1795)

Scottish biographer and diarist who is known for his two-volume biography of Samuel Johnson.

Science Quotes by James Boswell (11 quotes)

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, “I refute it thus.”
— James Boswell
In Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1820), Vol. 1, 218.
Science quotes on:  |  George Berkeley (6)  |  Samuel Johnson (50)  |  Matter (340)  |  Philosophy (257)

Buffon, who, with all his theoretical ingenuity and extraordinary eloquence, I suspect had little actual information in the science on which he wrote so admirably For instance, he tells us that the cow sheds her horns every two years; a most palpable error. ... It is wonderful that Buffon who lived so much in the country at his noble seat should have fallen into such a blunder I suppose he has confounded the cow with the deer.
— James Boswell
In The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1826), Vol. 3, 70, footnote.
Science quotes on:  |  Admirable (19)  |  Blunder (17)  |  Buffon_Georges (2)  |  Confounding (3)  |  Country (144)  |  Cow (30)  |  Deer (7)  |  Eloquence (7)  |  Error (275)  |  Horn (12)  |  Information (121)  |  Ingenuity (27)  |  Shed (5)  |  Suspicion (28)  |  Telling (23)  |  Theory (690)  |  Writing (79)

Dr. Johnson ... sometimes employed himself in chymistry, sometimes in watering and pruning a vine, and sometimes in small experiments, at which those who may smile, should recollect that there are moments which admit of being soothed only by trifles.
— James Boswell
Quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1826), Vol. 3, 352.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemistry (250)  |  Experiment (600)  |  Horticulture (9)

Even the taking of medicine serves to make time go on with less heaviness. I have a sort of genius for physic and always had great entertainment in observing the changes of the human body and the effects produced by diet, labor, rest, and physical operations.
— James Boswell
Science quotes on:  |  Diet (44)  |  Effect (165)  |  Human Body (34)  |  Labor (71)  |  Medicine (343)  |  Operation (118)  |  Physical (129)  |  Rest (92)

He [Samuel Johnson] bid me always remember this, that after a system is well settled upon positive evidence, a few objections ought not to shake it. “The human mind is so limited that it cannot take in all parts of a subject; so that there may be objections raised against anything. There are objections against a plenum, and objections against a vacuum. Yet one of them must certainly be true.”
— James Boswell
Note: Whereas vacuum means devoid of matter, plenum regards a space with matter throughout.
Science quotes on:  |  Evidence (181)  |  Samuel Johnson (50)  |  Objection (18)  |  Theory (690)

I complained to Mr. Johnson that I was much afflicted with melancholy, which was hereditary in our family. He said that he himself had been greatly distressed with it, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and meditation to the dissipating variety of life. He advised me to have constant occupation of mind, to take a great deal of exercise, and to live moderately; especially to shun drinking at night. “Melancholy people,” said he, are apt to fly to intemperance, which gives a momentary relief but sinks the soul much lower in misery.” He observed that laboring men who work much and live sparingly are seldom or never troubled with low spirits.
— James Boswell
Science quotes on:  |  Drinking (6)  |  Hereditary (7)  |  Melancholy (9)  |  Psychology (143)

Johnson said that he could repeat a complete chapter of The Natural History of Iceland from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus: “There are no snakes to meet with throughout the whole island.
— James Boswell
Science quotes on:  |  Iceland (2)  |  Island (24)  |  Natural History (49)  |  Snake (16)

My Lord said that he who knew men only in this way [from history] was like one who had got the theory of anatomy perfectly, but who in practice would find himself very awkward and liable to mistakes. That he again who knew men by observation was like one who picked up anatomy by practice, but who like all empirics would for a long time be liable to gross errors.
— James Boswell
Science quotes on:  |  Anatomy (63)  |  Empirical (27)  |  Error (275)  |  Mistake (131)  |  Observation (445)  |  Practice (92)  |  Scientific Method (166)  |  Theory (690)

The mind of a young man (his gallery I mean) is often furnished different ways. According to the scenes he is placed in, so are his pictures. They disappear, and he gets a new set in a moment. But as he grows up, he gets some substantial pieces which he always preserves, although he may alter his smaller paintings in a moment.
— James Boswell
Science quotes on:  |  Psychology (143)

We often observe in lawyers, who as Quicquid agunt homines is the matter of law suits, are sometimes obliged to pick up a temporary knowledge of an art or science, of which they understood nothing till their brief was delivered, and appear to be much masters of it.
— James Boswell
In The Life of Samuel Johnson (1820), Vol. 1, 218. The Latin phrase translates as “what people do.”
Science quotes on:  |  Appearance (85)  |  Brief (19)  |  Delivery (6)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Lawyer (21)  |  Mastery (27)  |  Nothing (385)  |  Obligation (16)  |  Science And Art (181)  |  Temporary (16)  |  Understanding (325)

When Dr. Johnson felt, or fancied he felt, his fancy disordered, his constant recurrence was to the study of arithmetic.
— James Boswell
In In Life of Johnson (1871), Vol. 2, 264.
Science quotes on:  |  Arithmetic (115)  |  Constant (56)  |  Disorder (23)  |  Fancy (24)  |  Feel (165)  |  Samuel Johnson (50)  |  Mathematicians and Anecdotes (123)  |  Recurrence (5)  |  Study (461)

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
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
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
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
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
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
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
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
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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