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Who said: “I was going to record talking... the foil was put on; I then shouted 'Mary had a little lamb',... and the machine reproduced it perfectly.”
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Thumbnail of Sir William Bragg (source)
Sir William Bragg
(2 Jul 1862 - 12 Mar 1942)

English physicist who was the father of Lawrence Bragg, with whom he shared the 1915 Nobel Prize for Physics. Both researched crystal structure using X-ray diffraction methods.

William Bragg
“Light brings us the news of the Universe”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 400 px)

Thumbnail photo of Newton’s original telescope on its stand
Newton’s original telescope (source)
“Light brings us the news of the Universe.”
— William Bragg
The Universe of Light (1933)

Sir William Bragg gave his book on optics an all-encompassing title: The Universe of Light. In his opening sentences of Chapter 1, Bragg writes the brilliant quote above, then expands upon it.

“Light brings us the news of the Universe. Coming to us from the sun and the stars it tells us of their existence, their positions, their movements, their constitutions and many other matters of interest. Coming to us from objects that surround us more nearly it enables us to see our way about the world: we enjoy the forms and colours that it reveals to us, we use it in the exchange of information and thought.”

Bragg then explain the meaning of the word “light”, as used by the physicist, is extended to a full spectrum of radiations invisible to the human eye. Light is the great conveyor of energy through the universe, including radio transmission, X-rays (then also known as “Röntgen rays), and certain radiation from radio-active substances (gamma rays), among others.

“These greatly differing phenomena are all manifestations of one principle, the magnificent inclusiveness of which has grown clearer continuously as we have studied the nature of light. … Even the atoms themselves seem to fall, in certain aspects, within the same great category. Light, therefore, using the full meaning of the word, transmits energy which is the mainstay of life, and gives to living beings the power of observation: and it is akin to the matter of which all things animate and inanimate are made. The universe is its sphere of action. We do it no more than justice when we speak of the Universe of Light.”

“The Universe of Light” was also the title of the series of Christmas Lectures that Bragg gave in 1931 at the Royal Institution. The book, which used the same title, is an introduction to optics for the general reader, and is essentially a revision and enlargement of those lectures.

Frederick J. E. Woodbridge contributed a glowing review of the book, in 'The Universe of Light', The Journal of Philosophy (4 Jan 1934), 31, No. 1, 15-21. (A “glowing” review was an accidental pun, I promise!) The excerpts above are found in that article, with more quotes from Bragg’s book.

More William Bragg quotes on science >>

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Sir William Bragg.
  • 2 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Bragg's birth.
  • William Bragg - context of quote “Light brings us the news of the Universe” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: 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) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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