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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Vannevar Bush Quotes

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Vannevar Bush
(11 Mar 1890 - 28 Jun 1974)

American electrical engineer who headed the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II to oversaw government develop the greatest potential of scientific research.


Science Quotes by Vannevar Bush (15 quotes)

A fallacy entertained by many … is that any problem can be solved by gathering enough scientists and giving them enough money. To solve the problem of the common cold assemble a great institution, fill it with scientists and money, and soon we will have no more colds! It is folly to thus proceed. The great scientific steps forward originate in the minds of gifted scientists, not in the minds of promoters. The best way to proceed is to be sure that really inspired scientists have what they need to work with, and leave them alone
— Vannevar Bush
From a statement (21 Nov 1963) to the Select Committee on Government Research of the U.S. House of Representatives. Excerpted in 'Vannevar Bush Speaks', Science (27 Dec 1963), New Series, 142, No. 3600, 1623.
Science quotes on:  |  Fallacy (31)  |  Gifted (24)  |  Money (173)  |  Research (677)  |  Science And Government (5)

A nation which depends upon others for its new basic scientific knowledge will be slow in its industrial progress and weak in its competitive position in world trade, regardless of its mechanical skill.
— Vannevar Bush
Quoted by Edwin T. Layton, Jr., in 'American Ideologies of Science and Engineering', Technology and Culture (1976), 17, 689. As cited in Arie Leegwater, 'Technology and Science', Stephen V. Monsma (ed.), Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective (1986), 79.
Science quotes on:  |  Basic (139)  |  Competitive (8)  |  Depend (228)  |  Industrial (13)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Mechanical (140)  |  Nation (194)  |  New (1217)  |  Other (2236)  |  Position (77)  |  Progress (468)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Skill (109)  |  Slow (101)  |  Trade (31)  |  Weak (71)  |  Will (2354)  |  World (1778)

Basic scientific research is scientific capital.
— Vannevar Bush
In 'Science - The Endless Frontier: A Report to the President' (Jul 1945), collected in John Dewey (ed.) and Julius A. Sigler (ed.), Science, Technology, and Society (1997), 13. Bush was the first director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II.
Science quotes on:  |  Basic (139)  |  Capital (15)  |  Research (677)  |  Science (3880)  |  Scientific (940)

I had a plan for the NDRC in four short paragraphs in the middle of a sheet of paper. The whole audience lasted less than ten minutes… I came out with my 'OK - FDR' and all the wheels began to turn.
— Vannevar Bush
About Pres. Roosevelt’s approval for the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), that was shortly subsumed into the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which Bush headed. As quoted in Pieces of the Action (1970), 36.
Science quotes on:  |  Approval (11)  |  Franklin D. Roosevelt (7)  |  Science And Government (5)

If scientific reasoning were limited to the logical processes of arithmetic, we should not get very far in our understanding of the physical world. One might as well attempt to grasp the game of poker entirely by the use of the mathematics of probability.
— Vannevar Bush
Endless Horizons (1946), 27.
Science quotes on:  |  Arithmetic (139)  |  Attempt (251)  |  Game (101)  |  Limit (281)  |  Limited (102)  |  Logic (287)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  Physical (508)  |  Physical World (28)  |  Probability (132)  |  Reasoning (207)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Understanding (514)  |  Use (766)  |  World (1778)

In any broad program of research the key word in regard to any one aspect of the program is relevance. … Probably “conducive to progress toward the main object of a program” is as good a definition as any,
— Vannevar Bush
From a statement (21 Nov 1963) to the Select Committee on Government Research of the U.S. House of Representatives. Excerpted in 'Vannevar Bush Speaks', Science (27 Dec 1963), New Series, 142, No. 3600, 1623.
Science quotes on:  |  Definition (224)  |  Objective (92)  |  Progress (468)  |  Relevance (17)  |  Research (677)

It makes sense to ask a young researcher in basic research what he is trying to find out, what sort of knowledge he hopes to have at the end of his program which does not now exist. … But it makes no sense to ask him just how he is going to do it, what it will cost, or how long it will take. If he knew the answers it would not be basic research.
— Vannevar Bush
From a statement (21 Nov 1963) to the Select Committee on Government Research of the U.S. House of Representatives. Excerpted in 'Vannevar Bush Speaks', Science (27 Dec 1963), New Series, 142, No. 3600, 1623.
Science quotes on:  |  Basic (139)  |  Cost (87)  |  Duration (11)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Outcome (14)  |  Research (677)

Just finding out something new is not by itself sufficient justification for research. It needs to mean something when we find it.
— Vannevar Bush
From a statement (21 Nov 1963) to the Select Committee on Government Research of the U.S. House of Representatives. Excerpted in 'Vannevar Bush Speaks', Science (27 Dec 1963), New Series, 142, No. 3600, 1623.
Science quotes on:  |  Justification (49)  |  Meaning (235)  |  Research (677)

Publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record.
— Vannevar Bush
From article 'As We May Think', in Atlantic Magazine (Jul 1945). Bush was expressing concern that the vastly increasing body of research information and knowledge needed mechanical systems to store and effectively manage its retrieval.
Science quotes on:  |  Ability (153)  |  Beyond (308)  |  Extend (128)  |  Far (154)  |  Present (620)  |  Publication (102)  |  Real (149)  |  Record (154)  |  Use (766)

Sam Rosenman and I drafted the order establishing the O.S.R.D. - mostly Rosenman with me hanging hard on the outskirts. The order assigned the N.D.R.C. as one component of the new office, and that assignment brought the only change in the civilian membership of the N.D.R.C. to occur during its lifetime.
— Vannevar Bush
About the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), that was subsumed into the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which Bush headed. As quoted in Pieces of the Action (1970), 44.
Science quotes on:  |  Committee (16)  |  Research (677)  |  Science And Government (5)

Science can be interpreted effectively only for those who have more than the usual intelligence and innate curiosity. These will work hard if given the chance and if they find they acquire something by so doing.
— Vannevar Bush
(1940). Epigraph, without citation, in I. Bernard Cohen, Science, Servant of Man: A Layman's Primer for the Age of Science (1948), xi. Also seen epigraph, without citation in Science Digest (1950), 28, 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Acquire (39)  |  Chance (239)  |  Curiosity (128)  |  Doing (280)  |  Effective (59)  |  Find (999)  |  Hard (243)  |  Innate (14)  |  Intelligence (213)  |  Interpret (19)  |  More (2559)  |  Science (3880)  |  Something (719)  |  Will (2354)  |  Work (1351)  |  Work Hard (12)

Science has a simple faith, which transcends utility. Nearly all men of science, all men of learning for that matter, and men of simple ways too, have it in some form and in some degree. It is the faith that it is the privilege of man to learn to understand, and that this is his mission. If we abandon that mission under stress we shall abandon it forever, for stress will not cease. Knowledge for the sake of understanding, not merely to prevail, that is the essence of our being. None can define its limits, or set its ultimate boundaries.
— Vannevar Bush
Science is Not Enough (1967), 191.
Science quotes on:  |  Abandon (68)  |  All (4107)  |  Being (1278)  |  Boundary (51)  |  Cease (79)  |  Definition (224)  |  Degree (275)  |  Essence (82)  |  Faith (203)  |  Forever (103)  |  Form (960)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Learn (632)  |  Learning (274)  |  Limit (281)  |  Man (2249)  |  Matter (801)  |  Men Of Science (143)  |  Merely (316)  |  Mission (21)  |  Nearly (137)  |  Prevail (46)  |  Privilege (39)  |  Sake (58)  |  Science (3880)  |  Set (394)  |  Simple (406)  |  Stress (22)  |  Transcend (26)  |  Transcendence (2)  |  Ultimate (146)  |  Understand (607)  |  Understanding (514)  |  Utility (49)  |  Way (1216)  |  Will (2354)

There were those who protested that the action of setting up NDRC was an end run, a grab by which a small company of scientists and engineers, acting outside established channels, got hold of the authority and money for the program of developing new weapons. That, in fact, is exactly what it was.
— Vannevar Bush
About the National Defense Research Committee, that was subsumed into the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which Bush headed. As quoted in Pieces of the Action (1970), 31.
Science quotes on:  |  Authority (96)  |  Development (424)  |  Engineer (123)  |  Money (173)  |  Research (677)  |  Science And Government (5)  |  Scientist (825)  |  Weapon (93)

We were agreed that the war was bound to break out into an intense struggle, that America was sure to get into it in one way or another sooner or later, that it would be a highly technical struggle, that we were by no means prepared in this regard, and … that the military system as it existed … would never fully produce the new instrumentalities which we would certainly need.
— Vannevar Bush
About the National Defense Research Committee, that was subsumed into the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which Bush headed. As quoted in Pieces of the Action (1970), 33.
Science quotes on:  |  Military (41)  |  Science And Government (5)  |  Struggle (106)  |  Technology (261)  |  War (226)

When scientific programs are judged by popular acclaim we inevitably have overemphasis on the spectacular. … The deeply important scientific advances moving today are not easy to understand. If they were they would have been accomplished long ago.
— Vannevar Bush
From a statement (21 Nov 1963) to the Select Committee on Government Research of the U.S. House of Representatives. Excerpted in 'Vannevar Bush Speaks', Science (27 Dec 1963), New Series, 142, No. 3600, 1623.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (94)  |  Emphasis (18)  |  Progress (468)  |  Research (677)  |  Science And Society (24)  |  Understanding (514)



Quotes by others about Vannevar Bush (1)

Vannevar Bush has said that there is no more thrilling experience for a man than to be able to state that he has learned something no other person in the world has ever known before him. … I have been lucky enough to be included in such an event.
From address to the 101st Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Gainesville, Florida (27 Dec 1958). Printed in 'An Account of the Discovery of Jupiter as a Radio Source', The Astronomical Journal (Mar 1959), 64, No. 2, 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Enough (341)  |  Event (216)  |  Experience (470)  |  Known (454)  |  Learn (632)  |  Learned (235)  |  Lucky (13)  |  Man (2249)  |  More (2559)  |  Other (2236)  |  Person (363)  |  Something (719)  |  State (491)  |  Thrill (22)  |  World (1778)


See also:
  • 11 Mar - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Bush's birth.
  • Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century, by G. Pascal Zachary. - 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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