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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Melvin Calvin Quotes

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Melvin Calvin
(8 Apr 1911 - 8 Jan 1997)

American biochemist who was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for determining the mechanism of photosynthesis occuring in green plants through the night turning carbon dioxide into sugar.


Science Quotes by Melvin Calvin (7 quotes)

Chemical biodynamics, involving as it does, the fusion of many scientific disciplines, … [played a role] in the elucidation of the carbon cycle. It can be expected to take an increasingly important place in the understanding of the dynamics of living organisms on a molecular level.
— Melvin Calvin
In Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1961), 'The Path of Carbon in Photosynthesis', Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1942-1962 (1964).
Science quotes on:  |  Carbon Cycle (5)  |  Discipline (42)  |  Dynamics (6)  |  Elucidation (6)  |  Expect (33)  |  Fusion (11)  |  Important (135)  |  Increasingly (3)  |  Molecule (127)  |  Organism (144)  |  Role (36)  |  Scientific (181)  |  Understanding (322)

If you know how to make chemical or electrical energy out of solar energy the way plants do it—without going through a heat engine—that is certainly a trick. And I’m sure we can do it. It’s just a question of how long it will take to solve the technical question.
— Melvin Calvin
As quoted in 'Melvin Calvin and Photosynthesis', Science [email protected], 2, No. 11.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemical (73)  |  Electrical (10)  |  Energy (200)  |  Heat Engine (4)  |  Plant (182)  |  Solar (6)  |  Solve (45)  |  Technology (205)

In one of my lectures many years ago I used the phrase “following the trail of light”. The word “light” was not meant in its literal sense, but in the sense of following an intellectual concept or idea to where it might lead. My interest in living things is probably a fundamental motivation for the scientific work in the laboratory, and we created here in Berkeley one of the first and foremost interdisciplinary laboratories in the world.
— Melvin Calvin
In autobiography, Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey (1992), 134.
Science quotes on:  |  Berkeley (3)  |  Concept (103)  |  Create (114)  |  Follow (79)  |  Foremost (8)  |  Fundamental (124)  |  Idea (457)  |  Intellectual (85)  |  Interdisciplinary (2)  |  Interest (182)  |  Laboratory (123)  |  Lead (120)  |  Life (993)  |  Light (301)  |  Literal (5)  |  Motivation (24)  |  Trail (9)  |  Work (493)

It’s no trick to get the right answer when you have all the data. The real creative trick is to get the right answer when you have only half of the data in hand and half of it is wrong and you don't know which half is wrong. When you get the right answer under these circumstances, you are doing something creative.
— Melvin Calvin
In autobiography, Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey (1992), 134.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (210)  |  Circumstance (54)  |  Creative (46)  |  Data (103)  |  Half (42)  |  Know (394)  |  Right (158)  |  Trick (20)  |  Wrong (119)

There is no “pure” science itself divorced from human values. The importance of science to the humanities and the humanities to science in their complementary contribution to the variety of human life grows daily. The need for men familiar with both is imperative.
— Melvin Calvin
In 'Abstract' The Impurity of Science (19 Apr 1962), the printed version of the Robbins Lecture (27 Feb 1962) given at Pomona College, Claremont, California, as published by Ernest O. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, University of California.
Science quotes on:  |  Complementary (8)  |  Contribution (51)  |  Familiar (27)  |  Grow (78)  |  Human (472)  |  Human Life (27)  |  Humanities (15)  |  Imperative (9)  |  Importance (186)  |  Need (226)  |  Pure (63)  |  Pure Science (18)  |  Science (1741)  |  Value (188)  |  Variety (59)

There is not a “pure” science. By this I mean that physics impinges on astronomy, on the one hand, and chemistry and biology on the other. And not only does each support neighbors, but derives sustenance from them. The same can be said of chemistry. Biology is, perhaps, the example par excellence today of an “impure” science.
— Melvin Calvin
In 'Abstract' The Impurity of Science (19 Apr 1962), the printed version of the Robbins Lecture (27 Feb 1962) given at, Pomona College, Claremont, California, as published by Ernest O. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, University of California.
Science quotes on:  |  Astronomy (180)  |  Biology (158)  |  Chemistry (239)  |  Excellence (29)  |  Impinge (3)  |  Neighbor (11)  |  Physics (304)  |  Pure (63)  |  Science (1741)  |  Support (67)  |  Sustenance (3)

We are faced today with a social decision resulting from our progress in molecular genetics at least equal to, and probably greater than, that required of us twenty years ago with the maturity of nuclear power.
— Melvin Calvin
In 'Abstract' The Impurity of Science (19 Apr 1962), the printed version of the Robbins Lecture (27 Feb 1962) given at Pomona College, Claremont, California, as published by Ernest O. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, University of California.
Science quotes on:  |  Decision (60)  |  Maturity (8)  |  Molecular Genetics (2)  |  Nuclear Power (9)  |  Progress (320)  |  Result (267)  |  Social (95)



Quotes by others about Melvin Calvin (4)

In Melvin Calvin’s office there were four photographs: Michael Polanyi, Joel Hildebrand, Gilbert N. Lewis, and Ernest O. Lawrence. These scientists were his mentors: Polanyi for introducing him to the chemistry of phthalocyanine; Hildebrand for bringing him to Berkeley; Lewis, perhaps his most influential teacher; and Lawrence, who provided him the opportunity to work with the new scientific tool of radioactive carbon, which enabled the search for the path of carbon in photosynthesis to be successful.
Co-author with Marilyn Taylor and Robert E. Connick, obituary, 'Melvin Calvin', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (Dec 2000), 144, No. 4, 454.
Science quotes on:  |  Berkeley (3)  |  Biography (228)  |  Carbon (48)  |  Carbon-14 (2)  |  Chemistry (239)  |  Enable (26)  |  Joel H. Hildebrand (17)  |  Influential (3)  |  Introduce (27)  |  Introduced (2)  |  Ernest Orlando Lawrence (5)  |  Gilbert Newton Lewis (9)  |  Mentor (3)  |  New (380)  |  Opportunity (50)  |  Path (66)  |  Photograph (19)  |  Photosynthesis (15)  |  Michael Polanyi (4)  |  Radioactive (8)  |  Scientific (181)  |  Scientist (459)  |  Search (95)  |  Successful (27)  |  Teacher (98)  |  Tool (71)  |  Work (493)

Melvin Calvin was a fearless scientist, totally unafraid to venture into new fields such as hot atom chemistry, carcinogenesis, chemical evolution and the origin of life, organic geochemistry, immunochemistry, petroleum production from plants, farming, Moon rock analysis, and development of novel synthetic biomembrane models for plant photosystems.
Co-author with Andrew A. Benson, 'Melvin Calvin', Biographical Memoirs of the US National Academy of Science.
Science quotes on:  |  Analysis (124)  |  Atom (265)  |  Carcinogenesis (2)  |  Chemistry (239)  |  Development (231)  |  Evolution (500)  |  Farm (17)  |  Fearless (5)  |  Field (127)  |  Hot (18)  |  Immunochemistry (2)  |  Model (65)  |  Moon (174)  |  New (380)  |  Novel (16)  |  Organic (49)  |  Origin Of Life (33)  |  Petroleum (7)  |  Plant (182)  |  Production (107)  |  Rock (118)  |  Scientist (459)  |  Synthetic (12)  |  Venture (13)

Melvin [Calvin]’s marvellous technique for delivering a scientific lecture was unique. His mind must have roamed constantly, especially in planning lectures. His remarkable memory enabled him to formulate a lecture or manuscript with no breaks in the sequence of his thoughts. His lectures usually began hesitatingly, as if he had little idea of how to begin or what to say. This completely disarmed his audiences, who would try to guess what he might have to say. Soon enough, however, his ideas would coalesce, to be delivered like an approaching freight train, reaching a crescendo of information at breakneck speed and leaving his rapt audience nearly overwhelmed.
Co-author with Andrew A. Benson, 'Melvin Calvin', Biographical Memoirs of the US National Academy of Science.
Science quotes on:  |  Audience (13)  |  Biography (228)  |  Crescendo (3)  |  Formulate (10)  |  Hesitation (8)  |  Information (106)  |  Lecture (54)  |  Manuscript (7)  |  Memory (88)  |  Mind (576)  |  Overwhelmed (2)  |  Rapt (5)  |  Roam (3)  |  Speed (30)  |  Technique (46)  |  Thought (400)  |  Train (25)  |  Unique (30)

By asking questions and quickly reading some books, [Melvin Calvin] felt comfortable in many fields of endeavor.
Co-author with Andrew A. Benson, 'Melvin Calvin', Biographical Memoirs of the US National Academy of Science.
Science quotes on:  |  Ask (117)  |  Biography (228)  |  Book (188)  |  Comfortable (8)  |  Endeavor (35)  |  Field (127)  |  Question (327)  |  Read (88)


See also:
  • 8 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Calvin's birth.
  • Melvin Calvin: Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey, by Melvin Calvin. - 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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