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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Charles Alfred Coulson Quotes

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Charles Alfred Coulson
(13 Dec 1910 - 7 Jan 1974)

British theoretical chemist known for the application of molecular orbital theory to chemical bonding and the electronic structures of molecules. His book Valence (1952) was highly influential. Coulson believed religious faith was essential for the responsible use of science, and wrote on integrating scientific and religious views.

Science Quotes by Charles Alfred Coulson (2 quotes)

One is almost tempted to say... at last I can almost see a bond. But that will never be, for a bond does not really exist at all: it is a most convenient fiction which, as we have seen, is convenient both to experimental and theoretical chemists.
— Charles Alfred Coulson
'What is a Chemical Bond?', Coulson Papers, 25, Bodleian Library, Oxford. In Mary-Jo Nye, From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry (1993), 261.
Science quotes on:  |  Bond (46)  |  Both (494)  |  Chemical Bond (5)  |  Chemist (158)  |  Exist (445)  |  Experimental (193)  |  Last (426)  |  Most (1729)  |  Never (1088)  |  Say (984)  |  See (1081)  |  Will (2354)

[The chemical bond] First, it is related to the disposition of two electrons (remember, no one has ever seen an electron!): next, these electrons have their spins pointing in opposite directions (remember, no one can ever measure the spin of a particular electron!): then, the spatial distribution of these electrons is described analytically with some degree of precision (remember, there is no way of distinguishing experimentally the density distribution of one electron from another!): concepts like hybridization, covalent and ionic structures, resonance, all appear, not one of which corresponds to anything that is directly measurable. These concepts make a chemical bond seem so real, so life-like, that I can almost see it. Then I wake with a shock to the realization that a chemical bond does not exist; it is a figment of the imagination that we have invented, and no more real than the square root of - 1. I will not say that the known is explained in terms of the unknown, for that is to misconstrue the sense of intellectual adventure. There is no explanation: there is form: there is structure: there is symmetry: there is growth: and there is therefore change and life.
— Charles Alfred Coulson
Quoted in his obituary, Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society 1974, 20, 96.
Science quotes on:  |  Adventure (62)  |  Bond (46)  |  Change (605)  |  Chemical (295)  |  Chemical Bond (5)  |  Concept (223)  |  Covalent (2)  |  Degree (276)  |  Density (25)  |  Direction (177)  |  Disposition (42)  |  Distribution (51)  |  Electron (95)  |  Exist (445)  |  Explain (324)  |  Explanation (238)  |  First (1287)  |  Form (965)  |  Growth (194)  |  Imagination (340)  |  Intellectual (256)  |  Known (451)  |  Life (1818)  |  Measure (236)  |  More (2558)  |  Next (236)  |  Opposite (105)  |  Precision (69)  |  Realization (43)  |  Remember (184)  |  Resonance (7)  |  Root (121)  |  Say (984)  |  See (1081)  |  Sense (776)  |  Shock (37)  |  Spin (26)  |  Square (72)  |  Square Root (12)  |  Structure (351)  |  Symmetry (44)  |  Term (352)  |  Terms (184)  |  Two (936)  |  Unknown (185)  |  Way (1214)  |  Will (2354)

See also:
  • 13 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Coulson's birth.
  • Coulson's Valence, by C.A. Coulson and Roy McWeeny (ed.). - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Charles Alfred Coulson.

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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