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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index E > Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington Quotes

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Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
(28 Dec 1882 - 22 Nov 1944)

English astronomer, physicist and mathematician.

Science Quotes by Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (34 quotes)

>> Click for Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington Quotes on | Atom | Electron | Entropy | Knowledge | Nature | Star | Theory | Universe |

A hundred thousand million Stars make one Galaxy;
A hundred thousand million Galaxies make one Universe.
The figures may not be very trustworthy, but I think they give a correct impression.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
The Expanding Universe (1933), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Billion (37)  |  Galaxy (24)  |  Impression (39)  |  Star (186)  |  Trustworthy (4)  |  Universe (374)

A star is drawing on some vast reservoir of energy by means unknown to us. This reservoir can scarcely be other than the subatomic energy which, it is known exists abundantly in all matter; we sometimes dream that man will one day learn how to release it and use it for his service. The store is well nigh inexhaustible, if only it could be tapped. There is sufficient in the Sun to maintain its output of heat for 15 billion years.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Address to the British Association in Cardiff, (24 Aug 1920), in Observatory (1920), 43 353. Reprinted in Foreward to Arthur S. Eddington, The Internal Constitution of the Stars (1926, 1988), x.
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An electron is no more (and no less) hypothetical than a star. Nowadays we count electrons one by one in a Geiger counter, as we count the stars one by one on a photographic plate.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Messenger Lectures (1934), New Pathways in Science (1935), 21.
Science quotes on:  |  Electron (52)  |  Hypothesis (194)  |  Star (186)

An ocean traveller has even more vividly the impression that the ocean is made of waves than that it is made of water.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gifford Lecture at the University of Edinburgh (Mar 1927). In The Nature of the Physical World (1929, reprint 2005), 242.
Science quotes on:  |  Impression (39)  |  Made (14)  |  Ocean (83)  |  Traveler (11)  |  Vivid (12)  |  Water (187)  |  Wave (45)

Asked in 1919 whether it was true that only three people in the world understood the theory of general relativity, [Eddington] allegedly replied: “Who's the third?”
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
As described in Brian Stableford, Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia (2006), 150.
Science quotes on:  |  Relativity (39)  |  Understanding (301)

But it is necessary to insist more strongly than usual that what I am putting before you is a model—the Bohr model atom—because later I shall take you to a profounder level of representation in which the electron instead of being confined to a particular locality is distributed in a sort of probability haze all over the atom.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Messenger Lectures (1934), New Pathways in Science (1935), 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (204)  |  Niels Bohr (40)  |  Electron (52)  |  Probability (72)

Entropy is time’s arrow.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Science quotes on:  |  Arrow (11)  |  Entropy (32)  |  Time (279)

I believe there are
protons in the universe, and the same number of electrons.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Tamer Lectures (1938), The Philosophy of Physical Science (1939), 170.
Science quotes on:  |  Electron (52)  |  Proton (10)  |  Universe (374)

If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 74.
Science quotes on:  |  Entropy (32)  |  Error (183)  |  James Clerk Maxwell (68)  |  Observation (352)  |  Second Law Of Thermodynamics (10)  |  Universe (374)

In ancient days two aviators procured to themselves wings. Daedalus flew safely through the middle air and was duly honored on his landing. Icarus soared upwards to the sun till the wax melted which bound his wings and his flight ended in fiasco. In weighing their achievements, there is something to be said for Icarus. The classical authorities tell us that he was only “doing a stunt,” but I prefer to think of him as the man who brought to light a serious constructional defect in the flying machines of his day.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
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In the most modern theories of physics probability seems to have replaced aether as “the nominative of the verb ‘to undulate’.”
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Messenger Lectures (1934), New Pathways in Science (1935), 110.
Science quotes on:  |  Aether (6)  |  Probability (72)

In the world of physics we watch a shadowgraph performance of the drama of familiar life. The shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper. It is all symbolic, and as a symbol the physicist leaves it. ... The frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant of recent advances.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), xiv-xv.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (75)  |  Concern (43)  |  Drama (6)  |  Elbow (2)  |  Ink (6)  |  Physical Science (42)  |  Physics (215)  |  Realization (27)  |  Shadow (20)  |  Significant (13)  |  Symbol (25)

Just now nuclear physicists are writing a great deal about hypothetical particles called neutrinos supposed to account for certain peculiar facts observed in ß-ray disintegration. We can perhaps best describe the neutrinos as little bits of spin-energy that have got detached. I am not much impressed by the neutrino theory. In an ordinary way I might say that I do not believe in neutrinos... But I have to reflect that a physicist may be an artist, and you never know where you are with artists. My old-fashioned kind of disbelief in neutrinos is scarcely enough. Dare I say that experimental physicists will not have sufficient ingenuity to make neutrinos? Whatever I may think, I am not going to be lured into a wager against the skill of experimenters under the impression that it is a wager against the truth of a theory. If they succeed in making neutrinos, perhaps even in developing industrial applications of them, I suppose I shall have to believe—though I may feel that they have not been playing quite fair.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Tamer Lectures (1938), The Philosophy of Physical Science (1939), 112.
Science quotes on:  |  Neutrino (7)  |  Theory (469)

Let us draw an arrow arbitrarily. If as we follow the arrow we find more and more of the random element in the state of the world, then the arrow is pointing towards the future; if the random element decreases the arrow points towards the past … I shall use the phrase “time's arrow” to express this one-way property of time which has no analogue in space.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of The Physical World (1928), 69.
Science quotes on:  |  Element (94)  |  Entropy (32)  |  Time (279)

Man is slightly nearer to the atom than to the star. … From his central position man can survey the grandest works of Nature with the astronomer, or the minutest works with the physicist. … [K]nowledge of the stars leads through the atom; and important knowledge of the atom has been reached through the stars.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Lecture 1. Stars and Atoms (1928, 2007), 9.
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On one occasion when [William] Smart found him engrossed with his fundamental theory, he asked Eddington how many people he thought would understand what he was writing—after a pause came the reply, 'Perhaps seven.'
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
A. V. Douglas, The Life of Arthur Stanley Eddington (1956), 110.
Science quotes on:  |  Publication (81)  |  Theory (469)

Our model of Nature should not be like a building—a handsome structure for the populace to admire, until in the course of time some one takes away a corner stone and the edifice comes toppling down. It should be like an engine with movable parts. We need not fix the position of any one lever; that is to be adjusted from time to time as the latest observations indicate. The aim of the theorist is to know the train of wheels which the lever sets in motion—that binding of the parts which is the soul of the engine.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In 'The Internal Constitution of the Stars', The Scientific Monthly (Oct 1920), 11, No. 4, 302.
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Our ultimate analysis of space leads us not to a “here” and a “there,” but to an extension such as that which relates “here” and “there.” To put the conclusion rather crudely—space is not a lot of points close together; it is a lot of distances interlocked.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
The Mathematical Theory of Relativity (1923), 10.
Science quotes on:  |  Relativity (39)  |  Space (104)

Religious creeds are a great obstacle to any full sympathy between the outlook of the scientist and the outlook which religion is so often supposed to require ... The spirit of seeking which animates us refuses to regard any kind of creed as its goal. It would be a shock to come across a university where it was the practice of the students to recite adherence to Newton's laws of motion, to Maxwell's equations and to the electromagnetic theory of light. We should not deplore it the less if our own pet theory happened to be included, or if the list were brought up to date every few years. We should say that the students cannot possibly realise the intention of scientific training if they are taught to look on these results as things to be recited and subscribed to. Science may fall short of its ideal, and although the peril scarcely takes this extreme form, it is not always easy, particularly in popular science, to maintain our stand against creed and dogma.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Swarthmore Lecture (1929), Science and the Unseen World (1929), 54-6.
Science quotes on:  |  Education (234)  |  Enquiry (72)  |  James Clerk Maxwell (68)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (219)  |  Religion (140)  |  Science (1194)  |  Theory (469)

Schrodinger’s wave-mechanics is not a physical theory but a dodge—and a very good dodge too.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 219.
Science quotes on:  |  Quantum Mechanics (24)  |  Erwin Schrödinger (29)  |  Theory (469)

So far as physics is concerned, time’s arrow is a property of entropy alone.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 80.
Science quotes on:  |  Entropy (32)

Something unknown is doing we don't know what—that is what our theory amounts to.
[Expressing the quantum theory description of an electron has no familiar conception of a real form.]
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
The Nature Of The Physical World (1928), 291.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (928)  |  Quantum Theory (42)  |  Something (9)  |  Theory (469)  |  Unknown (73)

Take the living human brain endowed with mind and thought. …. The physicist brings his tools and commences systematic exploration. All that he discovers is a collection of atoms and electrons and fields of force arranged in space and time, apparently similar to those found in inorganic objects. He may trace other physical characteristics, energy, temperature, entropy. None of these is identical with thought. … How can this collection of ordinary atoms be a thinking machine? … The Victorian physicist felt that he knew just what he was talking about when he used such terms as matter and atoms. … But now we realize that science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom. The physical atom is, like everything else in physics, a schedule of pointer readings.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
From a Gifford Lecture, University of Edinburgh (1927), published in 'Pointer Readings: Limits of Physical Knowledge', The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 258-259.
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The electron, as it leaves the atom, crystallises out of Schrödinger’s mist like a genie emerging from his bottle.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 199.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (204)  |  Electron (52)  |  Erwin Schrödinger (29)

The helium which we handle must have been put together at some time and some place. We do not argue with the critic who urges that the stars are not hot enough for this process; we tell him to go and find a hotter place.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
The Internal Constitution of the Stars (1926), 301.
Science quotes on:  |  Helium (7)  |  Star (186)

The understanding between a non-technical writer and his reader is that he shall talk more or less like a human being and not like an Act of Parliament. I take it that the aim of such books must be to convey exact thought in inexact language... he can never succeed without the co-operation of the reader.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Messenger Lectures (1934), New Pathways in Science (1935), 279.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (134)  |  Publication (81)

There is no space without aether, and no aether which does not occupy space.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Messenger Lectures (1934), New Pathways in Science (1935), 39.
Science quotes on:  |  Aether (6)  |  Space (104)

There is only one law of Nature—the second law of thermodynamics—which recognises a distinction between past and future more profound than the difference of plus and minus. It stands aloof from all the rest. ... It opens up a new province of knowledge, namely, the study of organisation; and it is in connection with organisation that a direction of time-flow and a distinction between doing and undoing appears for the first time.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), 67-68.
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There was a time when we wanted to be told what an electron is. The question was never answered. No familiar conceptions can be woven around the electron; it belongs to the waiting list.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
The Nature Of The Physical World (1928), 290.
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Unless the structure of the nucleus has a surprise in store for us, the conclusion seems plain—there is nothing in the whole system if laws of physics that cannot be deduced unambiguously from epistemological considerations. An intelligence, unacquainted with our universe, but acquainted with the system of thought by which the human mind interprets to itself the contents of its sensory experience, and should be able to attain all the knowledge of physics that we have attained by experiment.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In Clive William Kilmister, Eddington's Search for a Fundamental Theory (1994), 202.
Science quotes on:  |  Deduction (44)  |  Experiment (473)  |  Knowledge (928)  |  Law (343)  |  Nucleus (26)  |  Physics (215)

We have found that where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature.
We have found a strange foot-print on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the foot-print. And Lo! it is our own.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Concluding sentences in Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline ofthe General Relativity Theory (1921), 200-201
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When an investigator has developed a formula which gives a complete representation of the phenomena within a certain range, he may be prone to satisfaction. Would it not be wiser if he should say “Foiled again! I can find out no more about Nature along this line.”
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
Quoted in Astro-Physical Journal, 1945, 101, 133.
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When I hear to-day protests against the Bolshevism of modern science and regrets for the old-established order, I am inclined to think that Rutherford, not Einstein, is the real villain of the piece. When we compare the universe as it is now supposed to be with the universe as we had ordinarily preconceived it, the most arresting change is not the rearrangement of space and time by Einstein but the dissolution of all that we regard as most solid into tiny specks floating in void. That gives an abrupt jar to those who think that things are more or less what they seem. The revelation by modern physics of the void within the atom is more disturbing than the revelation by astronomy of the immense void of interstellar space.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), 1.
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[When thinking about the new relativity and quantum theories] I have felt a homesickness for the paths of physical science where there are ore or less discernible handrails to keep us from the worst morasses of foolishness.
— Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
The Nature Of The Physical World (1928), 343.
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Quotes by others about Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (5)

It will be noticed that the fundamental theorem proved above bears some remarkable resemblances to the second law of thermodynamics. Both are properties of populations, or aggregates, true irrespective of the nature of the units which compose them; both are statistical laws; each requires the constant increase of a measurable quantity, in the one case the entropy of a physical system and in the other the fitness, measured by m, of a biological population. As in the physical world we can conceive the theoretical systems in which dissipative forces are wholly absent, and in which the entropy consequently remains constant, so we can conceive, though we need not expect to find, biological populations in which the genetic variance is absolutely zero, and in which fitness does not increase. Professor Eddington has recently remarked that “The law that entropy always increases—the second law of thermodynamics—holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of nature.” It is not a little instructive that so similar a law should hold the supreme position among the biological sciences. While it is possible that both may ultimately be absorbed by some more general principle, for the present we should note that the laws as they stand present profound differences—-(1) The systems considered in thermodynamics are permanent; species on the contrary are liable to extinction, although biological improvement must be expected to occur up to the end of their existence. (2) Fitness, although measured by a uniform method, is qualitatively different for every different organism, whereas entropy, like temperature, is taken to have the same meaning for all physical systems. (3) Fitness may be increased or decreased by changes in the environment, without reacting quantitatively upon that environment. (4) Entropy changes are exceptional in the physical world in being irreversible, while irreversible evolutionary changes form no exception among biological phenomena. Finally, (5) entropy changes lead to a progressive disorganization of the physical world, at least from the human standpoint of the utilization of energy, while evolutionary changes are generally recognized as producing progressively higher organization in the organic world.
The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (1930), 36.
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[At high school in Cape Town] my interests outside my academic work were debating, tennis, and to a lesser extent, acting. I became intensely interested in astronomy and devoured the popular works of astronomers such as Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans, from which I learnt that a knowledge of mathematics and physics was essential to the pursuit of astronomy. This increased my fondness for those subjects.
'Autobiography of Allan M. Cormack,' Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1979, editted by Wilhelm Odelberg.
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All that Eddington and Millikan achieve, when they attempt their preposterous reconciliation of science and theology, is to prove that they themselves, for all their technical skill, are scientists only by trade, not by conviction. They practice science diligently and to some effect, but only in the insensate way in which Blind Tom played the piano. … they can’t get rid of a congenital incredulity. Science, to them, remains a bit strange and shocking. They are somewhat in the position of a Christian clergyman who finds himself unable to purge himself of a suspicion that Jonah, after all, probably did not swallow the whale.
Minority Report (1956, 2006 reprint), 140.
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Sir Arthur Eddington deduces religion from the fact that atoms do not obey the laws of mathematics. Sir James Jeans deduces it from the fact that they do.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 77.
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I count Maxwell and Einstein, Eddington and Dirac, among “real” mathematicians. The great modern achievements of applied mathematics have been in relativity and quantum mechanics, and these subjects are at present at any rate, almost as “useless” as the theory of numbers.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 131.
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See also:
  • 28 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Eddington's birth.
  • The Eddington Enigma, by David Evans, David S. Evans. - 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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- 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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