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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index F > Jean Henri Fabre Quotes

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Jean Henri Fabre
(22 Dec 1823 - 11 Oct 1915)

French entomologist and author.


Science Quotes by Jean Henri Fabre (18 quotes)

A little science is something that they must have. I should like my nephews to know what air is, and water; why we breathe, and why wood burns; the nutritive elements essential to plant life, and the constituents of the soil. And it is no vague and imperfect knowledge from hearsay I would have them gain of these fundamental truths, on which depend agriculture and the industrial arts and our health itself; I would have them know these things thoroughly from their own observation and experience. Books here are insufficient, and can serve merely as aids to scientific experiment.
— Jean Henri Fabre
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A living speck—the merest dab of life—capable of pleasure and pain, is far more interesting to me than all the immensities of mere matter.
— Jean Henri Fabre
In Jean-Henri Fabre and Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (trans.), Fabre’s Book of Insects (1921, 1998), 120.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Capable (168)  |  Interesting (153)  |  Life (1795)  |  Living (491)  |  Matter (798)  |  Mere (84)  |  More (2559)  |  Pain (136)  |  Pleasure (178)  |  Speck (23)

Book-knowledge is a poor resource … In many cases, ignorance is a good thing: the mind retains its freedom of investigation and does not stray along roads that lead nowhither, suggested by one’s reading. … Ignorance can have its advantages; the new is found far from the beaten track.
— Jean Henri Fabre
In Jean-Henri Fabre and Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (trans.), The Life and Love of the Insect (1918), 243.
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Clarity is the sovereign politeness imposed on the one who wields a pen.
— Jean Henri Fabre
From the original French: “La clarté est la souveraine politesse imposée à qui manie une plume,” in 'La Nidification de Scarabée Sacré', Revue des questions scientifiques (Jul 1896), 10 (new series), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Clarity (47)  |  Pen (20)  |  Politeness (4)  |  Sovereign (5)  |  Wield (10)

History … celebrates the battlefields that kill us, but keeps silent on the crop fields that sustain us. It knows the bastards of kings, she doesn’t know the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly.
— Jean Henri Fabre
From the original French, “L’histoire … célèbre les champs de bataille qui nous tuent, elle garde le silence sur les champs de culture qui nous font vivre; elle sait les bâtards des rois, elle ne sait pas l'origine du froment. Ainsi le veut la sottise humaine,” in Les Merveilles de l'Instinct Chez les Insectes: Morceaux Choisis (The Wonders of Instinct in Insects: Selected Pieces) (1913), 242. English version by Webmaster using Google to translate literally and indicate the context is lamenting that history has not preserved the origins of food cultivation. The translation usually seen is “History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death but scorns to speak of the ploughed fields whereby we live. It knows the names of the kings’ bastards, but cannot tell us the origin of wheat,” for example, in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 88.
Science quotes on:  |  Bastard (2)  |  Battlefield (9)  |  Botany (57)  |  Celebrate (19)  |  Crop (25)  |  Field (364)  |  Folly (43)  |  History (673)  |  Human (1468)  |  Kill (100)  |  Know (1518)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Origin (239)  |  Royal (57)  |  Silent (29)  |  Survival (94)  |  Sustain (46)  |  Way (1217)  |  Wheat (10)

I scrutinize life.
— Jean Henri Fabre
Part of a longer quote that begins, “You disembowel the animal…” on the Jean-Henri Fabre Quotes page of this website.
Science quotes on:  |  Alive (90)  |  Animal (617)  |  Blue (56)  |  Cicada (3)  |  Death (388)  |  Dismemberment (3)  |  Horror (14)  |  Life (1795)  |  Love (309)  |  Object (422)  |  Observation (555)  |  Observe (168)  |  Pity (14)  |  Scrutinize (7)  |  Sky (161)  |  Song (37)  |  Study (653)  |  Torture (29)  |  Work (1351)  |  Workshop (14)

People declare as much, without, apparently, looking into the matter very closely. They seem able to dispense with the conscientious observer’s scruples, when inflating their bladder of theory.
— Jean Henri Fabre
Science quotes on:  |  Apparently (20)  |  Bladder (3)  |  Closely (12)  |  Conscientious (7)  |  Declare (45)  |  Dispense (9)  |  Looking (189)  |  Matter (798)  |  Observer (43)  |  People (1005)  |  Scruple (2)  |  Seem (145)  |  Theory (970)

Permanence of instinct must go with permanence of form. … The history of the present must teach us the history of the past.
— Jean Henri Fabre
Referring to studying fossil remains of the weevil, largely unchanged to the present day. In Jean-Henri Fabre and Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (trans.), The Life and Love of the Insect, (1911, 1914), 183.
Science quotes on:  |  Form (959)  |  Fossil (136)  |  History (673)  |  Instinct (88)  |  Must (1526)  |  Past (337)  |  Permanence (24)  |  Present (619)  |  Teach (277)

Precise facts alone are worthy of science. They cast premature theories into oblivion.
— Jean Henri Fabre
From the French original, “Les faits précis sont seuls dignes de la science. Ils rejettent dans l’oubli les théories prématurées”, by F. Marguet, 'Les “Souvenirs entomologiques” de J.-H. Fabre', Revue des Deux Mondes (1910), 60, 870. As translated in Augustin Fabre, The Life of Jean Henri Fabre: The Entomologist, 1823-1910 (1921), 315. Marguet gives no source citation for quote. It might be synthesized by Marguet from the writings of Fabre, to represent Fabre’s work ethic. (Webmaster so far has not found a primary source for the French sentences as verbatim. Can you help?)
Science quotes on:  |  Alone (311)  |  Cast (66)  |  Fact (1210)  |  Facts (553)  |  Oblivion (10)  |  Precise (68)  |  Premature (20)  |  Science (3879)  |  Theory (970)  |  Worthy (34)

Science too proceeds by lantern-flashes; it explores nature’s inexhaustible mosaic piece by piece. Too often the wick lacks oil; the glass panes of the lantern may not be clean. No matter: his work is not in vain who first recognizes and shows to others one speck of the vast unknown.
— Jean Henri Fabre
Science quotes on:  |  Clean (50)  |  Exploration (134)  |  First (1283)  |  Flash (49)  |  Glass (92)  |  Inexhaustible (24)  |  Lack (119)  |  Lantern (8)  |  Matter (798)  |  Mosaic (2)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Oil (59)  |  Other (2236)  |  Pane (2)  |  Proceed (129)  |  Recognize (125)  |  Science (3879)  |  Show (346)  |  Speck (23)  |  Unknown (182)  |  Vain (83)  |  Vast (177)  |  Wick (4)  |  Work (1351)

See first of all, and argue afterwards.
— Jean Henri Fabre
From the French original, “Voyez d’abord, vous argumenterez après”, by F. Marguet, 'Les “Souvenirs entomologiques” de J.-H. Fabre', Revue des Deux Mondes (1910), 60, 870. As translated in Augustin Fabre, The Life of Jean Henri Fabre: The Entomologist, 1823-1910 (1921), 315. Marguet gives no source citation for quote. (Webmaster so far has not found a primary source for the French sentences as verbatim. Can you help?)
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Argue (23)  |  First (1283)  |  Observation (555)  |  See (1081)

The custom of eating the lover after consummation of the nuptials, of making a meal of the exhausted pigmy, who is henceforth good for nothing, is not so difficult to understand, since insects can hardly be accused of sentimentality; but to devour him during the act surpasses anything the most morbid mind could imagine. I have seen the thing with my own eyes, and I have not yet recovered from my surprise.
— Jean Henri Fabre
In Jean-Henri Fabre and B. Miall (trans.), Social Life in the Insect World (1912), 84.
Science quotes on:  |  Accuse (4)  |  Act (272)  |  Consummation (7)  |  Custom (42)  |  Devour (29)  |  Difficult (246)  |  Eat (104)  |  Eating (45)  |  Exhaust (22)  |  Eye (419)  |  Good (889)  |  Imagine (164)  |  Insect (77)  |  Lover (11)  |  Making (300)  |  Meal (18)  |  Mind (1338)  |  Morbid (3)  |  Most (1731)  |  Nothing (966)  |  Pigmy (3)  |  Recover (11)  |  See (1081)  |  Sentimentality (2)  |  Surpass (32)  |  Surprise (86)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Understand (606)

The mind is an activity, not a repository.
— Jean Henri Fabre
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (210)  |  Mind (1338)  |  Repository (5)

What is the use of this history, what the use of all this minute research? I well know that it will not produce a fall in the price of pepper, a rise in that of crates of rotten cabbages, or other serious events of this kind, which cause fleets to be manned and set people face to face intent upon one another's extermination. The insect does not aim at so much glory. It confines itself to showing us life in the inexhaustible variety of its manifestations; it helps us to decipher in some small measure the obscurest book of all, the book of ourselves.
— Jean Henri Fabre
Introducing the natural history and his study of the insect Minotaurus typhoeus. In Jean-Henri Fabre and Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (trans.), The Life and Love of the Insect (1918), 128.
Science quotes on:  |  Aim (165)  |  All (4108)  |  Book (392)  |  Cabbage (5)  |  Cause (541)  |  Decipher (7)  |  Event (216)  |  Extermination (14)  |  Face (212)  |  Fall (230)  |  History (673)  |  Inexhaustible (24)  |  Insect (77)  |  Kind (557)  |  Know (1518)  |  Life (1795)  |  Manifestation (58)  |  Measure (232)  |  Minute (125)  |  Obscure (62)  |  Other (2236)  |  Ourselves (245)  |  People (1005)  |  Pepper (2)  |  Price (51)  |  Research (664)  |  Rise (166)  |  Rotten (3)  |  Serious (91)  |  Set (394)  |  Small (477)  |  Use (766)  |  Variety (132)  |  Will (2355)

What matters in learning is not to be taught, but to wake up. A spark must explode the sleeping explosives.
— Jean Henri Fabre
As quoted in Bostonia: The Boston University Alumni Magazine (1949), 22. No. 9, 12.
Science quotes on:  |  Explode (11)  |  Explosive (23)  |  Learn (629)  |  Learning (274)  |  Matter (798)  |  Must (1526)  |  Sleep (76)  |  Spark (31)  |  Teach (277)  |  Wake (13)

You disembowel the animal and I study it alive; you make it an object of horror and pity, and I make it love you; you work in a torture and dismemberment workshop, I observe under the blue sky, on the cicadas’ song; … you scrutinize death, I scrutinize life.
— Jean Henri Fabre
From the original French, “Vous éventrez la bête et moi je l'étudie vivante ; vous en faites un objet d'horreur et de pitié, et moi je la fais aimer; vous travaillez dans un atelier de torture et de dépècement, j'observe sous le ciel bleu, au chant des cigales; … vous scrutez la mort, je scrute la vie.” In 'L’Harmas', Nouveaux Souvenirs entomologiques: Études sur l’instinct et les mœurs des Insectes (1882), 3. English version by Webmaster using Google translate.
Science quotes on:  |  Alive (90)  |  Animal (617)  |  Death (388)  |  Horror (14)  |  Life (1795)  |  Love (309)  |  Object (422)  |  Observe (168)  |  Scrutinize (7)  |  Sky (161)  |  Song (37)  |  Study (653)  |  Torture (29)  |  Work (1351)  |  Workshop (14)

You speak to me, in your own fashion, of a strange psychology which is able to reconcile the wonders of a master craftsmanship with aberrations due to unfathomable stupidity.
— Jean Henri Fabre
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…so slow is moral progress. True, we have the bicycle, the motor-car, the dirigible airship and other marvellous means of breaking our bones; but our morality is not one rung the higher for it all. One would even say that, the farther we proceed in our conquest of matter, the more our morality recedes. The most advanced of our inventions consists in bringing men down with grapeshot and explosives with the swiftness of the reaper mowing the corn.
— Jean Henri Fabre
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See also:

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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