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Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Thumbnail of Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher (source)
Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher
(17 Feb 1890 - 29 Jul 1962)

British statistician, geneticist and evolutionary biologist who contributed to mathematical statistics, but also initiated biometric genetics and investigated dominance, backed up with practical breeding experiments. He published his fundamental theorem of natural selection in 1918.


Ronald Aylmer Fisher
“No isolated experiment can suffice”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 400 px)

“No isolated experiment, however significant in itself, can suffice for the experimental demonstration of any natural phenomenon.”
— Ronald Aylmer Fisher
From The Design of Experiments (1935)

More Ronald Aylmer Fisher quotes on science >>

This quote comes from Ronald A. Fisher’s book, The Design of Experiments in a section subtitled 'The Test of Significance', which begins:

“It is open to the experimenter to be more or less exacting in respect of the smallness of the probability he would require before he would be willing to admit that his observations have demonstrated a positive result. It is obvious that an experiment would be useless of which no possible result would satisfy him.”

Fisher continues with a discussion of the standard level of significance, and the need to eliminate fluctuations in results due to chance. Expanding on this, he writes these sentences from which the subject quote is taken:

“No isolated experiment, however significant in itself, can suffice for the experimental demonstration of any natural phenomenon; for the ‘one chance in a million’ will undoubtedly occur, with no less and no more than its appropriate frequency, however surprised we may be that it should occur to us. In order to assert that a natural phenomenon is experimentally demonstrable we need, not an isolated record, but a reliable method of procedure. In relation to the test of significance, we may say that a phenomenon is experimentally demonstrable when we know how to conduct an experiment which will rarely fail to give us a statistically significant result.”

Text by Webmaster with quote from Sir Ronald A. Fisher, The Design of Experiments (1935, 1971), 13-14. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: 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) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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