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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index F > Abraham Flexner Quotes

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Abraham Flexner
(13 Nov 1866 - 21 Sep 1959)

American educator.


Science Quotes by Abraham Flexner (7 quotes)

At no period of [Michael Faraday’s] unmatched career was he interested in utility. He was absorbed in disentangling the riddles of the universe, at first chemical riddles, in later periods, physical riddles. As far as he cared, the question of utility was never raised. Any suspicion of utility would have restricted his restless curiosity. In the end, utility resulted, but it was never a criterion to which his ceaseless experimentation could be subjected.
— Abraham Flexner
'The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge', Harper's Magazine (Jun/Nov 1939), No. 179, 546. In Hispania (Feb 1944), 27, No. 1, 77.
Science quotes on:  |  Absorb (49)  |  Car (71)  |  Career (76)  |  Ceaseless (6)  |  Chemical (292)  |  Criterion (27)  |  Curiosity (128)  |  Disentangle (4)  |  End (590)  |  Experiment (696)  |  Michael Faraday (85)  |  First (1284)  |  Interest (386)  |  Never (1087)  |  Period (198)  |  Physical (508)  |  Question (622)  |  Restless (11)  |  Result (678)  |  Riddle (28)  |  Subject (522)  |  Suspicion (35)  |  Universe (861)  |  Usefulness (87)  |  Utility (49)

Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education… no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.
— Abraham Flexner
Universities: American, English, German (1930), 302.
Science quotes on:  |  Billion (96)  |  Borrow (30)  |  Both (494)  |  Choice (110)  |  Civilization (206)  |  Education (379)  |  Enough (341)  |  Government (111)  |  Money (173)  |  Must (1526)  |  Nation (194)  |  War (226)

One must be wary in attributing scientific discovery wholly to any one person. Almost every discovery has a long and precarious history. Someone finds a bit here, another a bit there. A third step succeeds later and thus onward till a genius pieces the bits together and makes the decisive contribution. Science, like the Mississippi, begins in a tiny rivulet in the distant forest. Gradually other streams swell its volume. And the roaring river that bursts the dikes is formed from countless sources.
— Abraham Flexner
In 'The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge', Harper’s (Jun/Nov 1939), No. 179, 549
Science quotes on:  |  Attribute (61)  |  Begin (260)  |  Bit (22)  |  Burst (39)  |  Contribution (88)  |  Countless (37)  |  Decisive (25)  |  Dike (2)  |  Discovery (785)  |  Distant (33)  |  Find (999)  |  Forest (150)  |  Form (960)  |  Genius (285)  |  Gradual (27)  |  Gradually (102)  |  History (675)  |  Inventor (74)  |  Long (789)  |  Mississippi (6)  |  Must (1526)  |  Other (2236)  |  Person (363)  |  Piece (37)  |  Precarious (5)  |  River (121)  |  Rivulet (5)  |  Roar (5)  |  Science (3880)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Source (93)  |  Step (231)  |  Stream (81)  |  Succeed (109)  |  Swell (4)  |  Tiny (72)  |  Together (387)  |  Volume (19)  |  Wary (3)  |  Whole (738)  |  Wholly (88)

Science, in the very act of solving problems, creates more of them.
— Abraham Flexner
In Universities: American, English, German (1930), 19.
Science quotes on:  |  Act (272)  |  Create (235)  |  More (2559)  |  Problem (679)  |  Science (3880)  |  Solve (130)

Science, like the Mississippi, begins in a tiny rivulet in the distant forest.
— Abraham Flexner
In 'The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge', Harper’s (Jun/Nov 1939), No. 179, 549. Part of a longer quote beginning, “One must be wary in attributing scientific discovery…”, on the Abraham Flexner Quotes page of this website.
Science quotes on:  |  Begin (260)  |  Beginning (305)  |  Distant (33)  |  Forest (150)  |  Mississippi (6)  |  Rivulet (5)  |  Science (3880)  |  Tiny (72)

The new naval treaty permits the United States to spend a billion dollars on warships—a sum greater than has been accumulated by all our endowed institutions of learning in their entire history. Unintelligence could go no further! … [In Great Britain, the situation is similar.] … Until the figures are reversed, … nations deceive themselves as to what they care about most.
— Abraham Flexner
Universities: American, English, German (1930), 302.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Billion (96)  |  Britain (24)  |  Care (186)  |  Deceive (26)  |  Education (379)  |  Endowed (52)  |  Figure (160)  |  Government (111)  |  Great (1575)  |  Greater (288)  |  History (675)  |  Institution (68)  |  Learning (274)  |  Money (173)  |  Most (1729)  |  Nation (194)  |  New (1217)  |  Permit (58)  |  Situation (113)  |  Spend (95)  |  State (491)  |  Sum (102)  |  Themselves (433)  |  War (226)

We must not overlook the role that extremists play. They are the gadflies that keep society from being too complacent or self-satisfied; they are, if sound, the spearhead of progress. If they are fundamentally wrong, free discussion will in time put an end to them.
— Abraham Flexner
I Remember (1940), 405.
Science quotes on:  |  Being (1278)  |  Complacent (6)  |  Discussion (73)  |  End (590)  |  Extremist (2)  |  Free (233)  |  Must (1526)  |  Overlook (31)  |  Progress (468)  |  Role (85)  |  Self (267)  |  Society (325)  |  Sound (183)  |  Time (1877)  |  Will (2354)  |  Wrong (234)


See also:
  • 13 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Flexner's birth.
  • Iconoclast: Abraham Flexner and a Life in Learning, by Thomas Neville Bonner. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Abraham Flexner.

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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- 90 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
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Archimedes
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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