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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index G > Évariste Galois Quotes

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Évariste Galois
(25 Oct 1811 - 31 May 1832)

French mathematician.

Science Quotes by Évariste Galois (2 quotes)

Science progresses by a series of combinations in which chance plays not the least role. Its life is rough and resembles that of minerals which grow by juxtaposition [accretion]. This applies not only to science such as it emerges [results] from the work of a series of scientists, but also to the particular research of each one of them. In vain would analysts dissimulate: (however abstract it may be, analysis is no more our power than that of others); they do not deduce, they combine, they compare: (it must be sought out, sounded out, solicited.) When they arrive at the truth it is by cannoning from one side to another that they come across it.
— Évariste Galois
English translation from manuscript, in Évariste Galois and Peter M. Neumann, 'Dossier 12: On the progress of pure analysis', The Mathematical Writings of Évariste Galois (2011), 263. A transcription of the original French is on page 262. In the following quote from that page, indicated deletions are omitted, and Webmaster uses parentheses to enclose indications of insertions above the original written line. “La science progresse par une série de combinaisons où le hazard ne joue pas le moindre rôle; sa vie est brute et ressemble à celle des minéraux qui croissent par juxtà position. Cela s’applique non seulement à la science telle qu’elle résulte des travaux d’une série de savants, mais aussi aux recherches particulières à chacun d’eux. En vain les analystes voudraient-ils se le dissimuler: (toute immatérielle qu’elle wst analyse n’est pas pas plus en notre pouvoir que des autres); ils ne déduisent pas, ils combinent, ils comparent: (il faut l’epier, la sonder, la solliciter) quand ils arrivent à la vérité, c’est en heurtant de côté et d’autre qu’il y sont tombés.” Webmaster corrected from typo “put” to “but” in the English text.
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Unfortunately what is little recognized is that the most worthwhile scientific books are those in which the author clearly indicates what he does not know; for an author most hurts his readers by concealing difficulties.
— Évariste Galois
As quoted in Nicholas J. Rose, Mathematical Maxims and Minims (1988). Also used as an epigraph without citation in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times (1990), Vol. 2, 752. If you know the primary source, perhaps in French, please contact Webmaster.
Science quotes on:  |  Author (61)  |  Book (257)  |  Concealment (8)  |  Difficulty (144)  |  Hurt (12)  |  Indicate (18)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Little (184)  |  Reader (38)  |  Recognition (70)  |  Scientific (232)  |  Unfortunately (18)  |  Worthwhile (11)

Quotes by others about Évariste Galois (2)

No mathematician should ever allow him to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game. … Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty. There have been men who have done great work later; … [but] I do not know of a single instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty. … A mathematician may still be competent enough at sixty, but it is useless to expect him to have original ideas.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1941, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 70-71.
Science quotes on:  |  Niels Henrik Abel (15)  |  Age (174)  |  Mathematician (364)  |  Srinivasa Ramanujan (17)  |  Youth (75)

[As a young teenager] Galois read [Legendre's] geometry from cover to cover as easily as other boys read a pirate yarn.
Men of Mathematics (1937, 1986), 364.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (257)  |  Geometry (215)  |  Adrien-Marie Legendre (3)  |  Pirate (2)  |  Read (144)

See also:
  • 25 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Galois's birth.

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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