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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index G > J. Willard Gibbs Quotes

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J. Willard Gibbs
(11 Feb 1839 - 28 Apr 1903)

American mathematical physicist and chemist.

Science Quotes by J. Willard Gibbs (5 quotes)

A mathematician may say anything he pleases, but a physicist must be at least partially sane.
— J. Willard Gibbs
Attributed. Cited in R. B. Lindsay, 'On the Relation of Mathematics and Physics', The Scientific Monthly, Dec 1944, 59, 456.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematician (364)  |  Physicist (160)  |  Truth (914)

Mathematics is a language.
— J. Willard Gibbs
Remark at a Yale faculty discussion concerning the difference between languages and mathematics for elective course requirements. Quoted, “as he is reported to have stated,” in The Yale Scientific Magazine (1927), Vols. 1-4, 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Language (217)  |  Mathematics (1149)

One of the principal objects of theoretical research in my department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity.
— J. Willard Gibbs
In letter published in Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1881), 420.
Science quotes on:  |  Appear (115)  |  Find (405)  |  Great (524)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Object (169)  |  Point Of View (41)  |  Principal (28)  |  Research (589)  |  Simplicity (146)  |  Subject (235)  |  Theoretical (21)

The laws of thermodynamics, as empirically determined, express the approximate and probable behavior of systems of a great number of particles, or, more precisely, they express the laws of mechanics for such systems as they appear to beings who have not the fineness of perception to enable them to appreciate quantities of the order of magnitude of those which relate to single particles, and who cannot repeat their experiments often enough to obtain any but the most probable results.
— J. Willard Gibbs
Elementary Principles in Statististical Mechanics (1902), Preface, viii.
Science quotes on:  |  Order Of Magnitude (5)  |  Statistical Mechanics (6)  |  Thermodynamics (28)

We avoid the gravest difficulties when, giving up the attempt to frame hypotheses concerning the constitution of matter, we pursue statistical inquiries as a branch of rational mechanics.
— J. Willard Gibbs
Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics (1902), ix.
Science quotes on:  |  Statistical Mechanics (6)

Quotes by others about J. Willard Gibbs (2)

Qu'une goutee de vin tombe dans un verre d'eau; quelle que soit la loi du movement interne du liquide, nous verrons bientτt se colorer d'une teinte rose uniforme et ΰ partir de ce moment on aura beau agiter le vase, le vin et l'eau ne partaξtront plus pouvoir se sιparer. Tout cela, Maxwell et Boltzmann l'ont expliquι, mais celui qui l'a vu plus nettement, dans un livre trop peu lu parce qu'il est difficile ΰ lire, c'est Gibbs dans ses principes de la Mιcanique Statistique.
Let a drop of wine fall into a glass of water; whatever be the law that governs the internal movement of the liquid, we will soon see it tint itself uniformly pink and from th at moment on, however we may agitate the vessel, it appears that the wine and water can separate no more. All this, Maxwell and Boltzmann have explained, but the one who saw it in the cleanest way, in a book that is too little read because it is difficult to read, is Gibbs, in his Principles of Statistical Mechanics.
La valeur de la science. In Anton Bovier, Statistical Mechanics of Disordered Systems (2006), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (12)  |  Liquid (25)  |  James Clerk Maxwell (82)  |  Statistical Mechanics (6)

Newton was the greatest creative genius physics has ever seen. None of the other candidates for the superlative (Einstein, Maxwell, Boltzmann, Gibbs, and Feynman) has matched Newton’s combined achievements as theoretician, experimentalist, and mathematician. … If you were to become a time traveler and meet Newton on a trip back to the seventeenth century, you might find him something like the performer who first exasperates everyone in sight and then goes on stage and sings like an angel.
In Great Physicists (2001), 39.
Science quotes on:  |  17th Century (16)  |  Achievement (150)  |  Angel (30)  |  Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (12)  |  Candidate (3)  |  Creative (58)  |  Albert Einstein (605)  |  Experimentalist (11)  |  Richard P. Feynman (122)  |  Genius (243)  |  Match (16)  |  Mathematician (364)  |  James Clerk Maxwell (82)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (327)  |  Performer (2)  |  Physics (346)  |  Sing (25)  |  Stage (54)  |  Superlative (3)  |  Theorist (27)  |  Time Travel (3)

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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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