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Who said: “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”
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Thumbnail of Stephen Jay Gould (source)
Stephen Jay Gould
(10 Sep 1941 - 20 May 2002)

American palaeontologist, evolutionary biologist, science historian and author who was a frequent and popular speaker on the sciences. His published work includes both scholarly study and many prize-winning popular collections of essays.

Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote
“Honorable errors…not…failures in science”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 600 px)

“Honorable errors do not count as failures in science, but as seeds for progress in the quintessential activity of correction.”
— Stephen Jay Gould
In Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms (1998).

More Stephen Jay Gould quotes on science >>

This quote by Stephen Gould appears in one of the essays, 'Up Against a Wall,' from Natural History magazine collected in his book Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms. After making the above statement, Gould continues with a confirmation by Charles Darwin:

“No great and new study has ever developed without substantial error, and we need only cite a famous line from Darwin: ‘False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.’”

The quote is illustrated above with a 1934 photograph of the Carnegie Museum's Apatosaurus skeleton. It had originally been excavated in 1909, and displayed headless from 1915 because scientists disagreed over the somewhat small skull found nearby because its characteristics did not match their expectations for the animal with such a massive skeleton. In 1932, perhaps to gratify the viewing public, the incomplete skeleton was nevertheless crowned with an unrelated skull (actually, it was from a Camarasaurus).

That was not corrected until the 1970s when motivated scientists eventually identified the original small skull was the correct one, based on more carefully identified anatomical matches. It had been stored since the original excavation, and it was finally reunited with its skeleton in 1979. In this case, the original error was based on confused preconceptions, and the use of the wrong skull was perhaps less than honorable, but a scientific correction eventually won the day. In fact, other museums with similar mismatched Apatosaurus skeletons followed up with their own corrective action.

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Stephen Jay Gould.
  • 10 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Gould's birth.
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote Mary Anning - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote Mary Anning - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote Honorable errors…not…failures in science - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote The status of Galileo - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould - context of quote The status of Galileo - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Stephen Jay Gould: Reflections on His View of Life, by Patricia Kelley, Robert Ross and Warren D. Allmon (ed.). - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Stephen Jay Gould.

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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