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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index G > Asa Gray Quotes

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Asa Gray
(18 Nov 1810 - 30 Jan 1888)

American botanist who extensively studied North American flora. He was an early and strong supporter in the U.S. for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.


Science Quotes by Asa Gray (5 quotes)

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[Concerning the former belief that there were no genetic connections among species:] This view, as a rounded whole and in all its essential elements, has very recently disappeared from science. It died a royal death with Agassiz.
— Asa Gray
From lecture 'Scientific Beliefs', as published in Natural Science and Religion: Two Lectures delivered to the Theological School of Yale College (1880), Vol. 3, Lecture 1, 35.
Science quotes on:  |  Louis Agassiz (42)  |  All (4107)  |  Belief (578)  |  Connection (162)  |  Death (391)  |  Disappear (82)  |  Disappearance (28)  |  Element (310)  |  Essential (200)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Former (137)  |  Genetic (108)  |  Royal (56)  |  Science (3880)  |  Species (402)  |  View (488)  |  Whole (738)

Natural selection is not the wind which propels the vessel, but the rudder which, by friction, now on this side and now on that, shapes the course.
— Asa Gray
Illustrating the Darwinian Doctrine, in his essay 'Evolutionary Teleology,' in Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism (1876), 386.
Science quotes on:  |  Course (408)  |  Friction (14)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  Selection (128)  |  Side (232)  |  Vessel (63)  |  Wind (128)

This leads us to ask for the reasons which call for this new theory of transmutation. The beginning of things must needs lie in obscurity, beyond the bounds of proof, though within those of conjecture or of analogical inference. Why not hold fast to the customary view, that all species were directly, instead of indirectly, created after their respective kinds, as we now behold them,--and that in a manner which, passing our comprehension, we intuitively refer to the supernatural? Why this continual striving after “the unattained and dim,”—these anxious endeavors, especially of late years, by naturalists and philosophers of various schools and different tendencies, to penetrate what one of them calls “the mystery of mysteries,” the origin of species? To this, in general, sufficient answer may be found in the activity of the human intellect, “the delirious yet divine desire to know,” stimulated as it has been by its own success in unveiling the laws and processes of inorganic Nature,—in the fact that the principal triumphs of our age in physical science have consisted in tracing connections where none were known before, in reducing heterogeneous phenomena to a common cause or origin, in a manner quite analogous to that of the reduction of supposed independently originated species to a common ultimate origin,—thus, and in various other ways, largely and legitimately extending the domain of secondary causes. Surely the scientific mind of an age which contemplates the solar system as evolved from a common, revolving, fluid mass,— which, through experimental research, has come to regard light, heat, electricity, magnetism, chemical affinity, and mechanical power as varieties or derivative and convertible forms of one force, instead of independent species,—which has brought the so-called elementary kinds of matter, such as the metals, into kindred groups, and raised the question, whether the members of each group may not be mere varieties of one species,—and which speculates steadily in the direction of the ultimate unity of matter, of a sort of prototype or simple element which may be to the ordinary species of matter what the protozoa or component cells of an organism are to the higher sorts of animals and plants,—the mind of such an age cannot be expected to let the old belief about species pass unquestioned.
— Asa Gray
'Darwin on the Origin of Species', The Atlantic Monthly (Jul 1860), 112-3. Also in 'Natural Selection Not Inconsistent With Natural Theology', Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism (1876), 94-95.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (210)  |  Affinity (27)  |  Age (499)  |  All (4107)  |  Animal (617)  |  Answer (366)  |  Ask (411)  |  Beginning (305)  |  Belief (578)  |  Beyond (308)  |  Bound (119)  |  Call (769)  |  Cause (542)  |  Chemical (292)  |  Common (436)  |  Component (48)  |  Comprehension (66)  |  Conjecture (49)  |  Connection (162)  |  Consist (223)  |  Continual (43)  |  Customary (18)  |  Desire (204)  |  Different (577)  |  Direction (175)  |  Divine (112)  |  Domain (69)  |  Electricity (160)  |  Element (310)  |  Elementary (96)  |  Endeavor (67)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Expect (201)  |  Experimental (192)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Fluid (52)  |  Force (488)  |  Form (960)  |  General (511)  |  Heat (174)  |  Human (1470)  |  Human Intellect (30)  |  Independently (24)  |  Inference (45)  |  Intellect (233)  |  Kind (557)  |  Kindred (12)  |  Know (1519)  |  Known (454)  |  Late (118)  |  Law (895)  |  Lead (385)  |  Lie (364)  |  Light (609)  |  Magnetism (41)  |  Mass (157)  |  Matter (801)  |  Mechanical (140)  |  Metal (84)  |  Mind (1339)  |  Must (1526)  |  Mystery (178)  |  Naturalist (70)  |  Nature (1928)  |  New (1217)  |  Old (480)  |  Ordinary (160)  |  Organism (220)  |  Origin (241)  |  Other (2236)  |  Pass (238)  |  Passing (76)  |  Penetrate (67)  |  Philosopher (259)  |  Physical (508)  |  Physical Science (101)  |  Plant (295)  |  Power (747)  |  Principal (63)  |  Proof (289)  |  Prototype (9)  |  Protozoa (5)  |  Question (622)  |  Reason (744)  |  Reduction (51)  |  Regard (304)  |  Research (677)  |  School (220)  |  Science (3880)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Scientific Mind (13)  |  Simple (406)  |  So-Called (71)  |  Solar System (78)  |  Species (402)  |  Success (303)  |  Sufficient (128)  |  Supernatural (25)  |  Surely (101)  |  System (537)  |  Theory (972)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Through (849)  |  Transmutation (23)  |  Triumph (73)  |  Ultimate (146)  |  Unity (78)  |  Unquestioned (7)  |  Various (200)  |  View (488)  |  Way (1216)  |  Why (491)  |  Year (932)

We have really, that I know of, no philosophical basis for high and low. Moreover, the vegetable kingdom does not culminate, as the animal kingdom does. It is not a kingdom, but a common-wealth; a democracy, and therefore puzzling and unaccountable from the former point of view.
— Asa Gray
Letter to Charles Darwin (27 Jan 1863), collected in Letters of Asa Gray (1893), Vol. 2, 496. Gray was replying to Darwin’s question, “If flowers of an Oak or Beech tree had fine well-colored corolla & calyx, would they still be classed as low in the Vegetable Kingdom?”
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (617)  |  Animal Kingdom (20)  |  Basis (173)  |  Common (436)  |  Democracy (33)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Former (137)  |  High (363)  |  Kingdom (78)  |  Know (1519)  |  Low (81)  |  Point (580)  |  Point Of View (82)  |  Puzzling (8)  |  Vegetable (46)  |  View (488)  |  Wealth (94)

…the longest-domesticated of all species, man.
— Asa Gray
'Notice of Dr. Hooker's Flora of New Zealand', American Journal of Science (May 1854), 2nd. series, 17, No 51, 336. Asa Gray, acknowledged on the journal's title page, is indicated as this article's author by the initials “A.G.” at the end of the article. On pages 335-336, the full quote, for context, is: “Perhaps if zoologists would contemplate the wide variations presented by many plants of indubitably one and the same species, and the still wider diversities of long cultivated races from an original stock, they would find more than one instructive parallel to the case of the longest domesticated of all species, man
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Homo Sapiens (23)  |  Man (2249)  |  Species (402)


See also:
  • 18 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Gray's birth.
  • Asa Gray - by Charles Reid Barnes, from The Chautauquan (1907).

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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