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Werner Heisenberg
(5 Dec 1901 - 1 Feb 1976)

German physicist and philosopher remembered for his Uncertainty Principle (1927) and other developments in quantum mechanics. He was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physics.


Werner Heisenberg Quotes on Nature (11 quotes)

>> Click for 37 Science Quotes by Werner Heisenberg

>> Click for Werner Heisenberg Quotes on | Observation | Quantum Physics |

A natural science is one whose propositions on limited domains of nature can have only a correspondingly limited validity; and that science is not a philosophy developing a world-view of nature as a whole or about the essence of things.
— Werner Heisenberg
In The Physicist’s Conception of Nature (1958), 152. Translated by Arnold J. Pomerans from Das Naturbild der Heutigen Physik (1955).
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Even in science the object of research is no longer nature itself, but man’s investigation of nature.
— Werner Heisenberg
In The Physicist's Conception of Nature (1958), 24.
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I remember discussions with Bohr which went through many hours till very late at night and ended almost in despair; and when at the end of the discussion I went alone for a walk in the neighboring park I repeated to myself again and again the question: Can nature possibly be as absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?
— Werner Heisenberg
In Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958, 1962), 42.
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Modern theories did not arise from revolutionary ideas which have been, so to speak, introduced into the exact sciences from without. On the contrary they have forced their way into research which was attempting consistently to carry out the programme of classical physics—they arise out of its very nature. It is for this reason that the beginnings of modern physics cannot be compared with the great upheavals of previous periods like the achievements of Copernicus. Copernicus’s idea was much more an import from outside into the concepts of the science of his time, and therefore caused far more telling changes in science than the ideas of modern physics are creating to-day.
— Werner Heisenberg
In Philosophical Problems of Nuclear Science: Eight Lectures (1952), 13.
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Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning.
— Werner Heisenberg
In Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1959, 1962), 81.
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Nature is made in such a way as to be able to be understood. Or perhaps I should put it—more correctly—the other way around, and say that we are made in such a way as to be able to understand Nature.
— Werner Heisenberg
Attributed. (If you know a primary source, please contact webmaster.)
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Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means at our disposal. In this way quantum theory reminds us, as Bohr has put it, of the old wisdom that when searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both players and spectators. It is understandable that in our scientific relation to nature our own activity becomes very important when we have to deal with parts of nature into which we can penetrate only by using the most elaborate tools.
— Werner Heisenberg
The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory (1958). In Steve Adams, Frontiers (2000), 13.
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Science no longer is in the position of observer of nature, but rather recognizes itself as part of the interplay between man and nature. The scientific method ... changes and transforms its object: the procedure can no longer keep its distance from the object.
— Werner Heisenberg
The Representation of Nature in Contemporary Physics', Symbolism in Religion and Literature (1960), 231. Cited in John J. Stuhr, Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Culture (1993), 139.
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Since the measuring device has been constructed by the observer … we have to remember that what we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning. Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means that are at our disposal.
— Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958), 78.
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The dangers threatening modern science cannot be averted by more experimenting, for our complicated experiments have no longer anything to do with nature in her own right, but with nature charged and transformed by our own cognitive activity.
— Werner Heisenberg
As quoted by Erich Heller in The Disinherited Mind: Essays in Modern German Literature and Thought (1952), 26.
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You may object that by speaking of simplicity and beauty I am introducing aesthetic criteria of truth, and I frankly admit that I am strongly attracted by the simplicity and beauty of mathematical schemes which nature presents us. You must have felt this too: the almost frightening simplicity and wholeness of the relationship, which nature suddenly spreads out before us.
— Werner Heisenberg
Letter to Albert Einstein. In Ian Stewart, Why Beauty is Truth (), 278.
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See also:
  • 5 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Heisenberg's birth.
  • Booklist for Werner Heisenberg.

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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