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Who said: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
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Thumbnail of Lawrence Joseph Henderson (source)
Lawrence Joseph Henderson
(30 Jun 1878 - 10 Feb 1942)

American physiologist and biochemist.


Lawrence Joseph Henderson
“Science owes more to the steam engine”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 400 px)

“Science owes more to the steam engine than the steam engine owes to science.”
— Lawrence Joseph Henderson
Attributed.

More Lawrence Joseph Henderson quotes on science >>

This is one of those irksome quotes that one book of quotations cites as “Attributed.” That usually means the quote is snappy enough to be noteworthy, is difficult to track back to a reliable source, but used widely enough to still earn a place in a collection. Checking for its origin, Webmaster has found numerous examples introducing the quote with weasel-words such as “it has been said.” These are most frequent in recent years, presumable because of the viral effect of search engine results, and the quote continues to be propagated without source citation.

The quote does appear in print prior to the age of the internet, at least as early as 1960 in a book by science historian, Charles Coulston Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity: An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas. He presents this quote on page 357, as “Henderson’s famous quote,” but without source citation. Several other examples helpfully assign the year 1917 to the quote, but still with no further source citation.

A few examples re-clothe the quote using the more specific “thermodynamics” in place of “science.” This would be a nod to the presumed meaning of the quote that to improve the technology and build more efficient and powerful steam engines, scientists investigated the fundamentals involved. This included the Carnot cycle, the most efficient heat engine cycle allowed by physical laws, which led to the second law of thermodynamics. Then all the fundamental insights gained for science led to wider applications. Thus the steam engine served as a stimulus, but was only one beneficiary among many other developments in technology.

Text by Webmaster, with quote as Attributed, perhaps 1917.


See also:
  • Science Quotes by Lawrence Joseph Henderson.
  • 30 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Henderson's birth.
  • Lawrence Joseph Henderson - context of quote “Science owes more to the steam engine” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)

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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