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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > Thor Heyerdahl Quotes

Thumbnail of Thor Heyerdahl (source)
Thor Heyerdahl
(6 Oct 1914 - 18 Apr 2002)

Norwegian ethnologist and adventurer who organized and led the famous Kon-Tiki (28 Apr 1947) and Ra (1969-70) transoceanic raft voyage scientific expeditions.


Science Quotes by Thor Heyerdahl (12 quotes)

At about the age of sixteen, I began to feel uneasy. My confidence in adults began to be shaken. They were not smarter than us kids. They just had fixed ideas and stuck to them even if they disagreed among themselves. They were dragging us along a road to an unknown destination; they had no goal, just something to escape from: nature. … It was better to begin to look for a safer, side track. I began to feel like a prisoner calmly preparing to jump off a train that was on a wrong track.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In Ch. 1, 'Farewell to Civilization', Fatu-Hiva (1974), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Adult (23)  |  Age (504)  |  Biography (252)  |  Calm (32)  |  Confidence (75)  |  Destination (16)  |  Disagree (14)  |  Drag (7)  |  Escape (85)  |  Feel (369)  |  Fix (30)  |  Goal (154)  |  Idea (869)  |  Jump (30)  |  Kid (18)  |  Nature (2000)  |  Prepare (42)  |  Prisoner (8)  |  Road (71)  |  Safe (57)  |  Shaken (3)  |  Side (234)  |  Smart (32)  |  Track (42)  |  Train (117)  |  Unknown (193)  |  Wrong (243)

For centuries and millenniums, God rested while man invented wheelbarrows and cars. God had not thought of inventing dynamite. Did he realize his own shortcomings when he saw what we could do? Did he approve of our remodeling of everything he had done?
— Thor Heyerdahl
In Ch. 1, 'Farewell to Civilization', Fatu-Hiva (1974), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Approve (6)  |  Car (75)  |  Century (317)  |  Dynamite (8)  |  Everything (484)  |  God (768)  |  Invent (56)  |  Millennium (5)  |  Realize (153)  |  Remodel (2)  |  Rest (287)  |  Shortcoming (5)  |  Thought (984)  |  Wheelbarrow (3)

I went to Polynesia to study how animals had reached oceanic islands, carried by winds and currents. I came home with a controversial theory of how man had reached these islands in prehistoric times.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In 'Foreword to the 35th Anniversary Edition', Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (1990), xii.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (642)  |  Carry (129)  |  Controversial (2)  |  Current (122)  |  Home (182)  |  Island (49)  |  Ocean (213)  |  Prehistoric (12)  |  Reach (286)  |  Study (685)  |  Theory (1002)  |  Time (1900)  |  Wind (140)

My life has been filled with adventures linked together like pearls on a thread. Pearls rarely turn up in oysters served to you on a plate; you have to dive for them.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In 'Foreword to the 35th Anniversary Edition', Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (1990), xi.
Science quotes on:  |  Adventure (67)  |  Biography (252)  |  Dive (12)  |  Life (1852)  |  Link (45)  |  Oyster (12)  |  Pearl (8)  |  Plate (7)  |  Rare (92)  |  Serve (63)  |  Thread (35)

Once in a while you find yourself in an odd situation. You get into it by degrees and in the most natural way but, when you are right in the midst of it, you are suddenly astonished and ask yourself how in the world it all came about.
— Thor Heyerdahl
Opening sentences in Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (1990), 9.
Science quotes on:  |  Ask (416)  |  Astonished (10)  |  Degree (278)  |  Happen (279)  |  Midst (8)  |  Natural (807)  |  Odd (15)  |  Situation (116)  |  World (1836)

Progress can…be defined as man’s ability to complicate simplicity.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In Fatu-Hiva, (1974), 262. Slightly paraphrased as, “Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity,” by Richard R. Lineman when reviewing the book Fatu-Hiva, in 'Two-Way Ticket to Paradise', New York Times (29 Aug 1975), 58.
Science quotes on:  |  Ability (161)  |  Complication (30)  |  Man (2252)  |  Progress (487)  |  Simplicity (174)

Some people believe in fate, others don’t. I do, and I don't. It may seem at times as if invisible fingers move us about like puppets on strings. But for sure, we are not born to be dragged along. We can grab the strings ourselves and adjust our course at every crossroad, or take off at any little trail into the unknown.
— Thor Heyerdahl
Opening paragraph in 'Foreword to the 35th Anniversary Edition', Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (1990), xi.
Science quotes on:  |  Adjust (11)  |  Belief (604)  |  Born (37)  |  Course (411)  |  Drag (7)  |  Fate (77)  |  Finger (47)  |  Grab (5)  |  Invisible (66)  |  Move (221)  |  Ourself (18)  |  Puppet (4)  |  Seem (148)  |  String (22)  |  Trail (11)  |  Unknown (193)

The choice of zoology as a main subject [at university] was to follow up my childhood love of nature. … My animal studies never became quite what I had hoped for. We hardly heard of wild beasts and the way they lived in the wilderness. We sliced up intestines and looked at them under the microscope … but their life and function in the environment was ignored in favor of their Latin names. … Was our knowledge of nature superior to, or only different from, that of the eagle-eyed Polynesian islanders, who specialized in appraising nature the way it could best benefit man? I had to think as a scientist now. Not as a Polynesian yet. Knowledge was to be sought independently of its purpose.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In Ch. 1, 'Farewell to Civilization', Fatu-Hiva (1974), 9-10.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (642)  |  Appraise (2)  |  Beast (57)  |  Benefit (120)  |  Childhood (41)  |  Different (588)  |  Environment (236)  |  Favor (69)  |  Function (233)  |  Ignore (52)  |  Independent (70)  |  Intestine (16)  |  Knowledge (1623)  |  Latin (42)  |  Life (1852)  |  Love (322)  |  Microscope (85)  |  Name (354)  |  Nature (2000)  |  Polynesian (2)  |  Purpose (328)  |  Scientist (866)  |  Slice (3)  |  Specialized (9)  |  Study (685)  |  Superior (86)  |  Think (1112)  |  Wild (95)  |  Wilderness (57)  |  Zoology (38)

We 20th century people, regardless of our field, are so biased in our thinking about what it takes to cross an ocean that we get carried away by dogma even when it contradicts known facts. I had to cross the ocean three times on a raft and undergo a number of other empirical experiments to find out how far our modern ideas are from reality.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In Miroslav Náplava, 'Legenda jménem Thor Heyerdahl', Lidé a Země (1998), No. 9, 570. ('A legend named Thor Heyerdahl', People and Earth), as expressed by Google translate.
Science quotes on:  |  20th Century (40)  |  Bias (22)  |  Contradict (42)  |  Cross (20)  |  Deviation (21)  |  Dogma (49)  |  Empirical (58)  |  Experiment (730)  |  Fact (1242)  |  Field (375)  |  Find Out (25)  |  Idea (869)  |  Modern (397)  |  Ocean (213)  |  Raft (3)  |  Reality (272)  |  Think (1112)  |  Undergo (16)

Where science stopped, imagination began.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (1990), 15. Explaining how specialists put forward explanations for origins of the mysterious, such as the carved stone statues (moai) on Easter island.
Science quotes on:  |  Begin (270)  |  Imagination (345)  |  Science (25)  |  Stop (85)

~~[Attributed]~~ Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.
— Thor Heyerdahl
Widely quoted and seen as an epigraph in various books, but without source citation, for example, in Thomas R. Flanagan and Alexander N. Christakis, The Talking Point: Creating an Environment for Exploring Complex Meaning (2010), 13. Webmaster has not been able to validate with a primary written source. Please contact if you can cite it.
Science quotes on:  |  Border (10)  |  Exist (451)  |  Hear (142)  |  Mind (1369)  |  People (1024)  |  See (1089)

“Progress” was synonymous with distance from nature. The adults, who set the pace of progress from nature, were so absorbed by their own ability to invent and to alter the existing world, that they hurried headlong, with no design for the ultimate structure. A man-made environment was the obvious goal, but who was the responsible architect? No one in my country. Not even the king of Great Britain or the president of America. Each inventor and producer who worked on building tomorrow’s world just threw in a brick or a cogwheel wherever he cared to, and it was up to us of the next generation to find out what the result would be.
— Thor Heyerdahl
In Ch. 1, 'Farewell to Civilization', Fatu-Hiva (1974), 4.
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See also:
  • 6 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Heyerdahl's birth.
  • “Kon-Tiki Trip Ends on Pacific Reef” - article by Thor Heyerdahl in New York Times (11 Aug 1947).
  • Six Men on a Raft - Editorial from New York Times (12 Aug 1947).
  • 28 Apr 1947 - event description for departure of Kon-Tiki raft from Peru bound for Polynesia.
  • 7 Aug 1947 - event description for arrival of Kon-Tiki raft on Raroia reef.
  • Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, by Thor Heyerdahl. - book suggestion.

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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