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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > A.V. Hill Quotes

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A.V. Hill
(26 Sep 1886 - 3 Jun 1977)

English physiologist and biophysicist who was a Nobel Prize winner that identified chemical processes which provide the energy that muscles need to work. He became known as a giant in the field of exercise physiology.


Science Quotes by A.V. Hill (6 quotes)

All talk about science purely for its practical and wealth-producing results is … idle. … Practical results will follow right enough. No real knowledge is sterile. … With this faith in the ultimate usefulness of all real knowledge a man may proceed to devote himself to a study of first causes without apology, and without hope of immediate return.
— A.V. Hill
Quoted in Larry R. Squire (ed.), The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography (1996), Vol. 1, 350-351. The above is a highlight excerpted from a longer quote beginning “To prove to an indignant questioner ….” in this same collection for A. V. Hill.
Science quotes on:  |  Apology (8)  |  Devote (38)  |  Faith (206)  |  Hope (308)  |  Idle (34)  |  Immediate (96)  |  Knowledge (1610)  |  Practical (213)  |  Proceed (131)  |  Real (156)  |  Return (131)  |  Sterile (23)  |  Study (679)  |  Talk (104)  |  Ultimate (151)  |  Usefulness (89)  |  Wealth (99)

Many luckless people imagine that romance is dead: some, overcivilised, fondly suppose that there never was romance: a poet tells us that romance is unrecognised though really present: but scientists can meet him daily, walking at large and undisguised in the world.
— A.V. Hill
In speech at Nobel Banquet, Stockholm (10 Dec 1923). Collected in Carl Gustaf Santesson (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1921-1922 (1923).
Science quotes on:  |  Daily (89)  |  Dead (62)  |  Imagine (169)  |  Large (396)  |  Meet (34)  |  Poet (94)  |  Present (625)  |  Romance (17)  |  Science And Poetry (17)  |  Scientist (856)  |  Suppose (157)  |  Undisguised (2)  |  Walk (131)  |  World (1822)

The most useless investigation may prove to have the most startling practical importance: Wireless telegraphy might not yet have come if Clerk Maxwell had been drawn away from his obviously “useless” equations to do something of more practical importance. Large branches of chemistry would have remained obscure had Willard Gibbs not spent his time at mathematical calculations which only about two men of his generation could understand.
— A.V. Hill
Quoted in Larry R. Squire (ed.), The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography (1996), Vol. 1, 350-351. The above is a highlight excerpted from a longer quote beginning “To prove to an indignant questioner ….” in this same collection for A. V. Hill.
Science quotes on:  |  Calculation (132)  |  Chemistry (365)  |  Equation (135)  |  Generation (251)  |  J. Willard Gibbs (9)  |  Importance (294)  |  Investigation (242)  |  Mathematics (1363)  |  James Clerk Maxwell (90)  |  Obscure (64)  |  Practical (213)  |  Radio (59)  |  Startle (5)  |  Telegraph (41)  |  Understand (634)  |  Useless (36)  |  Wireless (6)

The pursuit of natural knowledge, the investigation of the world – mental and material – in which we live, is not a dull and spiritless affair: rather is it a voyage of adventure of the human mind, a holiday for reckless and imaginative souls.
— A.V. Hill
In speech at Nobel Banquet, Stockholm (10 Dec 1923). Collected in Carl Gustaf Santesson (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1921-1922 (1923).
Science quotes on:  |  Adventure (64)  |  Dull (55)  |  Holiday (12)  |  Human Mind (132)  |  Imaginative (9)  |  Investigation (242)  |  Knowledge (1610)  |  Material (358)  |  Mental (178)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural Science (130)  |  Pursuit (127)  |  Pursuit Of Natural Knowledge (2)  |  Reckless (5)  |  Soul (231)  |  Spiritless (2)  |  Voyage (13)  |  World (1822)

Those whose lives are so filled with the romance of discovery, whose years are a holiday of exploration, … their work itself is adequate reward, they have more happiness already than their share.
— A.V. Hill
In speech at Nobel Banquet, Stockholm (10 Dec 1923). Collected in Carl Gustaf Santesson (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1921-1922 (1923).
Science quotes on:  |  Adequate (50)  |  Discovery (818)  |  Exploration (156)  |  Happiness (121)  |  Holiday (12)  |  Research (734)  |  Reward (70)  |  Romance (17)  |  Work (1374)  |  Year (939)

To prove to an indignant questioner on the spur of the moment that the work I do was useful seemed a thankless task and I gave it up. I turned to him with a smile and finished, “To tell you the truth we don’t do it because it is useful but because it’s amusing.” The answer was thought of and given in a moment: it came from deep down in my soul, and the results were as admirable from my point of view as unexpected. My audience was clearly on my side. Prolonged and hearty applause greeted my confession. My questioner retired shaking his head over my wickedness and the newspapers next day, with obvious approval, came out with headlines “Scientist Does It Because It’s Amusing!” And if that is not the best reason why a scientist should do his work, I want to know what is. Would it be any good to ask a mother what practical use her baby is? That, as I say, was the first evening I ever spent in the United States and from that moment I felt at home. I realised that all talk about science purely for its practical and wealth-producing results is as idle in this country as in England. Practical results will follow right enough. No real knowledge is sterile. The most useless investigation may prove to have the most startling practical importance: Wireless telegraphy might not yet have come if Clerk Maxwell had been drawn away from his obviously “useless” equations to do something of more practical importance. Large branches of chemistry would have remained obscure had Willard Gibbs not spent his time at mathematical calculations which only about two men of his generation could understand. With this faith in the ultimate usefulness of all real knowledge a man may proceed to devote himself to a study of first causes without apology, and without hope of immediate return.
— A.V. Hill
From lecture to a scientific society in Philadelphia on “The Mechanism of the Muscle” given by invitation after he received a Nobel Prize for that work. The quote is Hill’s response to a post-talk audience question asking disapprovingly what practical use the speaker thought there was in his research. The above quoted answer, in brief, is—for the intellectual curiosity. As quoted about Hill by Bernard Katz in his own autobiographical chapter, 'Sir Bernard Katz', collected in Larry R. Squire (ed.), The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography (1996), Vol. 1, 350-351. Two excerpts from the above have been highlighted as standalone quotes here in this same quote collection for A. V. Hill. They begin “All talk about science…” and “The most useless investigation may prove…”.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (380)  |  Apology (8)  |  Ask (414)  |  Audience (27)  |  Baby (28)  |  Best (464)  |  Calculation (132)  |  Cause (549)  |  Chemistry (365)  |  Clerk (13)  |  Confession (9)  |  Country (261)  |  Deep (234)  |  Do (1905)  |  Down (455)  |  Enough (341)  |  Equation (135)  |  Faith (206)  |  Finish (61)  |  First (1290)  |  Follow (384)  |  Generation (251)  |  J. Willard Gibbs (9)  |  Good (894)  |  Headline (6)  |  Himself (461)  |  Home (179)  |  Hope (308)  |  Idle (34)  |  Immediate (96)  |  Importance (294)  |  Investigation (242)  |  Know (1526)  |  Knowledge (1610)  |  Large (396)  |  Man (2252)  |  Maxwell (42)  |  James Clerk Maxwell (90)  |  Moment (256)  |  More (2559)  |  Most (1729)  |  Mother (115)  |  Next (236)  |  Obscure (64)  |  Obvious (126)  |  Point (583)  |  Point Of View (84)  |  Practical (213)  |  Proceed (131)  |  Prolong (29)  |  Prove (256)  |  Purely (111)  |  Reason (757)  |  Remain (352)  |  Research (734)  |  Result (688)  |  Return (131)  |  Right (459)  |  Say (985)  |  Scientist (856)  |  Side (233)  |  Smile (33)  |  Something (718)  |  Soul (231)  |  Spent (85)  |  Startling (15)  |  State (497)  |  Sterile (23)  |  Study (679)  |  Task (149)  |  Tell (341)  |  Thought (967)  |  Time (1890)  |  Truth (1088)  |  Turn (450)  |  Two (936)  |  Ultimate (151)  |  Understand (634)  |  Unexpected (55)  |  Use (768)  |  Useful (254)  |  Usefulness (89)  |  View (494)  |  Want (498)  |  Wealth (99)  |  Why (491)  |  Will (2352)  |  Work (1374)


See also:
  • 26 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Hill's birth.

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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