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Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Thumbnail of Sir Julian Huxley (source)
Sir Julian Huxley
(22 Jun 1887 - 14 Feb 1975)

English biologist and writer who did research on evolution and how an organism develops from egg to adult. He was well-known for popularizing science to the layman through dozens of books and radio broadcasts. He was the first director-general of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (1946-48).


Julian Huxley - “To speculate without facts is to attempt to enter a house of which one has not the key”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 600 px)

“To speculate without facts is to attempt to enter a house of which one has not the key, by wandering aimlessly round and round, searching the walls and now and then peeping through the windows. Facts are the key.”
— Julian Huxley
'Heredity', Essays in Popular Science (1926)

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Context of Julian Huxley’s quote, “Facts are the key.”

This quote comes from an essay, “Heredity: 1. The Behaviour of Chromosomes” which was collected in Huxley's Essays in Popular Science1, first published in 1927. By 1929, that book appeared in a list of “One Hundred Popular Science Books”1 which was a selection chosen to be attractive to the general reader, while at the same time authoritative and modern in their treatment of the subject.

This was a time long before any understanding of DNA, so to gain any understanding of heredity, interested geneticists were dependant on experimental observation to progress. The quote above appears early in Huxley's essay to express the importance of investigation to gain knowledge of the facts, which must be undertaken before any understanding could be drawn. Which, of course, remains true in any field of science.

Writing decades later, in 1995, Carl Sagan expressed a similar sentiment:2

“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth—never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.”

More Carl Sagan quotes on science >>

1 Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences (4 Jun 1929).
2 In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1. (source)

Text by Webmaster.


See also:
  • Science Quotes by Sir Julian Huxley.
  • 22 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Huxley's birth.
  • Julian Huxley - context of quote “To speculate without facts is to attempt to enter a house of which one has not the key” - Medium image (500 x 350 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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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton


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