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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index L > Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange Quotes

Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange
(25 Jan 1736 - 10 Apr 1813)

Italian-French astronomer and mathematician.

Science Quotes by Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange (4 quotes)

I had begun it, it will now be unnecessary for me to finish it.[At a late age, expressing his enthusiasm for mathematics had gone, as when informed of some other mathematician's current work.]
— Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange
As quoted by Charles Hutton in A Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary (1815), Vol. 1, 708.
Science quotes on:  |  Beginning (114)  |  Finish (16)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Unnecessary (11)

I regarded as quite useless the reading of large treatises of pure analysis: too large a number of methods pass at once before the eyes. It is in the works of application that one must study them; one judges their utility there and appraises the manner of making use of them.
— Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange
As reported by J. F. Maurice in Moniteur Universel (1814), 228.
Science quotes on:  |  Analysis (123)  |  Utility (23)

It has cost them but a moment to cut off that head; but a hundred years will not be sufficient to produce another like it.
— Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange
Comment to Delambre about Lavoisier, who was executed on 8 May 1794. As quoted by Charles Hutton in A Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary (1815), Vol. 1, 708. The quotation is given in Douglas McKie, Antoine Lavoisier: The Father of Modern Chemistry (1935), 299, as: “Only a moment to cut off this head and perhaps a hundred years before we shall have another like it.” In The Doctor Explains (1931), 134-135, Ralph Hermon Major words it as, “It took but an instant to cut off his head; a hundred years will not suffice to produce one like it,” but in A History of Medicine (1954), Vol. 2, 618, Major repeats it as, “A moment was sufficient to sever his head, but a hundred years will not be enough perhaps to produce another like it.” Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source, presumably in French.
Science quotes on:  |  Death (270)  |  Execution (9)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Moment (61)  |  Year (214)

There being only one universe to be explained, nobody could repeat the act of Newton, the luckiest of mortals
— Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange
As stated, without quotation marks, without citation, in Alexandre Koyrι, 'The Significance of the Newtonian Synthesis', The Journal of General Education (Jul 1950), 4, 265.
Science quotes on:  |  Act (80)  |  Explain (61)  |  Lucky (6)  |  Mortal (19)  |  Newton (9)  |  Nobody (38)  |  Repeat (27)  |  Universe (563)

Quotes by others about Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange (7)

Lagrange, in one of the later years of his life, imagined that he had overcome the difficulty (of the parallel axiom). He went so far as to write a paper, which he took with him to the Institute, and began to read it. But in the first paragraph something struck him that he had not observed: he muttered: 'Il faut que j'y songe encore', and put the paper in his pocket.' [I must think about it again]
Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 173.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (587)

Then one day Lagrange took out of his pocket a paper which he read at the Acadιme, and which contained a demonstration of the famous Postulatum of Euclid, relative to the theory of parallels. This demonstration rested on an obvious paralogism, which appeared as such to everybody; and probably Lagrange also recognised it such during his lecture. For, when he had finished, he put the paper back in his pocket, and spoke no more of it. A moment of universal silence followed, and one passed immediately to other concerns.
Quoting Lagrange at a meeting of the class of mathematical and physical sciences at the Institut de France (3 Feb 1806) in Journal des Savants (1837), 84, trans. Ivor Grattan-Guinness.
Science quotes on:  |  Demonstration (51)  |  Euclid (28)  |  Lecture (54)  |  Parallel (16)  |  Silence (32)

The genius of Laplace was a perfect sledge hammer in bursting purely mathematical obstacles; but, like that useful instrument, it gave neither finish nor beauty to the results. In truth, in truism if the reader please, Laplace was neither Lagrange nor Euler, as every student is made to feel. The second is power and symmetry, the third power and simplicity; the first is power without either symmetry or simplicity. But, nevertheless, Laplace never attempted investigation of a subject without leaving upon it the marks of difficulties conquered: sometimes clumsily, sometimes indirectly, always without minuteness of design or arrangement of detail; but still, his end is obtained and the difficulty is conquered.
'Review of "Théorie Analytique des Probabilites" par M. le Marquis de Laplace, 3eme edition. Paris. 1820', Dublin Review (1837), 2, 348.
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The great masters of modern analysis are Lagrange, Laplace, and Gauss, who were contemporaries. It is interesting to note the marked contrast in their styles. Lagrange is perfect both in form and matter, he is careful to explain his procedure, and though his arguments are general they are easy to follow. Laplace on the other hand explains nothing, is indifferent to style, and, if satisfied that his results are correct, is content to leave them either with no proof or with a faulty one. Gauss is as exact and elegant as Lagrange, but even more difficult to follow than Laplace, for he removes every trace of the analysis by which he reached his results, and studies to give a proof which while rigorous shall be as concise and synthetical as possible.
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 468.
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Accordingly, we find Euler and D'Alembert devoting their talent and their patience to the establishment of the laws of rotation of the solid bodies. Lagrange has incorporated his own analysis of the problem with his general treatment of mechanics, and since his time M. Poinsτt has brought the subject under the power of a more searching analysis than that of the calculus, in which ideas take the place of symbols, and intelligent propositions supersede equations.
J. C. Maxwell on Louis Poinsτt (1777-1859) in 'On a Dynamical Top' (1857). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 1, 248.
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There was yet another disadvantage attaching to the whole of Newton’s physical inquiries, ... the want of an appropriate notation for expressing the conditions of a dynamical problem, and the general principles by which its solution must be obtained. By the labours of LaGrange, the motions of a disturbed planet are reduced with all their complication and variety to a purely mathematical question. It then ceases to be a physical problem; the disturbed and disturbing planet are alike vanished: the ideas of time and force are at an end; the very elements of the orbit have disappeared, or only exist as arbitrary characters in a mathematical formula
Address to the Mechanics Institute, 'An Address on the Genius and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton' (1835), excerpted in paper by Luis M. Laita, Luis de Ledesma, Eugenio Roanes-Lozano and Alberto Brunori, 'George Boole, a Forerunner of Symbolic Computation', collected in John A. Campbell and Eugenio Roanes-Lozano (eds.), Artificial Intelligence and Symbolic Computation: International Conference AISC 2000 (2001), 3.
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Simple as the law of gravity now appears, and beautifully in accordance with all the observations of past and of present times, consider what it has cost of intellectual study. Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Euler, Lagrange, Laplace, all the great names which have exalted the character of man, by carrying out trains of reasoning unparalleled in every other science; these, and a host of others, each of whom might have been the Newton of another field, have all labored to work out, the consequences which resulted from that single law which he discovered. All that the human mind has produced—the brightest in genius, the most persevering in application, has been lavished on the details of the law of gravity.
in The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise: A Fragment (1838), 57.
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  • 25 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Lagrange'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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