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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index L > Irving Langmuir Quotes

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Irving Langmuir
(31 Jan 1881 - 16 Aug 1957)

American physical chemist who was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, famous for his investigation of reactions at thin surface films. He improved incandescent light bulbs by filling them with inert gases rather than a vacuum, and also developed atomic-hydrogen welding.

Science Quotes by Irving Langmuir (5 quotes)

A chemist who does not know mathematics is seriously handicapped.
— Irving Langmuir
Quoted in Albert Rosenfeld, Langmuir: The Man and the Scientist (1962), 293.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemist (88)  |  Handicap (5)  |  Mathematics (1149)

Many of the things that have happened in the laboratory have happened in ways it would have been impossible to foresee, but not impossible to plan for in a sense. I do not think Dr. Whitney deliberately plans his serendipity but he is built that way; he has the art—an instinctive way of preparing himself by his curiosity and by his interest in people and in all kinds of things and in nature, so that the things he learns react on one another and thereby accomplish things that would be impossible to foresee and plan.
— Irving Langmuir
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 355.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (79)  |  Curiosity (105)  |  Deliberate (12)  |  Foresee (13)  |  Happening (32)  |  Impossibility (52)  |  Instinct (65)  |  Interest (235)  |  Laboratory (131)  |  Nature (1211)  |  People (388)  |  Plan (87)  |  Preparation (41)  |  Reaction (61)  |  Research (589)  |  Serendipity (15)  |  Willis R. Whitney (17)

Train yourselves. Don't wait to be fed knowledge out of a book. Get out and seek it. Make explorations. Do your own research work. Train your hands and your mind. Become curious. Invent your own problems and solve them. You can see things going on all about you. Inquire into them. Seek out answers to your own questions. There are many phenomena going on in nature the explanation of which cannot be found in books. Find out why these phenomena take place. Information a boy gets by himself is enormously more valuable than that which is taught to him in school.
— Irving Langmuir
In 'Dr. Irving Langmuir', Boys' Life (Jul 1941), 12.
Science quotes on:  |  Advice (40)  |  Answer (249)  |  Boy (46)  |  Curiosity (105)  |  Enormous (41)  |  Enquiry (76)  |  Exploration (122)  |  Finding (30)  |  Hand (141)  |  Information (121)  |  Invention (318)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Learning (177)  |  Mind (743)  |  Phenomenon (276)  |  Problem (490)  |  Question (404)  |  Research (589)  |  School (117)  |  Seek (104)  |  Solution (211)  |  Student (201)  |  Teaching (107)  |  Train (45)  |  Value (240)

[In the case of research director, Willis R. Whitney, whose style was to give talented investigators as much freedom as possible, you may define “serendipity” as] the art of profiting from unexpected occurrences. When you do things in that way you get unexpected results. Then you do something else and you get unexpected results in another line, and you do that on a third line and then all of a sudden you see that one of these lines has something to do with the other. Then you make a discovery that you never could have made by going on a direct road.
— Irving Langmuir
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 355.
Science quotes on:  |  Direct (82)  |  Discovery (676)  |  Freedom (101)  |  Occurrence (32)  |  Profit (38)  |  Research (589)  |  Result (376)  |  Serendipity (15)  |  Unexpected (36)  |  Willis R. Whitney (17)

[There] are cases where there is no dishonesty involved but where people are tricked into false results by a lack of understanding about what human beings can do to themselves in the way of being led astray by subjective effects, wishful thinking or threshold interactions. These are examples of pathological science. These are things that attracted a great deal of attention. Usually hundreds of papers have been published upon them. Sometimes they have lasted for fifteen or twenty years and then they gradually die away.
[Coining the term “pathological science” for the self-deceiving application of science to a phenomenon that doesn't exist.]
— Irving Langmuir
From a Colloquium at The Knolls Research Laboratory (18 Dec 1953). Transcribed and edited by R. N. Hall. In General Electric Laboratories, Report No. 68-C-035 (April 1968).
Science quotes on:  |  Dishonesty (9)  |  Effect (165)  |  False (98)  |  Lack (77)  |  Research (589)  |  Result (376)  |  Self-Deception (2)  |  Subjective (11)  |  Thinking (231)  |  Trick (24)  |  Understanding (325)  |  Wishful (5)

Quotes by others about Irving Langmuir (2)

Langmuir is the most convincing lecturer that I have ever heard. I have heard him talk to an audience of chemists when I knew they did not understand more than one-third of what he was saying; but they thought they did. It’s very easy to be swept off one's feet by Langmuir. You remember in [Kipling’s novel] Kim that the water jar was broken and Lurgan Sahib was trying to hypnotise Kim into seeing it whole again. Kim saved himself by saying the multiplication table [so] I have heard Langmuir lecture when I knew he was wrong, but I had to repeat to myself: “He is wrong; I know he is wrong; he is wrong”, or I should have believed like the others.
In 'How to Ripen Time', Journal of Physical Chemistry 1931, 35, 1917.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemist (88)  |  Error (275)  |  Rudyard Kipling (8)  |  Lecture (67)  |  Multiplication Table (10)

Langmuir is a regular thinking machine. Put in facts, and you get out a theory.
Quoted in C. Guy Suits (ed.), The Collected Works of Irving Langmuir (1962), Vol. 12, 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Fact (725)  |  Theory (690)  |  Thinking (231)

See also:

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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