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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index L > Titus Lucretius Quotes

Titus Lucretius
(c. 100 B.C. - c. 55 B.C.)

Greek-Roman natural philosopher who wrote De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things).

Science Quotes by Titus Lucretius (15 quotes)

Nil posse creari de nihilo.
Nothing can be created from nothing.
— Titus Lucretius
In De Rerum Natura, Book 1, lines 156-157. Title is translated as On the Nature of Things.
Science quotes on:  |  Create (153)  |  Nothing (395)

Non possunt oculi naturam noscere rerum
The eyes cannot know the nature of things.
— Titus Lucretius
In De Rerum Natura (c. 55 B.C.), Book 4, line 385. Translated by Rev. John Selby Watson, On the Nature of Things (1851).
Science quotes on:  |  Eye (222)  |  Knowledge (1306)  |  Nature (1223)  |  Reality (190)

And many kinds of creatures must have died,
Unable to plant out new sprouts of life.
For whatever you see that lives and breathes and thrives
Has been, from the very beginning, guarded, saved
By it's trickery for its swiftness or brute strength.
And many have been entrusted to our care,
Commended by their usefulness to us.
For instance, strength supports a savage lion;
Foxes rely on their cunning; deer their flight.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 5, lines 852-60, 183.
Science quotes on:  |  Creature (155)  |  Cunning (8)  |  Death (302)  |  Deer (7)  |  Fox (9)  |  Life (1131)  |  Lion (17)  |  Strength (81)  |  Usefulness (77)

And part of the soil is called to wash away
In storms and streams shave close and gnaw the rocks.
Besides, whatever the earth feeds and grows
Is restored to earth. And since she surely is
The womb of all things and their common grave,
Earth must dwindle, you see and take on growth again.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 5, lines 255-60, 166.
Science quotes on:  |  Earth (638)  |  Erosion (19)  |  Rock (125)  |  Soil (64)  |  Storm (30)  |  Stream (40)

Anything made out of destructible matter
Infinite time would have devoured before.
But if the atoms that make and replenish the world
Have endured through the immense span of the past
Their natures are immortal—that is clear.
Never can things revert to nothingness!
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book I, lines 232-7, 31.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (280)  |  Endure (20)  |  Indestructible (9)  |  Infinity (72)  |  Matter (343)  |  Time (595)

At this stage you must admit that whatever is seen to be sentient is nevertheless composed of atoms that are insentient. The phenomena open to our observation so not contradict this conclusion or conflict with it. Rather they lead us by the hand and compel us to believe that the animate is born, as I maintain, of the insentient.
— Titus Lucretius
In On the Nature of the Universe, translated by R. E. Latham (1951, 1994), 59.
Science quotes on:  |  Animate (6)  |  Belief (504)  |  Birth (93)  |  Compelling (8)  |  Composition (60)  |  Conclusion (160)  |  Conflict (55)  |  Leading (17)  |  Nevertheless (2)  |  Observation (450)  |  Phenomenon (278)  |  Sentient (4)

Here I most violently want you to
Avoid one fearful error, a vicious flaw.
Don’t think that our bright eyes were made that we
Might look ahead; that hips and knees and ankles
So intricately bend that we might take
Big strides, and the arms are strapped to the sturdy shoulders
And hands are given for servants to each side
That we might use them to support our lives.
All other explanations of this sort
Are twisted, topsy-turvy logic, for
Nothing what is born produces its own use.
Sight was not born before the light of the eyes,
Nor were words and pleas created before the tongue
Rather the tongue's appearance long preceded
Speech, and the ears were formed far earlier than
The sound first heard. To sum up, all the members Existed, I should think, before their use, So use has not caused them to have grown.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 4, lines 820-8, 145.
Science quotes on:  |  Error (277)  |  Existence (299)  |  Flaw (10)  |  Logic (260)  |  Sound (90)  |  Speech (47)

Huts they made then, and fire, and skins for clothing,
And a woman yielded to one man in wedlock...
... Common, to see the offspring they had made; The human race began to mellow then. Because of fire their shivering forms no longer
Could bear the cold beneath the covering sky.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Authony M. Esolen (1995), Book 5, lines 1008-13, 187.
Science quotes on:  |  Clothing (10)  |  Fire (133)  |  Human Race (69)  |  Offspring (16)  |  Shelter (14)

I return to the newborn world, and the soft-soil fields,
What their first birthing lifted to the shores
Of light, and trusted to the wayward winds.
First the Earth gave the shimmer of greenery
And grasses to deck the hills; then over the meadows
The flowering fields are bright with the color of springtime,
And for all the trees that shoot into the air.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995) Book 5, lines 777-84, 181.
Science quotes on:  |  Field (171)  |  Grass (35)  |  Meadow (14)  |  Soil (64)  |  Tree (171)

Many animals even now spring out of the soil,
Coalescing from the rains and the heat of the sun.
Small wonder, then, if more and bigger creatures,
Full-formed, arose from the new young earth and sky.
The breed, for instance, of the dappled birds
Shucked off their eggshells in the springtime, as
Crickets in summer will slip their slight cocoons
All by themselves, and search for food and life.
Earth gave you, then, the first of mortal kinds,
For all the fields were soaked with warmth and moisture.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 5, lines 794-803, 181.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (359)  |  Bird (120)  |  Cocoon (3)  |  Creature (155)  |  Cricket (7)  |  Earth (638)  |  Food (154)  |  Heat (100)  |  Life (1131)  |  Moisture (12)  |  Rain (33)  |  Search (105)  |  Sky (124)  |  Soil (64)  |  Sun (276)

Moreover, within the hollows of the earth,
When from one quarter the wind builds up, lunges,
Muscles the deep caves with its headstrong power,
The earth leans hard where the force of wind has pressed it;
Then above ground, the higher the house is built,
The nearer it rises to the sky, the worse
Will it lean that way and jut out perilously,
The beams wrenched loose and hanging ready to fall.
And to think, men can't believe that for this world
Some time of death and ruin lies in wait,
Yet they see so great a mass of earth collapse!
And the winds pause for breath—that's lucky, for else
No force could rein things galloping to destruction.
But since they pause for breath, to rally their force,
Come building up and then fall driven back,
More often the earth will threaten ruin than
Perform it. The earth will lean and then sway back,
Its wavering mass restored to the right poise.
That explains why all houses reel, top floor
Most then the middle, and ground floor hardly at all.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 6, lines 558-77, 216.
Science quotes on:  |  Cave (15)  |  Earth (638)  |  Earthquake (29)  |  Wind (80)

See with what force yon river’s crystal stream
Resists the weight of many a massy beam.
To sink the wood the more we vainly toil,
The higher it rebounds, with swift recoil.
Yet that the beam would of itself ascend
No man will rashly venture to contend.
Thus too the flame has weight, though highly rare,
Nor mounts but when compelled by heavier air.
— Titus Lucretius
De Rerum Natura, second book, as quoted in translation in Thomas Young, A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts (1845), 12.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (190)  |  Ascend (12)  |  Beam (10)  |  Buoyancy (7)  |  Contend (6)  |  Flame (26)  |  Force (249)  |  Heavier (2)  |  Higher (37)  |  Mass (78)  |  Rare (50)  |  Rashness (2)  |  Rebound (2)  |  Recoil (6)  |  River (79)  |  Sink (21)  |  Stream (40)  |  Swift (12)  |  Toil (18)  |  Vain (30)  |  Venture (18)  |  Water (293)  |  Weight (77)  |  Wood (49)

The whole of Nature is of two things built, Atoms and Void.
— Titus Lucretius
As given in epigraph in Lancelot Law Whyte, An Essay on Atomism (1961), following title page.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (280)  |  Nature (1223)  |  Void (20)

Things stand apart so far and differ, that
What’s food for one is poison for another.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, trans. Authony M. Esolen (1995), Book 4, lines 634-5, 31.
Science quotes on:  |  Food (154)  |  Poison (34)

Under what law each thing was created, and how necessary it is for it to continue under this, and how it cannot annul the strong rules that govern its lifetime.
— Titus Lucretius
On the Nature of Things, Book 5, line 56. Trans. R. W. Sharples
Science quotes on:  |  Law (515)  |  Rule (177)

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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