Celebrating 20 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index M > James Clerk Maxwell Quotes > Atom

Thumbnail of James Clerk Maxwell (source)
James Clerk Maxwell
(13 Jun 1831 - 5 Nov 1879)

Scottish mathematician and physicist whose researches united electricity and magnetism into the concept of the electro-magnetic field.


James Clerk Maxwell Quotes on Atom (4 quotes)

>> Click for 53 Science Quotes by James Clerk Maxwell

>> Click for James Clerk Maxwell Quotes on | Energy | Equation | Experiment | Gas | Law | Light | Matter | Molecule | Poem | Science | Symbol | Theory | Vibration |

At quite uncertain times and places,
The atoms left their heavenly path,
And by fortuitous embraces,
Engendered all that being hath.
And though they seem to cling together,
And form 'associations' here,
Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
And through the depths of space career.
— James Clerk Maxwell
From 'Molecular Evolution', Nature, 8, 1873. In Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1882), 637.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Association (46)  |  Atom (358)  |  Being (1278)  |  Bond (45)  |  Burst (39)  |  Career (76)  |  Depth (94)  |  Embrace (46)  |  Form (960)  |  Fortuitous (11)  |  Late (118)  |  Molecule (174)  |  Path (145)  |  Poem (96)  |  Soon (186)  |  Space (501)  |  Tether (2)  |  Through (849)  |  Time (1877)  |  Together (387)  |  Uncertain (44)

In the heavens we discover [stars] by their light, and by their light alone ... the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds ... that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. Each molecule therefore throughout the universe bears impressed upon it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the royal cubit of the Temple of Karnac.
[Footnote: Where Maxwell uses the term “molecule” we now use the term “atom.”]
— James Clerk Maxwell
Lecture to the British Association at Bradford (1873), 'Atoms and Molecules'. Quoted by Ernest Rutherford, in 'The Constitution of Matter and the Evolution of the Elements', The Popular Science Monthly (Aug 1915), 112.
Science quotes on:  |  Alone (312)  |  Arcturus (4)  |  Atom (358)  |  Bear (159)  |  Cubit (2)  |  Discover (553)  |  Earth (998)  |  Evidence (248)  |  Execute (7)  |  Existence (460)  |  Find (999)  |  Heaven (258)  |  Heavens (125)  |  Hydrogen (75)  |  Impress (65)  |  Impressed (38)  |  Kind (557)  |  Light (609)  |  Maxwell (42)  |  Measurement (174)  |  Metric System (6)  |  Molecule (174)  |  Precisely (92)  |  Royal (56)  |  Small (479)  |  Sole (49)  |  Spectroscopy (11)  |  Stamp (36)  |  Star (430)  |  Stars (304)  |  System (537)  |  Temple (42)  |  Term (349)  |  Throughout (98)  |  Time (1877)  |  Universe (861)  |  Use (766)  |  Vibration (20)  |  Wavelength (8)  |  World (1778)

Natural causes, as we know, are at work, which tend to modify, if they do not at length destroy, all the arrangements and dimensions of the earth and the whole solar system. But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred and may yet occur in the heavens, though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins, the molecules [i.e. atoms] out of which these systems are built—the foundation stones of the material universe—remain unbroken and unworn. They continue to this day as they were created—perfect in number and measure and weight.
— James Clerk Maxwell
Lecture to the British Association at Bradford, 'Molecules', Nature (1873), 8, 437-441. Reprinted in James Clerk Maxwell and W. D. Niven, editor, The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (2003), 377. By
Science quotes on:  |  Age (499)  |  All (4107)  |  Ancient (191)  |  Arrangement (91)  |  Atom (358)  |  Catastrophe (31)  |  Cause (542)  |  Conservation Of Mass (2)  |  Continue (165)  |  Course (408)  |  Creation (329)  |  Destroy (180)  |  Dimension (62)  |  Do (1908)  |  Earth (998)  |  Foundation (173)  |  Heaven (258)  |  Heavens (125)  |  Know (1519)  |  Material (353)  |  Measure (233)  |  Molecule (174)  |  Natural (796)  |  New (1217)  |  Number (701)  |  Occur (150)  |  Perfect (216)  |  Remain (349)  |  Ruin (42)  |  Solar System (78)  |  Stone (162)  |  System (537)  |  Tend (124)  |  Universe (861)  |  Weight (136)  |  Whole (738)  |  Work (1351)

The mind of man has perplexed itself with many hard questions. Is space infinite, and in what sense? Is the material world infinite in extent, and are all places within that extent equally full of matter? Do atoms exist or is matter infinitely divisible?
— James Clerk Maxwell
The Theory of Molecules', lecture to the British Association at Bradford. In The Popular Science Monthly (1874) vol. 4, 277.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Atom (358)  |  Do (1908)  |  Equally (130)  |  Exist (444)  |  Extent (139)  |  Hard (243)  |  Infinite (233)  |  Infinity (91)  |  Man (2249)  |  Material (353)  |  Matter (801)  |  Mind (1339)  |  Question (622)  |  Sense (770)  |  Space (501)  |  World (1778)


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
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |
- 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


by Ian Ellis
who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.