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Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Thumbnail of Ashley Montagu (source)
Ashley Montagu
(28 Jun 1905 - 26 Nov 1999)

British anthropologist who is noted for his works popularizing anthropology and science, including The Elephant Man.


Ashley Montagu
“Servomechanism … mass-produced by unskilled labor”

Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 250 px)

“Man continues to be the only 150 pound nonlinear servomechanism that can be wholly mass-produced by unskilled labor.”
— Ashley Montagu
In Science and Creationism (1984).

More Ashley Montagu quotes on science >>

This quote, as a definition of man, is found in a number of Ashley Montagu’s works spanning several decades. It made an early appearance in 1963 in a paper by Ashley Montagu in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry on “Mechanisms in Anxiety,” and expressed a concern about the resulting overcrowding and the “day of reckoning” had arrived.

His quote appears again in his “Nostrums and Prescriptions”1 printed in the U.S. Congress Population Crisis hearings of 1965 by the Subcommittee on Foreign Aid expenditures. Here, he begins by praising the role of DDT in decreasing mortality rates in many regions of the world. Significantly, high numbers of births were no longer being balanced by the previous higher morality rate. He used the quote as a definition of man, to highlight how with continued reproduction came impending problems of overpopulation.

This definition of man also appeared in the Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Governor’s Conference on Aging published in 1967. It is cited several more times by other writers, or part of an essay collection, in succeeding years.

Ashley Montagu himself used his definition of man again in 2000 at the opening of a Foreward2 he wrote, subtitled “Origin of the Specious,” for a book by Robin Fox, The Passsionate Mind, slightly modified:

“Man is the only 150 pound nonlinear servomechanism that can be wholly reproduced by unskilled labor.”

1 'Nostrums and Prescriptions', provided to the Population Crisis: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Foreign Aid Expenditures of the Committee on Government Operations, United States Senate, Eight-ninth Congress on S.1676, A Bill to Reorganize the Department of State and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, on August 31; September 8, 15, and 22, 1965(1966), Part 3-A, 1368.
2 'Forward: Origin of the Specious' for Robin Fox, The Passionate Mind: Sources of Destruction and Creativity (2000), xxi.

In 'Mechanisms in Anxiety', Journal of Neuropsychiatry (Sep-Oct 1963), 5, 416. (source)


See also:
  • Science Quotes by Ashley Montagu.
  • 28 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Montagu's birth.
  • Ashley Montagu - context of quote “The scientist believes in proof” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Ashley Montagu - context of quote “Certainty is never an end, but a search” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Ashley Montagu - context of quote “Certainty is never an end, but a search” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Ashley Montagu - context of quote “Servomechanism … mass-produced by unskilled labor” - Large image (800 x 400 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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