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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index N > Alexander Neckam Quotes

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Alexander Neckam
(8 Sep 1157 - 1217)

English educator and scientist , who learned of the mariner's compass while in Paris, which the Chinese had been using for at least two centuries, and described in a book, De utensilibus (“On Instruments”).

Science Quotes by Alexander Neckam (2 quotes)

Nautae etiam mare legentes, cum beneficium claritatis solis in tempore nubilo non sentiunt, aut etiam cum caligne nocturnarum tenebrarum mundus obvolvitur, et ignorant in quem mundi cardinem prora tendat, acum super mangentem ponunt, quae circulariter circumvolvitur usque dum, ejus motu cessante.
Mariners at sea, when, through cloudy weather in the day which hides the sun, or through the darkness of night, they lose knowlege of the quarter of the world to which they are sailing, touch a needle with a magnet, which will turn round till, on its motion ceasing, its point will be directed towards the north.
— Alexander Neckam
De naturis rerum. Original Latin text quoted in Thomas Wright, A Volume of Vocabularies... (1873), 114. Translation from Lloyd A Brown, The Story of Maps (1980), 127.
Science quotes on:  |  Compass (37)  |  Darkness (72)  |  Direct (228)  |  Hide (70)  |  Ignorant (91)  |  Lose (165)  |  Magnet (22)  |  Magnetism (43)  |  Mariner (12)  |  Motion (320)  |  Point (584)  |  Sailing (14)  |  Sea (326)  |  Sun (407)  |  Through (846)  |  Touch (146)  |  Turn (454)  |  Weather (49)  |  Will (2350)  |  World (1850)

Qui ergo munitam vult habere navem habet etiam acum jaculo suppositam. Rotabitur enim et circumvolvetur acus, donec cuspis acus respiciat orientem sicque comprehendunt quo tendere debeant nautaw cum Cynosura latet in aeris turbatione; quamvis ad occasum numquam tendat, propter circuli brevitatem.
If then one wishes a ship well provided with all things, then one must have also a needle mounted on a dart. The needle will be oscillated and turn until the point of the needle directs itself to the East* [North], thus making known to sailors the route which they should hold while the Little Bear is concealed from them by the vicissitudes of the atmosphere; for it never disappears under the horizon because of the smallness of the circle it describes.
— Alexander Neckam
Latin text from Thomas Wright, 'De Utensilibus', A Volume of Vocabularies, (1857) as cited with translation in Park Benjamin, The Intellectual Rise in Electricity: A History (1895), 129.
Science quotes on:  |  Atmosphere (117)  |  Bear (162)  |  Circle (117)  |  Compass (37)  |  Concealed (25)  |  Describe (132)  |  Direct (228)  |  Disappear (84)  |  Horizon (47)  |  Known (453)  |  Little (717)  |  Magnetism (43)  |  Making (300)  |  Mount (43)  |  Must (1525)  |  Never (1089)  |  Point (584)  |  Sailor (21)  |  Ship (69)  |  Smallness (7)  |  Thing (1914)  |  Turn (454)  |  Vicissitude (6)  |  Will (2350)

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  • 8 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Neckam'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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