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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index O > Henry Fairfield Osborn Quotes

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Henry Fairfield Osborn
(8 Aug 1857 - 6 Nov 1935)

American paleontologist and museum director who president of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years.


Science Quotes by Henry Fairfield Osborn (15 quotes)

Direct observation of the testimony of the earth … is a matter of the laboratory, of the field naturalist, of indefatigable digging among the ancient archives of the earth’s history. If Mr. Bryan, with an open heart and mind, would drop all his books and all the disputations among the doctors and study first hand the simple archives of Nature, all his doubts would disappear; he would not lose his religion; he would become an evolutionist.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91. Written in response to an article a few days earlier in which William Jennings Bryan challenged the theory of evolution as lacking proof.
Science quotes on:  |  Ancient (68)  |  Archive (5)  |  William Jennings Bryan (20)  |  Digging (3)  |  Doubt (121)  |  Earth (487)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Evolutionist (7)  |  Field (119)  |  Field Naturalist (3)  |  First Hand (2)  |  History (302)  |  Laboratory (120)  |  Naturalist (49)  |  Paleontology (29)  |  Proof (192)  |  Religion (210)  |  Research (517)  |  Study (331)  |  Testimony (10)

Every breath you draw, every accelerated beat of your heart in the emotional periods of your oratory depend upon highly elaborated physical and chemical reactions and mechanisms which nature has been building up through a million centuries. If one of these mechanisms, which you owe entirely to your animal ancestry, were to be stopped for a single instant, you would fall lifeless on the stage. Not only this, but some of your highest ideals of human fellowship and comradeship were not created in a moment, but represent the work of ages.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
Quoted in Closing Address by Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, president of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, at the Memorial Service for Osborn at St. Bartholomew's Church, N.Y. (18 Dec 1935). In 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 133-34. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
Science quotes on:  |  William Jennings Bryan (20)  |  Deaf (3)  |  Drowning (2)  |  Earth (487)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Speaking (38)  |  Speech (40)  |  Voice (41)

Every great anthropologic and paleontologic discovery fits into its proper place, enabling us gradually to fill out, one after another, the great branching lines of human ascent and to connect with the branches definite phases of industry and art. This gives us a double means of interpretation, archaeological and anatomical. While many branches and links in the chain remain to be discovered, we are now in a position to predict with great confidence not only what the various branches will be like but where they are most like to be found.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1
Science quotes on:  |  Anatomy (59)  |  Anthropology (51)  |  Archaeology (42)  |  Art (205)  |  Branch (61)  |  Chain (38)  |  Confidence (32)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Industry (91)  |  Interpretation (61)  |  Link (29)  |  Paleontology (29)  |  Position (54)  |  Prediction (67)  |  Tree Of Life (4)

I am perhaps more proud of having helped to redeem the character of the cave-man than of any other single achievement of mine in the field of anthropology.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
Quoted in Closing Address by Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, president of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, at the Memorial Service for Osborn at St. Bartholomew's Church, N.Y. (18 Dec 1935). In 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 134. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (128)  |  Anthropology (51)  |  Biography (227)  |  Character (82)  |  Pride (45)

If the Weismann idea triumphs, it will be in a sense a triumph of fatalism; for, according to it, while we may indefinitely improve the forces of our education and surroundings, and this civilizing nurture will improve the individuals of each generation, its actual effects will not be cumulative as regards the race itself, but only as regards the environment of the race; each new generation must start de novo, receiving no increment of the moral and intellectual advance made during the lifetime of its predecessors. It would follow that one deep, almost instinctive motive for a higher life would be removed if the race were only superficially benefited by its nurture, and the only possible channel of actual improvement were in the selection of the fittest chains of race plasma.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
'The Present Problem of Heredity', The Atlantic Monthly (1891), 57, 363.
Science quotes on:  |  Advancement (36)  |  Benefit (54)  |  Chain (38)  |  Channel (17)  |  Civilization (155)  |  Cumulative (8)  |  Education (280)  |  Effect (133)  |  Environment (138)  |  Fit (31)  |  Generation (111)  |  Heredity (51)  |  Idea (440)  |  Improvement (67)  |  Increment (2)  |  Indefinitely (9)  |  Individual (177)  |  Instinct (50)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Life (917)  |  Lifetime (19)  |  Moral (100)  |  Motive (26)  |  Nurture (12)  |  Plasma (7)  |  Possibility (96)  |  Predecessor (18)  |  Race (76)  |  Removal (10)  |  Selection (27)  |  Superficial (7)  |  Surrounding (11)  |  Triumph (33)  |  August Weismann (8)

No existing form of anthropoid ape is even remotely related to the stock which has given rise to man.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1. Written in rebuttal to the anti-evolution publicity by William Jennings Bryan at the time of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Science quotes on:  |  Anthropoid (4)  |  Ape (39)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Existence (254)  |  Man (345)  |  Relation (96)  |  Remoteness (7)  |  Rise (51)  |  Stock (5)

Now it is a well-known principle of zoological evolution that an isolated region, if large and sufficiently varied in its topography, soil, climate and vegetation, will give rise to a diversified fauna according to the law of adaptive radiation from primitive and central types. Branches will spring off in all directions to take advantage of every possible opportunity of securing food. The modifications which animals undergo in this adaptive radiation are largely of mechanical nature, they are limited in number and kind by hereditary, stirp or germinal influences, and thus result in the independent evolution of similar types in widely-separated regions under the law of parallelism or homoplasy. This law causes the independent origin not only of similar genera but of similar families and even of our similar orders. Nature thus repeats herself upon a vast scale, but the similarity is never complete and exact.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
'The Geological and Faunal Relations of Europe and America during the Tertiary Period and the Theory of the Successive Invasions of an African Fauna', Science (1900), 11, 563-64.
Science quotes on:  |  Adaptation (40)  |  Branch (61)  |  Climate (38)  |  Completeness (9)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Exactness (18)  |  Family (37)  |  Fauna (10)  |  Food (139)  |  Genus (16)  |  Heredity (51)  |  Independence (32)  |  Influence (110)  |  Isolation (26)  |  Law (418)  |  Modification (31)  |  Order (167)  |  Parallelism (2)  |  Region (26)  |  Repetition (21)  |  Scale (49)  |  Similarity (17)  |  Soil (51)  |  Type (34)  |  Variation (50)  |  Vast (56)  |  Vegetation (16)  |  Zoology (28)

Paleontology is not geology, it is zoology; it succeeds only in so far as it is pursued in the zoological and biological spirit.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
In 'The Present Problems of Paelontology', collected in Congress of arts and science: Universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 (1906), Vol. 4, 567.
Science quotes on:  |  Biological (21)  |  Geology (187)  |  Paleontology (29)  |  Spirit (113)  |  Succeed (11)  |  Zoological (5)  |  Zoology (28)

Quite recently the human descent theory has been stigmatized as the “gorilla theory of human ancestry.” All this despite the fact that Darwin himself, in the days when not a single bit of evidence regarding the fossil ancestors of man was recognized, distinctly stated that none of the known anthropoid apes, much less any of the known monkeys, should be considered in any way as ancestral to the human stock.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1. Written at the time of the Scopes Monkey Trial, in rebuttal of the anti-evolution position publicized by William Jennings Bryan.
Science quotes on:  |  Ancestry (4)  |  Anthropoid (4)  |  Ape (39)  |  Charles Darwin (284)  |  Descent Of Man (5)  |  Evidence (157)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Fact (609)  |  Fossil (107)  |  Gorilla (16)  |  Human (445)  |  Monkey (37)  |  Recognition (62)  |  Theory (582)

The Earth Speaks, clearly, distinctly, and, in many of the realms of Nature, loudly, to William Jennings Bryan, but he fails to hear a single sound. The earth speaks from the remotest periods in its wonderful life history in the Archaeozoic Age, when it reveals only a few tissues of its primitive plants. Fifty million years ago it begins to speak as “the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life.” In successive eons of time the various kinds of animals leave their remains in the rocks which compose the deeper layers of the earth, and when the rocks are laid bare by wind, frost, and storm we find wondrous lines of ascent invariably following the principles of creative evolution, whereby the simpler and more lowly forms always precede the higher and more specialized forms.
The earth speaks not of a succession of distinct creations but of a continuous ascent, in which, as the millions of years roll by, increasing perfection of structure and beauty of form are found; out of the water-breathing fish arises the air-breathing amphibian; out of the land-living amphibian arises the land-living, air-breathing reptile, these two kinds of creeping things resembling each other closely. The earth speaks loudly and clearly of the ascent of the bird from one kind of reptile and of the mammal from another kind of reptile.
This is not perhaps the way Bryan would have made the animals, but this is the way God made them!
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
The Earth Speaks to Bryan (1925), 5-6. Osborn wrote this book in response to the Scopes Monkey Trial, where William Jennings Bryan spoke against the theory of evolution. They had previously been engaged in the controversy about the theory for several years. The title refers to a Biblical verse from the Book of Job (12:8), “Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee.”
Science quotes on:  |  Air (151)  |  Amphibian (5)  |  Animal (309)  |  Bird (96)  |  Breath (24)  |  William Jennings Bryan (20)  |  Creature (127)  |  Earth (487)  |  Eon (8)  |  Erosion (18)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Failure (118)  |  Fish (85)  |  Fossil (107)  |  Frost (12)  |  History (302)  |  Land (83)  |  Layer (14)  |  Life (917)  |  Mammal (28)  |  Million (89)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Period (49)  |  Plant (173)  |  Primitive (37)  |  Realm (40)  |  Remains (9)  |  Reptile (23)  |  Rock (107)  |  Sound (59)  |  Speaking (38)  |  Storm (19)  |  Succession (39)  |  Tissue (24)  |  Wind (52)

The evolution of higher and of lower forms of life is as well and as soundly established as the eternal hills. It has long since ceased to be a theory; it is a law of Nature as universal in living things as is the law of gravitation in material things and in the motions of the heavenly spheres.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
Evolution and Religion in Education (1926), 118.
Science quotes on:  |  Body (193)  |  Cessation (10)  |  Establishment (29)  |  Eternal (43)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Form (210)  |  Heaven (118)  |  Hill (19)  |  Law Of Gravitation (15)  |  Law Of Nature (52)  |  Life (917)  |  Motion (127)  |  Theory (582)

The moral principle inherent in evolution, that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort; the ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has the right to survive; the spiritual principle in evolution is the evidence of beauty, of order, and of design in the daily myriad of miracles to which we owe our existence.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91.
Science quotes on:  |  Beauty (171)  |  Best (129)  |  Design (92)  |  Effort (94)  |  Ethics (30)  |  Evidence (157)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Existence (254)  |  Gain (48)  |  Inherent (27)  |  Miracle (55)  |  Moral (100)  |  Myriad (18)  |  Nothing (267)  |  Order (167)  |  Principle (228)  |  Right (144)  |  Spiritual (45)  |  Survival (49)

Today the earth speaks with resonance and clearness and every ear in every civilized country of the world is attuned to its wonderful message of the creative evolution of man, except the ear of William Jennings Bryan; he alone remains stone-deaf, he alone by his own resounding voice drowns the eternal speech of nature.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
In The Earth Speaks to Bryan (1925), 8.
Science quotes on:  |  William Jennings Bryan (20)  |  Deaf (3)  |  Drowning (2)  |  Earth (487)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Speaking (38)  |  Speech (40)  |  Voice (41)

We are as remote from adequate explanation of the nature and causes of mechanical evolution of the hard parts of animals as we were when Aristotle first speculated on this subject … I think it is possible that we may never fathom all the causes of mechanical evolution or of the origin of new mechanical characters, but shall have to remain content with observing the modes of mechanical evolution, just as embryologists and geneticists are observing the modes of development, from the fertilized ovum to the mature individual, without in the least understanding either the cause or the nature of the process of development which goes on under their eyes every day
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
From 'Orthogenesis as observed from paleontological evidence beginning in the year 1889', American Naturalist (1922) 56, 141-142. As quoted and cited in 'G.G. Simpson, Paleontology, and the Modern Synthesis', collected in Ernst Mayr, William B. Provine (eds.), The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (1998), 171.
Science quotes on:  |  Adequate (18)  |  Animal (309)  |  Aristotle (141)  |  Cause (231)  |  Character (82)  |  Development (228)  |  Embryologist (2)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Explanation (161)  |  Fathom (5)  |  Fertilization (15)  |  Geneticist (11)  |  Hard (70)  |  Mature (7)  |  Mechanics (44)  |  Mode (29)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Observation (418)  |  Origin (77)  |  Ovum (4)  |  Process (201)  |  Remote (27)  |  Understanding (317)

We have only indirect means of knowing the courage and activity of the Neanderthals in the chase, through the bones of animals hunted for food which are found intermingled with the flints around their ancient hearths.
— Henry Fairfield Osborn
In 'Customs of the Chase and of cave Life', Men of the Old Stone Age: Their Environment, Life and Art (1921), 211.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (97)  |  Ancient (68)  |  Animal (309)  |  Around (6)  |  Bone (57)  |  Chase (11)  |  Courage (39)  |  Flint (6)  |  Food (139)  |  Hearth (2)  |  Hunt (12)  |  Indirect (8)  |  Know (321)  |  Mean (63)  |  Neanderthal (3)  |  Paleontology (29)



Quotes by others about Henry Fairfield Osborn (1)

How peacefully he sleep!
Yet may his ever-questing spirit, freed at length
from all the frettings of this little world,
Wander at will among the uncharted stars.
Fairfield his name. Perchance celestial fields
disclosing long sought secrets of the past
Spread 'neath his enraptured gaze
And beasts and men that to his earthly sight
were merely bits of stone shall live again to
gladden those eager eyes.
o let us picture him—enthusiast—scientist—friend—
Seeker of truth and light through all eternity!
New York Sun (13 Nov 1935). Reprinted in 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 135. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
Science quotes on:  |  Enthusiast (4)  |  Eternity (44)  |  Eulogy (2)  |  Fossil (107)  |  Gladness (4)  |  Life (917)  |  Stone (57)  |  Truth (750)


See also:
  • 8 Aug - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Osborn's birth.
  • More for Henry Fairfield Osborn on Today in Science History page.
  • The Origin and Evolution of Life: On the Theory of Action, Reaction and Interaction of Energy, by Henry Fairfield Osborn. - book suggestion.

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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