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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index P > Karl Pearson Quotes

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Karl Pearson
(27 Mar 1857 - 27 Apr 1936)

English mathematician.


Science Quotes by Karl Pearson (21 quotes)

The classification of facts, the recognition of their sequence and relative significance is the function of science, and the habit of forming a judgment upon these facts unbiassed by personal feeling is characteristic of what may be termed the scientific frame of mind.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 8.
Science quotes on:  |  Characteristic (66)  |  Classification (79)  |  Fact (609)  |  Feeling (79)  |  Formation (54)  |  Function (90)  |  Habit (78)  |  Judgment (72)  |  Personal (49)  |  Recognition (62)  |  Relative (24)  |  Science (1699)  |  Sequence (32)  |  Significance (60)  |  Term (87)

All great scientists have, in a certain sense, been great artists; the man with no imagination may collect facts, but he cannot make great discoveries.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Artist (46)  |  Certain (84)  |  Collection (38)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Fact (609)  |  Greatness (34)  |  Imagination (209)  |  Man (345)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Sense (240)

Every great advance of science opens our eyes to facts which we had failed before to observe, and makes new demands on our powers of interpretation.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (123)  |  Demand (52)  |  Eye (159)  |  Fact (609)  |  Fail (34)  |  Great (300)  |  Interpretation (61)  |  New (340)  |  Observe (48)  |  Open (38)  |  Power (273)  |  Science (1699)

Facts may belong to the past history of mankind, to the social statistics of our great cities, to the atmosphere of the most distant stars, to the digestive organs of a worm, or to the life of a scarcely visible bacillus. It is not the facts themselves which form science, but the method in which they are dealt with.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Atmosphere (63)  |  Bacillus (8)  |  City (37)  |  Digestion (23)  |  Fact (609)  |  Form (210)  |  History (302)  |  Life (917)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Method (154)  |  Microscopic (10)  |  Organ (60)  |  Science (1699)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Social (93)  |  Star (251)  |  Statistics (125)  |  Worm (25)

I look upon statistics as the handmaid of medicine, but on that very account I hold that it befits medicine to treat her handmaid with proper respect, and not to prostitute her services for controversial or personal purposes.
— Karl Pearson
'On the Influence of the Sanatorium Treatment of Tuberculosis', British Medical Journal (1910), 1, 1517.
Science quotes on:  |  Account (45)  |  Controversy (16)  |  Handmaid (4)  |  Husband (10)  |  Medicine (322)  |  Personal (49)  |  Proper (27)  |  Purpose (138)  |  Respect (57)  |  Service (54)  |  Statistics (125)  |  Treatment (88)

If I have put the case of science at all correctly, the reader will have recognised that modern science does much more than demand that it shall be left in undisturbed possession of what the theologian and metaphysician please to term its “legitimate field.” It claims that the whole range of phenomena, mental as well as physical—the entire universe—is its field. It asserts that the scientific method is the sole gateway to the whole region of knowledge.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 29-30.
Science quotes on:  |  Assertion (23)  |  Case (64)  |  Claim (52)  |  Correction (28)  |  Demand (52)  |  Field (119)  |  Gateway (3)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Left (13)  |  Legitimate (8)  |  Metaphysician (4)  |  Mind (544)  |  Modern Science (10)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Possession (37)  |  Range (38)  |  Reader (22)  |  Recognition (62)  |  Region (26)  |  Science (1699)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Sole (9)  |  Term (87)  |  Theologian (14)  |  Universe (563)  |  Whole (122)

If you haven’t measured something, you really don’t know very much about it.
— Karl Pearson
Attributed. As quoted in Arthur R. Upgren, Weather: How It Works and Why It Matters (2008), 7.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Measurement (148)

It is the old experience that a rude instrument in the hand of a master craftsman will achieve more than the finest tool wielded by the uninspired journeyman.
— Karl Pearson
Quoted in The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton (1930), Vol. 3A, 50.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (128)  |  Craftsman (4)  |  Experience (268)  |  Hand (103)  |  Instrument (73)  |  Journeyman (2)  |  Master (55)  |  Rude (5)  |  Tool (70)  |  Uninspired (2)  |  Wield (5)

Medals are great encouragement to young men and lead them to feel their work is of value, I remember how keenly I felt this when in the 1890s. I received the Darwin Medal and the Huxley Medal. When one is old, one wants no encouragement and one goes on with one's work to the extent of one's power, because it has become habitual.
— Karl Pearson
Letter to Major Greenwood (8 Dec 1933). Quoted in M. E. Magnello, 'Karl Pearson', in P. Armitage and T. Colton (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Biostatistics (1998), Vol. 4, 3314.
Science quotes on:  |  Encouragement (17)  |  Feeling (79)  |  Habit (78)  |  Lead (101)  |  Medal (3)  |  Old (104)  |  Receive (39)  |  Value (180)  |  Work (457)  |  Young (72)

Now this is the peculiarity of scientific method, that when once it has become a habit of mind, that mind converts all facts whatsoever into science.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Convert (15)  |  Fact (609)  |  Habit (78)  |  Mind (544)  |  Peculiarity (15)  |  Science (1699)  |  Scientific Method (155)

The classification of facts and the formation of absolute judgments upon the basis of this classification—judgments independent of the idiosyncrasies of the individual mind—essentially sum up the aim and method of modern science. The scientific man has above all things to strive at self-elimination in his judgments, to provide an argument which is as true for each individual mind as for his own.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 7-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (65)  |  Aim (58)  |  Argument (59)  |  Basis (60)  |  Classification (79)  |  Essential (87)  |  Fact (609)  |  Formation (54)  |  Idiosyncrasy (2)  |  Independent (41)  |  Individual (177)  |  Judgment (72)  |  Method (154)  |  Mind (544)  |  Provide (48)  |  Science (1699)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Strive (35)  |  Truth (750)

The goal of science is clear—it is nothing short of the complete interpretation of the universe. But the goal is an ideal one—it marks the direction in which we move and strive, but never the point we shall actually reach.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Complete (43)  |  Direction (56)  |  Goal (81)  |  Ideal (52)  |  Interpretation (61)  |  Point (72)  |  Reach (68)  |  Science (1699)  |  Strive (35)  |  Universe (563)

The man who classifies facts of any kind whatever, who sees their mutual relation and describes their sequence, is applying the scientific method and is a man of science.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Apply (38)  |  Classify (4)  |  Describe (38)  |  Fact (609)  |  Man Of Science (27)  |  Mutual (22)  |  Relation (96)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Sequence (32)

The scientific method is one and the same in all branches, and that method is the method of all logically trained minds.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 13.
Science quotes on:  |  Branch (61)  |  Logical (20)  |  Mind (544)  |  Same (92)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Trained (5)

The scientific method of examining facts is not peculiar to one class of phenomena and to one class of workers; it is applicable to social as well as to physical problems, and we must carefully guard ourselves against supposing that the scientific frame of mind is a peculiarity of the professional scientist.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 8.
Science quotes on:  |  Applicable (2)  |  Care (73)  |  Class (64)  |  Examination (60)  |  Fact (609)  |  Guard (12)  |  Peculiar (24)  |  Peculiarity (15)  |  Physical (94)  |  Problem (362)  |  Professional (27)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Social (93)  |  Supposition (33)  |  Worker (23)

The starting point of Darwin’s theory of evolution is precisely the existence of those differences between individual members of a race or species which morphologists for the most part rightly neglect. The first condition necessary, in order that any process of Natural Selection may begin among a race, or species, is the existence of differences among its members; and the first step in an enquiry into the possible effect of a selective process upon any character of a race must be an estimate of the frequency with which individuals, exhibiting any given degree of abnormality with respect to that, character, occur. The unit, with which such an enquiry must deal, is not an individual but a race, or a statistically representative sample of a race; and the result must take the form of a numerical statement, showing the relative frequency with which the various kinds of individuals composing the race occur.
— Karl Pearson
Biometrika: A Joumal for the Statistical Study of Biological Problems (1901), 1, 1-2.
Science quotes on:  |  Beginning (114)  |  Composition (52)  |  Condition (119)  |  Charles Darwin (284)  |  Difference (208)  |  Enquiry (75)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Existence (254)  |  First (174)  |  Form (210)  |  Frequency (13)  |  Individual (177)  |  Kind (99)  |  Member (27)  |  Natural Selection (79)  |  Necessity (125)  |  Neglect (23)  |  Number (179)  |  Occurrence (30)  |  Precision (38)  |  Process (201)  |  Race (76)  |  Relative (24)  |  Representative (9)  |  Result (250)  |  Sample (8)  |  Species (181)  |  Start (68)  |  Starting Point (6)  |  Statement (56)  |  Statistics (125)  |  Step (67)  |  Theory (582)  |  Various (25)

The unity of all science consists alone in its method, not in its material.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Alone (61)  |  Consist (22)  |  Material (124)  |  Science (1699)  |  Unity (43)

There is nothing opposed in Biometry and Mendelism. Your husband [W.F.R. Weldon] and I worked that out at Peppards [on the Chilterns] and you will see it referred in the Biometrika memoir. The Mendelian formula leads up to the “ancestral law.” What we fought against was the slovenliness in applying Mendel's categories and asserting that such formulae apply in cases when they did not.
— Karl Pearson
Letter to Mrs.Weldon (12 Apr 1907). Quoted in M. E. Magnello, 'Karl Pearson's Mathematization of Inheritance: From Ancestral Heredity to Mendelian Genetics (1895-1909)', Annals of Science (1998), 55, 89.
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When every fact, every present or past phenomenon of that universe, every phase of present or past life therein, has been examined, classified, and co-ordinated with the rest, then the mission of science will be completed. What is this but saying that the task of science can never end till man ceases to be, till history is no longer made, and development itself ceases?
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Cessation (10)  |  Classification (79)  |  Completion (15)  |  Coordination (4)  |  Development (228)  |  Examination (60)  |  Fact (609)  |  History (302)  |  Life (917)  |  Mission (7)  |  Past (109)  |  Phase (14)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Present (103)  |  Science (1699)  |  Task (68)  |  Universe (563)

[Florence Nightingale] was a great administrator, and to reach excellence here is impossible without being an ardent student of statistics. Florence Nightingale has been rightly termed the “Passionate Statistician.” Her statistics were more than a study, they were indeed her religion. For her, Quetelet was the hero as scientist, and the presentation copy of his Physique Sociale is annotated by her on every page. Florence Nightingale believed—and in all the actions of her life acted upon that belief—that the administrator could only be successful if he were guided by statistical knowledge. The legislator—to say nothing of the politician—too often failed for want of this knowledge. Nay, she went further: she held that the universe—including human communities—was evolving in accordance with a divine plan; that it was man's business to endeavour to understand this plan and guide his actions in sympathy with it. But to understand God's thoughts, she held we must study statistics, for these are the measure of his purpose. Thus the study of statistics was for her a religious duty.
— Karl Pearson
In Karl Pearson, The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton (1924), Vol. 2, 414-5.
Science quotes on:  |  Administrator (6)  |  Belief (400)  |  Duty (51)  |  Endeavour (24)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Florence Nightingale (34)  |  Plan (69)  |  Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quételet (2)  |  Statistics (125)  |  Understand (189)

“Endow scientific research and we shall know the truth, when and where it is possible to ascertain it;” but the counterblast is at hand: “To endow research is merely to encourage the research for endowment; the true man of science will not be held back by poverty, and if science is of use to us, it will pay for itself.” Such are but a few samples of the conflict of opinion which we find raging around us.
— Karl Pearson
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 5.
Science quotes on:  |  Conflict (49)  |  Encouragement (17)  |  Endowment (7)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Men Of Science (97)  |  Mere (41)  |  Opinion (146)  |  Payment (6)  |  Possibility (96)  |  Poverty (29)  |  Rage (4)  |  Research (517)  |  Sample (8)  |  Truth (750)  |  Usefulness (70)


See also:
  • 27 Mar - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Pearson's birth.
  • Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age, by Theodore Porter. - 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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