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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index P > Donald Culross Peattie Quotes

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Donald Culross Peattie
(21 Jun 1898 - 16 Nov 1964)

American botanist, naturalist and author.


Science Quotes by Donald Culross Peattie (8 quotes)

A thing is either alive or it isn’t; there is nothing that is almost alive. There is but the remotest possibility of the origin of life by spontaneous generation, and every likelihood that Arrhenius is right when he dares to claim that life is a cosmic phenomenon, something that drifts between the spheres, like light, and like light transiently descends upon those fit to receive it.
— Donald Culross Peattie
In An Almanac for Moderns (1935), 393.
Science quotes on:  |  Alive (38)  |  Svante Arrhenius (11)  |  Claim (52)  |  Cosmic (34)  |  Descent (14)  |  Drift (6)  |  Fit (31)  |  Life (917)  |  Light (246)  |  Likelihood (8)  |  Origin Of Life (32)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Possibility (96)  |  Receive (39)  |  Right (144)  |  Sphere (40)  |  Spontaneous Generation (4)  |  Transient (5)

As the brain of man is the speck of dust in the universe that thinks, so the leaves—the fern and the needled pine and the latticed frond and the seaweed ribbon—perceive the light in a fundamental and constructive sense. … Their leaves see the light, as my eyes can never do. … They impound its stellar energy, and with that force they make life out of the elements.
— Donald Culross Peattie
In Flowering Earth (1939), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Brain (181)  |  Dust (42)  |  Element (129)  |  Energy (185)  |  Eye (159)  |  Fern (4)  |  Leaf (43)  |  Life (917)  |  Light (246)  |  Pine (9)  |  Seeing (48)  |  Speck (8)  |  Star (251)  |  Universe (563)

I am more and more convinced that the ant colony is not so much composed of separate individuals as that the colony is a sort of individual, and each ant like a loose cell in it. Our own blood stream, for instance, contains hosts of white corpuscles which differ little from free-swimming amoebae. When bacteria invade the blood stream, the white corpuscles, like the ants defending the nest, are drawn mechanically to the infected spot, and will die defending the human cell colony. I admit that the comparison is imperfect, but the attempt to liken the individual human warrior to the individual ant in battle is even more inaccurate and misleading. The colony of ants with its component numbers stands half way, as a mechanical, intuitive, and psychical phenomenon, between our bodies as a collection of cells with separate functions and our armies made up of obedient privates. Until one learns both to deny real individual initiative to the single ant, and at the same time to divorce one's mind from the persuasion that the colony has a headquarters which directs activity … one can make nothing but pretty fallacies out of the polity of the ant heap.
— Donald Culross Peattie
In An Almanac for Moderns (1935), 121
Science quotes on:  |  Amoeba (20)  |  Ant (19)  |  Bacteria (32)  |  Blood (95)  |  Cell (125)  |  Colony (5)  |  Corpuscle (8)  |  Fallacy (19)  |  Individual (177)  |  Initiative (12)  |  Obedience (15)  |  Polity (2)  |  Private (17)  |  Warrior (5)

Life is a phenomenon sui generis, a primal fact in its own right, like energy. Cut flesh or wood how you like, hack at them in a baffled fury—you cannot find life itself, you can only see what it built out of the lifeless dust.
— Donald Culross Peattie
In An Almanac for Moderns (1935), 393.
Science quotes on:  |  Baffled (3)  |  Built (7)  |  Cut (36)  |  Dust (42)  |  Find (248)  |  Flesh (22)  |  Fury (5)  |  Hack (3)  |  Life (917)  |  Lifeless (10)  |  Seeing (48)  |  Wood (33)

The earth holds a silver treasure, cupped between ocean bed and tenting sky. Forever the heavens spend it, in the showers that refresh our temperate lands, the torrents that sluice the tropics. Every suckling root absorbs it, the very soil drains it down; the rivers run unceasing to the sea, the mountains yield it endlessly… Yet none is lost; in vast convection our water is returned, from soil to sky, and sky to soil, and back gain, to fall as pure as blessing. There was never less; there could never be more. A mighty mercy on which life depends, for all its glittering shifts, water is constant.
— Donald Culross Peattie
In A Cup of Sky (1950), 41.
Science quotes on:  |  Absorb (11)  |  Bed (20)  |  Blessing (7)  |  Constant (40)  |  Convection (2)  |  Cup (5)  |  Depend (56)  |  Drain (6)  |  Earth (487)  |  Endlessly (2)  |  Fall (89)  |  Gain (48)  |  Glittering (2)  |  Heaven (118)  |  Hold (56)  |  Land (83)  |  Less (54)  |  Life (917)  |  Lost (28)  |  Mercy (9)  |  Mighty (7)  |  Mountain (111)  |  Ocean (115)  |  Pure (62)  |  Refresh (2)  |  Return (35)  |  River (68)  |  Root (48)  |  Sea (143)  |  Shift (21)  |  Shower (4)  |  Silver (26)  |  Sky (68)  |  Sluice (2)  |  Soil (51)  |  Spend (24)  |  Suckling (2)  |  Torrent (3)  |  Treasure (35)  |  Tropic (2)  |  Unceasing (3)  |  Vast (56)  |  Water (244)  |  Water Cycle (3)  |  Yield (23)

The Grand Canyon is carven deep by the master hand; it is the gulf of silence, widened in the desert; it is all time inscribing the naked rock; it is the book of earth.
— Donald Culross Peattie
In The Road of a Naturalist (1941), 206.
Science quotes on:  |  Arizona (2)  |  Book (181)  |  Desert (27)  |  Earth (487)  |  Grand Canyon (3)  |  Gulf (10)  |  Master (55)  |  Naked (8)  |  Rock (107)  |  Silence (32)

The role of biology today, like the role of every other science, is simply to describe, and when it explains it does not mean that it arrives at finality; it only means that some descriptions are so charged with significance that they expose the relationship of cause and effect.
— Donald Culross Peattie
As quoted in Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 37. Webmaster so far has not found the primary source (can you help?)
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (150)  |  Cause And Effect (11)  |  Describe (38)  |  Explain (61)  |  Expose (9)  |  Relationship (59)  |  Role (35)  |  Significance (60)

What is a weed? I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions. For me, a weed is a plant out of place.
— Donald Culross Peattie
In Flowering Earth (1939), 156. Note that this definition was in use before Peattie was born, for example “the true definition of a weed is ‘a plant out of place’” appears in Alex Brown, The Coffee Planter's Manual (1880), 121.
Science quotes on:  |  Definition (152)  |  Place (111)  |  Plant (173)  |  Weed (14)


See also:
  • 21 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Peattie's birth.
  • Flowering Earth, by Donald Culross Peattie. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Donald Culross Peattie.

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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