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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index P > Max Planck Quotes > Research

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Max Planck
(23 Apr 1858 - 4 Oct 1947)

German theoretical physicist who introduced the quantum theory (1900), for which he was awarded the 1918 Nobel Prize for Physics. This assumes that energy is not infinitely subdivisible, but ultimately exists as discrete amounts he called quanta.


Max Planck Quotes on Research (15 quotes)

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Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 214.
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As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. … We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
— Max Planck
Lecture, 'Das Wesen der Materie' [The Essence/Nature/Character of Matter], Florence, Italy (1944). Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797. Original German and this English translation, as in Gregg Braden, The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits (2009), 334-35. Note: a number of books showing this quote cite it as from Planck’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1918), which the Webmaster has checked, and does not see this quote therein. The original German excerpt, and a slightly more complete translation is also on this web page, beginning: “As a physicist who devoted ….”
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As a physicist who devoted his entire life to sober science, to the study of matter, I am sure that I am free from the suspicion of being considered a zealot. And so, according to my research of the atom, I say this: There is no matter in itself. All matter arises and exists only through a force that vibrates the atomic particles and holds them together to form the tiniest solar system of the universe. However, since there is no intelligent force or eternal power in the entire universe—mankind has not been able to invent the much-anticipated perpetuum mobile—we must accept a conscious intelligent mind behind this force. This spirit is the cause of all matter.
— Max Planck
From Lecture, 'Das Wesen der Materie' [The Essence/Nature/Character of Matter], Florence, Italy (1944). Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797. English version using Google Translate, from the original German, “Als Physiker, der sein ganzes Leben der nüchternen Wissenschaft, der Erforschung der Materie widmete, bin ich sicher von dem Verdacht frei, für einen Schwarmgeist gehalten zu werden. Und so sage ich nach meinen Erforschungen des Atoms dieses: Es gibt keine Materie an sich. Alle Materie entsteht und besteht nur durch eine Kraft, welche die Atomteilchen in Schwingung bringt und sie zum winzigsten Sonnensystem des Alls zusammenhält. Da es im ganzen Weltall aber weder eine intelligente Kraft noch eine ewige Kraft gibt—es ist der Menschheit nicht gelungen, das heißersehnte Perpetuum mobile zu erfinden—so müssen wir hinter dieser Kraft einen bewußten intelligenten Geist annehmen. Dieser Geist ist der Urgrund aller Materie.” German excerpt from Gregg Braden, The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits (2009), 334-35. There is also a different, slightly shortened, translation on this web page, beginning: “As a man who has devoted ….”
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (381)  |  Cause (561)  |  Existence (481)  |  Matter (821)  |  Science And Religion (337)

Experimenters are the shock troops of science.
— Max Planck
'The Meaning and Limits of Exact Science', Science (30 Sep 1949), 110, No. 2857, 325. Advance reprinting of chapter from book Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography (1949), 110.
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Hitherto the principle of causality was universally accepted as an indispensable postulate of scientific research, but now we are told by some physicists that it must be thrown overboard. The fact that such an extraordinary opinion should be expressed in responsible scientific quarters is widely taken to be significant of the all-round unreliability of human knowledge. This indeed is a very serious situation.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 66.
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New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
— Max Planck
Address on the 25th anniversary of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft (Jan 1936). Quoted in Surviving the Swastika: Scientific Research in Nazi Germany (1993), 97.
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Science sets out confidently on the endeavor finally to know the thing in itself, and even though we realize that this ideal goal can never be completely reached, still we struggle on towards it untiringly. And we know that at every step of the way each effort will be richly rewarded.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where Is Science Going? (1932), 139-140.
Science quotes on:  |  Research (753)

The forces of nature, such as electricity for instance, were not discovered by men who started out with the set purpose of adapting them for utilitarian purposes. Scientific discovery and scientific knowledge have been achieved only by those who have gone in pursuit of it without any practical purpose whatsoever in view. … Heinrich Hertz, for instance, never dreamt that his discoveries would have been developed by Marconi and finally evolved into a system of wireless telegraphy.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where Is Science Going? (1932), 138.
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The progress of science is an excellent illustration of the truth of the paradox that man must lose his soul before he can find it.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where Is Science Going? (1932), 138.
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The researcher might be tempted again and again to abandon his efforts as vain and fruitless, except that every now and then a light strikes across his path which furnishes him with irrefutable proof that, after all his mistakes in taking one by-path after another, he has at least made one step forward towards the discovery of the truth that he is seeking.
— Max Planck
From Nobel Prize acceptance speech (2 Jun 1920), as quoted and translated by James Murphy in 'Introduction: Max Planck: a Biographical Sketch' to Max Planck (trans.), Where is Science Going (1932), 24. This passage of Planck’s speech is translated very differently for the Nobel Committee. See elsewhere on this web page, beginning, “The whole strenuous…”.
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The spectral density of black body radiation ... represents something absolute, and since the search for the absolutes has always appeared to me to be the highest form of research, I applied myself vigorously to its solution.
— Max Planck
In Michael Dudley Sturge , Statistical and Thermal Physics (2003), 201.
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The steadfast pursuance of one aim and purpose is indispensable to the researcher and that aim will always light his way, even though sometimes it may be dimmed by initial failures.
— Max Planck
From Nobel Prize acceptance speech (2 Jun 1920), as quoted and translated by James Murphy in 'Introduction: Max Planck: a Biographical Sketch' to Max Planck (trans.), Where is Science Going (1932), 24. This passage of Planck’s speech is translated very differently for the Nobel Committee. See elsewhere on this web page, beginning, “An indispensable hypothesis…”.
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The whole strenuous intellectual work of an industrious research worker would appear, after all, in vain and hopeless, if he were not occasionally through some striking facts to find that he had, at the end of all his criss-cross journeys, at last accomplished at least one step which was conclusively nearer the truth.
— Max Planck
Nobel Lecture (2 Jun 1920), in Nobel Lectures in Physics, 1901-1921 (1998), 407.
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The whole strenuous intellectual work of an industrious research worker would appear, after all, in vain and hopeless, if he were not occasionally through some striking facts to find that he had, at the end of all his criss-cross journeys, at last accomplished at least one step which was conclusively nearer the truth.
— Max Planck
From Nobel Prize Lecture (2 Jun 1920), 'The Genesis and Present State of Development of the Quantum Theory', Nobel Lectures, Physics 1901-1921 (1967), and on the nobelprize.org web site. This passage of Planck’s speech is translated very differently by James Murphy in 'Introduction: Max Planck: a Biographical Sketch' in Max Planck and James Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going (1932), 24. See elsewhere on this web page, beginning, “The researcher might…”.

When Archimedes jumped out of his bath one morning and cried Eureka he obviously had not worked out the whole principle on which the specific gravity of various bodies could be determined j and undoubtedly there were people who laughed at his first attempts. That is perhaps why most scientific pioneers are so slow to disclose the nature of their first insights when they believe themselves to be on a track of a new discovery.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where Is Science Going? (1932), 177.
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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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