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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 Science (27 quotes)

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An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is the recording of Nature's answer.
— 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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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 ….”
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Both religion and natural science require a belief in God for their activities, to the former He is the starting point, and to the latter the goal of every thought process. To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.
— Max Planck
Lecture, 'Religion and Natural Science' (1937) In Max Planck and Frank Gaynor (trans.), Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1949), 184.
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Every hypothesis in physical science has to go through a period of difficult gestation and parturition before it can be brought out into the light of day and handed to others, ready-made in scientific form so that it will be, as it were, fool-proof in the hands of outsiders who wish to apply it.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where Is Science Going? (1932), 178.
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Experimenters are the shock troops of science … An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is the recording of Nature’s answer. But before an experiment can be performed, it must be planned–the question to nature must be formulated before being posed. Before the result of a measurement can be used, it must be interpreted–Nature’s answer must be understood properly. These two tasks are those of theorists, who find himself always more and more dependent on the tools of abstract mathematics.
— 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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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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Experimenters are the shocktroops of science.
— Max Planck
In Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1949).
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How do we discover the individual laws of Physics, and what is their nature? It should be remarked, to begin with, that we have no right to assume that any physical law exists, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future. It is perfectly conceivable that one fine day Nature should cause an unexpected event to occur which would baffle us all; and if this were to happen we would be powerless to make any objection, even if the result would be that, in spite of our endeavors, we should fail to introduce order into the resulting confusion. In such an event, the only course open to science would be to declare itself bankrupt. For this reason, science is compelled to begin by the general assumption that a general rule of law dominates throughout Nature.
— Max Planck
Max Planck, Walter Henry Johnston, The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics (1931), 58.
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I had always looked upon the search for the absolute as the noblest and most worth while task of science.
— Max Planck
'A Scientific Autobiography' (1948), in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. Frank Gaynor (1950), 46.
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My original decision to devote myself to science was a direct result of the discovery which has never ceased to fill me with enthusiasm since my early youth—the comprehension of the far from obvious fact that the laws of human reasoning coincide with the laws governing the sequences of the impressions we receive from the world about us; that, therefore, pure reasoning can enable man to gain an insight into the mechanism of the latter. In this connection, it is of paramount importance that the outside world is something independent from man, something absolute, and the quest for the laws which apply to this absolute appeared to me as the most sublime scientific pursuit in life.
— Max Planck
'A Scientific Autobiography' (1948), in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. Frank Gaynor (1950), 13.
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Religion belongs to the realm that is inviolable before the law of causation and therefore closed to science.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 168.
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Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. Music and art are, to an extent, also attempts to solve or at least express the mystery. But to my mind the more we progress with either the more we are brought into harmony with all nature itself. And that is one of the great services of science to the individual.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), Epilogue, 217.
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Science does not mean an idle resting upon a body of certain knowledge; it means unresting endeavor and continually progressing development toward an end which the poetic intuition may apprehend, but which the intellect can never fully grasp.
— Max Planck
In The Philosophy of Physics (1936). Collected in The New Science: 3 Complete Works (1959), 290.
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Science enhances the moral value of life, because it furthers a love of truth and reverence—love of truth displaying itself in the constant endeavor to arrive at a more exact knowledge of the world of mind and matter around us, and reverence, because every advance in knowledge brings us face to face with the mystery of our own being.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 169.
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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.
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The atheist movement declares religion to be an arbitrary illusion—devised by power-hungry priests—for the pious belief in a higher Power over us. At this point, it is not surprising that the atheist movement describes religion with only words of mockery. The atheist movement eagerly makes use of the advance of scientific knowledge. In apparent unity with the progress of science, atheism accelerates its subverting action on the peoples of earth in all social classes. In short, after a victory by atheism, not only all the most precious wealth of our culture would topple, but—what is worse—the prospects for a better future also fade.
— Max Planck
This is a loose translation by Webmaster. It has been gently rephrased for clarity, from a passage in Religion und Naturwissenschaft, Vortrag Gehalten im Baltikum Mai 1937 (1958), 7. The passage in the original German is prolix. The original German version of this quote can be found, together with a closer translation, elsewhere on this web page, beginning: “Under these circumstances….”
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The fundamental principles and indispensable postulates of every genuinely productive science are not based on pure logic but rather on the metaphysical hypothesis–which no rules of logic can refute–that there exists an outer world which is entirely independent of ourselves. It is only through the immediate dictate of our consciousness that we know that this world exists. And that consciousness may to a certain degree be called a special sense.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where Is Science Going? (1932), 138-139.
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The highest court is in the end one’s own conscience and conviction—that goes for you and for Einstein and every other physicist—and before any science there is first of all belief. For me, it is belief in a complete lawfulness in everything that happens.
— Max Planck
Letter from Planck to Niels Bohr (19 Oct 1930). As cited in J. L. Heilbron, The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck As Spokesman for German Science (1987), 143.
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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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There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 168.
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Those [scientists] who dislike entertaining contradictory thoughts are unlikely to enrich their science with new ideas.
— Max Planck
Attributed. (If you know a primary source, please contact webmaster.)
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We cannot rest and sit down lest we rust and decay. Health is maintained only through work. And as it is with all life so it is with science. We are always struggling from the relative to the absolute.
— Max Planck
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 200.
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What led me to my science and what fascinated me from a young age was the, by no means self-evident, fact that our laws of thought agree with the regularities found in the succession of impressions we receive from the external world, that it is thus possible for the human being to gain enlightenment regarding these regularities by means of pure thought
— Max Planck
Max Planck and Ch. Scriba (ed), Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie (1990), 9. Quoted in Erhard Scheibe and Brigitte Falkenburg (ed), Between Rationalism and Empiricism: Selected Papers in the Philosophy of Physics (2001), 69
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When I began my physical studies [in Munich in 1874] and sought advice from my venerable teacher Philipp von Jolly...he portrayed to me physics as a highly developed, almost fully matured science...Possibly in one or another nook there would perhaps be a dust particle or a small bubble to be examined and classified, but the system as a whole stood there fairly secured, and theoretical physics approached visibly that degree of perfection which, for example, geometry has had already for centuries.

— Max Planck
From a lecture (1924). In Damien Broderick (ed.), Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge (2008), 104.
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When the pioneer in science sets forth the groping feelers of his thought, he must have a vivid, intuitive imagination, for new ideas are not generated by deduction, but by an artistically creative imagination.
— Max Planck
In Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968), 109.
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See also:

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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Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton


by Ian Ellis
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