18th Century Quotes (17 quotes)
At the beginning of its existence as a science, biology was forced to take cognizance of the seemingly boundless variety of living things, for no exact study of life phenomena was possible until the apparent chaos of the distinct kinds of organisms had been reduced to a rational system. Systematics and morphology, two predominantly descriptive and observational disciplines, took precedence among biological sciences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. More recently physiology has come to the foreground, accompanied by the introduction of quantitative methods and by a shift from the observationalism of the past to a predominance of experimentation.
Half a century ago Oswald (1910) distinguished classicists and romanticists among the scientific investigators: the former being inclined to design schemes and to use consistently the deductions from working hypotheses; the latter being more fit for intuitive discoveries of functional relations between phenomena and therefore more able to open up new fields of study. Examples of both character types are Werner and Hutton. Werner was a real classicist. At the end of the eighteenth century he postulated the theory of neptunism, according to which all rocks including granites, were deposited in primeval seas. It was an artificial scheme, but, as a classification system, it worked quite satisfactorily at the time. Hutton, his contemporary and opponent, was more a romanticist. His concept of plutonism supposed continually recurrent circuits of matter, which like gigantic paddle wheels raise material from various depths of the earth and carry it off again. This is a very flexible system which opens the mind to accept the possible occurrence in the course of time of a great variety of interrelated plutonic and tectonic processes.
It is not, indeed, strange that the Greeks and Romans should not have carried ... any ... experimental science, so far as it has been carried in our time; for the experimental sciences are generally in a state of progression. They were better understood in the seventeenth century than in the sixteenth, and in the eighteenth century than in the seventeenth. But this constant improvement, this natural growth of knowledge, will not altogether account for the immense superiority of the modern writers. The difference is a difference not in degree, but of kind. It is not merely that new principles have been discovered, but that new faculties seem to be exerted. It is not that at one time the human intellect should have made but small progress, and at another time have advanced far; but that at one time it should have been stationary, and at another time constantly proceeding. In taste and imagination, in the graces of style, in the arts of persuasion, in the magnificence of public works, the ancients were at least our equals. They reasoned as justly as ourselves on subjects which required pure demonstration.
It may be said of many palaeontologists, as Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper said recently of 18th century historians: Their most serious error was to measure the past by the present.
Looking back over the last thousand years, one can divide the development of the machine and the machine civilization into three successive but over-lapping and interpenetrating phases: eotechnic, paleotechnic, neotechnic Speaking in terms of power and characteristic materials, the eotechnic phase is a water-and-wood complex: the paleotechnic phase is a coal-and-wood complex The dawn-age of our modern technics stretches roughly from the year 1000 to 1750. It did not, of course, come suddenly to an end in the middle of the eighteenth century. A new movement appeared in industrial society which had been gathering headway almost unnoticed from the fifteenth century on: after 1750 industry passed into a new phase, with a different source of power, different materials, different objectives.
Next to the word 'Nature,' 'the Great Chain of Being' was the sacred phrase of the eighteenth century, playing a part somewhat analogous to that of the blessed word 'evolution' in the late nineteenth.
Our ultimate task is to find interpretative procedures that will uncover each bias and discredit its claims to universality. When this is done the eighteenth century can be formally closed and a new era that has been here a long time can be officially recognised. The individual human being, stripped of his humanity, is of no use as a conceptual base from which to make a picture of human society. No human exists except steeped in the culture of his time and place. The falsely abstracted individual has been sadly misleading to Western political thought. But now we can start again at a point where major streams of thought converge, at the other end, at the making of culture. Cultural analysis sees the whole tapestry as a whole, the picture and the weaving process, before attending to the individual threads.
The end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century were remarkable for the small amount of scientific movement going on in this country, especially in its more exact departments. ... Mathematics were at the last gasp, and Astronomy nearly soI mean in those members of its frame which depend upon precise measurement and systematic calculation. The chilling torpor of routine had begun to spread itself over all those branches of Science which wanted the excitement of experimental research.
The most consequential change in man's view of the world, of living nature and of himself came with the introduction, over a period of some 100 years beginning only in the 18th century, of the idea of change itself, of change over periods of time: in a word, of evolution.
The private motives of scientists are not the trend of science. The trend of science is made by the needs of society: navigation before the eighteenth century, manufacture thereafter; and in our age I believe the liberation of personality. Whatever the part which scientists like to act, or for that matter which painters like to dress, science shares the aims of our society just as art does.
The teacher manages to get along still with the cumbersome algebraic analysis, in spite of its difficulties and imperfections, and avoids the smooth infinitesimal calculus, although the eighteenth century shyness toward it had long lost all point.
There is a demon in technology. It was put there by man and man will have to exorcise it before technological civilization can achieve the eighteenth-century ideal of humane civilized life.
There is plenty of room left for exact experiment in art, and the gate has been opened for some time. What had been accomplished in music by the end of the eighteenth century has only begun in the fine arts. Mathematics and physics have given us a clue in the form of rules to be strictly observed or departed from, as the case may be. Here salutary discipline is come to grips first of all with the function of forms, and not with form as the final result in this way we learn how to look beyond the surface and get to the root of things.
Through the Middle Ages and down to the late eighteenth century, many philosophers, most men of science, and, indeed, most educated men, were to accept without question—the conception of the universe as a Great Chain of Being, composed of an immense, or—by the strict but seldom rigorously applied logic of the principle of continuity—of an infinite number of links ranging in hierarchical order from the meagerest kind of existents, which barely escape non-existence, through 'every possible' grade up to the ens perfectissimum—or, in a somewhat more orthodox version, to the highest possible kind of creature, between which and the Absolute Being the disparity was assumed to be infinite—every one of them differing from that immediately above and that immediately below it by the 'least possible' degree of difference.
To find fault with our ancestors for not having annual parliaments, universal suffrage, and vote by ballot, would be like quarrelling with the Greeks and Romans for not using steam navigation, when we know it is so safe and expeditious; which would be, in short, simply finding fault with the third century before Christ for not being the eighteenth century after. It was necessary that many other things should be thought and done, before, according to the laws of human affairs, it was possible that steam navigation should be thought of. Human nature must proceed step by step, in politics as well as in physics.
We praise the eighteenth century for concerning itself chiefly with analysis. The task remaining to the nineteenth is to discover the false syntheses which prevail, and to analyse their contents anew.
[In 18th-century Britain] engineers for the most began as simple workmen, skilful and ambitious but usually illiterate and self-taught. They were either millwrights like Bramah, mechanics like Murdoch and George Stephenson, or smiths like Newcomen and Maudslay.