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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Active Quotes (76 quotes)

ή γὰρ νοῡ ἐνέργεια ζωή
The energy or active exercise of the mind constitutes life.
Aristotle
From The Metaphysic, book Λ, 1072b, [25], as literally translated from the Greek by Rev. John H. M'Mahon in The Metaphysics of Aristotle (1857), 332. Also widely seen quoted as “The energy of the mind is the essence of life,” without citation, for example in Eve Herold, George Daley, Stem Cell Wars (2007), 119. Note that in the initial meaning, energeia (energy) for Aristotle is the act or the realization of something.
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...a man estimable for his learning, amiable for his life, and venerable for his piety. Arbuthnot was a man of great comprehension, skilful in his profession, versed in the sciences, acquainted with ancient literature, and able to animate his mass of knowledge by a bright and active imagination; a scholar with great brilliance of wit; a wit who, in the crowd of life, retained and discovered a noble ardour of religious zeal.
The Lives of the English Poets (1826), vol. 2, 257.
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A l’aide de ces sciences expérimentales actives, l’homme devient un inventeur de phénomènes, un véritable contremaître de la création; et l'on ne saurait, sous ce rapport, assigner de limites à la puissance qu’il peut acquérir sur la nature, par les progrès futurs des sciences expérimentales
With the aid of these active experimental sciences man becomes an inventor of phenomena, a real foreman of creation; and under this head we cannot set limits to the power that he may gain over nature through future progress of the experimental sciences.
Original French text in Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale (1898), 32. English version from An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 18.
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A man’s indebtedness … is not virtue; his repayment is. Virtue begins when he dedicates himself actively to the job of gratitude.
In The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946, 2006), 114.
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Active conservation [of gorillas] involves simply going out into the forest, on foot, day after day after day, attempting to capture poachers, killing—regretfully—poacher dogs, which spread rabies within the park, and cutting down traps.
Interview at her camp in Rwanda (May 1985). As quoted in article from Times Wire Services, 'Naturalist Dian Fossey Slain at Camp in Rwanda: American Was Expert on Mountain Gorillas; Assailants Hunted', Los Angeles Times (29 Dec 1985). The newspaper states the interview was one of the last she gave, and the report said using “continuous anti-poaching surveillance…only her patrols adequately protected the apes.”
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Active experimentation must force the apparent facts of nature into forms different to those in which they familiarly present themselves; and thus make them tell the truth about themselves, as torture may compel an unwilling witness to reveal what he has been concealing.
In Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), 32.
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All possible truth is practical. To ask whether our conception of chair or table corresponds to the real chair or table apart from the uses to which they may be put, is as utterly meaningless and vain as to inquire whether a musical tone is red or yellow. No other conceivable relation than this between ideas and things can exist. The unknowable is what I cannot react upon. The active part of our nature is not only an essential part of cognition itself, but it always has a voice in determining what shall be believed and what rejected.
The Muscular Perception of Space (1878), 446.
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Anaximenes son of Eurystratus, of Miletus, was a pupil of Anaximander; some say he was also a pupil of Parmenides. He said that the material principle was air and the infinite; and that the stars move, not under the earth, but round it. He used simple and economical Ionic speech. He was active, according to what Apollodorus says, around the time of the capture of Sardis, and died in the 63rd Olympiad.
Diogenes Laertius 2.3. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts(1983), p. 143.
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As for those wingy mysteries in divinity, and airy subtleties in religion, which have unhinged the brains of better heads, they never stretched the pia mater of mine: methinks there be not impossibilities enough in Religion for an active faith.
In T. Chapman (ed.), Religio Medici (1643, 1831), part 1, sect. 9, 17.
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Bohr’s standpoint, that a space-time description is impossible, I reject a limine. Physics does not consist only of atomic research, science does not consist only of physics, and life does not consist only of science. The aim of atomic research is to fit our empirical knowledge concerning it into our other thinking. All of this other thinking, so far as it concerns the outer world, is active in space and time. If it cannot be fitted into space and time, then it fails in its whole aim and one does not know what purpose it really serves.
Letter to Willy Wien (25 Aug 1926). Quoted in Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989), 226.
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Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are.
In Areopagitica: A speech of Mr John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenced printing to the Parliament of England (23 Nov 1644), 4.
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But indeed, the English generally have been very stationary in latter times, and the French, on the contrary, so active and successful, particularly in preparing elementary books, in the mathematical and natural sciences, that those who wish for instruction, without caring from what nation they get it, resort universally to the latter language.
Letter (29 Jan 1824) to Patrick K. Rodgers. Collected in Andrew A. Lipscomb (ed.), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1904), Vol. 16, 2.
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Thomas Robert Malthus quote Famine … the most dreadful resource of nature.
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Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), 140, and in new enlarged edition (1803), 350.
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For scholars and laymen alike it is not philosophy but active experience in mathematics itself that can alone answer the question: What is mathematics?
As co-author with Herbert Robbins, in What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (1941, 1996), xiii.
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From the aspect of energy, renewed by radio-active phenomena, material corpuscles may now be treated as transient reservoirs of concentrated power. Though never found in a state of purity, but always more or less granulated (even in light) energy nowadays represents for science the most primitive form of universal stuff.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 42. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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I have long been active in and supportive of conservation and historical preservation causes.
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I would like to start by emphasizing the importance of surfaces. It is at a surface where many of our most interesting and useful phenomena occur. We live for example on the surface of a planet. It is at a surface where the catalysis of chemical reactions occur. It is essentially at a surface of a plant that sunlight is converted to a sugar. In electronics, most if not all active circuit elements involve non-equilibrium phenomena occurring at surfaces. Much of biology is concerned with reactions at a surface.
'Surface properties of semiconductors', Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1956). In Nobel Lectures, Physics 1942-1962 (1967), 377.
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If I choose to impose individual blame for all past social ills, there will be no one left to like in some of the most fascinating periods of our history. For example ... if I place every Victorian anti-Semite beyond the pale of my attention, my compass of available music and literature will be pitifully small. Though I hold no shred of sympathy for active persecution, I cannot excoriate individuals who acquiesced passively in a standard societal judgment. Rail instead against the judgment, and try to understand what motivates men of decent will.
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If I dared to say just what I think, I should add that it is chiefly in the service where the medication is the most active and heroic that the mortality is the greatest. Gentlemen, medicine is charlatanism.
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In order to imbue civilization with sound principles and enliven it with the spirit of the gospel, it is not enough to be illumined with the gift of faith and enkindled with the desire of forwarding a good cause. For this end it is necessary to take an active part in the various organizations and influence them from within. And since our present age is one of outstanding scientific and technical progress and excellence, one will not be able to enter these organizations and work effectively from within unless he is scientifically competent, technically capable and skilled in the practice of his own profession.
Encyclical (10 Apr 1963). In Pacem in Terris, Pt. 5, 50
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Invention is an Heroic thing, and plac'd above the reach of a low, and vulgar Genius. It requires an active, a bold, a nimble, a restless mind: a thousand difficulties must be contemn'd with which a mean heart would be broken: many attempts must be made to no purpose: much Treasure must sometimes be scatter'd without any return: much violence, and vigour of thoughts must attend it: some irregularities, and excesses must be granted it, that would hardly be pardon'd by the severe Rules of Prudence.
The History of the Royal Society (1667), 392.
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It cannot be that axioms established by argumentation should avail for the discovery of new works, since the subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of argument. But axioms duly and orderly formed from particulars easily discover the way to new particulars, and thus render sciences active.
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 24. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 51.
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It is certain that as a nation we are all smoking a great deal too much ... Smoking among boys—to whom it cannot possibly do any kind of good, while it may do a vast amount of active harm—is becoming prevalent to a most pernicious extent. ... It would be an excellent thing for the morality of the people could the use of “intoxicants and tobacco” be forbidden to all persons under twenty years of age. (1878)
In London Daily Telegraph (22 Jan 1878). Reprinted in English Anti-Tobacco Society and Anti-Narcotic League, Monthly letters of the Committee of the English Anti-Tobacco Society and Anti-Narcotic League 1878, 1879, 1880, (1 Feb 1878), 85.
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It is the patient workers, and the active, kindly sympathetic men and women who hold the balance of things secure.
Aphorism in The Philistine (Apr 1905), 20, No. 5, 160.
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It is usual to say that the two sources of experience are Observation and Experiment. When we merely note and record the phenomena which occur around us in the ordinary course of nature we are said to observe. When we change the course of nature by the intervention of our will and muscular powers, and thus produce unusual combinations and conditions of phenomena, we are said to experiment. [Sir John] Herschel has justly remarked that we might properly call these two modes of experience passive and active observation. In both cases we must certainly employ our senses to observe, and an experiment differs from a mere observation in the fact that we more or less influence the character of the events which we observe. Experiment is thus observation plus alteration of conditions.
Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method (1874, 2nd ed., 1913), 400.
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It seems to me farther, that these Particles have not only a Vis inertiae, accompanied with such passive Laws of Motion as naturally result from that Force, but also that they are moved by certain active Principles, such as that of Gravity, and that which causes Fermentation, and the Cohesion of Bodies. These Principles I consider, not as occult Qualities, supposed to result from the specifick Forms of Things, but as general Laws of Nature, by which the Things themselves are form'd; their Truth appearing to us by Phaenomena, though their Causes be not yet discover'd. For these are manifest Qualities, and their Causes only are occult.
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 376-377.
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Let him who so wishes take pleasure in boring us with all the wonders of nature: let one spend his life observing insects, another counting the tiny bones in the hearing membrane of certain fish, even in measuring, if you will, how far a flea can jump, not to mention so many other wretched objects of study; for myself, who am curious only about philosophy, who am sorry only not to be able to extend its horizons, active nature will always be my sole point of view; I love to see it from afar, in its breadth and its entirety, and not in specifics or in little details, which, although to some extent necessary in all the sciences, are generally the mark of little genius among those who devote themselves to them.
'L'Homme Plante', in Oeuvres Philosophiques de La Mettrie (1796), Vol. 2, 70-1. Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, edited by Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 377.
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Look round this universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organized, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only beings worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind Nature, inpregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children.
In Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), 219-220.
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Man cannot have an effect on nature, cannot adopt any of her forces, if he does not know the natural laws in terms of measurement and numerical relations. Here also lies the strength of the national intelligence, which increases and decreases according to such knowledge. Knowledge and comprehension are the joy and justification of humanity; they are parts of the national wealth, often a replacement for the materials that nature has too sparcely dispensed. Those very people who are behind us in general industrial activity, in application and technical chemistry, in careful selection and processing of natural materials, such that regard for such enterprise does not permeate all classes, will inevitably decline in prosperity; all the more so were neighbouring states, in which science and the industrial arts have an active interrelationship, progress with youthful vigour.
Kosmos (1845), vol.1, 35. Quoted in C. C. Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1970), vol. 6, 552.
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Mathematics accomplishes really nothing outside of the realm of magnitude; marvellous, however, is the skill with which it masters magnitude wherever it finds it. We recall at once the network of lines which it has spun about heavens and earth; the system of lines to which azimuth and altitude, declination and right ascension, longitude and latitude are referred; those abscissas and ordinates, tangents and normals, circles of curvature and evolutes; those trigonometric and logarithmic functions which have been prepared in advance and await application. A look at this apparatus is sufficient to show that mathematicians are not magicians, but that everything is accomplished by natural means; one is rather impressed by the multitude of skilful machines, numerous witnesses of a manifold and intensely active industry, admirably fitted for the acquisition of true and lasting treasures.
In Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 101. As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 13.
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Mathematics as an expression of the human mind reflects the active will, the contemplative reason, and the desire for aesthetic perfection. Its basic elements are logic and intuition, analysis and construction, generality and individuality. Though different traditions may emphasize different aspects, it is only the interplay of these antithetic forces and the struggle for their synthesis that constitute the life, usefulness, and supreme value of mathematical science.
As co-author with Herbert Robbins, in What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (1941, 1996), x.
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Mathematics had never had more than a secondary interest for him [her husband, George Boole]; and even logic he cared for chiefly as a means of clearing the ground of doctrines imagined to be proved, by showing that the evidence on which they were supposed to give rest had no tendency to prove them. But he had been endeavoring to give a more active and positive help than this to the cause of what he deemed pure religion.
In Eleanor Meredith Cobham, Mary Everest Boole: Collected Works (1931), 40.
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Mathematics is one of the oldest of the sciences; it is also one of the most active, for its strength is the vigour of perpetual youth.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Section A, (1897), Nature, 66, 378.
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Men are noisy, narrow-band devices, but their nervous systems have very many parallel and simultaneously active channels. Relative to men, computing machines are very fast and very accurate, but they are constrained to perform only one or a few elementary operations at a time. Men are flexible, capable of “programming themselves contingently” on the basis of newly received information. Computing machines are single-minded, constrained by their “pre-programming.”
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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Natural Magick is taken to be nothing else, but the chief power of all the natural Sciences; which therefore they call the top and perfection of Natural Philosophy, and which is indeed the active part of the same; which by the assistance of natural forces and faculties, through their mutual & opportune application, performs those things that are above Humane Reason.
In The Vanity of the Arts and Sciences (1530), translation (1676), 110.
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Natural powers, principally those of steam and falling water, are subsidized and taken into human employment Spinning-machines, power-looms, and all the mechanical devices, acting, among other operatives, in the factories and work-shops, are but so many laborers. They are usually denominated labor-saving machines, but it would be more just to call them labor-doing machines. They are made to be active agents; to have motion, and to produce effect; and though without intelligence, they are guided by laws of science, which are exact and perfect, and they produce results, therefore, in general, more accurate than the human hand is capable of producing.
Speech in Senate (12 Mar 1838). In The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), Vol. 8, 177.
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Nothing is less predictable than the development of an active scientific field.
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
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Obervation is a passive science, experimentation is an active science.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 15.
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One of the most striking results of modern investigation has been the way in which several different and quite independent lines of evidence indicate that a very great event occurred about two thousand million years ago. The radio-active evidence for the age of meteorites; and the estimated time for the tidal evolution of the Moon's orbit (though this is much rougher), all agree in their testimony, and, what is far more important, the red-shift in the nebulae indicates that this date is fundamental, not merely in the history of our system, but in that of the material universe as a whole.
The Solar System and its Origin (1935), 137.
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Remember this, the rule for giving an extempore lecture is—let the the mind rest from the subject entirely for an interval preceding the lecture, after the notes are prepared; the thoughts will ferment without your knowing it, and enter into new combinations; but if you keep the mind active upon the subject up to the moment, the subject will not ferment but stupefy.
In Letter (10 Jul 1854) to William Rowan Hamilton, collected in Robert Perceval Graves, Life of Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1882-89), Vol. 3, 487.
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Returning now to the Malay Archipelago, we find that all the wide expanse of sea which divides Java, Sumatra, and Borneo from each other, and from Malacca and Siam, is so shallow that ships can anchor in any part of it, since it rarely exceeds forty fathoms in depth; and if we go as far as the line of a hundred fathoms, we shall include the Philippine Islands and Bali, east of Java. If, therefore, these islands have been separated from each other and the continent by subsidence of the intervening tracts of land, we should conclude that the separation has been comparatively recent, since the depth to which the land has subsided is so small. It is also to be remarked that the great chain of active volcanoes in Sumatra and Java furnishes us with a sufficient cause for such subsidence, since the enormous masses of matter they have thrown out would take away the foundations of the surrounding district; and this may be the true explanation of the often-noticed fact that volcanoes and volcanic chains are always near the sea. The subsidence they produce around them will, in time, make a sea, if one does not already exist.
Malay Archipelago
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Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active and elaborate technique of inquiry.
In Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), 32.
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Seeing therefore the variety of Motion which we find in the World is always decreasing, there is a necessity of conserving and recruiting it by active Principles, such as are the cause of Gravity, by which Planets and Comets keep their Motions in their Orbs, and Bodies acquire great Motion in falling; and the cause of Fermentation, by which the Heart and Blood of Animals are kept in perpetual Motion and Heat; the inward Parts of the Earth are constantly warm'd, and in some places grow very hot; Bodies burn and shine, Mountains take fire, the Caverns of the Earth are blown up, and the Sun continues violently hot and lucid, and warms all things by his Light. For we meet with very little Motion in the World, besides what is owing to these active Principles.
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 375.
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Since as the Creation is, so is the Creator also magnified, we may conclude in consequence of an infinity, and an infinite all-active power, that as the visible creation is supposed to be full of siderial systems and planetary worlds, so on, in like similar manner, the endless Immensity is an unlimited plenum of creations not unlike the known Universe.… That this in all probability may be the real case, is in some degree made evident by the many cloudy spots, just perceivable by us, as far without our starry Regions, in which tho’ visibly luminous spaces, no one Star or particular constituent body can possibly be distinguished; those in all likelyhood may be external creation, bordering upon the known one, too remote for even our Telescopes to reach.
In The Universe and the Stars: Being an Original Theory on the Visible Creation, Founded on the Laws of Nature (1750, 1837), 143-144.
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So the horns of the stag are sharp to offend his adversary, but are branched for the purpose of parrying or receiving the thrusts of horns similar to his own, and have therefore been formed for the purpose of combating other stags for the exclusive possession of the females; who are observed, like the ladies in the times of chivalry, to attend to the car of the victor... The final cause of this contest amongst the males seems to be, that the strongest and most active animal should propagate the species, which should thence become improved.
Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 507.
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Some months ago we discovered that certain light elements emit positrons under the action of alpha particles. Our latest experiments have shown a very striking fact: when an aluminium foil is irradiated on a polonium preparation [alpha ray emitter], the emission of positrons does not cease immediately when the active preparation is removed: the foil remains radioactive and the emission of radiation decays exponentially as for an ordinary radio-element. We observed the same phenomenon with boron and magnesium.
[Co-author with Irène Joliot-Curie. This one-page paper reported their discovery of artificial radioactivity for which they were awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.]
Letter to the Editor, 'Artificial Production of a New Kind of Radio-Element'(10 Jan 1934) published in Nature (1934), 133, 201-2. Cited in Mauro Dardo, Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics (2004), 187.
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Sylvester was incapable of reading mathematics in a purely receptive way. Apparently a subject either fired in his brain a train of active and restless thought, or it would not retain his attention at all. To a man of such a temperament, it would have been peculiarly helpful to live in an atmosphere in which his human associations would have supplied the stimulus which he could not find in mere reading. The great modern work in the theory of functions and in allied disciplines, he never became acquainted with …
What would have been the effect if, in the prime of his powers, he had been surrounded by the influences which prevail in Berlin or in Gottingen? It may be confidently taken for granted that he would have done splendid work in those domains of analysis, which have furnished the laurels of the great mathematicians of Germany and France in the second half of the present century.
In Address delivered at a memorial meeting at the Johns Hopkins University (2 May 1897), published in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (Jun 1897), 303. Also in Johns Hopkins University Circulars, 16 (1897), 54.
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The active agent is readily filterable and the name “penicillin” has been given to filtrates of broth cultures of the mould. … It is suggested that it may be an efficient antiseptic for application to, or injection into, areas infected with penicillin-sensitive microbes.
From Fleming’s paper that was his first on the subject of penicillin, which he named, in 'On the Antibacterial Action of Cultures of a Penicillium, with Special Reference to Their Use in the Isolation of B. influenzae', British Journal of Experimental Pathology (1929), 10, 236.
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The development of civilization and industry in general has always shown itself so active in the destruction of forests that everything that has been done for their conservation and production is completely insignificant in comparison.
Karl Marx
…...
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The enthusiasm of Sylvester for his own work, which manifests itself here as always, indicates one of his characteristic qualities: a high degree of subjectivity in his productions and publications. Sylvester was so fully possessed by the matter which for the time being engaged his attention, that it appeared to him and was designated by him as the summit of all that is important, remarkable and full of future promise. It would excite his phantasy and power of imagination in even a greater measure than his power of reflection, so much so that he could never marshal the ability to master his subject-matter, much less to present it in an orderly manner.
Considering that he was also somewhat of a poet, it will be easier to overlook the poetic flights which pervade his writing, often bombastic, sometimes furnishing apt illustrations; more damaging is the complete lack of form and orderliness of his publications and their sketchlike character, … which must be accredited at least as much to lack of objectivity as to a superfluity of ideas. Again, the text is permeated with associated emotional expressions, bizarre utterances and paradoxes and is everywhere accompanied by notes, which constitute an essential part of Sylvester’s method of presentation, embodying relations, whether proximate or remote, which momentarily suggested themselves. These notes, full of inspiration and occasional flashes of genius, are the more stimulating owing to their incompleteness. But none of his works manifest a desire to penetrate the subject from all sides and to allow it to mature; each mere surmise, conceptions which arose during publication, immature thoughts and even errors were ushered into publicity at the moment of their inception, with utmost carelessness, and always with complete unfamiliarity of the literature of the subject. Nowhere is there the least trace of self-criticism. No one can be expected to read the treatises entire, for in the form in which they are available they fail to give a clear view of the matter under contemplation.
Sylvester’s was not a harmoniously gifted or well-balanced mind, but rather an instinctively active and creative mind, free from egotism. His reasoning moved in generalizations, was frequently influenced by analysis and at times was guided even by mystical numerical relations. His reasoning consists less frequently of pure intelligible conclusions than of inductions, or rather conjectures incited by individual observations and verifications. In this he was guided by an algebraic sense, developed through long occupation with processes of forms, and this led him luckily to general fundamental truths which in some instances remain veiled. His lack of system is here offset by the advantage of freedom from purely mechanical logical activity.
The exponents of his essential characteristics are an intuitive talent and a faculty of invention to which we owe a series of ideas of lasting value and bearing the germs of fruitful methods. To no one more fittingly than to Sylvester can be applied one of the mottos of the Philosophic Magazine:
“Admiratio generat quaestionem, quaestio investigationem investigatio inventionem.”
In Mathematische Annalen (1898), 50, 155-160. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 176-178.
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The fibrous material and muscle were thus digested in the same way as the coagulated egg albumen, namely, by free acid in combination with another substance active in very small amounts. Since the latter really carries on the digestion of the most important animal nutrient materials, one might with justice apply to it the name pepsin.
'Ueber das Wesen des Verdauungsprocesses', Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologie und Wissenschaftliche Medicin (1836), 90-138. Trans. L. G. Wilson, 'The Discovery of Pepsin', in John F. Fulton and Leonard G. Wilson (eds.), Selected Readings in the History of Physiology (1966), 191.
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The framing of hypotheses is, for the enquirer after truth, not the end, but the beginning of his work. Each of his systems is invented, not that he may admire it and follow it into all its consistent consequences, but that he may make it the occasion of a course of active experiment and observation. And if the results of this process contradict his fundamental assumptions, however ingenious, however symmetrical, however elegant his system may be, he rejects it without hesitation. He allows no natural yearning for the offspring of his own mind to draw him aside from the higher duty of loyalty to his sovereign, Truth, to her he not only gives his affections and his wishes, but strenuous labour and scrupulous minuteness of attention.
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1847), Vol. 2, 57.
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The human organism inherits so delicate an adjustment to climate that, in spite of man's boasted ability to live anywhere, the strain of the frozen North eliminates the more nervous and active types of mind.
The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America (1919), 20.
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The mutton in the study gathered over it a thick blanket of Penicillium. On the 13th [December 1875] it had assumed a light brown colour as if by a faint admixture of clay; but the infusion became transparent. The ‘clay’ here was the slime of dead or dormant Bacteria, the cause of their quiescence being the blanket of Penicillium. I found no active life in this tube, while all the others swarmed with Bacteria. In every case where the mould was thick and coherent the Bacteria died, or became dormant, and fell to the bottom of the sediment … The Bacteria which manufacture a green pigment appear to be uniformly victorious in their fight with the Penicillium.
From paper read to the Royal Institution (1 Jan 1876). In 'Professor Tyndall on the Optical Deportment of the Atmosphere in Relation to Putrefaction and Infection' , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1876), 166, 62.
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The philosophical study of nature rises above the requirements of mere delineation, and does not consist in the sterile accumulation of isolated facts. The active and inquiring spirit of man may therefore be occasionally permitted to escape from the present into the domain of the past, to conjecture that which cannot yet be clearly determined, and thus to revel amid the ancient and ever-recurring myths of geology.
Views of Nature: Or Contemplation of the Sublime Phenomena of Creation (1850), trans. E. C. Otte and H. G. Bohn, 375.
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The reactions follow a pattern, which is valid for the blood of all humans... Basically, in fact, there are four different types of human blood, the so-called blood groups. The number of the groups follows from the fact that the erythrocytes evidently contain substances (iso-agglutinogens) with two different structures, of which both may be absent, or one or both present, in the erythrocytes of a person. This alone would still not explain the reactions; the active substances of the sera, the iso-agglutinins, must also be present in a specific distribution. This is actually the case, since every serum contains those agglutinins which react with the agglutinogens not present in the cells—a remarkable phenomenon, the cause of which is not yet known for certain.
'On Individual Differences in Human Blood', Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1930). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 235.
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The scientist, if he is to be more than a plodding gatherer of bits of information, needs to exercise an active imagination. The scientists of the past whom we now recognize as great are those who were gifted with transcendental imaginative powers, and the part played by the imaginative faculty of his daily life is as least as important for the scientist as it is for the worker in any other field—much more important than for most. A good scientist thinks logically and accurately when conditions call for logical and accurate thinking—but so does any other good worker when he has a sufficient number of well-founded facts to serve as the basis for the accurate, logical induction of generalizations and the subsequent deduction of consequences.
‘Imagination in Science’, Tomorrow (Dec 1943), 38-9. Quoted In Barbara Marinacci (ed.), Linus Pauling In His Own Words: Selected Writings, Speeches, and Interviews (1995), 82.
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The soul seems to be a very tenuous substance … [and] seems to be made of a most subtle texture, extremely mobile or active corpuscles, not unlike those of flame or heat; indeed, whether they are spherical, as the authors of atoms propound, or pyramidical as Plato thought, or some other form, they seem from their own motion and penetration through bodies to create the heat which is in the animal.
As quoted in Margaret J. Osler and Paul Lawrence Farber (eds.), Religion, Science, and Worldview: Essays in Honor of Richard S. Westfall (2002), 169.
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The study of the radio-active substances and of the discharge of electricity through gases has supplied very strong experimental evidence in support of the fundamental ideas of the existing atomic theory. It has also indicated that the atom itself is not the smallest unit of matter, but is a complicated structure made up of a number of smaller bodies.
In Radio-activity (1905), 1.
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The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sight-seeing.”
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961, 2012), 85. https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0307819167 Daniel J. Boorstin - 2012
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The valuable attributes of research men are conscious ignorance and active curiosity.
In 'The Stimulation of Research in Pure Science Which Has Resulted from the Needs of Engineers and of Industry', Science, (March 1927).
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The variety of minds served the economy of nature in many ways. The Creator, who designed the human brain for activity, had insured the restlessness of all minds by enabling no single one to envisage all the qualities of the creation. Since no one by himself could aspire to a serene knowledge of the whole truth, all men had been drawn into an active, exploratory and cooperative attitude.
In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (1948, 1993), 125.
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The various reasons which we have enumerated lead us to believe that the new radio-active substance contains a new element which we propose to give the name of radium.
Marie Curie, Pierre Curie and Gustave Bémont, 'Sur une Nouvelle Substance Fortement Radio-Active, Contenue dans las Pechblende', (On a new, strongly radio-active substance, contained in pitchblende), Comptes Rendus (1898). 127, 1217. In Joseph E. Harmon and Alan G. Gross (editors), The Scientific Literature (2007), 151.
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There is no thing as a man who does not create mathematics and yet is a fine mathematics teacher. Textbooks, course material—these do not approach in importance the communication of what mathematics is really about, of where it is going, and of where it currently stands with respect to the specific branch of it being taught. What really matters is the communication of the spirit of mathematics. It is a spirit that is active rather than contemplative—a spirit of disciplined search for adventures of the intellect. Only as adventurer can really tell of adventures.
Reflections: Mathematics and Creativity', New Yorker (1972), 47, No. 53, 39-45. In Douglas M. Campbell, John C. Higgins (eds.), Mathematics: People, Problems, Results (1984), Vol. 2, 7.
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To day we made the grand experiment of burning the diamond and certainly the phenomena presented were extremely beautiful and interesting… The Duke’s burning glass was the instrument used to apply heat to the diamond. It consists of two double convex lenses … The instrument was placed in an upper room of the museum and having arranged it at the window the diamond was placed in the focus and anxiously watched. The heat was thus continued for 3/4 of an hour (it being necessary to cool the globe at times) and during that time it was thought that the diamond was slowly diminishing and becoming opaque … On a sudden Sir H Davy observed the diamond to burn visibly, and when removed from the focus it was found to be in a state of active and rapid combustion. The diamond glowed brilliantly with a scarlet light, inclining to purple and, when placed in the dark, continued to burn for about four minutes. After cooling the glass heat was again applied to the diamond and it burned again though not for nearly so long as before. This was repeated twice more and soon after the diamond became all consumed. This phenomenon of actual and vivid combustion, which has never been observed before, was attributed by Sir H Davy to be the free access of air; it became more dull as carbonic acid gas formed and did not last so long.
Entry (Florence, 27 Mar 1814) in his foreign journal kept whilst on a continental tour with Sir Humphry Davy. In Michael Faraday, Bence Jones (ed.), The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 1, 119. Silvanus Phillips Thompson identifies the Duke as the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in Michael Faraday, His Life and Work (1901), 21.
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To every Form of being is assigned’
Thus calmly spoke the venerable Sage,
An active Principle:—howe’er remove!
From sense and observation, it subsists.
In all things, in all natures; in the stars
Of azure heaven, the unenduring clouds,
In flower and tree, in every pebbly stone
That paves the brooks, the stationary rocks,
The moving waters, and the invisible air.’
In The Excursion (1814). In The Works of William Wordsworth (1994), Book 9, 884.
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To produce any given motion, to spin a certain weight of cotton, or weave any quantity of linen, there is required steam; to produce the steam, fuel; and thus the price of fuel regulates effectively the cost of mechanical power. Abundance and cheapness of fuel are hence main ingredients in industrial success. It is for this reason that in England the active manufacturing districts mark, almost with geological accuracy, the limits of the coal fields.
In The Industrial Resources of Ireland (1844), 2.
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Very few people, including authors willing to commit to paper, ever really read primary sources–certainly not in necessary depth and contemplation, and often not at all ... When writers close themselves off to the documents of scholarship, and then rely only on seeing or asking, they become conduits and sieves rather than thinkers. When, on the other hand, you study the great works of predecessors engaged in the same struggle, you enter a dialogue with human history and the rich variety of our own intellectual traditions. You insert yourself, and your own organizing powers, into this history–and you become an active agent, not merely a ‘reporter.’
…...
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We say that, in very truth the productive cause is a mineralizing power which is active in forming stones… . This power, existing in the particular material of stones, has two instruments according to different natural conditions.
One of these is heat, which is active in drawing out moisture and digesting the material and bringing about its solidification into the form of stone, in Earth that has been acted upon by unctuous moisture… .
The other instrument is in watery moist material that has been acted upon by earthy dryness; and this [instrument] is cold, which … is active in expelling moisture.
From De Mineralibus (c.1261-1263), as translated by Dorothy Wyckoff, Book of Minerals (1967), 22.
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What it is important to realize is that automation ... is an attempt to exercise control, not only of the mechanical process itself, but of the human being who once directed it: turning him from an active to a passive agent, and finally eliminating him all together.
In 'The Myth of the Machine,' The Pentagon of Power (1970).
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What matters in science is the body of findings and generalizations available today: a time-defined cross-section of the process of scientific discovery. I see the advance of science as self-erasing in the sense that only those elements survive that have become part of the active body of knowledge.
In A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube (1985), 123.
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What really matters for me is … the more active role of the observer in quantum physics … According to quantum physics the observer has indeed a new relation to the physical events around him in comparison with the classical observer, who is merely a spectator.
Letter to Niels Bohr (1955). Quoted in Robert J. Scully, The Demon and the Quantum (2007), 22.
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When I worked on the polio vaccine, I had a theory. Experiments were done to determine what might or might not occur. I guided each one by imagining myself in the phenomenon in which I was interested. The intuitive realm is constantly active—the realm of imagination guides my thinking.
From interview with James Reston, Jr., in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 98. Previously published in magazine, Omni (May 1982).
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With your talents and industry, with science, and that steadfast honesty which eternally pursues right, regardless of consequences, you may promise yourself every thing—but health, without which there is no happiness. An attention to health then should take place of evey other object. The time necessary to secure this by active exercises, should be devoted to it in preference to every other pursuit.
Letter to Tomas Mann Randolph, Jr., (6 Jul 1787), In Thomas Jefferson and Paul Leicester Ford (ed.) The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1904), Vol. 5, 300. Julian P. Boyd (Ed.), The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955), Vol. 11, 558.
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You know that my apprehension is, that the thing may take a while, and for a while there may be an active demand for them, but that like any other novelty, it will have its brief day and be thrown aside.
Scholes frequently expressed his dismay in this way, according to IBM history at http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/modelb/modelb_informal.html
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[Helmholtz] is not a philosopher in the exclusive sense, as Kant, Hegel, Mansel are philosophers, but one who prosecutes physics and physiology, and acquires therein not only skill in developing any desideratum, but wisdom to know what are the desiderata, e.g., he was one of the first, and is one of the most active, preachers of the doctrine that since all kinds of energy are convertible, the first aim of science at this time. should be to ascertain in what way particular forms of energy can be converted into each other, and what are the equivalent quantities of the two forms of energy.
Letter to Lewis Campbell (21 Apr 1862). In P.M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 711.
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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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