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Who said: “A change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and takes place along the straight line in which that force is impressed.”
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Ancient Quotes (46 quotes)
Age-Old Quotes

[Et peut-être la posterité me saura gré de lui avoir fait connaître que les Anciens n’ont pas tout su.]
And perhaps, posterity will thank me for having shown that the ancients did not know everything.
'Relation of New Discoveries in the Science of Numbers', in Letter (Aug 1659) to Pierre de Carcavi, an amateur mathematician, collected in OEuvres de Fermat: Correspondance (1894), 436. Translation, used as an epigraph, in D.M. Burton, Elementary Number Theory (1976, 1989), 107.
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A few days ago, a Master of Arts, who is still a young man, and therefore the recipient of a modern education, stated to me that until he had reached the age of twenty he had never been taught anything whatever regarding natural phenomena, or natural law. Twelve years of his life previously had been spent exclusively amongst the ancients. The case, I regret to say, is typical. Now we cannot, without prejudice to humanity, separate the present from the past.
'On the Study of Physics', From a Lecture delivered in the Royal Institution of Great Britain in the Spring of 1854. Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Lectures, and Reviews (1892), Vol. 1, 284-5.
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A lodestone is a wonderful thing in very many experiments, and like living things. And one of its remarkable virtues in that which the ancients considered to be a living soul in the sky, in the globes and in the stars, in the sun and in the moon.
In De Magnete. Cited in Gerrit L. Verschuur, Hidden Attraction (1996), 19.
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A noteworthy and often-remarked similarity exists between the facts and methods of geology and those of linguistic study. The science of language is, as it were, the geology of the most modern period, the Age of the Man, having for its task to construct the history of development of the earth and its inhabitants from the time when the proper geological record remains silent … The remains of ancient speech are like strata deposited in bygone ages, telling of the forms of life then existing, and of the circumstances which determined or affected them; while words are as rolled pebbles, relics of yet more ancient formations, or as fossils, whose grade indicates the progress of organic life, and whose resemblances and relations show the correspondence or sequence of the different strata; while, everywhere, extensive denudation has marred the completeness of the record, and rendered impossible a detailed exhibition of the whole course of development.
In Language and the Study of Language (1867), 47.
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A persistent and age-old instinct makes us want to wander
Into regions yet untrod
And read what is still unread
In the manuscripts of God.
Address upon receiving the Perkin Medal Award, 'The Big Things in Chemistry', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (Feb 1921), 13, No. 2, 163. These lines concluded his remarks, without citation, and since Webmaster has found no other source has assumed the words are his own. Contact Webmaster if you know a different primary source.
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All over the world there lingers on the memory of a giant tree, the primal tree, rising up from the centre of the Earth to the heavens and ordering the universe around it. It united the three worlds: its roots plunged down into subterranean abysses, Its loftiest branches touched the empyrean. Thanks to the Tree, it became possible to breathe the air; to all the creatures that then appeared on Earth it dispensed its fruit, ripened by the sun and nourished by the water which it drew from the soil. From the sky it attracted the lightning from which man made fire and, beckoning skyward, where clouds gathered around its fall. The Tree was the source of all life, and of all regeneration. Small wonder then that tree-worship was so prevalent in ancient times.
From 'L'Arbre Sacre' ('The Sacred Tree'), UNESCO Courier (Jan 1989), 4. Epigraph to Chap 1, in Kenton Miller and Laura Tangley, Trees of Life: Saving Tropical Forests and Their Biological Wealt (1991), 1.
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Ancient stars in their death throes spat out atoms like iron which this universe had never known. ... Now the iron of old nova coughings vivifies the redness of our blood.
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st century (2003), 223. Quoted in Rob Brezsny, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia (2005), 228.
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Combining in our survey then, the whole range of deposits from the most recent to the most ancient group, how striking a succession do they present:– so various yet so uniform–so vast yet so connected. In thus tracing back to the most remote periods in the physical history of our continents, one system of operations, as the means by which many complex formations have been successively produced, the mind becomes impressed with the singleness of nature's laws; and in this respect, at least, geology is hardly inferior in simplicity to astronomy.
The Silurian System (1839), 574.
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Direct observation of the testimony of the earth ... is a matter of the laboratory, of the field naturalist, of indefatigable digging among the ancient archives of the earth's history. If Mr. Bryan, with an open heart and mind, would drop all his books and all the disputations among the doctors and study first hand the simple archives of Nature, all his doubts would disappear; he would not lose his religion; he would become an evolutionist.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91. Written in response to an article a few days earlier in which William Jennings Bryan challenged the theory of evolution as lacking proof.
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DNA that used to have some function way back in evolution but currently does not (and might possibly be revived if, say, an ancient parasite reappeared), DNA that controls how genes switch their protein manufacturing on and off, DNA that controls those, and so on. Some may actually be genuine junk. And some (so the joke goes) may encode a message like ‘It was me, I’m God, I existed all along, ha ha.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 218.
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Gold and iron at the present day, as in ancient times, are the rulers of the world; and the great events in the world of mineral art are not the discovery of new substances, but of new and rich localities of old ones.
Lecture (26 Npv 1851), to the London Society of Arts, 'The General Bearing of the Great Exhibition on the Progress of Art and Science', collected in Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851' (1852), 3.
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I can assure you, reader, that in a very few hours, even during the first day, you will learn more natural philosophy about things contained in this book, than you could learn in fifty years by reading the theories and opinions of the ancient philosophers. Enemies of science will scoff at the astrologers: saying, where is the ladder on which they have climbed to heaven, to know the foundation of the stars? But in this respect I am exempt from such scoffing; for in proving my written reason, I satisfy sight, hearing, and touch: for this reason, defamers will have no power over me: as you will see when you come to see me in my little Academy.
The Admirable Discourses (1580), trans. Aurele La Rocque (1957), 27.
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I have long been interested in landscape history, and when younger and more robust I used to do much tramping of the English landscape in search of ancient field systems, drove roads, indications of prehistoric settlement. Towns and cities, too, which always retain the ghost of their earlier incarnations beneath today's concrete and glass.
From 'An Interview With Penelope Lively', in a Reading Guide to the book The Photograph on the publisher's Penguin website.
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I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers (1926).
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If the views we have ventured to advance be correct, we may almost consider {greek words} of the ancients to be realised in hydrogen, an opinion, by the by, not altogether new. If we actually consider the specific gravities of bodies in their gaseous state to represent the number of volumes condensed into one; or in other words, the number of the absolute weight of a single volume of the first matter ({greek words}) which they contain, which is extremely probable, multiples in weight must always indicate multiples in volume, and vice versa; and the specific gravities, or absolute weights of all bodies in a gaseous state, must be multiples of the specific gravity or absolute weight of the first matter, ({Greek words}), because all bodies in the gaseous state which unite with one another unite with reference to their volume.
'Correction of a Mistake in the Essay on the Relation between the Specific Gravities of Bodies in their Gaseous State and the Weights of their Atoms', Annals of Philosophy (1816), 7, 113.
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In ancient days two aviators procured to themselves wings. Daedalus flew safely through the middle air and was duly honored on his landing. Icarus soared upwards to the sun till the wax melted which bound his wings and his flight ended in fiasco. In weighing their achievements, there is something to be said for Icarus. The classical authorities tell us that he was only “doing a stunt,” but I prefer to think of him as the man who brought to light a serious constructional defect in the flying machines of his day.
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In these days of conflict between ancient and modern studies, there must surely be something to be said for a study which did not begin with Pythagoras, and will not end with Einstein, but is the oldest and the youngest of all.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 76.
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It may be said of some very old places, as of some very old books, that they are destined to be forever new. The nearer we approach them, the more remote they seem: the more we study them, the more we have yet to learn. Time augments rather than diminishes their everlasting novelty; and to our descendants of a thousand years hence it may safely be predicted that they will be even more fascinating than to ourselves. This is true of many ancient lands, but of no place is it. so true as of Egypt.
Opening remark in Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers (1891), 3.
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Marriage is an ancient institution and most of our knowledge of antiquity is gleaned from shattered pottery.
Anonymous
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips & Quotes (1968, 1995), 40.
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May we attribute to the color of the herbage and plants, which no doubt clothe the plains of Mars, the characteristic hue of that planet, which is noticeable by the naked eye, and which led the ancients to personify it as a warrior?
In 'Mars, by the Latest Observations', Popular Science (Dec 1873), 4, 190.
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Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or not man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.
In Orthodoxy (1908), 24.
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Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than Dr. Butler's school, as it was strictly classical, nothing else being taught, except a little ancient geography and history. The school as a means of education to me was simply a blank. During my whole life I have been singularly incapable of mastering any language. Especial attention was paid to versemaking, and this I could never do well. I had many friends, and got together a good collection of old verses, which by patching together, sometimes aided by other boys, I could work into any subject.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 8.
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Now when you cut a forest, an ancient forest in particular, you are not just removing a lot of big trees and a few birds fluttering around in the canopy. You are drastically imperiling a vast array of species within a few square miles of you. The number of these species may go to tens of thousands. ... Many of them are still unknown to science, and science has not yet discovered the key role undoubtedly played in the maintenance of that ecosystem, as in the case of fungi, microorganisms, and many of the insects.
On Human Nature (2000). In John H. Morgan, Naturally Good (2005), 252.
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One can claim that chemical engineering was practiced even by the ancient Greeks and Romans when they were making soap or wine, or treating ores in Lavrion or Sicily.
In 'The Origins of Academic Chemical Engineering', collected in Nicholas A. Peppas, One Hundred Years of Chemical Engineering: From Lewis M. Norton (M.I.T. 1888) to Present (2012), 1.
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Our experience up to date justifies us in feeling sure that in Nature is actualized the ideal of mathematical simplicity. It is my conviction that pure mathematical construction enables us to discover the concepts and the laws connecting them, which gives us the key to understanding nature… In a certain sense, therefore, I hold it true that pure thought can grasp reality, as the ancients dreamed.
In Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford (10 Jun 1933), 'On the Methods of Theoretical Physics'. Printed in Discovery (Jul 1933), 14, 227. Also quoted in Stefano Zambelli and ‎Donald A. R. George, Nonlinearity, Complexity and Randomness in Economics (2012).
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Science only means knowledge; and for [Greek] ancients it did only mean knowledge. Thus the favorite science of the Greeks was Astronomy, because it was as abstract as Algebra. ... We may say that the great Greek ideal was to have no use for useful things. The Slave was he who learned useful things; the Freeman was he who learned useless things. This still remains the ideal of many noble men of science, in the sense they do desire truth as the great Greeks desired it; and their attitude is an external protest against vulgarity of utilitarianism.
'About Beliefs', in As I was Saying: A Book of Essays (1936), 65-66. Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 318.
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Some things mankind can finish and be done with, but not ... science, that persists, and changes from ancient Chaldeans studying the stars to a new telescope with a 200-inch reflector and beyond; not religion, that persists, and changes from old credulities and world views to new thoughts of God and larger apprehensions of his meaning.
In 'What Keeps Religion Going?', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 51-52.
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The ancients had a taste, let us say rather a passion, for the marvellous, which caused … grouping together the lofty deeds of a great number of heroes, whose names they have not even deigned to preserve, and investing the single personage of Hercules with them. … In our own time the public delight in blending fable with history. In every career of life, in the pursuit of science especially, they enjoy a pleasure in creating Herculeses.
In François Arago, trans. by William Henry Smyth, Baden Powell and Robert Grant, 'Fourier', Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men (1859), Vol. 1, 408. This comment indicates that a single scientist or inventor may be held as the exemplar, such as James Watt and the steam-engine, although groundwork was laid by predecessors.
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The discovery of the famous original [Rosetta Stone] enabled Napoleon’s experts to begin the reading of Egypt’s ancient literature. In like manner the seismologists, using the difficult but manageable Greek of modern physics, are beginning the task of making earthquakes tell the nature of the earth’s interior and translating into significant speech the hieroglyphics written by the seismograph.
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The essence of modernity is that progress no longer waits on genius; instead we have learned to put our faith in the organized efforts of ordinary men. Science is as old as the race, but the effective organization of science is new. Ancient science, like placer mining, was a pursuit of solitary prospectors. Nuggets of truth were found, but the total wealth of knowledge increased slowly. Modern man began to transform this world when he began to mine the hidden veins of knowledge systematically.
In School and Society (1930), 31, 581.
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The frillshark has many anatomical features similar to those of the ancient sharks that lived 25 to 30 million years ago. It has too many gills and too few dorsal fins for a modern shark, and its teeth, like those of fossil sharks, are three-pronged and briarlike. Some ichthyologists regard it as a relic derived from very ancient shark ancestors that have died out in the upper waters but, through this single species, are still carrying on their struggle for earthly survival, in the quiet of the deep sea.
(1961).
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The history of the word sankhyā shows the intimate connection which has existed for more than 3000 years in the Indian mind between ‘adequate knowledge’ and ‘number.’ As we interpret it, the fundamental aim of statistics is to give determinate and adequate knowledge of reality with the help of numbers and numerical analysis. The ancient Indian word Sankhyā embodies the same idea, and this is why we have chosen this name for the Indian Journal of Statistics.
Editorial, Vol. 1, Part 1, in the new statistics journal of the Indian Statistical Institute, Sankhayā (1933). Also reprinted in Sankhyā: The Indian Journal of Statistics (Feb 2003), 65, No. 1, xii.
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The more we know about this universe, the more mysterious it is. The old world that Job knew was marvelous enough, and his description of its wonders is among the noblest poetry of the race, but today the new science has opened to our eyes vistas of mystery that transcend in their inexplicable marvel anything the ancients ever dreamed.
In 'What Keeps Religion Going?', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 53.
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The mystic and the physicist arrive at the same conclusion; one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world. The harmony between their views confirms the ancient Indian wisdom that Brahman, the ultimate reality without, is identical to Atman, the reality within.
In The Tao of Physics (1975), 305.
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These two orders of mountains [Secondary and Tertiary] offer the most ancient chronicle of our globe, least liable to falsifications and at the same time more legible than the writing of the primitive ranges. They are Nature's archives, prior to even the most remote records and traditions that have been preserved for our observant century to investigate, comment on and bring to the light of day, and which will not be exhausted for several centuries after our own.
Observations sur la Formation des Montagnes', Acta Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae (1777) [1778], 46. Trans. Albert Carozzi.
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Thus the system of the world only oscillates around a mean state from which it never departs except by a very small quantity. By virtue of its constitution and the law of gravity, it enjoys a stability that can be destroyed only by foreign causes, and we are certain that their action is undetectable from the time of the most ancient observations until our own day. This stability in the system of the world, which assures its duration, is one of the most notable among all phenomena, in that it exhibits in the heavens the same intention to maintain order in the universe that nature has so admirably observed on earth for the sake of preserving individuals and perpetuating species.
'Sur l'Équation Séculaire de la Lune' (1786, published 1788). In Oeuvres complètes de Laplace, 14 Vols. (1843-1912), Vol. 11, 248-9, trans. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science (1997), 145.
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Thus we conclude, that the strata both primary and secondary, both those of ancient and those of more recent origin, have had their materials furnished from the ruins of former continents, from the dissolution of rocks, or the destruction of animal or vegetable bodies, similar, at least in some respects, to those that now occupy the surface of the earth.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 14-5.
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We have before us the restoration of that ancient land whose name was a synonym for abundance, prosperity, and grandeur for many generations. Records as old as those of Egypt and as well attested tell of fertile lands and teeming populations, mighty kings and warriors, sages and wise men, over periods of thousands of years. ... A land such as this is worth resuscitating. Once we have apprehended the true cause of its present desolate and abandoned condition, we are on our way to restoring it to its ancient fertility. A land which so readily responded to ancient science, and gave a return which sufficed for the maintenance of a Persian Court in all its splendor, will surely respond to the efforts of modern science and return manifold the money and talent spent on its regeneration.
From The Restoration of the Ancient Irrigation Works on the Tigris: or, The Re-creation of Chaldea (1903), 30.
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We reverence ancient Greece as the cradle of western science. Here for the first time the world witnessed the miracle of a logical system which proceeded from step to step with such precision that every single one of its propositions was absolutely indubitable—I refer to Euclid’s geometry. This admirable triumph of reasoning gave the human intellect the necessary confidence in itself for its subsequent achievements. If Euclid failed to kindle your youthful enthusiasm, then you were not born to be a scientific thinker.
From 'On the Method of Theoretical Physics', in Essays in Science (1934, 2004), 13.
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When I'm asked about the relevance to Black people of what I do, I take that as an affront. It presupposes that Black people have never been involved in exploring the heavens, but this is not so. Ancient African empires - Mali, Songhai, Egypt - had scientists, astronomers. The fact is that space and its resources belong to all of us, not to any one group.
In Current Biography Yearbook (1993), Vol. 54, 280.
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When you enter some grove, peopled with ancient trees, such as are higher than ordinary, and whose boughs are so closely interwoven that you cannot see the sky; the stately loftiness of the wood, the privacy of the place, and the awful gloom, cannot but strike you, as with the presence of a deity.
Epistle LXI, 'On The God Within Us', The Epistles of Lucius Annæus Seneca trans. Thomas Morell (1786), Vol. 1, 142. Also translated by Richard Mott Gummere (1916) as “If ever you come upon a grove of ancient trees which have grown to an exceptional height, shutting out a view of sky by a veil of pleached and intertwining branches, then the loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the spot and your marvel at the thick unbroken shade in the midst of the open spaces, will prove to you the presence of deity.”
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[To the cultures of Asia and the continent of Africa] it is the Western impact which has stirred up the winds of change and set the processes of modernization in motion. Education brought not only the idea of equality but also another belief which we used to take for granted in the West—the idea of progress, the idea that science and technology can be used to better human conditions. In ancient society, men tended to believe themselves fortunate if tomorrow was not worse than today and anyway, there was little they could do about it.
Lecture at State University of Iowa (6 Apr 1961). In Barbara Ward, The Unity of the Free World (1961), 12.
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… the embryological record, as it is usually presented to us, is both imperfect and misleading. It may be compared to an ancient manuscript, with many of the sheets lost, others displaced, and with spurious passages interpolated by a later hand. … Like the scholar with his manuscript, the embryologist has by a process of careful and critical examination to determine where the gaps are present, to detect the later insertions, and to place in order what has been misplaced.
A Treatise on Comparative Embryology (1885), Vol. 1, 3-4.
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…at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he look’d, and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.
In poem, 'Lucifer in Starlight', collected in Arthur Quiller-Couch (ed.), The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900 (1919), 942.
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…because of the ancient principle of WYGIWYGAINGW.
“What You Get Is What You’re Given And It’s No Use Whining.” In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 50.
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“The Ancient Mariner” — This poem would not have taken so well if it had been called “The Old Sailor,” so that Wardour Street has its uses.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 229. Note: “Wardour Street prose” implies the use of near-obsolete words for effect, and derives from former times when the street was known for its many antique shops.
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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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