Anecdote Quotes (19 quotes)

*A famous anecdote concerning Cuvier involves the tale of his visitation from the devil—only it was not the devil but one of his students dressed up with horns on his head and shoes shaped like cloven hooves. This frightening apparition burst into Cuvier's bedroom when he was fast asleep and claimed:*

'Wake up thou man of catastrophes. I am the Devil. I have come to devour you!'

*Cuvier studied the apparition carefully and critically said*,

'I doubt whether you can. You have horns and hooves. You eat only plants.'

Always preoccupied with his profound researches, the great Newton showed in the ordinary-affairs of life an absence of mind which has become proverbial. It is related that one day, wishing to find the number of seconds necessary for the boiling of an egg, he perceived, after waiting a minute, that he held the egg in his hand, and had placed his seconds watch (an instrument of great value on account of its mathematical precision) to boil!

This absence of mind reminds one of the mathematician Ampere, who one day, as he was going to his course of lectures, noticed a little pebble on the road; he picked it up, and examined with admiration the mottled veins. All at once the lecture which he ought to be attending to returned to his mind; he drew out his watch; perceiving that the hour approached, he hastily doubled his pace, carefully placed the pebble in his pocket, and threw his watch over the parapet of the Pont des Arts.

This absence of mind reminds one of the mathematician Ampere, who one day, as he was going to his course of lectures, noticed a little pebble on the road; he picked it up, and examined with admiration the mottled veins. All at once the lecture which he ought to be attending to returned to his mind; he drew out his watch; perceiving that the hour approached, he hastily doubled his pace, carefully placed the pebble in his pocket, and threw his watch over the parapet of the Pont des Arts.

An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician find themselves in an anecdote, indeed an anecdote quite similar to many that you have no doubt already heard.

After some observations and rough calculations the engineer realizes the situation and starts laughing.

A few minutes later the physicist understands too and chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.

This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.

After some observations and rough calculations the engineer realizes the situation and starts laughing.

A few minutes later the physicist understands too and chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.

This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.

Babbage … gave the name to the [Cambridge] Analytical Society, which he stated was formed to advocate “the principles of pure

*d*-ism as opposed to the*dot*-age of the university.”
Biot, who assisted Laplace in revising it [

*The Mécanique Céleste*] for the press, says that Laplace himself was frequently unable to recover the details in the chain of reasoning, and if satisfied that the conclusions were correct, he was content to insert the constantly recurring formula, “Il est àisé a voir” [it is easy to see].
De Morgan was explaining to an actuary what was the chance that a certain proportion of some group of people would at the end of a given time be alive; and quoted the actuarial formula, involving p [pi], which, in answer to a question, he explained stood for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. His acquaintance, who had so far listened to the explanation with interest, interrupted him and exclaimed, “My dear friend, that must be a delusion, what can a circle have to do with the number of people alive at a given time?”

For other great mathematicians or philosophers, he [Gauss] used the epithets magnus, or clarus, or clarissimus; for Newton alone he kept the prefix summus.

Foreshadowings of the principles and even of the language of [the infinitesimal] calculus can be found in the writings of Napier, Kepler, Cavalieri, Pascal, Fermat, Wallis, and Barrow. It was Newton's good luck to come at a time when everything was ripe for the discovery, and his ability enabled him to construct almost at once a complete calculus.

History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed.

It is well known that theoretical physicists cannot handle experimental equipment; it breaks whenever they touch it. Pauli was such a good theoretical physicist that something usually broke in the lab whenever he merely stepped across the threshold. A mysterious event that did not seem at first to be connected with Pauli's presence once occurred in Professor J. Franck's laboratory in Göttingen. Early one afternoon, without apparent cause, a complicated apparatus for the study of atomic phenomena collapsed. Franck wrote humorously about this to Pauli at his Zürich address and, after some delay, received an answer in an envelope with a Danish stamp. Pauli wrote that he had gone to visit Bohr and at the time of the mishap in Franck's laboratory his train was stopped for a few minutes at the Göttingen railroad station. You may believe this anecdote or not, but there are many other observations concerning the reality of the Pauli Effect!

Let me tell you how at one time the famous mathematician Euclid became a physician. It was during a vacation, which I spent in Prague as I most always did, when I was attacked by an illness never before experienced, which manifested itself in chilliness and painful weariness of the whole body. In order to ease my condition I took up

*Euclid’s Elements*and read for the first time his doctrine of*ratio*, which I found treated there in a manner entirely new to me. The ingenuity displayed in Euclid’s presentation filled me with such vivid pleasure, that forthwith I felt as well as ever.
Newton took no exercise, indulged in no amusements, and worked incessantly, often spending eighteen or nineteen hours out of the twenty-four in writing.

Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.

The great masters of modern analysis are Lagrange, Laplace, and Gauss, who were contemporaries. It is interesting to note the marked contrast in their styles. Lagrange is perfect both in form and matter, he is careful to explain his procedure, and though his arguments are general they are easy to follow. Laplace on the other hand explains nothing, is indifferent to style, and, if satisfied that his results are correct, is content to leave them either with no proof or with a faulty one. Gauss is as exact and elegant as Lagrange, but even more difficult to follow than Laplace, for he removes every trace of the analysis by which he reached his results, and studies to give a proof which while rigorous shall be as concise and synthetical as possible.

The manner of Demoivre’s death has a certain interest for psychologists. Shortly before it, he declared that it was necessary for him to sleep some ten minutes or a quarter of an hour longer each day than the preceding one: the day after he had thus reached a total of something over twenty-three hours he slept up to the limit of twenty-four hours, and then died in his sleep.

Theology, Mr. Fortune found, is a more accommodating subject than mathematics; its technique of exposition allows greater latitude. For instance when you are gravelled for matter there is always the moral to fall back upon. Comparisons too may be drawn, leading cases cited, types and antetypes analysed and anecdotes introduced. Except for Archimedes mathematics is singularly naked of anecdotes.

Throughout his life Newton must have devoted at least as much attention to chemistry and theology as to mathematics.

Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river: and he was always ready to lead a huckleberry-party or a search for chestnuts and grapes.

[Gauss calculated the elements of the planet Ceres] and his analysis proved him to be the first of theoretical astronomers no less than the greatest of “arithmeticians.”