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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index A > Category: Anthropology

Anthropology Quotes (51 quotes)

According to Herr Cook's observation, the inhabitants of New Guinea have something they set light to which burns up almost like gunpowder. They also put it into hollow staves, and from a distance you could believe they are shooting. But it does not produce so much as a bang. Presumably they are trying to imitate the Europeans. They have failed to realize its real purpose.
Aphorism 27 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 48.
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All fossil anthropoids found hitherto have been known only from mandibular or maxillary fragments, so far as crania are concerned, and so the general appearance of the types they represented had been unknown; consequently, a condition of affairs where virtually the whole face and lower jaw, replete with teeth, together with the major portion of the brain pattern, have been preserved, constitutes a specimen of unusual value in fossil anthropoid discovery. Here, as in Homo rhodesiensis, Southern Africa has provided documents of higher primate evolution that are amongst the most complete extant. Apart from this evidential completeness, the specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man ... Whether our present fossil is to be correlated with the discoveries made in India is not yet apparent; that question can only be solved by a careful comparison of the permanent molar teeth from both localities. It is obvious, meanwhile, that it represents a fossil group distinctly advanced beyond living anthropoids in those two dominantly human characters of facial and dental recession on one hand, and improved quality of the brain on the other. Unlike Pithecanthropus, it does not represent an ape-like man, a caricature of precocious hominid failure, but a creature well advanced beyond modern anthropoids in just those characters, facial and cerebral, which are to be anticipated in an extinct link between man and his simian ancestor. At the same time, it is equally evident that a creature with anthropoid brain capacity and lacking the distinctive, localised temporal expansions which appear to be concomitant with and necessary to articulate man, is no true man. It is therefore logically regarded as a man-like ape. I propose tentatively, then, that a new family of Homo-simidæ be created for the reception of the group of individuals which it represents, and that the first known species of the group be designated Australopithecus africanus, in commemoration, first, of the extreme southern and unexpected horizon of its discovery, and secondly, of the continent in which so many new and important discoveries connected with the early history of man have recently been made, thus vindicating the Darwinian claim that Africa would prove to be the cradle of mankind.
'Australopithicus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa', Nature, 1925, 115, 195.
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Anthropology found its Galileo in Rivers, its Newton in Mauss.
Referring to anthropologists W.H.R. Rivers and Marcel Mauss for revolutionizing theories of anthropology. In Structural Anthropology (1958), 159.
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Anthropology has been compared to a great region, marked out indeed as within the sphere of influence of science, but unsettled and for the most part unsubdued. Like all such hinterland sciences, it is a happy hunting-ground for adventurers.
Mankind in the Making (1903), 52.
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Anthropology has reached that point of development where the careful investigation of facts shakes our firm belief in the far-reaching theories that have been built up. The complexity of each phenomenon dawns on our minds, and makes us desirous of proceeding more cautiously. Heretofore we have seen the features common to all human thought. Now we begin to see their differences. We recognize that these are no less important than their similarities, and the value of detailed studies becomes apparent. Our aim has not changed, but our method must change. We are still searching for the laws that govern the growth of human culture, of human thought; but we recognize the fact that before we seek for what is common to all culture, we must analyze each culture by careful and exact methods, as the geologist analyzes the succession and order of deposits, as the biologist examines the forms of living matter. We see that the growth of human culture manifests itself in the growth of each special culture. Thus we have come to understand that before we can build up the theory of the growth of all human culture, we must know the growth of cultures that we find here and there among the most primitive tribes of the Arctic, of the deserts of Australia, and of the impenetrable forests of South America; and the progress of the civilization of antiquity and of our own times. We must, so far as we can, reconstruct the actual history of mankind, before we can hope to discover the laws underlying that history.
The Jesup North Pacific Expedition: Memoir of the American Museum of Natural History (1898), Vol. 1, 4.
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Anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities.
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Anthropology is the science which tells us that people are the same the whole world over—except when they are different.
The Guardian (21 Jul 1988).
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Anthropology is the study of human beings as creatures of society. It fastens its attention upon those physical characteristics and industrial techniques, those conventions and values, which distinguish one community from all others that belong to a different tradition.
In 'The Science of Custom', Patterns of Culture (1934, 2005), 1.
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As one recalls some of the monstrous situations under which human beings have lived and live their lives, one marvels at man’s meekness and complacency. It can only be explained by the quality of flesh to become calloused to situations that if faced suddenly would provoke blisters and revolt.
From Why We Behave Like Human Beings (1925), 469

Cultural anthropology is essentially a descriptive rather than a predictive exercise.
In 'Critique: The Unplanned Obsolescence of a Great Book on Japan', Wall Street Journal (31 Jan 1984), Eastern edition, 1.
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Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. ... the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.
In 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125-129.
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Every great anthropologic and paleontologic discovery fits into its proper place, enabling us gradually to fill out, one after another, the great branching lines of human ascent and to connect with the branches definite phases of industry and art. This gives us a double means of interpretation, archaeological and anatomical. While many branches and links in the chain remain to be discovered, we are now in a position to predict with great confidence not only what the various branches will be like but where they are most like to be found.
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1
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Fossil bones and footsteps and ruined homes are the solid facts of history, but the surest hints, the most enduring signs, lie in those miniscule genes. For a moment we protect them with our lives, then like relay runners with a baton, we pass them on to be carried by our descendents. There is a poetry in genetics which is more difficult to discern in broken bomes, and genes are the only unbroken living thread that weaves back and forth through all those boneyards.
The Self-Made Man: Human Evolution From Eden to Extinction (1996), 13.
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Geneticists believe that anthropologists have decided what a race is. Ethnologists assume that their classifications embody principles which genetic science has proved correct. Politicians believe that their prejudices have the sanction of genetic laws and the findings of physical anthropology to sustain them.
'The Concept of Race.' In Genetic Principles in Medicine and Social Science (1931), 122.
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Human societies are everywhere complex, for living at peace with ourselves requires a vast multiplicity of rules.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 18.
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I am perhaps more proud of having helped to redeem the character of the cave-man than of any other single achievement of mine in the field of anthropology.
Quoted in Closing Address by Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, president of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, at the Memorial Service for Osborn at St. Bartholomew's Church, N.Y. (18 Dec 1935). In 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 134. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
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I find in Geology a never failing interest, as [it] has been remarked, it creates the same gran[d] ideas respecting this world, which Astronomy do[es] for the universe.—We have seen much fine scenery that of the Tropics in its glory & luxuriance, exceeds even the language of Humboldt to describe. A Persian writer could alone do justice to it, & if he succeeded he would in England, be called the 'grandfather of all liars'.— But I have seen nothing, which more completely astonished me, than the first sight of a Savage; It was a naked Fuegian his long hair blowing about, his face besmeared with paint. There is in their countenances, an expression, which I believe to those who have not seen it, must be inconceivably wild. Standing on a rock he uttered tones & made gesticulations than which, the cries of domestic animals are far more intelligible.
Letter to Charles Whitley, 23 July 1834. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1821-1836 (1985), Vol. I, 397.
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I have been described on more than one occasion as belonging to something called the 'Functional School of Social Anthropology' and even as being its leader, or one of its leaders. This Functional School does not really exist; it is a myth invented by Professor Malinowski ... There is no place in natural science for 'schools' in this sense, and I regard social anthropology as a branch of natural science. ... I conceive of social anthropology as the theoretical natural science of human society, that is, the investigation of social phenomena by methods essentially similar to those used in the physical and biological sciences. I am quite willing to call the subject 'comparative sociology', if anyone so wishes.
In A. Kuper, Anthropologists and Anthropology: The Modern British School (1983), 36.
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I know of no department of natural science more likely to reward a man who goes into it thoroughly than anthropology. There is an immense deal to be done in the science pure and simple, and it is one of those branches of inquiry which brings one into contact with the great problems of humanity in every direction.
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If we look round the world, there seem to be not above six distinct varieties in the human species, each of which is strongly marked, and speaks the kind seldom to have mixed with any other. But there is nothing in the shape, nothing in the faculties, that shows their coming from different originals; and the varieties of climate, of nourishment, and custom, are sufficient to produce every change.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1812), Vol. 2, 154.
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If we put together all that we have learned from anthropology and ethnography about primitive men and primitive society, we perceive that the first task of life is to live. Men begin with acts, not with thoughts.
Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores and Morals (1907), 2.
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In no sense can the Neanderthal bones be regarded as the remains of a human being intermediate between men and apes.
In Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863), 157.
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In order to survive, an animal must be born into a favoring or at least tolerant environment. Similarly, in order to achieve preservation and recognition, a specimen of fossil man must be discovered in intelligence, attested by scientific knowledge, and interpreted by evolutionary experience. These rigorous prerequisites have undoubtedly caused many still-births in human palaeontology and are partly responsible for the high infant mortality of discoveries of geologically ancient man.
Apes, Men and Morons (1938), 106.
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In the early seventies my mother [Mary Leakey] returned to Laetoli, a site in Tanzania that my parents had discovered in the thirties. In 1976, she discovered footprints of ancient hominids. These three-and-a-half-million- year-old footprints provide evidence of bipedality.
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 60.
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In the field one has to face a chaos of facts, some of which are so small that they seem insignificant; others loom so large that they are hard to encompass with one synthetic glance. But in this crude form they are not scientific facts at all; they are absolutely elusive, and can be fixed only by interpretation, by seeing them sub specie aeternitatis, by grasping what is essential in them and fixing this. Only laws and gerneralizations are scientific facts, and field work consists only and exclusively in the interpretation of the chaotic social reality, in subordinating it to general rules.
Baloma (1954), 238.
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Its [the anthropological method] power to make us understand the roots from which our civilization has sprung, that it impresses us with the relative value of all forms of culture, and thus serves as a check to an exaggerated valuation of the standpoint of our own period, which we are only too liable to consider the ultimate goal of human evolution, thus depriving ourselves of the benefits to be gained from the teachings of other cultures and hindering an objective criticism of our own work.
'The History of Anthropology', Science, 1904, 20, 524.
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Life became a science when interest shifted from the dissection of dead bodies to the study of action in living beings and the nature of the environment they live in.
From Why We Behave Like Human Beings (1925), Preface, xiv.

Man is a free moral agent and can be magnanimous and deal disinterestedly, humanity is a definite goal, social justice is desirable and possible, individual lives may be gloriously diversified, uniquely individualized, and yet socially useful; or, these are mere phrases, snares to catch gulls, soothing syrup for our troubled souls.
From Why We Behave Like Human Beings (1925), 476.

Man is a tool-using animal.
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Man is the highest product of his own history. The discoverer finds nothing so grand or tall as himself, nothing so valuable to him. The greatest star is at the small end of the telescope, the star that is looking, not looked after nor looked at.
In Theodore Parker and Rufus Leighton (ed.), Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Man: Selected from Notes of Unpublished Sermons (1865), 70.
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Men make the gods; women worship them.
In Adonis, Attis, Osiris: Studies in the History of Oriental Religion (1907), 393.
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Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
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Most people prefer to carry out the kinds of experiments that allow the scientist to feel that he is in full control of the situation rather than surrendering himself to the situation, as one must in studying human beings as they actually live.
In Blackberry Winter (1972), 321.
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None of Darwin's particular doctrines will necessarily endure the test of time and trial. Into the melting-pot must they go as often as any man of science deems it fitting. But Darwinism as the touch of nature that makes the whole world kin can hardly pass away.
Anthropology (1912), 11.
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Nothing is more detestable to the physical anthropologist than... [the] wretched habit of cremating the dead. It involves not only a prodigal waste of costly fuel and excellent fertilizer, but also the complete destruction of physical historical data. On the other hand, the custom of embalming and mummification is most praiseworthy and highly to be recommended.
Up From the Ape (1931), 531.
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People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.
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Segregationalists will even argue that God was the first segregationalist. “Red birds and blue birds don't fly together”, they contend. … They turn to some pseudo-scientific writing and argue that the Negro’s brain is smaller than the white man’s brain. They do not know, or they refuse to know that the idea of an inferior or superior race has been refuted by the best evidence of the science of anthropology. Great anthropologists, like Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Melville J. Herskovits, agree that, although there may be inferior and superior individuals within all races, there is no superior or inferior race. And segregationalists refuse to acknowledge that there are four types of blood, and these four types are found within every racial group.
'Love in Action', Strength To Love (1963, 1981), 45-46.
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The drive behind life has lost none of its power; proof that, impelled by that drive, man can build as well as destroy; that in his nature is more of Vishnu the Creator than of Siva the Destroyer.
From Why We Behave Like Human Beings (1925), 479.

The evidence indicates that woman is, on the whole, biologically superior to man.
In The Natural Superiority of Women (1952, 1999), 91.
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The magnificent title of the Functional School of Anthropology has been bestowed on myself, in a way on myself, and to a large extent out of my own sense of irresponsibility.
In A. Kuper, Anthropologists and Anthropology: The Modern British School (1983), 1.
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The man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
Bible
(circa 325 A.D.)
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The position of the anthropologist of to-day resembles in some sort the position of classical scholars at the revival of learning. To these men the rediscovery of ancient literature came like a revelation, disclosing to their wondering eyes a splendid vision of the antique world, such as the cloistered of the Middle Ages never dreamed of under the gloomy shadow of the minster and within the sound of its solemn bells. To us moderns a still wider vista is vouchsafed, a greater panorama is unrolled by the study which aims at bringing home to us the faith and the practice, the hopes and the ideals, not of two highly gifted races only, but of all mankind, and thus at enabling us to follow the long march, the slow and toilsome ascent, of humanity from savagery to civilization. And as the scholar of the Renaissance found not merely fresh food for thought but a new field of labour in the dusty and faded manuscripts of Greece and Rome, so in the mass of materials that is steadily pouring in from many sides—from buried cities of remotest antiquity as well as from the rudest savages of the desert and the jungle—we of to-day must recognise a new province of knowledge which will task the energies of generations of students to master.
'Author’s Introduction' (1900). In Dr Theodor H. Gaster (ed.), The New Golden Bough (1959), xxv-xxvi.

The time when we could tolerate accounts presenting us the native as a distorted, childish charicature of a human being are gone. This picture is false, and like many other falsehoods, it has been killed by Science.
Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1961), 83.
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The world probably being of much greater antiquity than physical science has thought to be possible, it is interesting and harmless to speculate whether man has shared with the world its more remote history. … Some of the beliefs and legends which have come down to us from antiquity are so universal and deep-rooted that we have are accustomed to consider them almost as old as the race itself. One is tempted to inquire how far the unsuspected aptness of some of these beliefs and sayings to the point of view so recently disclosed is the result of mere chance or coincidence, and how far it may be evidence of a wholly unknown and unsuspected ancient civilization of which all other relic has disappeared.
In 'The Elixir of Life', The Interpretation of Radium: Being the Substance of Six Free Popular Lectures Delivered at the University of Glasgow (1909, 1912), 248-250. The original lectures of early 1908, were greatly edited, rearranged and supplemented by the author for the book form.
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Theology is Anthropology... [T]he distinction which is made, or rather supposed to be made, between the theological and anthropological predicates resolves itself into an absurdity.
The Essence of Christianity (1881), xi.
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There are no inferior races; all are destined to attain freedom.
Webmaster cannot find a primary source for this as a brief quote. It is probably not verbatim, but does summarize the sentiment in the much longer quote (see this web page) which begins, “While we maintain the unity of the human species…”
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This missing science of heredity, this unworked mine of knowledge on the borderland of biology and anthropology, which for all practical purposes is as unworked now as it was in the days of Plato, is, in simple truth, ten times more important to humanity than all the chemistry and physics, all the technical and indsutrial science that ever has been or ever will be discovered.
Mankind in the Making (1903), 72.
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What a scale of improvement is comprehended between the faculties of a Fuegian savage and a Sir Isaac Newton.
R. D. Keynes, Darwin's Beagle Diary (1988), 223.
Science quotes on:  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)

While up to this time contrary sexual instinct has had but an anthropological, clinical, and forensic interest for science, now, as a result of the latest investigations, there is some thought of therapy in this incurable condition, which so heavily burdens its victims, socially, morally, and mentally. A preparatory step for the application of therapeutic measures is the exact differentiation of the acquired from the congenital cases; and among the latter again, the assignment of the concrete case to its proper position in the categories that have been established empirically.
Psychopathia Sexualis: With Special Reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study (1886), trans. Charles Gilbert Chaddock (1892), 319.
Science quotes on:  |  Clinical (2)  |  Congenital (4)  |  Investigation (123)  |  Sex (48)  |  Therapy (10)

[Culture] denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms, by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.
The Interpretation of Cultures (1977), 89.
Science quotes on:  |  Culture (85)  |  Symbol (35)

[Very doubtful attribution.] The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.
This likely misquote is included here to caution: do NOT blindly accept it. Webmaster has so far been unable to find any primary source for this viral alleged quote. It is often seen, but never with a citation. Or worse, with a citation to another source which fails to give a citation at all. ApostateAbe, 'Stop this Ruth Benedict misquote', Reddit (c.Dec 2017) directly challenges the quote: “Ruth Benedict never said it, not in any of her published writings. It seems to be merely myth. It is never specifically cited, nor does it make historical sense.” So, if you know an authentic primary source, please contact Webmaster.
Science quotes on:  |  Difference (208)  |  Human (445)  |  Purpose (138)  |  Safe (15)  |  World (667)


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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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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