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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Architecture Quotes (48 quotes)

Les grands ponts étant … des monuments qui peuvent servir à faire connoître la magnificence et le génie d’une nation, on ne sauroit trop s’occuper des moyens d’en perfectionner l’architecture, qui peut d’ailleurs être susceptible de variété, en conservant toujours, dans les formes et la décoration, le caractere de solidité qui lui est propre.
Great bridges being monuments which serve to make known the grandeur and genius of a nation, we cannot pay too much attention to means for perfecting their architecture; this may be varied in treatment, but there must ever be conserved, in form and in decoration, the indispensable character of solidity.
In Description des projets et de la construction des ponts de Neuilli, de Mantes, d'Orléans, de Louis XVI, etc. (1777, New ed. 1788), 630. Translated by D. B. Steinman, as quoted in 'Some Reflections on the architecture of Bridges', Engineering and Contracting (26 Dec 1917), 48, No. 26, 536. Also seen translated as, “A great bridge is a great monument which should serve to make known the splendour and genius of a nation; one should not occupy oneself with efforts to perfect it architecturally, for taste is always susceptible to change, but to conserve always in its form and decoration the character of solidity which is proper.”
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A box is more a coffin for the human spirit than an inspiration.
Quoted in Aline B. Louchheim, 'Wright Analyzes Architect's Need', New York Times (26 May 1953), 23. Wright was interviewed at age 83 for the opening of a small exhibition of his work at the gallery of the National Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
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Ah, the architecture of this world. Amoebas may not have backbones, brains, automobiles, plastic, television, Valium or any other of the blessings of a technologically advanced civilization; but their architecture is two billion years ahead of its time.
In The Center of Life: A Natural History of the Cell (1977), 15-16.
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And having thus passed the principles of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and geography, with a general compact of physics, they may descend in mathematics to the instrumental science of trigonometry, and from thence to fortification, architecture, engineering, or navigation. And in natural philosophy they may proceed leisurely from the history of meteors, minerals, plants, and living creatures, as far as anatomy. Then also in course might be read to them out of some not tedious writer the institution of physic. … To set forward all these proceedings in nature and mathematics, what hinders but that they may procure, as oft as shall be needful, the helpful experiences of hunters, fowlers, fishermen, shepherds, gardeners, apothecaries; and in other sciences, architects, engineers, mariners, anatomists.
In John Milton and Robert Fletcher (ed.), 'On Education', The Prose Works of John Milton: With an Introductory Review (1834), 100.
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Architecture aims at Eternity
Quoted in The Architectural Magazine (1834), Vol. 1, 328.
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Architecture has its political Use; publick Buildings being the Ornament of a Country; it establishes a Nation, draws People and Commerce; makes the People love their native Country, which Passion is the Original of all great Actions in a Common-wealth…. Architecture aims at Eternity.
In Charles Henry Bellenden Ker, Sir Christopher Wren (1828), 1.
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Architecture is geometry made visible in the same sense that music is number made audible.
In The Beautiful Necessity: Seven Essays on Theosophy and Architecture (1910),
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Architecture is of all the arts the one nearest to a science, for every architectural design is at its inception dominated by scientific considerations. The inexorable laws of gravitation and of statics must be obeyed by even the most imaginative artist in building.
Anonymous
In 'The Message of Greek Architecture', The Chautauquan (Apr 1906), 43, 110.
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Engineering, medicine, business, architecture and painting are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent—not with how things are but with how they might be—in short, with design.
In The Sciences of the Artificial (1996), xii.
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Euclid always contemplates a straight line as drawn between two definite points, and is very careful to mention when it is to be produced beyond this segment. He never thinks of the line as an entity given once for all as a whole. This careful definition and limitation, so as to exclude an infinity not immediately apparent to the senses, was very characteristic of the Greeks in all their many activities. It is enshrined in the difference between Greek architecture and Gothic architecture, and between Greek religion and modern religion. The spire of a Gothic cathedral and the importance of the unbounded straight line in modern Geometry are both emblematic of the transformation of the modern world.
In Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 119.
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For many parts of Nature can neither be invented with sufficient subtlety, nor demonstrated with sufficient perspicuity, nor accommodated to use with sufficient dexterity, without the aid and intervention of Mathematic: of which sort are Perspective, Music, Astronomy, cosmography, Architecture, Machinery, and some others.
In De Augmentis, Bk. 3; The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 3. As translated in Francis Bacon, ‎James Spedding and ‎Robert Leslie Ellis, 'Of the great Appendix of Natural Philosophy, both Speculative and Operative, namely Mathematic; and that it ought rather to be placed among Appendices than among Substantive Sciences. Division of Mathematic into Pure and Mixed', The Works of Francis Bacon (1858), Vol. 4, Chap. 6, 371.
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Forests were the first temples of the Divinity, and it is in the forests that men have grasped the first idea of architecture.
F.A. de Chateaubriand and Frederic Shoberl (trans.) The Beauties of Christianity (1813), Vol. 1, 251.
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How much does your building weigh?
A question often used to challenge architects to consider how efficiently materials were used for the space enclosed.
In Thomas T. K. Zung, Buckminster Fuller (2002), 5.
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I think that the unity we can seek lies really in two things. One is that the knowledge which comes to us at such a terrifyingly, inhumanly rapid rate has some order in it. We are allowed to forget a great deal, as well as to learn. This order is never adequate. The mass of ununderstood things, which cannot be summarized, or wholly ordered, always grows greater; but a great deal does get understood.
The second is simply this: we can have each other to dinner. We ourselves, and with each other by our converse, can create, not an architecture of global scope, but an immense, intricate network of intimacy, illumination, and understanding. Everything cannot be connected with everything in the world we live in. Everything can be connected with anything.
Concluding paragraphs of 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 76.
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If any person thinks the examination of the rest of the animal kingdom an unworthy task, he must hold in like disesteem the study of man. For no one can look at the primordia of the human frame—blood, flesh, bones, vessels, and the like—without much repugnance. Moreover, in every inquiry, the examination of material elements and instruments is not to be regarded as final, but as ancillary to the conception of the total form. Thus, the true object of architecture is not bricks, mortar or timber, but the house; and so the principal object of natural philosophy is not the material elements, but their composition, and the totality of the form to which they are subservient, and independently of which they have no existence.
Aristotle
On Parts of Animals, Book 1, Chap 5, 645a, 26-36. In W. Ogle (trans.), Aristotle on the Parts of Animals (1882), 17. Alternate translations: “primodia” = “elements”; “Moreover ... Thus” = “Moreover, when anyone of the parts or structures, be it which it may, is under discussion, it must not be supposed that it is its material composition to which attention is being directed or which is the object of the discussion, but rather the total form. Similarly”; “form ... subservient, and” = “totality of the substance.” See alternate translation in Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 1, 1004.
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In modern Europe, the Middle Ages were called the Dark Ages. Who dares to call them so now? … Their Dante and Alfred and Wickliffe and Abelard and Bacon; their Magna Charta, decimal numbers, mariner’s compass, gunpowder, glass, paper, and clocks; chemistry, algebra, astronomy; their Gothic architecture, their painting,—are the delight and tuition of ours. Six hundred years ago Roger Bacon explained the precession of the equinoxes, and the necessity of reform in the calendar; looking over how many horizons as far as into Liverpool and New York, he announced that machines can be constructed to drive ships more rapidly than a whole galley of rowers could do, nor would they need anything but a pilot to steer; carriages, to move with incredible speed, without aid of animals; and machines to fly into the air like birds.
In 'Progress of Culture', an address read to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, 18 July 1867. Collected in Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883), 475.
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In things to be seen at once, much variety makes confusion, another vice of beauty. In things that are not seen at once, and have no respect one to another, great variety is commendable, provided this variety transgress not the rules of optics and geometry.
Quoted from the Parentalia in Charles Henry Bellenden Ker, Sir Christopher Wren (1828), 30. Published as a booklet in the series Lives of Eminent Persons (1833) by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Also in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966).
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Increased knowledge of heredity means increased power of control over the living thing, and as we come to understand more and more the architecture of the plant or animal we realize what can and what cannot be done towards modification or improvement.
Reginald C. Punnett, in article 'Mendelism', from Hugh Chisholm (ed.) The Encyclopædia Britannica (1911), Vol. 18, 120.
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It is good to recall that three centuries ago, around the year 1660, two of the greatest monuments of modern history were erected, one in the West and one in the East; St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Taj Mahal in Agra. Between them, the two symbolize, perhaps better than words can describe, the comparative level of architectural technology, the comparative level of craftsmanship and the comparative level of affluence and sophistication the two cultures had attained at that epoch of history. But about the same time there was also created—and this time only in the West—a third monument, a monument still greater in its eventual import for humanity. This was Newton’s Principia, published in 1687. Newton's work had no counterpart in the India of the Mughuls.
'Ideals and Realities' (1975). Reprinted in Ideals and Realities (1984), 48.
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Life is order, death is disorder. A fundamental law of Nature states that spontaneous chemical changes in the universe tend toward chaos. But life has, during milliards of years of evolution, seemingly contradicted this law. With the aid of energy derived from the sun it has built up the most complicated systems to be found in the universe—living organisms. Living matter is characterized by a high degree of chemical organisation on all levels, from the organs of large organisms to the smallest constituents of the cell. The beauty we experience when we enjoy the exquisite form of a flower or a bird is a reflection of a microscopic beauty in the architecture of molecules.
The Nobel Prize for Chemistry: Introductory Address'. Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1981-1990 (1992), 69.
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Like the furtive collectors of stolen art, we [cell biologists] are forced to be lonely admirers of spectacular architecture, exquisite symmetry, dramas of violence and death, mobility, self-sacrifice and, yes, rococo sex.
…...
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Mathematics is no more the art of reckoning and computation than architecture is the art of making bricks or hewing wood, no more than painting is the art of mixing colors on a palette, no more than the science of geology is the art of breaking rocks, or the science of anatomy the art of butchering.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 29.
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Never believe that the atom is a complex mystery—it is not. The atom is what we find when we look for the underlying architecture in nature, whose bricks are as few, as simple and orderly as possible.
Quoted in Andrew Jon Rotter, Hiroshima (2008), 7, without citation. Also in 'ABC of the Atom'. Reader's Digest (Feb 1952), 40, 25.
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Now do you not see that the eye embraces the beauty of the whole world? It counsels and corrects all the arts of mankind... it is the prince of mathematics, and the sciences founded on it are absolutely certain. It has measured the distances and sizes of the stars it has discovered the elements and their location... it has given birth to architecture and to perspective and to the divine art of painting.
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Plant breeding to be successful must be conducted like architecture. Definite plans must be carefully laid for the proposed creation; suitable materials selected with judgment, and these must he securely placed in their proper order and position.
From Paper read at the Annual Meeting of the American Breeders’ Association, at Columbia, Mo. (5-8 January 1909). In 'Another Mode of Species Forming', Popular Science Monthly (Sep 1909), 75, 265.
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Scientific work, especially mathematical work which is purely conceptual, may indeed possess the appearance of beauty, because of the inner coherence which it shares with fine art, or may resemble a piece of architecture.
From 'Characters of the Beautiful', Beauty, Chap. 3, collected in Collected Works Of Samuel Alexander (2000), 51-52.
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Scientists like myself merely use their gifts to show up that which already exists, and we look small compared to the artists who create works of beauty out of themselves. If a good fairy came and offered me back my youth, asking me which gifts I would rather have, those to make visible a thing which exists but which no man has ever seen before, or the genius needed to create, in a style of architecture never imagined before, the great Town Hall in which we are dining tonight, I might be tempted to choose the latter.
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1962).
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Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
As quoted in Carla Lind, Wright Style (1992), 23.
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The amoeba had the architectural ideas of R. Buckminster Fuller before there was anyone around capable of having an idea.
In The Center of Life: A Natural History of the Cell (1977), 16.
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The ancients thought as clearly as we do, had greater skills in the arts and in architecture, but they had never learned the use of the great instrument which has given man control over nature—experiment.
Address at the opening of the new Pathological Institute of the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow (4 Oct 1911). Printed in 'The Pathological Institute of a General Hospital', Glasgow Medical Journal (1911), 76, 327.
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The bottom line for mathematicians is that the architecture has to be right. In all the mathematics that I did, the essential point was to find the right architecture. It’s like building a bridge. Once the main lines of the structure are right, then the details miraculously fit. The problem is the overall design.
In interview by Donald J. Albers, in 'Freeman Dyson: Mathematician, Physicist, and Writer', The College Mathematics Journal (Jan 1994), 25, No. 1, 20.
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The distributed architecture and its technique of packet switching were built around the problem of getting messages delivered despite blockages, holes and malfunctions. Imagine the poor censor faced with such a system. There is no central exchange to seize and hold; messages actively “seek out” alternative routes so that even if one path is blocked another may open up. Here is the civil libertarian’s dream.
As quoted in Richard Rogers, 'The Internet Treats Censorship as a Malfunction and Routes Around It? : A New Media Approach to the Study of State Internet Censorship', collected in Jussi Parikka and Tony D. Sampson (eds.), The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (2009), 243.
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The dogma of the impossibility of determining the atomic constitution of substances, which until recently was advocated with such fervor by the most able chemists, is beginning to be abandoned and forgotten; and one can predict that the day is not far in the future when a sufficient collection of facts will permit determination of the internal architecture of molecules. A series of experiments directed toward such a goal is the object of this paper.
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The elms of New England! They are as much a part of her beauty as the columns of the Parthenon were the glory of its architecture.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 11.
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The first principle of architectural beauty is that the essential lines of a construction be determined by a perfect appropriateness to its use.
From translation in J. Harriss, The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoque (1975), 20, as quoted and cited by David P. Billington, 'Bridges and the New Art of Structural Engineering,' in National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Bridge Aesthetics, Bridge Aesthetics Around the World (1991), 67. From the original French in interview of Eiffel by Paul Bourde, in the newspaper Le Temps (14 Feb 1887). Reprinted in 'Au Jour le Jour: Les Artistes Contre la Tour Eiffel', Gazette Anecdotique, Littéraire, Artistique et Bibliographique (Feb 1887), 126, and in Gustave Eiffel, Travaux Scientifiques Exécutés à la Tour de 300 Mètres de 1889 à 1900 (1900), 14. “Le premier principe de l'esthétique architecturale est que les lignes essentielles d’un monument soient déterminées par la parfaite appropriation à sa destination.”
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The laws of nature are the rules according to which the effects are produced; but there must be a cause which operates according to these rules. The laws of navigation never navigated a ship. The rules of architecture never built a house.
'Essay I: On Active Power In General: Chapter 6: On the Efficient Causes of the Phenomena of Nature', Essays on the Active Powers of Man (1785), Chap. 6, 47.
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The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.
In Disturbing the Universe (1979), 250. As cited in Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (1996), 163.
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The science of government is my duty. … I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
Letter to Abigail Adams, (1780). In John Adams and Charles Francis Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife (1841), 68.
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There are many arts and sciences of which a miner should not be ignorant. First there is Philosophy, that he may discern the origin, cause, and nature of subterranean things; for then he will be able to dig out the veins easily and advantageously, and to obtain more abundant results from his mining. Secondly there is Medicine, that he may be able to look after his diggers and other workman ... Thirdly follows astronomy, that he may know the divisions of the heavens and from them judge the directions of the veins. Fourthly, there is the science of Surveying that he may be able to estimate how deep a shaft should be sunk … Fifthly, his knowledge of Arithmetical Science should be such that he may calculate the cost to be incurred in the machinery and the working of the mine. Sixthly, his learning must comprise Architecture, that he himself may construct the various machines and timber work required underground … Next, he must have knowledge of Drawing, that he can draw plans of his machinery. Lastly, there is the Law, especially that dealing with metals, that he may claim his own rights, that he may undertake the duty of giving others his opinion on legal matters, that he may not take another man’s property and so make trouble for himself, and that he may fulfil his obligations to others according to the law.
In De Re Metallica (1556), trans. H.C. and L.H. Hoover (1950), 3-4.
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There are those who say that the human kidney was created to keep the blood pure, or more precisely, to keep our internal environment in an ideal balanced state. This I must deny. I grant that the human kidney is a marvelous organ, but I cannot grant that it was purposefully designed to excrete urine or to regulate the composition of the blood or to subserve the physiological welfare of Homo sapiens in any sense. Rather I contend that the human kidney manufactures the kind of urine that it does, and it maintains the blood in the composition which that fluid has, because this kidney has a certain functional architecture; and it owes that architecture not to design or foresight or to any plan, but to the fact that the earth is an unstable sphere with a fragile crust, to the geologic revolutions that for six hundred million years have raised and lowered continents and seas, to the predacious enemies, and heat and cold, and storms and droughts; to the unending succession of vicissitudes that have driven the mutant vertebrates from sea into fresh water, into desiccated swamps, out upon the dry land, from one habitation to another, perpetually in search of the free and independent life, perpetually failing, for one reason or another, to find it.
From Fish to Philosopher (1953), 210-1.
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There are three departments of architecture: the art of building, the making of time-pieces, and the construction of machinery.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 3, Sec. 3. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 16.
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We are the generation that searched on Mars for evidence of life, but couldn’t rouse enough moral sense to stop the destruction of even the grandest manifestations of life on earth. In that sense, we are like the Romans whose works of an, architecture, and engineering inspire our awe but whose traffic in slaves and gladiatorial combat is mystifying and loathsome.
[Co-author with Anna Sequoia.]
67 Ways to Save the Animals
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We've been fighting from the beginning for organic architecture. That is, architecture where the whole is to the part as the part is to the whole, and where the nature of materials, the nature of the purpose, the nature of the entire performance becomes a necessity—architecture of democracy.
Quoted in Aline B. Louchheim, 'Wright Analyzes Architect's Need', New York Times (26 May 1953), 23. Wright was interviewed at age 83 for the opening of a small exhibition of his work at the gallery of the National Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
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What is wanted in architecture, as in so many things, is a man. ... One suggestion might be made—no profession in England has done its duty until it has furnished a victim. ... Even our boasted navy never achieved a great victory until we shot an admiral. Suppose an architect were hanged? Terror has its inspiration, as well as competition.
Tancred: Or, The New Crusade (1907), 112.
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When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! This our father did for us.”
From Lectures on 'Architecture and Painting' (Nov 1853), delivered at Edinburgh, collected in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (May 1849, 1887), 172.
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Why is it that the self-aggrandizements of Cicero, the lecheries and whining of Ovid and the blatherings of that debauched old goose Seneca made it onto the Net before the works that give us solid technical information about what Rome was really good at, viz. the construction of her great buildings and works of engineering?
From headnotes written by Bill Thayer to his online transcription of Vitruvius: On Architecture.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. ... On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller's works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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[Mathematics] is security. Certainty. Truth. Beauty. Insight. Structure. Architecture. I see mathematics, the part of human knowledge that I call mathematics, as one thing—one great, glorious thing. Whether it is differential topology, or functional analysis, or homological algebra, it is all one thing. … They are intimately interconnected, they are all facets of the same thing. That interconnection, that architecture, is secure truth and is beauty. That’s what mathematics is to me.
From interview with Donald J. Albers. In John H. Ewing and Frederick W. Gehring, Paul Halmos Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics (1991), 13.
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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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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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