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...he who remains passive when over-whelmed with grief loses his best chance of recovering his elasticity of mind.
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
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...I may perhaps venture a short word on the question much discussed in certain quarters, whether in the work of excavation it is a good thing to have cooperation between men and women ... Of a mixed dig ... I have seen something, and it is an experiment that I would be reluctant to try again. I would grant if need be that women are admirable fitted for the work, yet I would uphold that they should undertake it by themselves ... the work of an excavator on the dig and off it lays on those who share it a bond of closer daily intercourse than is conceivable ... between men and women, except in chance cases, I do not believe that such close and unavoidable companionship can ever be other than a source of irritation; at any rate, I believe that however it may affect women, the ordinary male at least cannot stand it ... A minor ... objection lies in one particular form of contraint ... moments will occur on the best regulated dig when you want to say just what you think without translation, which before the ladies, whatever their feelings about it, cannot be done.
Archaeological Excavation (1915), 63-64. In Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky Breaking Ground (2006), 557-558. By (), 163-164.
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3. The Third Law of Ecology: Nature knows best.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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Copernicus, who rightly did condemn
This eldest systeme, form’d a wiser scheme;
In which he leaves the Sun at Rest, and rolls
The Orb Terrestial on its proper Poles;
Which makes the Night and Day by this Career,
And by its slow and crooked Course the Year.
The famous Dane, who oft the Modern guides,
To Earth and Sun their Provinces divides:
The Earth's Rotation makes the Night and Day,
The Sun revolving through th'Eccliptic Way
Effects the various seasons of the Year,
Which in their Turn for happy Ends appear.
This Scheme or that, which pleases best, embrace,
Still we the Fountain of their Motion trace.
Kepler asserts these Wonders may be done
By the Magnetic Vertue of the Sun,
Which he, to gain his End, thinks fit to place
Full in the Center of that mighty Space,
Which does the Spheres, where Planets roll, include,
And leaves him with Attractive Force endu'd.
The Sun, thus seated, by Mechanic Laws,
The Earth, and every distant Planet draws;
By which Attraction all the Planets found
Within his reach, are turn'd in Ether round.
In Creation: A Philosophical Poem in Seven Books (1712), book 2, l. 430-53, p.78-9.
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Demonstratio longe optima est experientia.
By far the best proof is experience.
Novum Organum, I., 70. In Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), 42.
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Der bis zur Vorrede, die ihn abweist, gelangte Leser hat das Buch für baares Geld gekauft und frägt, was ihn schadlos hält? – Meine letzte Zuflucht ist jetzt, ihn zu erinnern, daß er ein Buch, auch ohne es gerade zu lesen, doch auf mancherlei Art zu benutzen weiß. Es kann, so gut wie viele andere, eine Lücke seiner Bibliothek ausfüllen, wo es sich, sauber gebunden, gewiß gut ausnehmen wird. Oder auch er kann es seiner gelehrten Freundin auf die Toilette, oder den Theetisch legen. Oder endlich er kann ja, was gewiß das Beste von Allem ist und ich besonders rathe, es recensiren.
The reader who has got as far as the preface and is put off by that, has paid money for the book, and wants to know how he is to be compensated. My last refuge now is to remind him that he knows of various ways of using a book without precisely reading it. It can, like many another, fill a gap in his library, where, neatly bound, it is sure to look well. Or he can lay it on the dressing-table or tea-table of his learned lady friend. Or finally he can review it; this is assuredly the best course of all, and the one I specially advise.
In Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xv-xvi. As translated by E.F.J. Payne in The World as Will and Representation (1958, 1969), Vol. 1, xvii. In the preface, Schopenhauer is joking that some readers of his book may find his work does not interest them.
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Dilbert: You joined the “Flat Earth Society?”
Dogbert: I believe the earth must be flat. There is no good evidence to support the so-called “round earth theory.”
Dilbert: I think Christopher Columbus would disagree.
Dogbert: How convenient that your best witness is dead.
Dilbert comic strip (9 Oct 1989).
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Question: Account for the delicate shades of colour sometimes seen on the inside of an oyster shell. State and explain the appearance presented when a beam of light falls upon a sheet of glass on which very fine equi-distant parallel lines have been scratched very close to one another.
Answer: The delicate shades are due to putrefaction; the colours always show best when the oyster has been a bad one. Hence they are considered a defect and are called chromatic aberration.
The scratches on the glass will arrange themselves in rings round the light, as any one may see at night in a tram car.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 182, Question 27. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: If you were to pour a pound of molten lead and a pound of molten iron, each at the temperature of its melting point, upon two blocks of ice, which would melt the most ice, and why?
Answer: This question relates to diathermancy. Iron is said to be a diathermanous body (from dia, through, and thermo, I heat), meaning that it gets heated through and through, and accordingly contains a large quantity of real heat. Lead is said to be an athermanous body (from a, privative, and thermo, I heat), meaning that it gets heated secretly or in a latent manner. Hence the answer to this question depends on which will get the best of it, the real heat of the iron or the latent heat of the lead. Probably the iron will smite furthest into the ice, as molten iron is white and glowing, while melted lead is dull.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 180-1, Question 14. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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The Annotated Alice, of course, does tie in with math, because Lewis Carroll was, as you know, a professional mathematician. So it wasn’t really too far afield from recreational math, because the two books are filled with all kinds of mathematical jokes. I was lucky there in that I really didn’t have anything new to say in The Annotated Alice because I just looked over the literature and pulled together everything in the form of footnotes. But it was a lucky idea because that’s been the best seller of all my books.
In Anthony Barcellos, 'A Conversation with Martin Gardner', The Two-Year College Mathematics Journal (Sep 1979), 10, No. 4, 241.
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Wenn sich für ein neues Fossil kein, auf eigenthümliche Eigenschaften desselben hinweisender, Name auffinden lassen Will; als in welchem Falle ich mich bei dem gegenwärtigen zu befinden gestehe; so halte ich es für besser, eine solche Benennung auszuwählen, die an sich gar nichts sagt, und folglich auch zu keinen unrichtigen Begriffen Anlass geben kann. Diesem zufolge will ich den Namen für die gegenwärtige metallische Substanz, gleichergestalt wie bei dem Uranium geschehen, aus der Mythologie, und zwar von den Ursöhnen der Erde, den Titanen, entlehnen, und benenne also dieses neue Metallgeschlecht: Titanium.
Wherefore no name can be found for a new fossil [element] which indicates its peculiar and characteristic properties (in which position I find myself at present), I think it is best to choose such a denomination as means nothing of itself and thus can give no rise to any erroneous ideas. In consequence of this, as I did in the case of Uranium, I shall borrow the name for this metallic substance from mythology, and in particular from the Titans, the first sons of the earth. I therefore call this metallic genus TITANIUM.
Martin Heinrich Klaproth. Original German edition, Beiträge Zur Chemischen Kenntniss Der Mineralkörper (1795), Vol. 1 , 244. English edition, translator not named, Analytical Essays Towards Promoting the Chemical Knowledge of Mineral Substances (1801), Vol. 1, 210. Klaproth's use of the term fossil associates his knowledge of the metal as from ore samples dug out of a mine.
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[About John Evershed] There is much in our medallist’s career which is a reminder of the scientific life of Sir William Huggins. They come from the same English neighbourhood and began as amateurs of the best kind. They both possess the same kind of scientific aptitude.
Address, presenting the Gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society to Evershed, as quoted in F.J.M. Stratton, 'John Evershed', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Nov 1957), 3, 40.
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A chess problem is genuine mathematics, but it is in some way “trivial” mathematics. However, ingenious and intricate, however original and surprising the moves, there is something essential lacking. Chess problems are unimportant. The best mathematics is serious as well as beautiful—“important” if you like, but the word is very ambiguous, and “serious” expresses what I mean much better.
'A Mathematician's Apology', in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), 2029.
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A government, at bottom, is nothing more than a gang of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior men ... Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent. Indeed, it would not be far wrong to describe the best as the common enemy of all decent citizens.
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A hot topic of late, expressed most notably in Bernie Siegel’s best-selling books, has emphasized the role of positive attitude in combating such serious diseases as cancer. From the depths of my skeptical and rationalist soul, I ask the Lord to protect me from California touchie-feeliedom.
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A Law of Nature, (Lex Naturalis) is a Precept, or general Rule, found out by Reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same; and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved
Leviathan, ch. 14 (1651).
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A man can do his best only by confidently seeking (and perpetually missing) an unattainable perfection.
In Forbes (1946), 57, 46.
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A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
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A problem is a chance for you to do your best.
…...
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A research laboratory jealous of its reputation has to develop less formal, more intimate ways of forming a corporate judgment of the work its people do. The best laboratories in university departments are well known for their searching, mutual questioning.
In Editorial, 'Is Science Really a Pack of Lies', Nature (1983), 303, 1257. As quoted and cited in Bradley P. Fuhrman, Jerry J. Zimmerman, Pediatric Critical Care (2011).
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A story about the Jack Spratts of medicine [was] told recently by Dr. Charles H. Best, co-discoverer of insulin. He had been invited to a conference of heart specialists in North America. On the eve of the meeting, out of respect for the fat-clogs-the-arteries theory, the delegates sat down to a special banquet served without fats. It was unpalatable but they all ate it as a duty. Next morning Best looked round the breakfast room and saw these same specialists—all in the 40-60 year old, coronary age group—happily tucking into eggs, bacon, buttered toast and coffee with cream.
'Objections To High-Fat Diets', Eat Fat And Grow Slim (1958), Ch. 3.
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A troubling question for those of us committed to the widest application of intelligence in the study and solution of the problems of men is whether a general understanding of the social sciences will be possible much longer. Many significant areas of these disciplines have already been removed by the advances of the past two decades beyond the reach of anyone who does not know mathematics; and the man of letters is increasingly finding, to his dismay, that the study of mankind proper is passing from his hands to those of technicians and specialists. The aesthetic effect is admittedly bad: we have given up the belletristic “essay on man” for the barbarisms of a technical vocabulary, or at best the forbidding elegance of mathematical syntax.
Opening paragraph of 'The Study of Man: Sociology Learns the Language of Mathematics' in Commentary (1 Sep 1952). Reprinted in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 2, 1294.
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After all, it is only the mediocre who are always at their best.
Likely a false attribution, although often seen but without citation. For a much earlier version (1904), with primary source, see the page for Max Beerbohm: “Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best.” Also of questionable originality, often seen but without citation, is W. Somerset Maugham: “Only a mediocre person is always at his best.” For example in John Peers, Gordon Bennett, 1,001 logical laws, accurate axioms,… (1979), 92.
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Algebra reverses the relative importance of the factors in ordinary language. It is essentially a written language, and it endeavors to exemplify in its written structures the patterns which it is its purpose to convey. The pattern of the marks on paper is a particular instance of the pattern to be conveyed to thought. The algebraic method is our best approach to the expression of necessity, by reason of its reduction of accident to the ghost-like character of the real variable.
In Science and Philosophy (1948), 116.
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All science is full of statements where you put your best face on your ignorance, where you say: … we know awfully little about this, but more or less irrespective of the stuff we don’t know about, we can make certain useful deductions.
From Assumption and Myth in Physical Theory (1967), 11.
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All the modern higher mathematics is based on a calculus of operations, on laws of thought. All mathematics, from the first, was so in reality; but the evolvers of the modern higher calculus have known that it is so. Therefore elementary teachers who, at the present day, persist in thinking about algebra and arithmetic as dealing with laws of number, and about geometry as dealing with laws of surface and solid content, are doing the best that in them lies to put their pupils on the wrong track for reaching in the future any true understanding of the higher algebras. Algebras deal not with laws of number, but with such laws of the human thinking machinery as have been discovered in the course of investigations on numbers. Plane geometry deals with such laws of thought as were discovered by men intent on finding out how to measure surface; and solid geometry with such additional laws of thought as were discovered when men began to extend geometry into three dimensions.
In Lectures on the Logic of Arithmetic (1903), Preface, 18-19.
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All your names I and my friend approve of or nearly all as to sense & expression, but I am frightened by their length & sound when compounded. As you will see I have taken deoxide and skaiode because they agree best with my natural standard East and West. I like Anode & Cathode better as to sound, but all to whom I have shewn them have supposed at first that by Anode I meant No way.
Letter (3 May 1834) to William Whewell, who coined the terms. In Frank A. J. L. James (ed.), The Correspondence of Michael Faraday (1993), Vol. 2, 181. Note: Here “No way” is presumably not an idiomatic exclamation, but a misinterpretation from the Greek prefix, -a “not”or “away from,” and hodos meaning “way.” The Greek ἄνοδος anodos means “way up” or “ascent.”
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Among the current discussions, the impact of new and sophisticated methods in the study of the past occupies an important place. The new 'scientific' or 'cliometric' history—born of the marriage contracted between historical problems and advanced statistical analysis, with economic theory as bridesmaid and the computer as best man—has made tremendous advances in the last generation.
Co-author with Geoffrey Rudolph Elton (1921-94), British historian. Which Road to the Past? Two Views of History (1983), 2.
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An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious—just dead wrong.
'Sunday Observer: Terminal Education', New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1980), 8.
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An Experiment, like every other event which takes place, is a natural phenomenon; but in a Scientific Experiment the circumstances are so arranged that the relations between a particular set of phenomena may be studied to the best advantage.
'General Considerations Concerning Scientific Apparatus', 1876. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 505.
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An intelligent patient, private or otherwise, to whom you have taken the trouble to explain the nature of the investigation, makes the best laboratory animal.
'Some of the ‘Do’s’ and ‘Do-Nots’ in Clinical Investigation,' Journal of Clinical Investigation (1944), 23, 921-26.
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An old writer says that there are four sorts of readers: “Sponges which attract all without distinguishing; Howre-glasses which receive and powre out as fast; Bagges which only retain the dregges of the spices and let the wine escape, and Sives which retaine the best onely.” A man wastes a great many years before he reaches the ‘sive’ stage.
Address for the Dedication of the New Building of the Boston Medical Library (12 Jan 1901). Printed as 'Books and Men', The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (17 Jan 1901), 144, No. 3, 60. [Presumably “Howre-glasses” refers to Hour-glasses. -Webmaster]
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And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I,show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness”' as by a boundary; not by something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my “beyond good and evil,” without goal, unless the joy of the circle itself is a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself-do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?—This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!
The Will to Power (Notes written 1883-1888), book 4, no. 1067. Trans. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale and ed. W. Kaufmann (1968), 549-50.
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And so the great truth, now a paradox, may become a commonplace, that man is greater than his surroundings, and that the production of a breed of men and women, even in our great cities, less prone to disease, and pain, more noble in aspect, more rational in habits, more exultant in the pure joy of living, is not only scientifically possible, but that even the partial fulfillment of this dream, if dream it be, is the most worthy object towards which the lover of his kind can devote the best energies of his life.
In 'The Breed of Man', The Nineteenth Century, (Oct 1900), 669, as collected in Martin Polley (ed.), The History of Sport in Britain, 1880-1914: Sport, Education, and Improvement (2004), Vol. 2, 181.
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Another error is a conceit that … the best has still prevailed and suppressed the rest: so as, if a man should begin the labor of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest for the multitude’s sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial, than to that which is substantial and profound: for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
Advancement of Learning, Book 1. Collected in The Works of Francis Bacon (1826), Vol 1, 36.
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Any artist or novelist would understand—some of us do not produce their best when directed. We expect the artist, the novelist and the composer to lead solitary lives, often working at home. While a few of these creative individuals exist in institutions or universities, the idea of a majority of established novelists or painters working at the “National Institute for Painting and Fine Art” or a university “Department of Creative Composition” seems mildly amusing. By contrast, alarm greets the idea of a creative scientist working at home. A lone scientist is as unusual as a solitary termite and regarded as irresponsible or worse.
Homage to Gala: The Life of an Independent Scholar (2000), 2.
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Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 265.
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Anything worth doing is worth doing twice, the first time quick and dirty and the second time the best way you can.
As quoted in Steven Chu and Charles H. Townes, 'Arthur Schawlow', Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (2003), Vol. 83, 201.
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Godfrey Harold Hardy quote “Languages die and mathematical ideas do not.”
background by Tom_Brown 6117, CC by 2.0 (source)
Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. “Immortality” may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 81.
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Arithmetic, as we shall see by and by, is overdone, in a certain sense, in our schools; just so far as the teaching is based upon the concrete, so far is it profitable; but when the book-makers begin to make it too abstract, as they very often do, it becomes a torture to both teacher and learners, or, at best, a branch of imaginary knowledge unconnected with real life.
From 'Introduction', Mathematical Teaching and its Modern Methods (1886), 10.
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Art thou the bird whom Man loves best,
The pious bird with the scarlet breast,
Our little English Robin;
The bird that comes about our doors
When autumn winds are sobbing?
From poem, 'The Redbreast and Butterfly', collected in The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth: Complete in One Volume (1828), 72.
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As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.
Endymion (1880), 156.
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As every circumstance relating to so capital a discovery as this (the greatest, perhaps, that has been made in the whole compass of philosophy, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton) cannot but give pleasure to all my readers, I shall endeavour to gratify them with the communication of a few particulars which I have from the best authority. The Doctor [Benjamin Franklin], after having published his method of verifying his hypothesis concerning the sameness of electricity with the matter lightning, was waiting for the erection of a spire in Philadelphia to carry his views into execution; not imagining that a pointed rod, of a moderate height, could answer the purpose; when it occurred to him, that, by means of a common kite, he could have a readier and better access to the regions of thunder than by any spire whatever. Preparing, therefore, a large silk handkerchief, and two cross sticks, of a proper length, on which to extend it, he took the opportunity of the first approaching thunder storm to take a walk into a field, in which there was a shed convenient for his purpose. But dreading the ridicule which too commonly attends unsuccessful attempts in science, he communicated his intended experiment to no body but his son, who assisted him in raising the kite.
The kite being raised, a considerable time elapsed before there was any appearance of its being electrified. One very promising cloud passed over it without any effect; when, at length, just as he was beginning to despair of his contrivance, he observed some loose threads of the hempen string to stand erect, and to avoid one another, just as if they had been suspended on a common conductor. Struck with this promising appearance, he inmmediately presented his knuckle to the key, and (let the reader judge of the exquisite pleasure he must have felt at that moment) the discovery was complete. He perceived a very evident electric spark. Others succeeded, even before the string was wet, so as to put the matter past all dispute, and when the rain had wetted the string, he collected electric fire very copiously. This happened in June 1752, a month after the electricians in France had verified the same theory, but before he had heard of any thing that they had done.
The History and Present State of Electricity, with Original Experiments (1767, 3rd ed. 1775), Vol. 1, 216-7.
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As I stood behind the coffin of my little son the other day, with my mind bent on anything but disputation, the officiating minister read, as part of his duty, the words, 'If the dead rise not again, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' I cannot tell you how inexpressibly they shocked me. Paul had neither wife nor child, or he must have known that his alternative involved a blasphemy against all that well best and noblest in human nature. I could have laughed with scorn. What! Because I am face to face with irreparable loss, because I have given back to the source from whence it came, the cause of a great happiness, still retaining through all my life the blessings which have sprung and will spring from that cause, I am to renounce my manhood, and, howling, grovel in bestiality? Why, the very apes know better, and if you shoot their young, the poor brutes grieve their grief out and do not immediately seek distraction in a gorge.
Letter to Charles Kingsley (23 Sep 1860). In L. Huxley, The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1903), Vol. 1, 318.
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As never before, the work of the engineer is basic to the kind of society to which our best efforts are committed. Whether it be city planning, improved health care in modern facilities, safer and more efficient transportation, new techniques of communication, or better ways to control pollution and dispose of wastes, the role of the engineer—his initiative, creative ability, and hard work—is at the root of social progress.
Remarks for National Engineers Week (1971). As quoted in Consulting Engineer (1971), 36, 18.
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As science is more and more subject to grave misuse as well as to use for human benefit it has also become the scientist's responsibility to become aware of the social relations and applications of his subject, and to exert his influence in such a direction as will result in the best applications of the findings in his own and related fields. Thus he must help in educating the public, in the broad sense, and this means first educating himself, not only in science but in regard to the great issues confronting mankind today.
Message to University Students Studying Science', Kagaku Asahi 11, no. 6 (1951), 28-29. Quoted in Elof Axel Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society: The Life and Work of H. J. Muller (1981), 371.
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As to giving credit to whom credit is due, rest assured the best way to do good to one’s-self is to do justice to others. There is plenty for everybody in science, and more than can be consumed in our time. One may get a fair name by suppressing references, but the Jewish maxim is true, “He who seeks a name loses fame.”
Postscript to a note to George Wilson (1844). As quoted in George Wilson and Archibald Geikie, Memoir of Edward Forbes F.R.S. (1861), 366.
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Astronomy is perhaps the science whose discoveries owe least to chance, in which human understanding appears in its whole magnitude, and through which man can best learn how small he is.
Aphorism 23 in Notebook C (1772-1773), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 35.
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At the outset do not be worried about this big question—Truth. It is a very simple matter if each one of you starts with the desire to get as much as possible. No human being is constituted to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and even the best of men must be content with fragments, with partial glimpses, never the full fruition. In this unsatisfied quest the attitude of mind, the desire, the thirst—a thirst that from the soul must arise!—the fervent longing, are the be-all and the end-all.
'The Student Life' (1905). In G. L. Keynes (ed.), Selected Writings of Sir William Osler (1951), 172.
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At the sea shore you pick up a pebble, fashioned after a law of nature, in the exact form that best resists pressure, and worn as smooth as glass. It is so perfect that you take it as a keepsake. But could you know its history from the time when a rough fragment of rock fell from the overhanging cliff into the sea, to be taken possession of by the under currents, and dragged from one ocean to another, perhaps around the world, for a hundred years, until in reduced and perfect form it was cast upon the beach as you find it, you would have a fit illustration of what many principles, now in familiar use, have endured, thus tried, tortured and fashioned during the ages.
From Address (1 Aug 1875), 'The Growth of Principles' at Saratoga. Collected in William L. Snyder (ed.), Great Speeches by Great Lawyers: A Collection of Arguments and Speeches (1901), 246.
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At their best, at their most creative, science and engineering are attributes of liberty—noble expressions of man’s God-given right to investigate and explore the universe without fear of social or political or religious reprisals.
From 'Sarnoff Honored by I.R.E.', in Department of Information of the Radio Corporation of America, Radio Age: Research, Manufacturing, Communications, Broadcasting (Apr 1953), 12, No. 2, 32.
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Because intelligence is our own most distinctive feature, we may incline to ascribe superior intelligence to the basic primate plan, or to the basic plan of the mammals in general, but this point requires some careful consideration. There is no question at all that most mammals of today are more intelligent than most reptiles of today. I am not going to try to define intelligence or to argue with those who deny thought or consciousness to any animal except man. It seems both common and scientific sense to admit that ability to learn, modification of action according to the situation, and other observable elements of behavior in animals reflect their degrees of intelligence and permit us, if only roughly, to compare these degrees. In spite of all difficulties and all the qualifications with which the expert (quite properly) hedges his conclusions, it also seems sensible to conclude that by and large an animal is likely to be more intelligent if it has a larger brain at a given body size and especially if its brain shows greater development of those areas and structures best developed in our own brains. After all, we know we are intelligent, even though we wish we were more so.
In The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 78.
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Brevity in writing is the best insurance for its perusal.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 16.
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Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words are the best of all.
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But if the two countries or governments are at war, the men of science are not. That would, indeed be a civil war of the worst description: we should rather, through the instrumentality of the men of science soften the asperities of national hostility.
Davy's remarks to Thomas Poole on accepting Napoleon's prize for the best experiment on Galvanism.
Quoted in Gavin de Beer, The Sciences were Never at War (1960), 204.
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But the best demonstration by far is experience, if it go not beyond the actual experiment.
From Aphorism 70, Novum Organum, Book I (1620). Collected in James Spedding (ed.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1858), Vol. 4, 70.
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But when science, passing beyond its own limits, assumes to take the place of theology, and sets up its own conception of the order of Nature as a sufficient account of its cause, it is invading a province of thought to which it has no claim, and not unreasonably provokes the hostility of its best friends.
Presidential Address (14 Aug 1872) to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Brighton, reprinted in The Journal of the Society of Arts (16 Aug 1872), 20, No. 1030, 799, penultimate sentence.
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Cat-Ideas and Mouse-Ideas. We can never get rid of mouse-ideas completely, they keep turning up again and again, and nibble, nibble—no matter how often we drive them off. The best way to keep them down is to have a few good strong cat-ideas which will embrace them and ensure their not reappearing till they do so in another shape.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 216.
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Committees are dangerous things that need most careful watching. I believe that a research committee can do one useful thing and one only. It can find the workers best fitted to attack a particular problem, bring them together, give them the facilities they need, and leave them to get on with the work. It can review progress from time to time, and make adjustments; but if it tries to do more, it will do harm.
Attributed.
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Common sense is science exactly in so far as it fulfills the ideal of common sense; that is, sees facts as they are, or at any rate, without the distortion of prejudice, and reasons from them in accordance with the dictates of sound judgment. And science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
The Crayfish: an Introduction to the Study of Zoölogy (1880), 2. Excerpted in Popular Science (Apr 1880), 16, 789.
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Common sense, (which, in truth, is very uncommon) is the best sense I know of: abide by it; it will counsel you best.
From Letter (27 Sep 1748, O.S.) to his son, collected in Letters Written by Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope (1777), Vol. 2, 65.
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Counting stars by candlelight all are dim but one is bright; the spiral light of Venus rising first and shining best, from the northwest corner of a brand-new crescent moon crickets and cicadas sing a rare and different tune.
Terrapin Station
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Dermatology is the best specialty. The patient never dies and never gets well.
Anonymous
J. Dantith and A. Isaacs, Medical Quotes: A Thematic Dictionary (1989)
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Discoveries that are anticipated are seldom the most valuable. … It’s the scientist free to pilot his vessel across hidden shoals into open seas who gives the best value.
From 'Why Our Scientific Discoveries Need to Surprise Us', in The Globe and Mail (1 Oct 2011).
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Education consists in co-operating with what is already inside a child's mind … The best way to learn geometry is to follow the road which the human race originally followed: Do things, make things, notice things, arrange things, and only then reason about things.
In Mathematician's Delight (1943), 27.
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Embryology furnishes … the best measure of the true affinities existing between animals.
In 'Essay on Classification', Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America (1857), Pt. 1, 85.
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Embryology furnishes, also, the best measure of true affinities existing between animals.
Essay on Classification (1857). Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America (1857), Vol. I, 85.
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Engineering is the science of economy, of conserving the energy, kinetic and potential, provided and stored up by nature for the use of man. It is the business of engineering to utilize this energy to the best advantage, so that there may be the least possible waste.
(1908). Quoted, without source, in Appendix A, 'Some Definitions of Engineering' in Theodore Jesse Hoover and John Charles Lounsbury Fish, The Engineering Profession (1941), 463.
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Equations are Expressions of Arithmetical Computation, and properly have no place in Geometry, except as far as Quantities truly Geometrical (that is, Lines, Surfaces, Solids, and Proportions) may be said to be some equal to others. Multiplications, Divisions, and such sort of Computations, are newly received into Geometry, and that unwarily, and contrary to the first Design of this Science. For whosoever considers the Construction of a Problem by a right Line and a Circle, found out by the first Geometricians, will easily perceive that Geometry was invented that we might expeditiously avoid, by drawing Lines, the Tediousness of Computation. Therefore these two Sciences ought not to be confounded. The Ancients did so industriously distinguish them from one another, that they never introduced Arithmetical Terms into Geometry. And the Moderns, by confounding both, have lost the Simplicity in which all the Elegance of Geometry consists. Wherefore that is Arithmetically more simple which is determined by the more simple Equation, but that is Geometrically more simple which is determined by the more simple drawing of Lines; and in Geometry, that ought to be reckoned best which is geometrically most simple.
In 'On the Linear Construction of Equations', Universal Arithmetic (1769), Vol. 2, 470.
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Essentially only one thing in life interests us: our psychical constitution, the mechanism of which was and is wrapped in darkness. All human resources, art, religion, literature, philosophy and historical sciences, all of them join in bringing lights in this darkness. But man has still another powerful resource: natural science with its strictly objective methods. This science, as we all know, is making huge progress every day. The facts and considerations which I have placed before you at the end of my lecture are one out of numerous attempts to employ a consistent, purely scientific method of thinking in the study of the mechanism of the highest manifestations of life in the dog, the representative of the animal kingdom that is man's best friend.
'Physiology of Digestion', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1904). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967), 134
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Even happiness itself may become habitual. There is a habit of looking at the bright side of things, and also of looking at the dark side. Dr. Johnson has said that the habit of looking at the best side of a thing is worth more to a man than a thousand pounds a year. And we possess the power, to a great extent, of so exercising the will as to direct the thoughts upon objects calculated to yield happiness and improvement rather than their opposites.
In Self-help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859, 1861), 405-406.
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Even the humblest creature has to know how to react to the difference between food and toxin if it's to survive. ... Life and some level of intelligent behavior—discerning and doing what's best for one's survival—appear to go hand in hand.
In Life Everywhere: the Maverick Science of Astrobiology (2002), 140.
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Every consideration that did not relate to “what is best for the patient” was dismissed. This was Sir William [Gull]’s professional axiom. … But the carrying of it out not unfrequently involved him in difficulty, and led occasionally to his being misunderstood. … He would frequently refuse to repeat a visit or consultation on the ground that he wished the sufferer to feel that it was unnecessary.
In Memoir, as Editor, prefacing Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xviii.
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Every man has some forte something he can do better than he can do anything else. Many men, however, never find the job they are best fitted for. And often this is because they do not think enough. Too many men drift lazily into any job, suited or unsuited for them; and when they don’t get along well they blame everybody and everything except themselves.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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Every writer must reconcile, as best he may, the conflicting claims of consistency and variety, of rigour in detail and elegance in the whole. The present author humbly confesses that, to him, geometry is nothing at all, if not a branch of art.
Concluding remark in preface to Treatise on Algebraic Plane Curves (1931), x.
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Everyone doing his best is not the answer. It is necessary that people know what to do.
In Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position (1982), ii. A similar quote often attributed to Deming, but without citation, is “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”
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Evolution advances, not by a priori design, but by the selection of what works best out of whatever choices offer. We are the products of editing, rather than of authorship.
In 'The Origin of Optical Activity', Annals of the New York Academy of Science (1957), 69, 367.
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Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.
Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words (1865), 97.
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Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
From Address (7 Sep 1903), at the State Fair, Syracuse, N.Y., collected in Addresses and Presidential Messages of Theodore Roosevelt, 1902-1904 (1907), Vol. 1, 241.
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Fire is the best of servants, but what a master!
In Past and Present (1843, 1872), 78.
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Focusing on the science-technology relationship may strike some as strange, because conventional wisdom views this relationship as an unproblematic given. … Technology is seen as being, at best, applied science … the conventional view perceives science as clearly preceding and founding technology. … Recent studies in the history of technology have begun to challenge this assumed dependency of technology on science. … But the conventional view of science is persistent.
In 'Technology and Science', Stephen V. Monsma (ed.), Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective (1986), 78-79.
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For it is not cell nuclei, not even individual chromosomes, but certain parts of certain chromosomes from certain cells that must be isolated and collected in enormous quantities for analysis; that would be the precondition for placing the chemist in such a position as would allow him to analyse [the hereditary material] more minutely than [can] the morphologists ... For the morphology of the nucleus has reference at the very least to the gearing of the clock, but at best the chemistry of the nucleus refers only to the metal from which the gears are formed.
Ergebnisse über die Konstitution der chromatischen Substam des Zellkems (1904), 123. Translated in Robert Olby, The Path to the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1994), xx.
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For my confirmation, I didn't get a watch and my first pair of long pants, like most Lutheran boys. I got a telescope. My mother thought it would make the best gift.
Quoted in 'Reach For The Stars', Time (17 Feb 1958), 71, 22.
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For nearly twelve years I travelled and lived mostly among uncivilised or completely savage races, and I became convinced that they all possessed good qualities, some of them in a very remarkable degree, and that in all the great characteristics of humanity they are wonderfully like ourselves. Some, indeed, among the brown Polynesians especially, are declared by numerous independent and unprejudiced observers, to be physically, mentally, and intellectually our equals, if not our superiors; and it has always seemed to me one of the disgraces of our civilisation that these fine people have not in a single case been protected from contamination by the vices and follies of our more degraded classes, and allowed to develope their own social and political organislll under the advice of some of our best and wisest men and the protection of our world-wide power. That would have been indeed a worthy trophy of our civilisation. What we have actually done, and left undone, resulting in the degradation and lingering extermination of so fine a people, is one of the most pathetic of its tragedies.
In 'The Native Problem in South Africa and Elsewhere', Independent Review (1906), 11, 182.
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For the sick it is important to have the best.
Examination for Inquiry on Scutari (20 Feb 1855). In Great Britain Parliament, Report upon the State of the Hospitals of the British Army in Crimea and Scutari, House of Commons Papers (1855), Vol. 33 of Sess 1854-55, 343.
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For those who do not think, it is best at least to rearrange their prejudices once in a while.
As quoted in Forbes (1948). 42.
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From our best qualities come our worst. From our urge to pull together comes our tendency to pull apart. From our devotion to higher good comes our propensity to the foulest atrocities. From out commitment to ideals come our excuse to hate. Since the beginning of history, we have been blinded by evil’s ability to don a selfless disguise. We have failed to see that our finest qualities often lead us to the actions we most abhor—murder, torture, genocide, and war.
In 'Who is Lucifer?', The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (1997), 3.
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Gardner writes about various kinds of cranks with the conscious superiority of the scientist…. He asserts that the scientist, unlike the crank, does his best to remain open-minded, so how can he be so sure that no sane person has ever seen a flying saucer…? … A.J. Ayer once remarked wryly “I wish I was as certain of anything as he seems to be about everything”.
In The Quest For Wilhelm Reich (1981), 2.
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Genius always gives its best at first, prudence at last.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 105.
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Gentlemen and ladies, this is ordinary alcohol, sometimes called ethanol; it is found in all fermented beverages. As you well know, it is considered by many to be poisonous, a belief in which I do not concur. If we subtract from it one CH2-group we arrive at this colorless liquid, which you see in this bottle. It is sometimes called methanol or wood alcohol. It is certainly more toxic than the ethanol we have just seen. Its formula is CH3OH. If, from this, we subtract the CH2-group, we arrive at a third colorless liquid, the final member of this homologous series. This compound is hydrogen hydroxide, best known as water. It is the most poisonous of all.
In Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 189.
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Give me the third best technology. The second best won’t be ready in time. The best will never be ready.
As quoted in a speech by an unnamed executive of General Electric, excerpted in Richard Dowis, The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write It, How to Deliver It (2000), 150. By
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Has anyone ever given credit to the Black Death for the Renaissance—in other words, for modern civilization? … [It] exterminated such huge masses of the European proletariat that the average intelligence and enterprise of the race were greatly lifted, and that this purged and improved society suddenly functioned splendidly. … The best brains of the time, thus suddenly emancipated, began to function freely and magnificently. There ensued what we call the Renaissance.
From American Mercury (Jun 1924), 188-189. Collected in 'Eugenic Note', A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 376-377.
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He is the best Physician in whom the Patient has the greatest Confidence.
The Reflector: Representing Human Affairs As They Are (1750). In Allan Ingram, Patterns of Madness in the Eighteenth Century (1998), 69.
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He who designs an unsafe structure or an inoperative machine is a bad Engineer; he who designs them so that they are safe and operative, but needlessly expensive, is a poor Engineer, and … he who does the best work at lowest cost sooner or later stands at the top of his profession.
From Address on 'Industrial Engineering' at Purdue University (24 Feb 1905). Reprinted by Yale & Towne Mfg Co of New York and Stamford, Conn. for the use of students in its works.
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He who knows what best to omit is the best teacher.
In Otto Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology (1973), 220.
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He who sees things grow from the beginning will have the best view of them.
Aristotle
Quoted in J. Lima-de-Faria (ed.), Historical Atlas of Crystallography (1990), vi.
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He will manage the cure best who has foreseen what is to happen from the present state of matters.
In 'The Book of Prognostics', Part 1 (400 BC), as translated by Francis Adams, The Genuine Works of Hippocrates (1849), Vol. 1, 113. Also seen translated as “He will manage the cure best who foresees what is to happen from the present condition of the patient.”
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He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1733).
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Here and elsewhere we shall not obtain the best insight into things until we actually see them growing from the beginning.
Aristotle
In Politics as quoted in James R. Newman, The World of Mathematics (1957). Vol. 1, 170.
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Edwin Grant Conklin quote: Heredity is to-day the central problem of biology. This problem may be approached from many sides—tha
Heredity is to-day the central problem of biology. This problem may be approached from many sides—that of the breeder, the experimenter, the statistician, the physiologist, the embryologist, the cytologist—but the mechanism of heredity can be studied best by the investigation of the germ cells and their development.
From Address of the vice-president and chairman of Section F, Zoology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Chicago Meeting (1907-8). Published in 'The Mechanism of Heredity', Science (17 Jan 1908), 27, No. 691, 89-90.
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Hudson is at his best about the greatest living English stylist ... Besides this he is the finest living observer, and the greatest living lover of bird and animal life, and of Nature in her moods.
Letter to A.A. Knopf, 4 Jan 1915.
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Hyper-selectionism has been with us for a long time in various guises; for it represents the late nineteenth century’s scientific version of the myth of natural harmony–all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds (all structures well designed for a definite purpose in this case). It is, indeed, the vision of foolish Dr. Pangloss, so vividly satirized by Voltaire in Candide–the world is not necessarily good, but it is the best we could possibly have.
…...
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I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.
Letter to E.B. Aveling (13 Oct 1880).
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I am of opinion, then, ... that, if there is any circumstance thoroughly established in geology, it is, that the crust of our globe has been subjected to a great and sudden revolution, the epoch of which cannot be dated much farther back than five or six thousand years ago; that this revolution had buried all the countries which were before inhabited by men and by the other animals that are now best known; that the same revolution had laid dry the bed of the last ocean, which now forms all the countries at present inhabited; that the small number of individuals of men and other animals that escaped from the effects of that great revolution, have since propagated and spread over the lands then newly laid dry; and consequently, that the human race has only resumed a progressive state of improvement since that epoch, by forming established societies, raising monuments, collecting natural facts, and constructing systems of science and of learning.
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 171-2.
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I appeal to the contemptible speech made lately by Sir Robert Peel to an applauding House of Commons. 'Orders of merit,' said he, 'were the proper rewards of the military' (the desolators of the world in all ages). 'Men of science are better left to the applause of their own hearts.' Most learned Legislator! Most liberal cotton-spinner! Was your title the proper reward of military prowess? Pity you hold not the dungeon-keys of an English Inquisition! Perhaps Science, like creeds, would flourish best under a little persecution.
Chemical Recreations (1834), 232.
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I beg to present Columbus as a man of science and a man of faith. As a scientist, considering the time in which he lived, he eminently deserves our respect. Both in theory and in practice he was one of the best geographers and cosmographers of the age.
Address, in Chicago (12 Oct 1892). In E.S. Werner (ed.), Werner's Readings and Recitations (1908), 71.
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I believe the best test of a model is how well can the modeller answer the questions, ‘What do you know now that you did not know before?’ and ‘How can you find out if it is true?’
In Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: the Scientific Search for the Soul (1995), 177.
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I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.
In 'The Science Of Deduction', A Study In Scarlet (1887, 1904), 15-16.
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I could almost wish, at this point, that I were in the habit of expressing myself in theological terms, for if I were, I might be able to compress my entire thesis into a sentence. All knowledge of every variety (I might say) is in the mind of God—and the human intellect, even the best, in trying to pluck it forth can but “see through a glass, darkly.”
In Asimov on Physics (1976), 146. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 279.
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I do ... humbly conceive (tho' some possibly may think there is too much notice taken of such a trivial thing as a rotten Shell, yet) that Men do generally rally too much slight and pass over without regard these Records of Antiquity which Nature have left as Monuments and Hieroglyphick Characters of preceding Transactions in the like duration or Transactions of the Body of the Earth, which are infinitely more evident and certain tokens than any thing of Antiquity that can be fetched out of Coins or Medals, or any other way yet known, since the best of those ways may be counterfeited or made by Art and Design, as may also Books, Manuscripts and Inscriptions, as all the Learned are now sufficiently satisfied, has often been actually practised; but those Characters are not to be Counterfeited by all the Craft in the World, nor can they be doubted to be, what they appear, by anyone that will impartially examine the true appearances of them: And tho' it must be granted, that it is very difficult to read them, and to raise a Chronology out of them, and to state the intervalls of the Times wherein such, or such Catastrophies and Mutations have happened; yet 'tis not impossible, but that, by the help of those joined to ' other means and assistances of Information, much may be done even in that part of Information also.
Lectures and Discourses of Earthquakes (1668). In The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke, containing his Cutlerian Lectures and other Discourses read at the Meetings of the Illustrious Royal Society (1705), 411.
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I do not intend to go deeply into the question how far mathematical studies, as the representatives of conscious logical reasoning, should take a more important place in school education. But it is, in reality, one of the questions of the day. In proportion as the range of science extends, its system and organization must be improved, and it must inevitably come about that individual students will find themselves compelled to go through a stricter course of training than grammar is in a position to supply. What strikes me in my own experience with students who pass from our classical schools to scientific and medical studies, is first, a certain laxity in the application of strictly universal laws. The grammatical rules, in which they have been exercised, are for the most part followed by long lists of exceptions; accordingly they are not in the habit of relying implicitly on the certainty of a legitimate deduction from a strictly universal law. Secondly, I find them for the most part too much inclined to trust to authority, even in cases where they might form an independent judgment. In fact, in philological studies, inasmuch as it is seldom possible to take in the whole of the premises at a glance, and inasmuch as the decision of disputed questions often depends on an aesthetic feeling for beauty of expression, or for the genius of the language, attainable only by long training, it must often happen that the student is referred to authorities even by the best teachers. Both faults are traceable to certain indolence and vagueness of thought, the sad effects of which are not confined to subsequent scientific studies. But certainly the best remedy for both is to be found in mathematics, where there is absolute certainty in the reasoning, and no authority is recognized but that of one’s own intelligence.
In 'On the Relation of Natural Science to Science in general', Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects, translated by E. Atkinson (1900), 25-26.
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I do not maintain that the chief value of the study of arithmetic consists in the lessons of morality that arise from this study. I claim only that, to be impressed from day to day, that there is something that is right as an answer to the questions with which one is able to grapple, and that there is a wrong answer—that there are ways in which the right answer can be established as right, that these ways automatically reject error and slovenliness, and that the learner is able himself to manipulate these ways and to arrive at the establishment of the true as opposed to the untrue, this relentless hewing to the line and stopping at the line, must color distinctly the thought life of the pupil with more than a tinge of morality. … To be neighborly with truth, to feel one’s self somewhat facile in ways of recognizing and establishing what is right, what is correct, to find the wrong persistently and unfailingly rejected as of no value, to feel that one can apply these ways for himself, that one can think and work independently, have a real, a positive, and a purifying effect upon moral character. They are the quiet, steady undertones of the work that always appeal to the learner for the sanction of his best judgment, and these are the really significant matters in school work. It is not the noise and bluster, not even the dramatics or the polemics from the teacher’s desk, that abide longest and leave the deepest and stablest imprint upon character. It is these still, small voices that speak unmistakably for the right and against the wrong and the erroneous that really form human character. When the school subjects are arranged on the basis of the degree to which they contribute to the moral upbuilding of human character good arithmetic will be well up the list.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 18. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 69.
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I don’t believe in evolution, like people believe in God … Science and technology are not advanced by people who believe, but by people who don’t know but are doing their best to find out.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 41.
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I fancy you give me credit for being a more systematic sort of cove than I really am in the matter of limits of significance. What would actually happen would be that I should make out Pt (normal) and say to myself that would be about 50:1; pretty good but as it may not be normal we'd best not be too certain, or 100:1; even allowing that it may not be normal it seems good enough and whether one would be content with that or would require further work would depend on the importance of the conclusion and the difficulty of obtaining suitable experience.
Letter to E. S. Pearson, 18 May 1929. E. S. Pearson, '"Student" as Statistician', Biometrika, 1939, 30, 244.
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I feel very strongly indeed that a Cambridge education for our scientists should include some contact with the humanistic side. The gift of expression is important to them as scientists; the best research is wasted when it is extremely difficult to discover what it is all about ... It is even more important when scientists are called upon to play their part in the world of affairs, as is happening to an increasing extent.
From essay in Thomas Rice Henn, The Apple and the Spectroscope: Being Lectures on Poetry Designed (in the Main) for Science Students (1951), 142.
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I found the best ideas usually came, not when one was actively striving for them, but when one was in a more relaxed state… I used to take long solitary walks on Sundays, during which I tended to review the current situation in a leisurely way. Such occasions often proved fruitful, even though (or perhaps, because) the primary purpose of the walk was relaxation and not research.
'Methods in Theoretical Physics', From A Life of Physics: Evening Lectures at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. A Special Supplement of the IAEA Bulletin (1968), 24.
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I have accumulated a wealth of knowledge in innumerable spheres and enjoyed it as an always ready instrument for exercising the mind and penetrating further and further. Best of all, mine has been a life of loving and being loved. What a tragedy that all this will disappear with the used-up body!
In and Out of the Ivory Tower (1960), 311.
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I have made many mistakes myself; in learning the anatomy of the eye I dare say, I have spoiled a hatfull; the best surgeon, like the best general, is he who makes the fewest mistakes.
Quoted in James Anthony Froude, John Tulloch and Thomas Carlyle, Fraser's Magazine (Nov 1862), 66, 574.
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I have procured air [oxygen] ... between five and six times as good as the best common air that I have ever met with.
Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air (1775), Vol. 2, 48.
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I have to keep going, as there are always people on my track. I have to publish my present work as rapidly as possible in order to keep in the race. The best sprinters in this road of investigation are Becquerel and the Curies...
Letter to his mother (5 Jan1902). Quoted in A. S. Eve, Rutherford: Being the Life and Letters of the Rt. Hon. Lord Rutherford (1939), 80. In Laurie M. Brown, Abraham Pais and A. B. Pippard, Twentieth Century Physics (1995), 58.
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I knew, however, that it would cost ten times what I had available in order to build a molecular beam machine. I decided to follow a byway, rather than the highway. It is a procedure I have subsequently recommended to beginning scientists in this country, where research strategy is best modelled on that used by Wolfe at the Plains of Abraham.
(British General James Wolfe defeated the French defending Quebec in 1759 after scaling a cliff for a surprise attack.)
'A Scientist and the World He Lives In', Speech to the Empire Club of Canada (27 Nov 1986) in C. Frank Turner and Tim Dickson (eds.), The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1986-1987 (1987), 149-161.
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I love to race the best people in the world and the fastest people in the world.
…...
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I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances. … After we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, … we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 89.
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I shall collect plants and fossils, and with the best of instruments make astronomic observations. Yet this is not the main purpose of my journey. I shall endeavor to find out how nature's forces act upon one another, and in what manner the geographic environment exerts its influence on animals and plants. In short, I must find out about the harmony in nature.
Letter to Karl Freiesleben (Jun 1799). In Helmut de Terra, Humboldt: The Life and Times of Alexander van Humboldt 1769-1859 (1955), 87.
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I speak twelve languages—English is the bestest.
As quoted in Robin Wilson and Jeremy Gray, Mathematical Conversations: Selections from The Mathematical Intelligencer (2000, 2001), 40.
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I submit a body of facts which cannot be invalidated. My opinions may be doubted, denied, or approved, according as they conflict or agree with the opinions of each individual who may read them; but their worth will be best determined by the foundation on which they rest—the incontrovertible facts.
Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion (1833), Preface.
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I suggest that the best geologist is he who has seen most rocks.
The Granite Controversy: Geological Addresses Illustrating the Evolution of a Disputant (1957), 3.
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I tell them if they will occupy themselves with the study of mathematics they will find in it the best remedy against the lusts of the flesh.
The Magic Mountain (1924, 1965), 417.
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I tell [medical students] that they are the luckiest persons on earth to be in medical school, and to forget all this worry about H.M.O.’s and keep your eye on helping the patient. It’s the best time ever to be a doctor because you can heal and treat conditions that were untreatable even a couple of years ago.
From Cornelia Dean, 'A Conversation with Joseph E. Murray', New York Times (25 Sep 2001), F5.
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I think a strong claim can be made that the process of scientific discovery may be regarded as a form of art. This is best seen in the theoretical aspects of Physical Science. The mathematical theorist builds up on certain assumptions and according to well understood logical rules, step by step, a stately edifice, while his imaginative power brings out clearly the hidden relations between its parts. A well constructed theory is in some respects undoubtedly an artistic production. A fine example is the famous Kinetic Theory of Maxwell. ... The theory of relativity by Einstein, quite apart from any question of its validity, cannot but be regarded as a magnificent work of art.
Responding to the toast, 'Science!' at the Royal Academy of the Arts in 1932.)
Quoted in Lawrence Badash, 'Ernest Rutherford and Theoretical Physics,' in Robert Kargon and Peter Achinstein (eds.) Kelvin's Baltimore Lectures and Modern Theoretical Physics: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives (1987), 352.
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I think equation guessing might be the best method to proceed to obtain the laws for the part of physics which is presently unknown.
In his Nobel Prize Lecture (11 Dec 1965), 'The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics'. Collected in Stig Lundqvist, Nobel Lectures: Physics, 1963-1970 (1998), 177.
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I think this case will be remembered because it is the first case of this sort since we stopped trying people in America for witchcraft, because here we have done our best to turn back the tide that has sought to force itself upon this modern world, of testing every fact in science by a religious dictum.
Final remarks to the Court after the jury verdict was read at the Scopes Monkey Trial Eighth day's proceedings (21 Jul 1925) in John Thomas Scopes, The World's Most Famous Court Trial: Tennessee Evolution Case: a Complete Stenographic Report of the Famous Court Test of the Tennessee Anti-Evolution Act, at Dayton, July 10 to 21, 1925, Including Speeches and Arguments of Attorneys (1925), 316.
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I think we are living in a new time. I think that the ways of working when there was not the current widespread questioning of what science does are no longer applicable. Besides, there is a difference between the sort of research you do when you’re developing something for the first time and the sort of thing you have to do to make sure it continues to work—and the two different sorts of research are done best by different sorts of people. And, just as with basic science, one needs confirmatory experiments. One can’t just have one group saying “yes they’re safe, yes they’re safe, take our word for it, we made them and we know they’re safe”. Someone else, quite independent, needs to take a look, do the confirmatory experiment. Duplication in this case can do nothing but good.
From interview with Graham Chedd, 'The Lady Gets Her Way', New Scientist (5 Jul 1973), 59, No. 853, 16.
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I was at my best at a little past forty, when I was a professor at Oxford.
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 148.
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I was suffering from a sharp attack of intermittent fever, and every day during the cold and succeeding hot fits had to lie down for several hours, during which time I had nothing to do but to think over any subjects then particularly interesting me. One day something brought to my recollection Malthus's 'Principles of Population', which I had read about twelve years before. I thought of his clear exposition of 'the positive checks to increase'—disease, accidents, war, and famine—which keep down the population of savage races to so much lower an average than that of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me that these causes or their equivalents are continually acting in the case of animals also; and as animals usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, the destruction every year from these causes must be enormous in order to keep down the numbers of each species, since they evidently do not increase regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world would long ago have been densely crowded with those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking over the enormous and constant destruction which this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live? The answer was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped; from enemies, the strongest, swiftest, or the most cunning; from famine, the best hunters or those with the best digestion; and so on. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that this self-acting process would necessarily improve the race, because in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain—that is, the fittest would survive.
[The phrase 'survival of the fittest,' suggested by the writings of Thomas Robert Malthus, was expressed in those words by Herbert Spencer in 1865. Wallace saw the term in correspondence from Charles Darwin the following year, 1866. However, Wallace did not publish anything on his use of the expression until very much later, and his recollection is likely flawed.]
My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions (1905), Vol. 1, 361-362, or in reprint (2004), 190.
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I was unable to devote myself to the learning of this al-jabr [algebra] and the continued concentration upon it, because of obstacles in the vagaries of Time which hindered me; for we have been deprived of all the people of knowledge save for a group, small in number, with many troubles, whose concern in life is to snatch the opportunity, when Time is asleep, to devote themselves meanwhile to the investigation and perfection of a science; for the majority of people who imitate philosophers confuse the true with the false, and they do nothing but deceive and pretend knowledge, and they do not use what they know of the sciences except for base and material purposes; and if they see a certain person seeking for the right and preferring the truth, doing his best to refute the false and untrue and leaving aside hypocrisy and deceit, they make a fool of him and mock him.
A. P. Youschkevitch and B. A. Rosenfeld, 'Al-Khayyami', in C. C. Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1973), Vol. 7, 324.
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I will build a motor car for the great multitude … constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise … so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one—and enjoy with his family the blessing of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.
(1909). In My Life and Work (1922), 73.
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I would teach the world that science is the best way to understand the world, and that for any set of observations, there is only one correct explanation. Also, science is value-free, as it explains the world as it is. Ethical issues arise only when science is applied to technology – from medicine to industry.
Response to question “What is the one thing everyone should learn about science?” in 'Life Lessons' The Guardian (7 Apr 2005).
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Ideas are elusive, slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away.
As quoted, without citation, in Cleophus Jackson, Reprogram Your Mind for Success and Happiness (2001), 150.
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If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
…...
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If my impressions are correct, our educational planing mill cuts down all the knots of genius, and reduces the best of the men who go through it to much the same standard.
The Reminiscences of an Astronomer (1903), 75.
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If popular medicine gave the people wisdom as well as knowledge, it would be the best protection for scientific and well-trained physicians.
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 577.
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If the Humours of the Eye by old Age decay, so as by shrinking to make the Cornea and Coat of the Crystalline Humour grow flatter than before, the Light will not be refracted enough, and for want of a sufficient Refraction will not converge to the bottom of the Eye but to some place beyond it, and by consequence paint in the bottom of the Eye a confused Picture, and according to the Indistinctuess of this Picture the Object will appear confused. This is the reason of the decay of sight in old Men, and shews why their Sight is mended by Spectacles. For those Convex glasses supply the defect of plumpness in the Eye, and by increasing the Refraction make the rays converge sooner, so as to convene distinctly at the bottom of the Eye if the Glass have a due degree of convexity. And the contrary happens in short-sighted Men whose Eyes are too plump. For the Refraction being now too great, the Rays converge and convene in the Eyes before they come at the bottom; and therefore the Picture made in the bottom and the Vision caused thereby will not be distinct, unless the Object be brought so near the Eye as that the place where the converging Rays convene may be removed to the bottom, or that the plumpness of the Eye be taken off and the Refractions diminished by a Concave-glass of a due degree of Concavity, or lastly that by Age the Eye grow flatter till it come to a due Figure: For short-sighted Men see remote Objects best in Old Age, and therefore they are accounted to have the most lasting Eyes.
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 1, Axiom VII, 10-11.
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If the national park idea is, as Lord Bryce suggested, the best idea America ever had, wilderness preservation is the highest refinement of that idea.
In magazine article, 'It All Began with Conservation', Smithsonian (Apr 1990), 21, No. 1, 34-43. Collected in Wallace Stegner and Page Stegner (ed.), Marking the Sparrow’s Fall: The Making of the American West (1998, 1999), 131.
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If you advertise to tell lies, it will ruin you, but if you advertise to tell the public the truth, and particularly to give information, it will bring you success. I learned early that to tell a man how best to use tires, and to make him want them, was far better than trying to tell him that your tire is the best in the world. If you believe that yours is, let your customer find it out.
As quoted by H.M. Davidson, in System: The Magazine of Business (Apr 1922), 41, 446.
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If you go out to fight for freedom and truth, you should never wear your best trousers.
Dialog for Dr. Stockmann in play, An Enemy of the People (1882, 2001), 102.
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If you have an idea that you wish your audience to carry away, turn it upside down and inside out, rephrasing it from different angles. Remember that the form in which the thing may appear best to you may not impress half your audience.
Advice to the writer of his first paper for presentation at a scientific meeting. As expressed in quotation marks by Charles Thom in 'Robert Almer Harper', National Academy Biographical Memoirs (1948), 25, 233-234. Also, in Thom's words, “[Harper] added that a miscellaneous audience can not he expected to carry away a lot of separate facts but one good idea, well pictured out, will be remembered by some of them.”
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If you hope to make a success of life you must be willing to do whatever comes your way to the best of your ability.
From address to the Brown University YMCA, as quoted in 'Young Rockefeller: Defending Trusts, Uses American Beauty Similitude,' Cincinnati Enquirer (9 Feb 1902), 4, citing the New York Journal.
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In acute diseases the physician must conduct his inquiries in the following way. First he must examine the face of the patient, and see whether it is like the faces of healthy people, and especially whether it is like its usual self. Such likeness will be the best sign, and the greatest unlikeness will be the most dangerous sign. The latter will be as follows. Nose sharp, eyes hollow, temples sunken, ears cold and contracted with their lobes turned outwards, the skin about the face hard and tense and parched, the colour of the face as a whole being yellow or black.
Prognostic, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 9.
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In future times Tait will be best known for his work in the quaternion analysis. Had it not been for his expositions, developments and applications, Hamilton’s invention would be today, in all probability, a mathematical curiosity.
In Bibliotheca Mathematica (1903), 3, 189. As cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 178. [Note: Tait is Peter Guthrie Tait; Hamilton is Sir William Rowan Hamilton. —Webmaster]
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In its essence, the theory of natural selection is primarily an attempt to give an account of the probable mechanism of the origin of the adaptations of the organisms to their environment, and only secondarily an attempt to explain evolution at large. Some modern biologists seem to believe that the word 'adaptation' has teleological connotations, and should therefore be expunged from the scientific lexicon. With this we must emphatically disagree. That adaptations exist is so evident as to be almost a truism, although this need not mean that ours is the best of all possible worlds. A biologist has no right to close his eyes to the fact that the precarious balance between a living being and its environment must be preserved by some mechanism or mechanisms if life is to endure.
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 150.
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In no subject is there a rule, compliance with which will lead to new knowledge or better understanding. Skilful observations, ingenious ideas, cunning tricks, daring suggestions, laborious calculations, all these may be required to advance a subject. Occasionally the conventional approach in a subject has to be studiously followed; on other occasions it has to be ruthlessly disregarded. Which of these methods, or in what order they should be employed is generally unpredictable. Analogies drawn from the history of science are frequently claimed to be a guide; but, as with forecasting the next game of roulette, the existence of the best analogy to the present is no guide whatever to the future. The most valuable lesson to be learnt from the history of scientific progress is how misleading and strangling such analogies have been, and how success has come to those who ignored them.
'Cosmology', in Arthur Beer (ed.), Vistas in Astronomy (1956), Vol. 2, 1722.
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In order that the relations between science and the age may be what they ought to be, the world at large must be made to feel that science is, in the fullest sense, a ministry of good to all, not the private possession and luxury of a few, that it is the best expression of human intelligence and not the abracadabra of a school, that it is a guiding light and not a dazzling fog.
'Hindrances to Scientific Progress', The Popular Science Monthly (Nov 1890), 38, 121.
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In summary, very large populations may differentiate rapidly, but their sustained evolution will be at moderate or slow rates and will be mainly adaptive. Populations of intermediate size provide the best conditions for sustained progressive and branching evolution, adaptive in its main lines, but accompanied by inadaptive fluctuations, especially in characters of little selective importance. Small populations will be virtually incapable of differentiation or branching and will often be dominated by random inadaptive trends and peculiarly liable to extinction, but will be capable of the most rapid evolution as long as this is not cut short by extinction.
Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944), 70-1.
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In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense—not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance of the species, its extension, and its further progressive evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to decay.
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902), 293.
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In the discovery of lemmas the best aid is a mental aptitude for it. For we may see many who are quick at solutions and yet do not work by method ; thus Cratistus in our time was able to obtain the required result from first principles, and those the fewest possible, but it was his natural gift which helped him to the discovery.
Proclus
As given in Euclid, The Thirteen Books of Euclid's Elements, translated from the text of Johan Ludvig Heiberg by Sir Thomas Little Heath, Vol. 1, Introduction and Books 1,2 (1908), 133. The passage also states that Proclus gives the definition of the term lemma as a proposition not proved beforehand. Glenn Raymond Morrow in A Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements (1992), 165, states nothing more seems to be known of Cratistus.
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In the history of physics, there have been three great revolutions in thought that first seemed absurd yet proved to be true. The first proposed that the earth, instead of being stationary, was moving around at a great and variable speed in a universe that is much bigger than it appears to our immediate perception. That proposal, I believe, was first made by Aristarchos two millenia ago ... Remarkably enough, the name Aristarchos in Greek means best beginning.
[The next two revolutions occurred ... in the early part of the twentieth century: the theory of relativity and the science of quantum mechanics...]
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 562.
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In the last analysis the best guarantee that a thing should happen is that it appears to us as vitally necessary.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Sara Appleton-Weber (trans.), The Human Phenomenon (1999, 2003), 163. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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In the same sense that our judicial system presumes us to be innocent until proven guilty, a medical care system may work best if it starts with the presumption that most people are healthy. Left to themselves, computers may try to do it in the opposite way, taking it as given that some sort of direct, continual, professional intervention is required all the time, in order to maintain the health of each citizen, and we will end up spending all our money on nothing but this.
In 'Aspects of Biomedical Science Policy', The New England Journal of Medicine (12 Oct 1972), 4. Also published as Occasional Paper of the Institute of Medicine.
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In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment. [Modern paraphrase; Darwin never wrote with these words.]
This is NOT AN AUTHENTIC Darwin quote. It is just a modern paraphrase, commonly seen in books and on the web. It is included here so that this caution can be attached to it.
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Industry is best at the intersection of science and art.
In Alan R. Earls and Nasrin Rohani, Polaroid (2005), 20.
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Inexact method of observation, as I believe, is one flaw in clinical pathology to-day. Prematurity of conclusion is another, and in part follows from the first; but in chief part an unusual craving and veneration for hypothesis, which besets the minds of most medical men, is responsible. Except in those sciences which deal with the intangible or with events of long past ages, no treatises are to be found in which hypothesis figures as it does in medical writings. The purity of a science is to be judged by the paucity of its recorded hypotheses. Hypothesis has its right place, it forms a working basis; but it is an acknowledged makeshift, and, at the best, of purpose unaccomplished. Hypothesis is the heart which no man with right purpose wears willingly upon his sleeve. He who vaunts his lady love, ere yet she is won, is apt to display himself as frivolous or his lady a wanton.
The Mechanism and Graphic Registration of the Heart Beat (1920), vii.
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Inventions are best developed on your own. When you work for other people or borrow money from them, maintaining freedom of intellect is difficult.
As quoted by Franz Lidz in 'Dr. NakaMats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name', Smithsonian Magazine (Dec 2012).
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It did not cause anxiety that Maxwell’s equations did not apply to gravitation, since nobody expected to find any link between electricity and gravitation at that particular level. But now physics was faced with an entirely new situation. The same entity, light, was at once a wave and a particle. How could one possibly imagine its proper size and shape? To produce interference it must be spread out, but to bounce off electrons it must be minutely localized. This was a fundamental dilemma, and the stalemate in the wave-photon battle meant that it must remain an enigma to trouble the soul of every true physicist. It was intolerable that light should be two such contradictory things. It was against all the ideals and traditions of science to harbor such an unresolved dualism gnawing at its vital parts. Yet the evidence on either side could not be denied, and much water was to flow beneath the bridges before a way out of the quandary was to be found. The way out came as a result of a brilliant counterattack initiated by the wave theory, but to tell of this now would spoil the whole story. It is well that the reader should appreciate through personal experience the agony of the physicists of the period. They could but make the best of it, and went around with woebegone faces sadly complaining that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they must look on light as a wave; on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, as a particle. On Sundays they simply prayed.
The Strange Story of the Quantum (1947), 42.
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It follows from the supreme perfection of God, that in creating the universe has chosen the best possible plan, in which there is the greatest variety together with the greatest order; the best arranged ground, place, time; the most results produced in the most simple ways; the most of power, knowledge, happiness and goodness the creatures that the universe could permit. For since all the possibles in I understanding of God laid claim to existence in proportion to their perfections, the actual world, as the resultant of all these claims, must be the most perfect possible. And without this it would not be possible to give a reason why things have turned out so rather than otherwise.
The Principles of Nature and Grace (1714), The Philosophical Works of Leibnitz (1890), ed. G. M. Duncan, 213-4.
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It has been pointed out already that no knowledge of probabilities, less in degree than certainty, helps us to know what conclusions are true, and that there is no direct relation between the truth of a proposition and its probability. Probability begins and ends with probability. That a scientific investigation pursued on account of its probability will generally lead to truth, rather than falsehood, is at the best only probable.
In A Treatise on Probability (1921), 322.
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It is a most gratifying sign of the rapid progress of our time that our best text-books become antiquated so quickly.
The Medical Sciences in the German Universities (1924), 49.
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It is always the case with the best work, that it is misrepresented, and disparaged at first, for it takes a curiously long time for new ideas to become current, and the older men who ought to be capable of taking them in freely, will not do so through prejudice.
From letter reprinted in Journal of Political Economy (Feb 1977), 85, No. 1, back cover, as cited in Stephen M. Stigler, The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty Before 1900 (1986), 307. Stigler notes the letter is held by David E. Butler of Nuffield College, Oxford.
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It is best to attenuate the virulence of our adversaries with the chloroform of courtesy and flattery, much as bacteriologists disarm a pathogen by converting it into a vaccine.
In Charlas de Café: pensamientos, anécdotas y confidencias (1920, 1967), 32. (Café Chats: Thoughts, Anecdotes and Confidences). As translated in Peter McDonald (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 83. From the original Spanish, “Cuando no se ha nacido rico y es fuerza, por tanto, luchar por la existencia, la más hábil y piadosa conducta consiste en adormecer y atenuar la toxicidad de nuestros émulos y adversarios con el cloroformo de la cortesía y del halago. Procedamos como el bacteriólogo que, en la imposibilidad de aniquilar al microbio, opta por embolarlo, es decir, por convertirlo en saludable vacuna.” A more literal translation attempted by Webmaster using Google Translate is “When you are not born rich and mighty, thus, struggle for existence, the most shrewd and pious behavior is to calm and reduce the toxicity of our rivals and adversaries with the chloroform of politeness and flattery. Proceed as the bacteriologist who, unable to kill the microbe, opt for embolization (?), ie, by converting it into a healthy vaccine.”
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It is by no means hopeless to expect to make a machine for really very difficult mathematical problems. But you would have to proceed step-by-step. I think electricity would be the best thing to rely on.
In Charles Sanders Peirce, Max Harold Fisch, Christian J. W. Kloesel Writings of Charles S. Peirce: 1884-1886 (1993), 422.
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It is folly to use as one's guide in the selection of fundamental science the criterion of utility. Not because (scientists)... despise utility. But because. .. useful outcomes are best identified after the making of discoveries, rather than before.
Concerning the allocation of research funds.
Speech to the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science, Toronto (2 Jun 1996)
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It is for such inquiries the modern naturalist collects his materials; it is for this that he still wants to add to the apparently boundless treasures of our national museums, and will never rest satisfied as long as the native country, the geographical distribution, and the amount of variation of any living thing remains imperfectly known. He looks upon every species of animal and plant now living as the individual letters which go to make up one of the volumes of our earth’s history; and, as a few lost letters may make a sentence unintelligible, so the extinction of the numerous forms of life which the progress of cultivation invariably entails will necessarily render obscure this invaluable record of the past. It is, therefore, an important object, which governments and scientific institutions should immediately take steps to secure, that in all tropical countries colonised by Europeans the most perfect collections possible in every branch of natural history should be made and deposited in national museums, where they may be available for study and interpretation. If this is not done, future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations. They will charge us with having culpably allowed the destruction of some of those records of Creation which we had it in our power to preserve; and while professing to regard every living thing as the direct handiwork and best evidence of a Creator, yet, with a strange inconsistency, seeing many of them perish irrecoverably from the face of the earth, uncared for and unknown.
In 'On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1863), 33, 234.
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It is not I who seek to base Man's dignity upon his great toe, or insinuate that we are lost if an Ape has a hippocampus minor. On the contrary, I have done my best to sweep away this vanity. I have endeavoured to show that no absolute structural line of demarcation, wider than that between the animals which immediately succeed us in the scale, can be drawn between the animal world and ourselves; and I may add the expression of my belief that the attempt to draw a physical distinction is equally futile, and that even the highest facuities of feeling and of intellect begin to germinate in lower forms of life. At the same time, no one is more strongly convinced than I am of the vastness of the gulf between civilized man and the brutes; or is more certain that whether from them or not, he is assuredly not of them.
'On the Relations of Man to the Lower Animals' (1863). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 7. 152-3.
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It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.
…...
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It often happens that men, even of the best understandings and greatest circumspection, are guilty of that fault in reasoning which the writers on logick call the insufficient, or imperfect enumeration of parts, or cases: insomuch that I will venture to assert, that this is the chief, and almost the only, source of the vast number of erroneous opinions, and those too very often in matters of great importance, which we are apt to form on all the subjects we reflect upon, whether they relate to the knowledge of nature, or the merits and motives of human actions. It must therefore be acknowledged, that the art which affords a cure to this weakness, or defect, of our understandings, and teaches us to enumerate all the possible ways in which a given number of things may be mixed and combined together, that we may be certain that we have not omitted anyone arrangement of them that can lead to the object of our inquiry, deserves to be considered as most eminently useful and worthy of our highest esteem and attention. And this is the business of the art, or doctrine of combinations ... It proceeds indeed upon mathematical principles in calculating the number of the combinations of the things proposed: but by the conclusions that are obtained by it, the sagacity of the natural philosopher, the exactness of the historian, the skill and judgement of the physician, and the prudence and foresight of the politician, may be assisted; because the business of all these important professions is but to form reasonable conjectures concerning the several objects which engage their attention, and all wise conjectures are the results of a just and careful examination of the several different effects that may possibly arise from the causes that are capable of producing them.
Ars conjectandi (1713). In F. Maseres, The Doctrine of Permutations and Combinations (1795), 36.
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It seems that the increased number of scientific workers, their being split up into groups whose studies are limited to a small subject, and over-specialization have brought about a shrinking of intelligence. There is no doubt that the quality of any human group decreases when the number of the individuals composing this group increases beyond certain limits… The best way to increase the intelligence of scientists would be to decrease their number.
Man the Unknown (1935), 48-9.
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It was found after many troublesome experiments that when the vacuum within the lamp globe was good, and the contact between the carbon and the conductor which supported it sufficient, there was no blackening of the globes, and no appreciable wasting away of the carbons. Thus was swept away a pernicious error, which, like a misleading finger post proclaiming “No road this way,” tended to bar progress along a good thoroughfare. It only remained to perfect the details of the lamp, to find the best material from which to form the carbon, and to fix this material in the lamp in the best manner. These points, I think, I have now satisfactorily settled, and you see the result in the lamp before me on the table.
In Lecture (20 Oct 1880) at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, as quoted in United States Courts of Appeals Reports: Cases Adjudged in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals (1894), Vol. 11, 419-420.
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It’s not the critic who counts; not the man which points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
In Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Inside: A Public and Private Life (2005), 356.
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I’m convinced that the best solutions are often the ones that are counterintuitive—that challenge conventional thinking—and end in breakthroughs. It is always easier to do things the same old way … why change? To fight this, keep your dissatisfaction index high and break with tradition. Don’t be too quick to accept the way things are being done. Question whether there’s a better way. Very often you will find that once you make this break from the usual way - and incidentally, this is probably the hardest thing to do—and start on a new track your horizon of new thoughts immediately broadens. New ideas flow in like water. Always keep your interests broad - don’t let your mind be stunted by a limited view.
1988
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I’ve met a lot of people in important positions, and he [Wernher von Braun] was one that I never had any reluctance to give him whatever kind of credit they deserve. He owned his spot, he knew what he was doing, and he was very impressive when you met with him. He understood the problems. He could come back and straighten things out. He moved with sureness whenever he came up with a decision. Of all the people, as I think back on it now, all of the top management that I met at NASA, many of them are very, very good. But Wernher, relative to the position he had and what he had to do, I think was the best of the bunch.
From interview with Ron Stone (24 May 1999) for NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project on NASA website.
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Just now nuclear physicists are writing a great deal about hypothetical particles called neutrinos supposed to account for certain peculiar facts observed in β-ray disintegration. We can perhaps best describe the neutrinos as little bits of spin-energy that have got detached. I am not much impressed by the neutrino theory. In an ordinary way I might say that I do not believe in neutrinos… But I have to reflect that a physicist may be an artist, and you never know where you are with artists. My old-fashioned kind of disbelief in neutrinos is scarcely enough. Dare I say that experimental physicists will not have sufficient ingenuity to make neutrinos? Whatever I may think, I am not going to be lured into a wager against the skill of experimenters under the impression that it is a wager against the truth of a theory. If they succeed in making neutrinos, perhaps even in developing industrial applications of them, I suppose I shall have to believe—though I may feel that they have not been playing quite fair.
From Tarner Lecture, 'Discovery or Manufacture?' (1938), in The Philosophy of Physical Science (1939, 2012), 112.
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Louis Agassiz quote: Lay aside all conceit Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have fol
Lay aside all conceit. Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have followed for years some slim thread which once in a while has broadened out and disclosed some treasure worth a life-long search.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 145.
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Let Nature do your bottling and your pickling and preserving. For all Nature is doing her best each moment to make us well. She exists for no other end. Do not resist her. With the least inclination to be well, we should not be sick. Men have discovered—or think they have discovered—the salutariness of a few wild things only, and not of all nature. Why, “nature” is but another name for health, and the seasons are but different states of health. Some men think that they are not well in spring, or summer, or autumn, or winter; it is only because they are not well in them.
(23 Aug 1853). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: V: March 5-November 30, 1853 (1906), 395.
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Mammals in general seem to live, at best, as long as it takes their hearts to count a billion. To this general rule, man himself is the most astonishing exception.
(1965). In Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 336.
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Man has generally been preoccupied with obtaining as much “production” from the landscape as possible, by developing and maintaining early successional types of ecosystems, usually monocultures. But, of course, man does not live by food and fiber alone; he also needs a balanced CO2-O2 atmosphere, the climactic buffer provided by oceans and masses of vegetation, and clean (that is, unproductive) water for cultural and industrial uses. Many essential life-cycle resources, not to mention recreational and esthetic needs, are best provided man by the less 'productive' landscapes. In other words, the landscape is not just a supply depot but is also the oikos—the home—in which we must live.
'The Strategy of Ecosystem Development. An Understanding of Ecological Succession Provides a Basis for Resolving Man's Conflict with Nature', Science (1969), 164, 266.
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Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason allows us to discover it. I have given the evidence to the best of my ability; and we must acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
Concluding remarks. The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 405.
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Man perfected by society is the best of all animals; he is the most terrible of all when he lives without law and without justice.
Aristotle
In Politics, Book 1, 1253a. As given in Maturin Murray Ballou (ed.), Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors (1872), 323. As translated by Benjamin Jowett, The Politics of Aristotle (1899), 4: “For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.” As translated by Harris Rackham in Aristotle: Politics, 13: “For as man is the best of the animals when perfected, so he is the worst of all when sundered from law and justice.”
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Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
Address at The Physical Society, Berlin (1918) for Max Planck’s 60th birthday, 'Principles of Research', collected in Essays in Science (1934, 2004) 3.
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Mathematics is the language of languages, the best school for sharpening thought and expression, is applicable to all processes in nature; and Germany needs mathematical gymnasia. Mathematics is God’s form of speech, and simplifies all things organic and inorganic. As knowledge becomes real, complete and great it approximates mathematical forms. It mediates between the worlds of mind and of matter.
Summarizing the ideas presented by Christian Heinrich Dillmann in Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889). From book review, 'Recent Literature on Arithmetic and Arithmetical Teaching', in Granville Stanley Hall (ed.), The Pedagogical Seminary (1892), 2, 168. Dillmann’s book title translates as “Mathematics the Torchbearer of a New Era”. (However, Conant concluded that it was a “loosely-written, vague and incoherent book, which belies every anticipation awakened by its attractive title.”)
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Mathematics renders its best service through the immediate furthering of rigorous thought and the spirit of invention.
In 'Mathematischer Lehrplan für Realschulen' Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 170. (Mathematics Curriculum for Secondary Schools). As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 51.
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Mathematics … above all other subjects, makes the student lust after knowledge, fills him, as it were, with a longing to fathom the cause of things and to employ his own powers independently; it collects his mental forces and concentrates them on a single point and thus awakens the spirit of individual inquiry, self-confidence and the joy of doing; it fascinates because of the view-points which it offers and creates certainty and assurance, owing to the universal validity of its methods. Thus, both what he receives and what he himself contributes toward the proper conception and solution of a problem, combine to mature the student and to make him skillful, to lead him away from the surface of things and to exercise him in the perception of their essence. A student thus prepared thirsts after knowledge and is ready for the university and its sciences. Thus it appears, that higher mathematics is the best guide to philosophy and to the philosophic conception of the world (considered as a self-contained whole) and of one’s own being.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 40. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 49.
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Measured objectively, what a man can wrest from Truth by passionate striving is utterly infinitesimal. But the striving frees us from the bonds of the self and makes us comrades of those who are the best and the greatest.
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Medicine is an incoherent assemblage of incoherent ideas, and is, perhaps, of all the physiological Sciences, that which best shows the caprice of the human mind. What did I say! It is not a Science for a methodical mind. It is a shapeless assemblage of inaccurate ideas, of observations often puerile, of deceptive remedies, and of formulae as fantastically conceived as they are tediously arranged.
Bichat's General Anatomy, vol. 1, 17. Quoted in Alva Curtis, A Fair Examination and Criticism of All the Medical Systems in Vogue (1855), 1.
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Most impediments to scientific understanding are conceptual locks, not factual lacks. Most difficult to dislodge are those biases that escape our scrutiny because they seem so obviously, even ineluctably, just. We know ourselves best and tend to view other creatures as mirrors of our own constitution and social arrangements. (Aristotle, and nearly two millennia of successors, designated the large bee that leads the swarm as a king.)
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Most of the scientists in their twenties and thirties who went in 1939 to work on wartime problems were profoundly affected by their experience. The belief that Rutherford's boys were the best boys, that we could do anything that was do-able and could master any subject in a few days was of enormous value.
'The Effect of World War II on the Development of Knowledge in the Physical Sciences', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1975, Series A, 342, 531.
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Mr. Dalton's aspect and manner were repulsive. There was no gracefulness belonging to him. His voice was harsh and brawling; his gait stiff and awkward; his style of writing and conversation dry and almost crabbed. In person he was tall, bony, and slender. He never could learn to swim: on investigating this circumstance he found that his spec. grav. as a mass was greater than that of water; and he mentioned this in his lectures on natural philosophy in illustration of the capability of different persons for attaining the art of swimming. Independence and simplicity of manner and originality were his best qualities. Though in comparatively humble circumstances he maintained the dignity of the philosophical character. As the first distinct promulgator of the doctrine that the elements of bodies unite in definite proportions to form chemical compounds, he has acquired an undying fame.
Dr John Davy's (brother of Humphry Davy) impressions of Dalton written in c.1830-31 in Malta.
John Davy
Quoted in W. C. Henry, Memoirs of the Life and Scientific Researches of John Dalton (1854), 217-8.
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Much of his [Clifford’s] best work was actually spoken before it was written. He gave most of his public lectures with no visible preparation beyond very short notes, and the outline seemed to be filled in without effort or hesitation. Afterwards he would revise the lecture from a shorthand writer’s report, or sometimes write down from memory almost exactly what he had said. It fell out now and then, however, that neither of these things was done; in such cases there is now no record of the lecture at all.
In Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays by William Kingdon Clifford(1879), Vol. 1, Introduction, 8.
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My books have sold largely in England, have been translated into many languages, and passed through several editions in foreign countries. I have heard it said that the success of a work abroad is the best test of its enduring value. I doubt whether this is at all trustworthy; but judged by this standard my name ought to last for a few years.
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 81-82.
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My father introduced me to three black men who had earned doctorates in chemistry and physics. The best jobs they could find were at the post office. My father said I was taking the long road toward working at the post office.
Recalling how his parents were disappointed that he chose to study physics at university instead of medicine to be a doctor. Quoted in Johns Hopkins University News Release (9 Jan 2003) on jh.edu web site.
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My hobby is my work. I have the best of both worlds because I love what I do. Do I ever get tired of it? Not so far.
Quoted in Johns Hopkins University News Release (9 Jan 2003) on jh.edu web site.
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My profession often gets bad press for a variety of sins, both actual and imagined: arrogance, venality, insensitivity to moral issues about the use of knowledge, pandering to sources of funding with insufficient worry about attendant degradation of values. As an advocate for science, I plead ‘mildly guilty now and then’ to all these charges. Scientists are human beings subject to all the foibles and temptations of ordinary life. Some of us are moral rocks; others are reeds. I like to think (though I have no proof) that we are better, on average, than members of many other callings on a variety of issues central to the practice of good science: willingness to alter received opinion in the face of uncomfortable data, dedication to discovering and publicizing our best and most honest account of nature’s factuality, judgment of colleagues on the might of their ideas rather than the power of their positions.
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My visceral perception of brotherhood harmonizes with our best modern biological knowledge ... Many people think (or fear) that equality of human races represents a hope of liberal sentimentality probably squashed by the hard realities of history. They are wrong. This essay can be summarized in a single phrase, a motto if you will: Human equality is a contingent fact of history. Equality is not true by definition; it is neither an ethical principle (though equal treatment may be) nor a statement about norms of social action. It just worked out that way. A hundred different and plausible scenarios for human history would have yielded other results (and moral dilemmas of enormous magnitude). They didn’t happen.
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Mythology is wondrous, a balm for the soul. But its problems cannot be ignored. At worst, it buys inspiration at the price of physical impossibility ... At best, it purveys the same myopic view of history that made this most fascinating subject so boring and misleading in grade school as a sequential take of monarchs and battles.
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Nature indifferently copied is far superior to the best idealities.
Journal entry (1 Mar 1827). On an artist’s goal to faithfully reproduce nature as actually observed, not stylized or contrived. He explained this credo a young artist (J.B. Kidd, age 19) over breakfast. Stated in John James Audubon and Mrs. Audubon (ed.), The Life and Adventures of John James Audubon, the Naturalist (1868), 140.
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Nature, … in order to carry out the marvelous operations [that occur] in animals and plants has been pleased to construct their organized bodies with a very large number of machines, which are of necessity made up of extremely minute parts so shaped and situated as to form a marvelous organ, the structure and composition of which are usually invisible to the naked eye without the aid of a microscope. … Just as Nature deserves praise and admiration for making machines so small, so too the physician who observes them to the best of his ability is worthy of praise, not blame, for he must also correct and repair these machines as well as he can every time they get out of order.
'Reply to Doctor Sbaraglia' in Opera Posthuma (1697), in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 1, 568.
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Next to the promulgation of the truth, the best thing I can conceive that man can do is the public recantation of an error.
In Collected Papers of Joseph Baron Lister (1909), Vol. 1, 366. As quoted and cited in Sir Rickman John Godlee, Lord Lister (1918), 278.
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No aphorism is more frequently repeated in connection with field trials, than that we must ask Nature few questions, or, ideally, one question, at a time. The writer is convinced that this view is wholly mistaken. Nature, he suggests, will best respond to a logical and carefully thought out questionnaire; indeed, if we ask her a single question, she will often refuse to answer until some other topic has been discussed.
'The Arrangement of Field Experiments', The Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture, 1926, 33, 511.
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No idea should be suppressed. … And it applies to ideas that look like nonsense. We must not forget that some of the best ideas seemed like nonsense at first. The truth will prevail in the end. Nonsense will fall of its own weight, by a sort of intellectual law of gravitation. If we bat it about, we shall only keep an error in the air a little longer. And a new truth will go into orbit.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 233.
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No politics, no committees, no reports, no referees, no interviews – just highly motivated people picked by a few men of good judgment.
[Describing the compelling ideas of Max Perutz on how best to nurture research.]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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Nobody in the world of policy appears to be asking what is best for society, wild fish or farmed fish. And what sort of farmed fish, anyway? Were this question to be asked, and answered honestly, we might find that our interests lay in prioritizing wild fish and making their ecosystems more productive by leaving them alone enough of the time.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat (2008), 313.
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Not greatly moved with awe am I
To learn that we may spy
Five thousand firmaments beyond our own.
The best that's known
Of the heavenly bodies does them credit small.
View'd close, the Moon's fair ball
Is of ill objects worst,
A corpse in Night's highway, naked, fire-scarr'd, accurst;
And now they tell
That the Sun is plainly seen to boil and burst
Too horribly for hell.
So, judging from these two,
As we must do,
The Universe, outside our living Earth,
Was all conceiv'd in the Creator's mirth,
Forecasting at the time Man's spirit deep,
To make dirt cheap.
Put by the Telescope!
Better without it man may see,
Stretch'd awful in the hush'd midnight,
The ghost of his eternity.
'The Two Deserts' (1880-85). Poems, Introduction Basil Champneys (1906), 302.
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Now this supreme wisdom, united to goodness that is no less infinite, cannot but have chosen the best. For as a lesser evil is a kind of good, even so a lesser good is a kind of evil if it stands in the way of a greater good; and the would be something to correct in the actions of God if it were possible to the better. As in mathematics, when there is no maximum nor minimum, in short nothing distinguished, everything is done equally, or when that is not nothing at all is done: so it may be said likewise in respect of perfect wisdom, which is no less orderly than mathematics, that if there were not the best (optimum) among all possible worlds, God would not have produced any.
Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God and Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil (1710), 128.
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Of all my inventions, I liked the phonograph best. Life’s most soothing things are sweet music and a child’s goodnight.
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Of all the reciprocals of integers, the one that I best like is 1/0 for it is a titan amongst midgets.
Attributed in a space filler, Pi Mu Epsilon (1949), 1, No. 1, 17.
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Of all the supervised conditions for life offered man, those under U.S.A.’s constitution have proved the best. Wherefore, be sure when you start modifying, corrupting or abrogating it.
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Of the many definitions of poetry, the simplest is still the best: “memorable speech.”
From 'The Poet's Tongue' (1935), Introduction, collected in Edward Mendelson (ed.), The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose and Travel Books in Prose and Verse: 1926-1938 (1996), Vol. 1.
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Ohm (a distinguished mathematician, be it noted) brought into order a host of puzzling facts connecting electromotive force and electric current in conductors, which all previous electricians had only succeeded in loosely binding together qualitatively under some rather vague statements. Even as late as 20 years ago, “quantity” and “tension” were much used by men who did not fully appreciate Ohm's law. (Is it not rather remarkable that some of Germany's best men of genius should have been, perhaps, unfairly treated? Ohm; Mayer; Reis; even von Helmholtz has mentioned the difficulty he had in getting recognised. But perhaps it is the same all the world over.)
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On the 20th of May 1747, I took twelve patients in the scurvy, on board the Salisbury at sea. Their cases were as similar as I could have them. They all in general had putrid gums, the spots and lassitude, with weakness of their knees. They lay together in one place, being a proper apartment for the sick in the fore-hold; and had one diet common to all, viz, water-gruel sweetened with sugar in the morning; fresh mutton-broth often times for dinner; at other times puddings, boiled biscuit with sugar, &c.; and for supper, barley and raisins, rice and currents, sago and wine, or the like.
Two of these were ordered each a quart of cider a-day. Two others took twenty-five gutta of elixir vitriol three times a-day, upon an empty stomach; using a gargle strongly acidulated with it for their mouths. Two others took two spoonfuls of vinegar three times a-day, upon an empty stomach; having their gruels and their other food well acidulated with it, as also the gargle for their mouth. Two of the worst patients, with the tendons in the ham rigid, (a symptom none of the rest had), were put under a course of sea-water. Of this they drank half a pint every day, and sometimes more or less as it operated, by way of gentle physics. The others had each two oranges and one lemon given them every day. These they eat with greediness, at different times, upon an empty stomach. They continued but six days under this course, having consumed the quantity that could be spared. The two remaining patients, took the bigness of a nutmeg three times a-day, of an electuary recommended by an hospital-surgeon, made of garlic, mustard-seed, rad. raphan. balsam of Peru, and gum myrrh; using for common drink, barley-water well acidulated with tamarinds; by a decoction of which, with the addition of cremor tartar, they were gently purged three or four times during the course.
The consequence was, that the most sudden and visible good effects were perceived from the use of the oranges and lemons; one of those who had taken them, being at the end of six days fit for duty. …
Next to the oranges, I thought the cider had the best effects.
A Treatise of the Scurvy (1753), 191-193. Quoted in Carleton Ellis and Annie Louise Macleod, Vital Factors of Foods: Vitamins and Nutrition (1922), 229-230.
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On the whole, I cannot help saying that it appears to me not a little extraordinary, that a theory so new, and of such importance, overturning every thing that was thought to be the best established in chemistry, should rest on so very narrow and precarious a foundation, the experiments adduced in support of it being not only ambiguous or explicable on either hypothesis, but exceedingly few. I think I have recited them all, and that on which the greatest stress is laid, viz. That of the formation of water from the decomposition of the two kinds of air, has not been sufficiently repeated. Indeed it required so difficult and expensive an apparatus, and so many precautions in the use of it, that the frequent repetition of the experiment cannot be expected; and in these circumstances the practised experimenter cannot help suspecting the accuracy of the result and consequently the certainty of the conclusion.
Considerations on the Doctrine of Phlogiston (1796), 57-8.
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One can descend by imperceptible degree from the most perfect creature to the most shapeless matter, from the best-organised animal to the roughest mineral.
'Premier Discours: De la Manière d'Étudier et de Traiter l'Histoire naturelle'. In Oeuvres Complètes (1774-79), Vol. I, 17.
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One must expect a war between U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. which will begin with the total destruction of London. I think the war will last 30 years, and leave a world without civilised people, from which everything will have to build afresh—a process taking (say) 500 years.
Stated just one month after the Hiroshima atomic explosion. Russell became one of the best-known antinuclear activists of his era.
Letter to Gamel Brenan (1 Sep 1945). In Nicholas Griffin (Ed.), The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell (2002), 410.
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One of the best examples of a scientific parable that got taken literally at first is the wave-theory of light.
Concluding paragraph of chapter, 'Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics: Or Beyond Common-Sense', contributed to Naomi Mitchison (ed.), An Outline For Boys And Girls And Their Parents (1932), 357.
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One way of dealing with errors is to have friends who are willing to spend the time necessary to carry out a critical examination of the experimental design beforehand and the results after the experiments have been completed. An even better way is to have an enemy. An enemy is willing to devote a vast amount of time and brain power to ferreting out errors both large and small, and this without any compensation. The trouble is that really capable enemies are scarce; most of them are only ordinary. Another trouble with enemies is that they sometimes develop into friends and lose a great deal of their zeal. It was in this way the writer lost his three best enemies. Everyone, not just scientists, needs a good few enemies.
Quoted in George A. Olah, A Life of Magic Chemistry (2001), 146.
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One wonders whether the rare ability to be completely attentive to, and to profit by, Nature’s slightest deviation from the conduct expected of her is not the secret of the best research minds and one that explains why some men turn to most remarkably good advantage seemingly trivial accidents. Behind such attention lies an unremitting sensitivity.
In The Furtherance of Medical Research (1941), 98.
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One-story intellects, two-story intellects, three-story intellects with skylights. All fact-collectors, who have no aim beyond their facts, are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, generalize, using the labors of the fact-collectors as well as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, predict; their best illumination comes from above, through the skylight. There are minds with large ground-floors, that can store an infinite amount of knowledge; some librarians, for instance, who know enough of books to help other people, without being able to make much other use of their knowledge, have intellects of this class. Your great working lawyer has two spacious stories; his mind is clear, because his mental floors are large, and he has room to arrange his thoughts so that lie can get at them,—facts below, principles above, and all in ordered series; poets are often narrow below, incapable of clear statement, and with small power of consecutive reasoning, but full of light, if sometimes rather bare of furniture, in the attics.
The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1883), 50.
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Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. Genius must always have lapses proportionate to its triumphs.
In 'Dan Leno', The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art (5 Nov 1904), 98, 574. Variations of this quote, lacking any primary source, have been spuriously attributed to W. Somerset Maugham and Jean Giraudoux, respectively as “Only a mediocre person is always at his best” (referring to writers); and “Only the mediocre are always at their best.”
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Only one rule in medical ethics need concern you - that action on your part which best conserves the interests of your patient.
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Other things being equal, the investigator is always the best instructor. The highest grade of instruction in any science can only be furnished by one who is thoroughly imbued with the scientific spirit, and who is actually engaged in original work.
Quoted in Frank R. Lillie, The Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (1944), 37-8.
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Our friends should be companions who inspire us, who help us rise to our best.
…...
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Our natural way of thinking about these coarser emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called the emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My theory, on the contrary, is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur IS the emotion. Common-sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect, that the one mental state is not immediately induced by the other, that the bodily manifestations must first be interposed between, and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble, because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be. Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.
The Principles or Psychology (1890), Vol. 2, 449-50.
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Out of man’s mind in free play comes the creation Science. It renews itself, like the generations, thanks to an activity which is the best game of homo ludens: science is in the strictest and best sense a glorious entertainment.
Science: The Glorious Entertainment (1964), 110.
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People give ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy.
c. 1543, in The Experts Speak by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky (1998).
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People have now-a-days got a strange opinion that everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can best be taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shewn. You may teach chemistry by lectures.
Elements of Chemistry (1830)
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Perhaps I can best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of a journey through a dark unexplored mansion. You enter the first room of the mansion and it’s completely dark. You stumble around bumping into the furniture, but gradually you learn where each piece of furniture is. Finally, after six months or so, you find the light switch, you turn it on, and suddenly it’s all illuminated. You can see exactly where you were. Then you move into the next room and spend another six months in the dark. So each of these breakthroughs, while sometimes they’re momentary, sometimes over a period of a day or two, they are the culmination of—and couldn’t exist without—the many months of stumbling around in the dark that proceed them.
Quoted in interview for website for PBS TV Nova program, 'The Proof'.
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Perhaps the best reason for regarding mathematics as an art is not so much that it affords an outlet for creative activity as that it provides spiritual values. It puts man in touch with the highest aspirations and lofiest goals. It offers intellectual delight and the exultation of resolving the mysteries of the universe.
Mathematics: a Cultural Approach (1962), 671. Quoted in H. E. Hunter, The Divine Proportion (1970), 6.
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Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains. There have been added, however, some grasp of the immensity of things, some purification of emotion by understanding.
In Modes of Thought: Six Lectures Delivered in Wellesley College, Massachusetts, and Two Lectures in the University of Chicago (1908, 1938), 168
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Physic is of little use to a temperate person, for a man's own observation on what he finds does him good or what hurts him, is the best physic to preserve health.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 348:17.
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PLAN, v. t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  256.
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Professor von Pirquet has come to this country exactly at the right time to aid us. He has shown us how to detect tuberculosis before it has become so developed as to be contagious and has so taken hold of the individual as to be recognized by any other means. In thousands of cases I for my part am unable to detect tuberculosis in infancy or early childhood without the aid of the tuberculin test which Prof. von Pirquet has shown to be the best. He has taught us how by tubercular skin tests, to detect it. ... What Dr. von Pirquet has done already will make his name go down to posterity as one of the great reformers in tuberculin tests and as one who has done an immense amount of good to humanity. The skin test in twenty-four hours will show you whether the case is tubercular.
Discussion on 'The Relation of Tuberculosis to Infant Mortality', read at the third mid-year meeting of the American Academy of Medicine, New Haven, Conn, (4 Nov 1909). In Bulletin of the American Academy of Medicine (1910), 11, 78.
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Progress is achieved by exchanging our theories for new ones which go further than the old, until we find one based on a larger number of facts. … Theories are only hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 165.
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Rachel Carson was the best thing America is capable of producing: a modest person, concerned, courageous, and profoundly right—all at the same time. Troubled by knowledge of an emerging threat to the web of life, she took pains to become informed, summoned her courage, breached her confines, and conveyed a diligently constructed message with eloquence enough to catalyze a new social movement. Her life addressed the promise and premise of being truly human.
In his Foreward to Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1950, 2003), xvi.
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Rajamma, my aunt, often told me stories from the Puranas. That was the best education I ever received.
Quoted in India Today (Apr 2008), 33, No 16, as cited on webpage of Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
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Real life is, to most men, a long second-best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible; but the world of pure reason ;knows no compromise, no practical limitations, no barrier to the creative activity.
Essay, 'The Study of Mathematics' (1902), collected in Philosophical Essays (1910), 73-74. Also collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1919), 60.
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Religion shows a pattern of heredity which I think is similar to genetic heredity. ... There are hundreds of different religious sects, and every religious person is loyal to just one of these. ... The overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one their parents belonged to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained-glass, the best music when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing compared to the matter of heredity.
From edited version of a speech, at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (15 Apr 1992), as reprinted from the Independent newspaper in Alec Fisher, The Logic of Real Arguments (2004), 82-83.
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Savages have often been likened to children, and the comparison is not only correct but also highly instructive. Many naturalists consider that the early condition of the individual indicates that of the race,—that the best test of the affinities of a species are the stages through which it passes. So also it is in the case of man; the life of each individual is an epitome of the history of the race, and the gradual development of the child illustrates that of the species.
Pre-historic Times, as Illustrated by Ancient Remains, and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages, (2nd. ed. 1869, 1878), 583.
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Science at best is not wisdom, it is knowledge. Wisdom is knowledge tempered with judgment.
From essay, 'Mortgaging the Old Homestead', in Frank H.T. Rhodes and Richard O. Stone (eds.), Language of the Earth (2013), 361.
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Science develops best when its concepts and conclusions are integrated into the broader human culture and its concerns for ultimate meaning and value. Scientists cannot, therefore, hold themselves entirely aloof from the sorts of issues dealt with by philosophers and theologians. By devoting to these issues something of the energy and care they give to their research in science, they can help others realize more fully the human potentialities of their discoveries. They can also come to appreciate for themselves that these discoveries cannot be a genuine substitute for knowledge of the truly ultimate.
In Letter (1 Jun 1988) to Father George V. Coyne, Director of the Vatican Observatory. On vatican.va website.
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Science is a human activity, and the best way to understand it is to understand the individual human beings who practise it. Science is an art form and not a philosophical method. The great advances in science usually result from new tools rather than from new doctrines. ... Every time we introduce a new tool, it always leads to new and unexpected discoveries, because Nature's imagination is richer than ours.
Concluding remark from 'The Scientist As Rebel' American Mathemtical Monthly (1996), 103, 805. Reprinted in The Scientist as Rebel (2006), 17-18, identified as originally written for a lecture (1992), then published as an essay in the New York Review.
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Science is best defined as a careful, disciplined, logical search for knowledge about any and all aspects of the universe, obtained by examination of the best available evidence and always subject to correction and improvement upon discovery of better evidence. What's left is magic. And it doesn't work.
The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of the World's Most Famous Seer (1993), 66.
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Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best one we have. In this respect, as in many others, it’s like democracy.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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Science is neither a single tradition, nor the best tradition there is, except for people who have become accustomed to its presence, its benefits and its disadvantages. In a democracy it should be separated from the state just as churches are now separated from the state.
Against Method, p. 238 (1975).The author's warning against allowing scientists to become the new 'high priests' of society.
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Science is one of our best weapons against authoritarianism, but authoritarianism has been known to surface among scientists. When this happens, misguided perfectionists or romanticists sometimes seek to root it out by attacking science. Instead of destroying science, which would merely return us to ignorance and superstition, what we need to do is to expose and root out the authoritarians.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 129.
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