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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Brain Quotes (270 quotes)
Brains Quotes

'Why do you think it is...', I asked Dr. Cook ... 'that brain surgery, above all else—even rocket science—gets singled out as the most challenging of human feats, the one demanding the utmost of human intelligence?'
[Dr. Cook answered,] 'No margin for error.'
Lucky Man (2002), 208.
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Habet cerebrum sensus arcem; hie mentis est regimen.
The brain is the citadel of the senses; this guides the principle of thought.
Historia Naturalis. XI, 49, 2, 13. As cited and translated in J.K. Hoyt (ed.), The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations: English, Latin, and Modern Foreign Languages (1896), 726. Also seen translated as “Men have the brains as a kind of citadel of the senses; here is what guides the thinking principle.”
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I. Animals have an electricity peculiar to themselves to which the name animal electricity is given.
II. The organs in which animal electricity acts above all others, and by which it is distributed throughout the whole body, are the nerves, and the most important organ of secretion is the brain.
Thierische Elektricitäund Reizbarkeit. Ein Beytrag zu den neuesten Entdeckungen üdiese Gegenstä(1795), 329. Quoted and trans. in Edwin Clarke and C. D. O'Malley, The Human Brain and Spinal Cord (1968), 180.
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Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?
Doctor: Not so sick, my lord,
As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies,
That keep her from her rest.
Macbeth: Cure her of that.
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
Doctor: Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.
Macbeth: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.
Macbeth (1606), V, iii.
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A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
In An Essay on Criticism (Written 1709, published 1711), 14. (Written in 1709). Misquoted in The Monthly Miscellany; or Gentleman and Lady’s Complete Magazine (1774), as “Mr. Pope says, very truly, ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’” This latter version of the quote has, in modern times, been misattributed to Albert Einstein.
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A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.
In 'Maxims for Revolutionists: Education', in Man and Superman (1903), 230.
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A large number of areas of the brain are involved when viewing equations, but when one looks at a formula rated as beautiful it activates the emotional brain—the medial orbito-frontal cortex—like looking at a great painting or listening to a piece of music. … Neuroscience can’t tell you what beauty is, but if you find it beautiful the medial orbito-frontal cortex is likely to be involved; you can find beauty in anything.
As quoted in James Gallagher, 'Mathematics: Why The Brain Sees Maths As Beauty,' BBC News (13 Feb 2014), on bbc.co.uk web site.
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A metaphysician is one who believes it when toxins from a dilapidated liver makes his brain whisper that mind is the boss of liver.
In A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 615.
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A shallow brain behind a serious mask,
An oracle within an empty cask.
In 'Conversation', Table Talk: And Other Poems (1817), 155.
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A statistician is one who has learned how to get valid evidence from statistics and how (usually) to avoid being misled by irrelevant facts. It’s too bad that we apply the same name to this kind of person that we use for those who only tabulate. It’s as if we had the same name for barbers and brain surgeons because they both work on the head.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 1.
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Ah, the architecture of this world. Amoebas may not have backbones, brains, automobiles, plastic, television, Valium or any other of the blessings of a technologically advanced civilization; but their architecture is two billion years ahead of its time.
In The Center of Life: A Natural History of the Cell (1977), 15-16.
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Alcmaeon maintains that the bond of health is the 'equal balance' of the powers, moist and dry, cold and hot, bitter and sweet, and the rest, while the 'supremacy' of one of them is the cause of disease; for the supremacy of either is destructive. Illness comes aboutdirectly through excess of heat or cold, indirectly through surfeit or deficiency of nourishment; and its centre is either the blood or the marrow or the brain. It sometimes arises in these centres from external causes, moisture of some sort or environment or exhaustion or hardship or similar causes. Health on the other hand is the proportionate admixture of the qualities.
About Alcmaeon of Croton. In Clarence J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (1976) 11.
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All fossil anthropoids found hitherto have been known only from mandibular or maxillary fragments, so far as crania are concerned, and so the general appearance of the types they represented had been unknown; consequently, a condition of affairs where virtually the whole face and lower jaw, replete with teeth, together with the major portion of the brain pattern, have been preserved, constitutes a specimen of unusual value in fossil anthropoid discovery. Here, as in Homo rhodesiensis, Southern Africa has provided documents of higher primate evolution that are amongst the most complete extant. Apart from this evidential completeness, the specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man ... Whether our present fossil is to be correlated with the discoveries made in India is not yet apparent; that question can only be solved by a careful comparison of the permanent molar teeth from both localities. It is obvious, meanwhile, that it represents a fossil group distinctly advanced beyond living anthropoids in those two dominantly human characters of facial and dental recession on one hand, and improved quality of the brain on the other. Unlike Pithecanthropus, it does not represent an ape-like man, a caricature of precocious hominid failure, but a creature well advanced beyond modern anthropoids in just those characters, facial and cerebral, which are to be anticipated in an extinct link between man and his simian ancestor. At the same time, it is equally evident that a creature with anthropoid brain capacity and lacking the distinctive, localised temporal expansions which appear to be concomitant with and necessary to articulate man, is no true man. It is therefore logically regarded as a man-like ape. I propose tentatively, then, that a new family of Homo-simidæ be created for the reception of the group of individuals which it represents, and that the first known species of the group be designated Australopithecus africanus, in commemoration, first, of the extreme southern and unexpected horizon of its discovery, and secondly, of the continent in which so many new and important discoveries connected with the early history of man have recently been made, thus vindicating the Darwinian claim that Africa would prove to be the cradle of mankind.
'Australopithicus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa', Nature, 1925, 115, 195.
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All Frenchmen are under the blissful impression that the brain is a French organ.
As quoted in Harry Black, Canada and the Nobel Prize: Biographies, Portraits and Fascinating Facts (2002), 19.
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All the inventions that the world contains,
Were not by reason first found out, nor brains;
But pass for theirs who had the luck to light
Upon them by mistake or oversight.
Under 'Butler's Poems: Miscellaneous Thoughts', in Samuel Johnson (ed.), The Works of the English Poets from Chaucer to Cowper(1810), Vol. 8, 227.
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All the properties that we designate as activity of the soul, are only the functions of the cerebral substance, and to express ourselves in a coarser way, thought is just about to the brain what bile is to the liver and urine to the kidney. It is absurd to admit an independent soul who uses the cerebellum as an instrument with which he would work as he pleases.
Carl Vogt
As quoted in William Vogt, La Vie d'un Homme, Carl Vogt (1896), 48. Translated by Webmaster, from the original French, “Toutes les propriétés que nous designons sous le nom d’activité de l’âme, ne sont que les fonctions de la substance cérébrale, et pour nous exprimer d’ une façon plus grossière, la pensée est à peu près au cerveau ce que la bile est au foie et l’urine au rein. Il est absurde d’ admettre une âme indépendante qui se serve du cervelet comme d’un instrument avec lequelle travaillerait comme il lui plait.”
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Although it be a known thing subscribed by all, that the foetus assumes its origin and birth from the male and female, and consequently that the egge is produced by the cock and henne, and the chicken out of the egge, yet neither the schools of physicians nor Aristotle’s discerning brain have disclosed the manner how the cock and its seed doth mint and coin the chicken out of the egge.
As quoted in John Arthur Thomson, The Science of Life: An Outline of the History of Biology and Its Recent Advances (1899), 126.
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American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.
From transcript of interview on TV show, The O'Reilly Factor (15 Nov 2007).
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An article in Bioscience in November 1987 by Julie Ann Miller claimed the cortex was a “quarter-meter square.” That is napkin-sized, about ten inches by ten inches. Scientific American magazine in September 1992 upped the ante considerably with an estimate of 1½ square meters; that’s a square of brain forty inches on each side, getting close to the card-table estimate. A psychologist at the University of Toronto figured it would cover the floor of his living room (I haven’t seen his living room), but the prize winning estimate so far is from the British magazine New Scientist’s poster of the brain published in 1993 which claimed that the cerebral cortex, if flattened out, would cover a tennis court. How can there be such disagreement? How can so many experts not know how big the cortex is? I don’t know, but I’m on the hunt for an expert who will say the cortex, when fully spread out, will cover a football field. A Canadian football field.
In The Burning House: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain (1994, 1995), 11.
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An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.
Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 54.
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An immune system of enormous complexity is present in all vertebrate animals. When we place a population of lymphocytes from such an animal in appropriate tissue culture fluid, and when we add an antigen, the lymphocytes will produce specific antibody molecules, in the absence of any nerve cells. I find it astonishing that the immune system embodies a degree of complexity which suggests some more or less superficial though striking analogies with human language, and that this cognitive system has evolved and functions without assistance of the brain.
'The Generative Grammar of the Immune System', Nobel Lecture, 8 Dec 1984. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1981-1990 (1993), 223.
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And if incision of the temple is made on the left, spasm seizes the parts on the right, while if the incision is on the right, spasm seizes the parts on the left.
On Wounds in the Head, in Hippocrates, trans. E. T. Withington (1927), Vol. 3, 33.
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And men ought to know that from nothing else but thence [from the brain] come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and hat are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet, and what unsavory... And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us... All these things we endure from the brain, when it is not healthy... In these ways I am of the opinion that the brain exercises the greatest power in the man. This is the interpreter to us of those things which emanate from the air, when it [the brain] happens to be in a sound state.
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 344-5.
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And still they gazed and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
The Deserted Village: A Poem (1809), 11.
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Artificial intelligence is based on the assumption that the mind can be described as some kind of formal system manipulating symbols that stand for things in the world. Thus it doesn't matter what the brain is made of, or what it uses for tokens in the great game of thinking. Using an equivalent set of tokens and rules, we can do thinking with a digital computer, just as we can play chess using cups, salt and pepper shakers, knives, forks, and spoons. Using the right software, one system (the mind) can be mapped onto the other (the computer).
Machinery of the Mind: Inside the New Science of Artificial Intelligence (1986), 250.
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As a little boy, I showed an abnormal aptitude for mathematics this gift played a horrible part in tussles with quinsy or scarlet fever, when I felt enormous spheres and huge numbers swell relentlessly in my aching brain.
In Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1999), 2
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As followers of natural science we know nothing of any relation between thoughts and the brain, except as a gross correlation in time and space.
Man on his Nature (1942), 290.
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As for Galen’s netlike plexus, I do not need to pass on a lot of misinformation about it here, as I am quite sure that I have examined the whole system of the cerebral vessels. There is no occasion for making things up, since we are certain that Galen was deluded by his dissection of ox brains and described the cerebral vessels, not of a human but of oxen.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1543), Book III, 310, as translated by William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman, in 'Structure of the Plexus in the Prior Ventricles of the Brain; Galen’s Netlike Plexus', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book III: The Veins And Arteries; Book IV: The Nerves (1998), 140.
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As for those wingy mysteries in divinity, and airy subtleties in religion, which have unhinged the brains of better heads, they never stretched the pia mater of mine: methinks there be not impossibilities enough in Religion for an active faith.
In T. Chapman (ed.), Religio Medici (1643, 1831), part 1, sect. 9, 17.
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As long as our brain is a mystery, the universe, the reflection of the structure of the brain will also be a mystery.
In Charlas de Café: pensamientos, anécdotas y confidencias (1920,1967), 276. (Café Chats: Thoughts, Anecdotes and Confidences). As translated in Roger Carpenter and Benjamin Redd, Neurophysiology: A Conceptual Approach (2012), 5th ed., 16. From the original Spanish, “Mientras nuestro cerebro sea un arcano, el universo reflejo de su estructura también será un misterio.”
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As the brain of man is the speck of dust in the universe that thinks, so the leaves—the fern and the needled pine and the latticed frond and the seaweed ribbon—perceive the light in a fundamental and constructive sense. … Their leaves see the light, as my eyes can never do. … They impound its stellar energy, and with that force they make life out of the elements.
In Flowering Earth (1939), 4.
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As the human fetus develops, its changing form seems to retrace the whole of human evolution from the time we were cosmic dust to the time we were single-celled organisms in the primordial sea to the time we were four-legged, land-dwelling reptiles and beyond, to our current status as large­brained, bipedal mammals. Thus, humans seem to be the sum total of experience since the beginning of the cosmos.
From interview with James Reston, Jr., in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 99. Previously published in magazine, Omni (May 1982).
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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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Behold the mighty dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his power and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains—
One in his head (the usual place),
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason 'A priori'
As well as 'A posteriori'.
No problem bothered him a bit
He made both head and tail of it.
So wise was he, so wise and solemn,
Each thought filled just a spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong
It passed a few ideas along.
If something slipped his forward mind
'Twas rescued by the one behind.
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.
As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgment to revoke.
Thus he could think without congestion
Upon both sides of every question.
Oh, gaze upon this model beast
Defunct ten million years at least.
'The Dinosaur: A Poem' (1912). In E. H. Colbert (ed.), The Dinosaur Book (1951), 78.
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BRAIN, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think. That which distinguishes the man who is content to be something from the man who wishes to do something. A man of great wealth, or one who has been pitchforked into high station, has commonly such a headful of brain that his neighbors cannot keep their hats on. In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, brain is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  41.
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Break the chains of your prejudices and take up the torch of experience, and you will honour nature in the way she deserves, instead of drawing derogatory conclusions from the ignorance in which she has left you. Simply open your eyes and ignore what you cannot understand, and you will see that a labourer whose mind and knowledge extend no further than the edges of his furrow is no different essentially from the greatest genius, as would have been proved by dissecting the brains of Descartes and Newton; you will be convinced that the imbecile or the idiot are animals in human form, in the same way as the clever ape is a little man in another form; and that, since everything depends absolutely on differences in organisation, a well-constructed animal who has learnt astronomy can predict an eclipse, as he can predict recovery or death when his genius and good eyesight have benefited from some time at the school of Hippocrates and at patients' bedsides.
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 38.
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But for the persistence of a student of this university in urging upon me his desire to study with me the modern algebra I should never have been led into this investigation; and the new facts and principles which I have discovered in regard to it (important facts, I believe), would, so far as I am concerned, have remained still hidden in the womb of time. In vain I represented to this inquisitive student that he would do better to take up some other subject lying less off the beaten track of study, such as the higher parts of the calculus or elliptic functions, or the theory of substitutions, or I wot not what besides. He stuck with perfect respectfulness, but with invincible pertinacity, to his point. He would have the new algebra (Heaven knows where he had heard about it, for it is almost unknown in this continent), that or nothing. I was obliged to yield, and what was the consequence? In trying to throw light upon an obscure explanation in our text-book, my brain took fire, I plunged with re-quickened zeal into a subject which I had for years abandoned, and found food for thoughts which have engaged my attention for a considerable time past, and will probably occupy all my powers of contemplation advantageously for several months to come.
In Johns Hopkins Commemoration Day Address, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 3, 76.
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But since the brain, as well as the cerebellum, is composed of many parts, variously figured, it is possible, that nature, which never works in vain, has destined those parts to various uses, so that the various faculties of the mind seem to require different portions of the cerebrum and cerebellum for their production.
A Dissertation on the Functions of the Nervous System (1784), trans. and ed. Thomas Laycock (1851), 446.
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By relieving the brain of all unnecessary work, a good notation sets it free to concentrate on more advanced problems, and in effect increases the mental power of the race.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 59.
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Can science ever be immune from experiments conceived out of prejudices and stereotypes, conscious or not? (Which is not to suggest that it cannot in discrete areas identify and locate verifiable phenomena in nature.) I await the study that says lesbians have a region of the hypothalamus that resembles straight men and I would not be surprised if, at this very moment, some scientist somewhere is studying brains of deceased Asians to see if they have an enlarged ‘math region’ of the brain.
Kay Diaz
…...
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Can the cultural evolution of higher ethical values gain a direction and momentum of its own and completely replace genetic evolution? I think not. The genes hold culture an a leash. The leash is very long, but inevitably values will be constrained in accordance with their effects in the human gene pool. The brain is a product of evolution. Human behaviour—like the deepest capacities for emotional response which drive and guide it—is the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.
In On Human Nature (1978), 167. In William Andrew Rottschaefer, The Biology and Psychology of Moral Agency (1998), 58.
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Chess grips its exponent, shackling the mind and brain so that the inner freedom and independence of even the strongest character cannot remain unaffected.
Einstein commenting on mathematician Emanuel Lasker's fate as world chess champion (1894-1921). As quoted in Daniel Johnson, White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War Was Fought on the Chessboard (2008), 50.
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Conformity-enforcing packs of vicious children and adults gradually shape the social complexes we know as religion, science, corporations, ethnic groups, and even nations. The tools of our cohesion include ridicule, rejection, snobbery, self-righteousness, assault, torture, and death by stoning, lethal injection, or the noose. A collective brain may sound warm and fuzzily New Age, but one force lashing it together is abuse.
In 'The Conformity Police', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 89.
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Consider a cow. A cow doesn’t have the problem-solving skill of a chimpanzee, which has discovered how to get termites out of the ground by putting a stick into a hole. Evolution has developed the brain’s ability to solve puzzles, and at the same time has produced in our brain a pleasure of solving problems.
In John Tierney, 'For Decades, Puzzling People With Mathematics', New York Times (20 Oct 2009), D2.
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Data isn't information. ... Information, unlike data, is useful. While there’s a gulf between data and information, there’s a wide ocean between information and knowledge. What turns the gears in our brains isn't information, but ideas, inventions, and inspiration. Knowledge—not information—implies understanding. And beyond knowledge lies what we should be seeking: wisdom.
In High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian (2000), 185-186.
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Distrust even Mathematics; albeit so sublime and highly perfected, we have here a machine of such delicacy it can only work in vacuo, and one grain of sand in the wheels is enough to put everything out of gear. One shudders to think to what disaster such a grain of sand may bring a Mathematical brain. Remember Pascal.
The Garden of Epicurus (1894) translated by Alfred Allinson, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 187.
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Do not call for black power or green power. Call for brain power.
As quoted in Jacqueline Trescott, 'Representative Barbara Jordan', Tuesday at Home Supplement,The Courier Journal (27 Oct 1974), 8. As quoted in 'Words of the Week', Jet (23 Jan 1975), 47, No. 18, 32.
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Dr. Wallace, in his Darwinism, declares that he can find no ground for the existence of pure scientists, especially mathematicians, on the hypothesis of natural selection. If we put aside the fact that great power in theoretical science is correlated with other developments of increasing brain-activity, we may, I think, still account for the existence of pure scientists as Dr. Wallace would himself account for that of worker-bees. Their function may not fit them individually to survive in the struggle for existence, but they are a source of strength and efficiency to the society which produces them.
In Grammar of Science (1911), Part, 1, 221.
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Each nerve cell receives connections from other nerve cells at six sites called synapses. But here is an astonishing fact—there are about one million billion connections in the cortical sheet. If you were to count them, one connection (or synapse) per second, you would finish counting some thirty-two million years after you began. Another way of getting a feeling for the numbers of connections in this extraordinary structure is to consider that a large match-head’s worth of your brain contains about a billion connections. Notice that I only mention counting connections. If we consider how connections might be variously combined, the number would be hyperastronomical—on the order of ten followed by millions of zeros. (There are about ten followed by eighty zero’s worth of positively charged particles in the whole known universe!)
Bright and Brilliant Fire, On the Matters of the Mind (1992), 17.
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Education is not a matter of getting facts and sowing them within brains, but that it is an attitude of mind that you teach children to find out for themselves
Interview with David Barrett, 'Attenborough: Children Don’t Know Enough About Nature', Daily Telegraph (17 Apr 2011).
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Every natural scientist who thinks with any degree of consistency at all will, I think, come to the view that all those capacities that we understand by the phrase psychic activities (Seelenthiitigkeiten) are but functions of the brain substance; or, to express myself a bit crudely here, that thoughts stand in the same relation to the brain as gall does to the liver or urine to the kidneys. To assume a soul that makes use of the brain as an instrument with which it can work as it pleases is pure nonsense; we would then be forced to assume a special soul for every function of the body as well.
Carl Vogt
In Physiologische Briefe für Gelbildete aIle Stünde (1845-1847), 3 parts, 206. as translated in Frederick Gregory, Scientific Materialism in Nineteenth Century Germany (1977), 64.
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Facts to [Herbert] Hoover's brain are as water to a sponge; they are absorbed into every tiny interstice.
Quoted in David Hinshaw, Herbert Hoover: American Quaker (1950), 30.
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For in disease the most voluntary or most special movements, faculties, etc., suffer first and most, that is in an order the exact opposite of evolution. Therefore I call this the principle of Dissolution.
'On the Anatomical and Physiological Localisation of Movements in the Brain' (1875), Preface. In James Taylor (ed.), Selected Writings of John Hughlings Jackson, Vol. 1 (1931), 38.
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For three million years we were hunter-gatherers, and it was through the evolutionary pressures of that way of life that a brain so adaptable and so creative eventually emerged. Today we stand with the brains of hunter-gatherers in our heads, looking out on a modern world made comfortable for some by the fruits of human inventiveness, and made miserable for others by the scandal of deprivation in the midst of plenty.
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 249.
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For, every time a certain portion is destroyed, be it of the brain or of the spinal cord, a function is compelled to cease suddenly, and before the time known beforehand when it would stop naturally, it is certain that this function depends upon the area destroyed. It is in this way that I have recognized that the prime motive power of respiration has its seat in that part of the medulla oblongata that gives rise to the nerves of the eighth pair [vagi]; and it is by this method that up to a certain point it will be possible to discover the use of certain parts of the brain.
Expériences sur le Principe de la Vie, Notamment sur celui des Mouvements du Coeur, et sur le Siege de ce Principe (1812), 148-149. Translated in Edwin Clarke and L. S. Jacyna, Nineteenth Century Origins of Neuroscientific Concepts (1987), 247.
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Gauss was not the son of a mathematician; Handel’s father was a surgeon, of whose musical powers nothing is known; Titian was the son and also the nephew of a lawyer, while he and his brother, Francesco Vecellio, were the first painters in a family which produced a succession of seven other artists with diminishing talents. These facts do not, however, prove that the condition of the nerve-tracts and centres of the brain, which determine the specific talent, appeared for the first time in these men: the appropriate condition surely existed previously in their parents, although it did not achieve expression. They prove, as it seems to me, that a high degree of endowment in a special direction, which we call talent, cannot have arisen from the experience of previous generations, that is, by the exercise of the brain in the same specific direction.
In 'On Heredity', Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems (1889), Vol. 1, 96.
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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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Have you tried neuroxing papers? It.'s a very easy and cheap process. You hold the page in front of your eyes and you let it go through there into the brain. It’s much better than xeroxing.
Quoted in L. Wolpert and A. Richards (eds.), A Passion for Science (1988), 104.
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He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilisation should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
…...
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Heart and Brain are the two lords of life. In the metaphors of ordinary speech and in the stricter language of science, we use these terms to indicate two central powers, from which all motives radiate, to which all influences converge.
From 'The Principles of Success in Literature', The Fortnightly (1865), 1, 66.
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Here I am: My brain is open.
[As an itinerant scholar, this was greeting he often gave, ready to collaborate, upon arrival at the home of any mathematician colleague.]
Quoted by Béla Bollobás, 'The Life and Work of Paul Erdos", in Shiing-Shen Chern and Friedrich Hirzebruch, Wolf Prize in Mathematics (2000), 293.
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His [Erwin Schrödinger's] private life seemed strange to bourgeois people like ourselves. But all this does not matter. He was a most lovable person, independent, amusing, temperamental, kind and generous, and he had a most perfect and efficient brain.
Max Born
In My Life, Recollections of a Nobel Laureate (1978), 270. Quoted by Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1992), 6.
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Historians constantly rewrite history, reinterpreting (reorganizing) the records of the past. So, too, when the brain's coherent responses become part of a memory, they are organized anew as part of the structure of consciousness. What makes them memories is that they become part of that structure and thus form part of the sense of self; my sense of self derives from a certainty that my experiences refer back to me, the individual who is having them. Hence the sense of the past, of history, of memory, is in part the creation of the self.
The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness (1995), 87.
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However closely we may associate thought with the physical machinery of the brain, the connection is dropped as irrelevant as soon as we consider the fundamental property of thought—that it may be correct or incorrect. …that involves recognising a domain of the other type of law—laws which ought to be kept, but may be broken.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 57-58.
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I always feel as if my books came half out of Lyell's brain... & therefore that when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet saw it partially through his eyes.
Letter to Leonard Horner, 29 August 1844. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1844-1846 (1987), Vol. 3, 55.
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I am a believer in unconscious cerebration. The brain is working all the time, though we do not know it. At night it follows up what we think in the daytime. When I have worked a long time on one thing, I make it a point to bring all the facts regarding it together before I retire; I have often been surprised at the results… We are thinking all the time; it is impossible not to think.
In Orison Swett Marden, 'Bell Telephone Talk: Hints on Success by Alexander G. Bell', How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men Told by Themselves (1901), 33.
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I am delighted that I have found a new reaction to demonstrate even to the blind the structure of the interstitial stroma of the cerebral cortex. I let the silver nitrate react with pieces of brain hardened in potassium dichromate. I have already obtained magnificent results and hope to do even better in the future.
Letter to Nicolo Manfredi, 16 Feb 1873. Archive source. Quoted in Paolo Mazzarello, The Hidden Structure: A Scientific Biography of Camillo Golgi, trans. and ed. Henry A. Buchtel and Aldo Badiani (1999), 63.
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I believe that the useful methods of mathematics are easily to be learned by quite young persons, just as languages are easily learned in youth. What a wondrous philosophy and history underlie the use of almost every word in every language—yet the child learns to use the word unconsciously. No doubt when such a word was first invented it was studied over and lectured upon, just as one might lecture now upon the idea of a rate, or the use of Cartesian co-ordinates, and we may depend upon it that children of the future will use the idea of the calculus, and use squared paper as readily as they now cipher. … When Egyptian and Chaldean philosophers spent years in difficult calculations, which would now be thought easy by young children, doubtless they had the same notions of the depth of their knowledge that Sir William Thomson might now have of his. How is it, then, that Thomson gained his immense knowledge in the time taken by a Chaldean philosopher to acquire a simple knowledge of arithmetic? The reason is plain. Thomson, when a child, was taught in a few years more than all that was known three thousand years ago of the properties of numbers. When it is found essential to a boy’s future that machinery should be given to his brain, it is given to him; he is taught to use it, and his bright memory makes the use of it a second nature to him; but it is not till after-life that he makes a close investigation of what there actually is in his brain which has enabled him to do so much. It is taken because the child has much faith. In after years he will accept nothing without careful consideration. The machinery given to the brain of children is getting more and more complicated as time goes on; but there is really no reason why it should not be taken in as early, and used as readily, as were the axioms of childish education in ancient Chaldea.
In Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 14.
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I bet the human brain is a kludge
In Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature (2000), 383.
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I can say, if I like, that social insects behave like the working parts of an immense central nervous system: the termite colony is an enormous brain on millions of legs; the individual termite is a mobile neurone.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 224. Note: Spelling “neurone&rdwuo; [sic].
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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 consider the differences between man and animals in propensities, feelings, and intellectual faculties, to be the result of the same cause as that which we assign for the variations in other functions, viz. difference of organization; and that the superiority of man in rational endowments is not greater than the more exquisite, complicated, and perfectly developed structure of his brain, and particularly of his ample cerebral hemispheres, to which the rest of the animal kingdom offers no parallel, nor even any near approximation, is sufficient to account for.
Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man (1819), 237.
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I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.
Quoted by Cleveland Moffitt, 'A Talk With Tesla', Atlanta Constitution (7 Jun 1896)
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I have always liked horticulturists, people who make their living from orchards and gardens, whose hands are familiar with the feel of the bark, whose eyes are trained to distinguish the different varieties, who have a form memory. Their brains are not forever dealing with vague abstractions; they are satisfied with the romance which the seasons bring with them, and have the patience and fortitude to gamble their lives and fortunes in an industry which requires infinite patience, which raise hopes each spring and too often dashes them to pieces in fall. They are always conscious of sun and wind and rain; must always be alert lest they lose the chance of ploughing at the right moment, pruning at the right time, circumventing the attacks of insects and fungus diseases by quick decision and prompt action. They are manufacturers of a high order, whose business requires not only intelligence of a practical character, but necessitates an instinct for industry which is different from that required by the city dweller always within sight of other people and the sound of their voices. The successful horticulturist spends much time alone among his trees, away from the constant chatter of human beings.
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I have heard him [William Harvey] say, that after his Booke of the Circulation of the Blood came-out, that he fell mightily in his Practize, and that 'twas beleeved by the vulgar that he was crack-brained.
Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 131.
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I invite you to entertain some new beliefs about dolphins … [that] these Cetacea with huge brains are more intelligent than any man or woman..
A statement showing his enthusiasm, but overstating the intelligence of dolphins. In Communication between Man and Dolphin: The Possibilities of Talking with Other Species (1978), 1.
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I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity. This belief must be classed as a superstition. ... We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.
In Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self (1991), 241.
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I read … that geometry is the art of making no mistakes in long calculations. I think that this is an underestimation of geometry. Our brain has two halves: one is responsible for the multiplication of polynomials and languages, and the other half is responsible for orientation of figures in space and all the things important in real life. Mathematics is geometry when you have to use both halves.
In S.H. Lui, 'An Interview with Vladimir Arnol’d', Notices of the AMS (Apr 1997) 44, No. 4, 438. Reprinted from the Hong Kong Mathematics Society (Feb 1996).
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I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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I saw a horrible brown heap on the floor in the corner, which, but for previous experience in this dismal wise, I might not have suspected to be “the bed.” There was something thrown upon it and I asked what it was. “’Tis the poor craythur that stays here, sur; and ’tis very bad she is, ’tis very bad she’s been this long time, and ’tis better she’ll never be, and ’tis slape she doos all day, and ’tis wake she doos all night, and ‘tis the lead, Sur.” “The what?” “The lead, Sur. Sure, ’tis the lead-mills, where women gets took on at eighteen pence a day, Sur, when they makes application early enough, and is lucky and wanted, and ’tis lead-pisoned she is, Sur, and some of them gits lead-pisoned soon and some of them gets lead-pisoned later, and some but not many, niver, and ’tis all according to the constitooshun, Sur, and some constitooshuns is strong, and some is weak, and her constitooshun is lead-pisoned, bad as can be, Sur, and her brain is coming out at her ear, and it hurts her dreadful, and that’s what it is and niver no more and niver so less, Sur.”
In 'New Uncommercial Samples: A Small Star in the East', All the Year Round (19 Dec 1868), New Series, No. 3, 62.
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I took this view of the subject. The medulla spinalis has a central division, and also a distinction into anterior and posterior fasciculi, corresponding with the anterior and posterior portions of the brain. Further we can trace down the crura of the cerebrum into the anterior fasciculus of the spinal marrow, and the crura of the cerebellum into the posterior fasciculus. I thought that here I might have an opportunity of touching the cerebellum, as it were, through the posterior portion of the spinal marrow, and the cerebrum by the anterior portion. To this end I made experiments which, though they were not conclusive, encouraged me in the view I had taken. I found that injury done to the anterior portion of the spinal marrow, convulsed the animal more certainly than injury done to the posterior portion; but I found it difficult to make the experiment without injuring both portions.
Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain (1811), 21-22.
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I used to think the human brain was the most fascinating part of the body. But then I realised, Well …look what’s telling me that?
In The Reader’s Digest (1998), 152, 166. (The ellipsis itself is part of the quote, indicating a pause.)
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I was ever of the opinion that the philosopher’s stone, and an holy war, were but the rendezvous of cracked brains, that wore their feather in their heads.
From essay, An Advertisement Touching a Holy War (1622). As collected and translated in Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon (1844), Vol. 2, 439. As quoted in Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations From Socrates to Macaulay (1876), 28. [Note: In Bacon’s time, the 17th century, the meaning of “advertise” was to give knowledge, advice or counsel. An “advertisement” meant the same in the form of a written statement. —Webmaster]
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I would be the last to deny that the greatest scientific pioneers belonged to an aristocracy of the spirit and were exceptionally intelligent, something that we as modest investigators will never attain, no matter how much we exert ourselves. Nevertheless … I continue to believe that there is always room for anyone with average intelligence … to utilize his energy and … any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain, and that even the least gifted may, like the poorest land that has been well-cultivated and fertilized, produce an abundant harvest..
From Preface to the second edition, Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), xv.
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I'm not saying … I'm gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world.
From interview on MTV (1994).
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I'm not saying … I'm gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world.
From interview on MTV (1994).
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If coal plants release mercury—and mercury is a neurotoxin that damages children's brains—then reducing the amount of mercury in emissions doesn’t stop that. It just says, “We’ll tell you at what rate you can dispense death.”
In interview article, 'Designing For The Future', Newsweek (15 May 2005).
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If materialism is true, it seems to me that we cannot know that it is true. If my opinions are the result of the chemical processes going on in my brain, they are determined by the laws of chemistry, not those of logic.
The Inequality of Man (1932), 162.
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If Melancholy increases so far, that from the great motion of the Liquid of the Brain the Patient be thrown into a wild Fury, it is call’d Madness.… The greatest Remedy for it is to throw the Patient unwarily into the Sea, and to keep him under Water as long as he can possibly bear without being quite stifled.
Aphorism No. 1118 and 1123 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 302-303.
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If one small and odd lineage of fishes had not evolved fins capable of bearing weight on land (though evolved for different reasons in lakes and seas,) terrestrial vertebrates would never have arisen. If a large extraterrestrial object—the ultimate random bolt from the blue—had not triggered the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, mammals would still be small creatures, confined to the nooks and crannies of a dinosaur's world, and incapable of evolving the larger size that brains big enough for self-consciousness require. If a small and tenuous population of protohumans had not survived a hundred slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (and potential extinction) on the savannas of Africa, then Homo sapiens would never have emerged to spread throughout the globe. We are glorious accidents of an unpredictable process with no drive to complexity, not the expected results of evolutionary principles that yearn to produce a creature capable of understanding the mode of its own necessary construction.
Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin (1996), 216.
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If our intention had been merely to bring back a handful of soil and rocks from the lunar gravel pit and then forget the whole thing, we would certainly be history's biggest fools. But that is not our intention now—it never will be. What we are seeking in tomorrow's [Apollo 11] trip is indeed that key to our future on earth. We are expanding the mind of man. We are extending this God-given brain and these God-given hands to their outermost limits and in so doing all mankind will benefit. All mankind will reap the harvest…. What we will have attained when Neil Armstrong steps down upon the moon is a completely new step in the evolution of man.
Banquet speech on the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, Royal Oaks Country Club, Titusville (15 Jul 1969). In "Of a Fire on the Moon", Life (29 Aug 1969), 67, No. 9, 34.
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If the brain were simple enough for us to understand it, we would be too simple to understand it.
Ken Hill
…...
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If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't.
Quoted by George E. Pugh, The Biological Origin of Human Values (1978), 154. In a footnote, the author writes that this quote comes from his own father, around 1938. The quote is also widely seen attributed to Lyall Watson (born 1939), for example, by Larry Chang in Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing (2006), 539.
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If the human mind were simple enough to understand, we’d be too simple to understand it.
Pat Bahn
Bahn’s conundrum to cognitive theory
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If the world goes crazy for a lovely fossil, that's fine with me. But if that fossil releases some kind of mysterious brain ray that makes people say crazy things and write lazy articles, a serious swarm of flies ends up in my ointment.
Criticism of excessive media hype about a fossil discovery, from blog 'The Loom' (19 May 2009) on Discover magazine website.
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If there is no God, we are just molecules in motion, and we have no sense and no mind; we are just random firings of chemical in the brain. If our minds are composed only of physical matter, then our thoughts are, as Doug Wilson wittily quipped in his debate with atheist Dan Barker, just “brain gas.”
God Does Exist (2005), 45.
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In any of the learned professions a vigorous constitution is equal to at least fifty per cent more brain.
In Getting on in the World; Or, Hints on Success in Life (1873), 55.
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In Man the brain presents an ascensive step in development, higher and more strongly marked than that by which the preceding subclass was distinguished from the one below it. Not only do the cerebral hemispheres overlap the olfactory lobes and cerebellum, but they extend in advance of the one, and further back than the other. Their posterior development is so marked, that anatomists have assigned to that part the character of a third lobe; it is peculiar to the genus Homo, and equally peculiar is the 'posterior horn of the lateral ventricle,' and the 'hippocampus minor,' which characterize the hind lobe of each hemisphere. The superficial grey matter of the cerebrum, through the number and depth of the convolutions, attains its maximum of extent in Man. Peculiar mental powers are associated with this highest form of brain, and their consequences wonderfully illustrate the value of the cerebral character; according to my estimate of which, I am led to regard the genus Homo, as not merely a representative of a distinct order, but of a distinct subclass of the Mammalia, for which I propose a name of 'ARCHENCEPHALA.'
'On the Characters, Principles of Division, and Primary Groups of the Class MAMMALIA' (1857), Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (1858), 2, 19-20.
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In man’s brain the impressions from outside are not merely registered; they produce concepts and ideas. They are the imprint of the external world upon the human brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that, after a long period of searching and erring, some of the concepts and ideas in human thinking should have come gradually closer to the fundamental laws of the world, that some of our thinking should reveal the true structure of atoms and the true movements of the stars. Nature, in the form of man, begins to recognize itself.
In Knowledge and Wonder (1962).
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In order to form for one's self a just notion of the operations which result in the production of thought, it is necessary to conceive of the brain as a peculiar organ, specially designed for the production thereof, just as the stomach is designed to effect digestion, the liver to filter the bile, the parotids and the maxillary and sublingual glands to prepare the salivary juices.
Rapports du Physique et du Moral de l'Homme (1805), 2nd edition, Vol. 1, 152-3. Translated in Robert M. Young, Mind, Brain and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century (1970), 20.
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In science one must search for ideas. If there are no ideas, there is no science. A knowledge of facts is only valuable in so far as facts conceal ideas: facts without ideas are just the sweepings of the brain and the memory.
Collected Works (1948), Vol.2, 348.
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In the endeavor to clearly comprehend and explain the functions of the combination of forces called “brain,” the physiologist is hindered and troubled by the views of the nature of those cerebral forces which the needs of dogmatic theology have imposed on mankind.
In 'General Conclusions, Anatomy of the Vertebrates (1868, 2011), Vol. 3, Chap 40, 823. Excerpt in Noah Porter (ed.), Half Hours with Modern Scientists (1872), 71.
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In the mountains of Parma and Piacenza, multitudes of shells and corals filled with worm-holes may be seen still adhering to the rocks, and when I was making the great horse at Milan a large sack of those which had been found in these parts was brought to my workshop by some peasants... The red stone of the mountains of Verona is found with shells all intermingled, which have become part of this stone... And if you should say that these shells have been and still constantly are being created in such places as these by the nature of the locality or by potency of the heavens in these spots, such an opinion cannot exist in brains possessed of any extensive powers of reasoning because the years of their growth are numbered upon the outer coverings of their shells; and both small and large ones may be seen; and these would not have grown without feeding, or fed without movement, and here [embedded in rock] they would not have been able to move... The peaks of the Apennines once stood up in a sea, in the form of islands surrounded by salt water... and above the plains of Italy where flocks of birds are flying today, fishes were once moving in large shoals.
'Physical Geography', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 355-6, 359.
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In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither. Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside. Our Planck is one of them, and that is why we love him.
Address at Physical Society, Berlin (1918), for Max Planck’s 60th birthday, 'Principles of Research' in Essays in Science (1934, 2004), 1.
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In the training and in the exercise of medicine a remoteness abides between the field of neurology and that of mental health, psychiatry. It is sometimes blamed to prejudice on the part of the one side or the other. It is both more grave and less grave than that. It has a reasonable basis. It is rooted in the energy-mind problem. Physiology has not enough to offer about the brain in relation to the mind to lend the psychiatrist much help.
In 'The Brain Collaborates With Psyche', Man On His Nature: The Gifford Lectures, Edinburgh 1937-8 (1940), 283.
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Indeed, while Nature is wonderfully inventive of new structures, her conservatism in holding on to old ones is still more remarkable. In the ascending line of development she tries an experiment once exceedingly thorough, and then the question is solved for all time. For she always takes time enough to try the experiment exhaustively. It took ages to find how to build a spinal column or brain, but when the experiment was finished she had reason to be, and was, satisfied.
In The Whence and Whither of Man; a Brief History of his Origin and Development through Conformity to Environment; being the Morse Lectures of 1895. (1896), 173. The Morse lectureship was founded by Prof. Samuel F.B. Morse in 1865 at Union Theological Seminary, the lectures to deal with “the relation of the Bible to any of the sciences.”
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Inventing is a combination of brains and materials. The more brains you use, the less material you need.
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Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this silence is that you have to know how to read music. For instance, the scientific article may say, “The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.” Now what does that mean?
It means that phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat—and also in mine, and yours—is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away.
So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out—there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.
'What do You Care What Other People Think?' Further Adventures of a Curious Character (1988), 244.
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It has been said that he who was the first to abuse his fellow-man instead of knocking out his brains without a word, laid thereby the basis of civilisation.
'On affections of Speech from the Disease of the Brain' (1878). In James Taylor (ed.), Selected Writings of John Hughlings Jackson, Vol. 2 (1932), 179.
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It is because of his brain that [modern man] has risen above the animals. Guess which animals he has risen above.
The Great Bustard and Other People (1944), 30.
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It is distinctly proved, by this series of observations, that the reflex function exists in the medulla independently of the brain; in the medulla oblongata independently of the medulla spinalis; and in the spinal marrow of the anterior extremities, of the posterior extremities, and of the tail, independently of that of each other of these parts, respectively. There is still a more interesting and satisfactory mode of performing the experiment: it is to divide the spinal marrow between the nerves of the superior and inferior extremities. We have then two modes of animal life : the first being the assemblage of the voluntary and respiratory powers with those of the reflex function and irritability; the second, the two latter powers only: the first are those which obtain in the perfect animal, the second those which animate the foetus. The phenomena are precisely what might have been anticipated. If the spinal marrow be now destroyed, the irritability alone remains,—all the other phenomena having ceased.
'On the Reflex Function of the Medulla Oblongata and Medulla Spinalis,' Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1833, 123, 650.
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It is easy to make out three areas where scientists will be concentrating their efforts in the coming decades. One is in physics, where leading theorists are striving, with the help of experimentalists, to devise a single mathematical theory that embraces all the basic phenomena of matter and energy. The other two are in biology. Biologists—and the rest of us too—would like to know how the brain works and how a single cell, the fertilized egg cell, develops into an entire organism
Article 'The View From Mars', in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Research Facilities of the Future (1994), 735, 37.
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It is entirely unprecedented that evolution should provide a species with an organ which it does not know how to use. … But the evolution of man’s brain has so wildly overshot man’s immediate needs that he is still breathlessly catching up with its unexploited, unexplored possibilities.
In The Ghost in the Machine (1967), 298-299. This is often seen paraphrased as “The evolution of the brain not only overshot the needs of prehistoric man, it is the only example of evolution providing a species with an organ which it does not know how to use.”
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It is strongly suspected that a NEWTON or SHAKESPEARE excels other mortals only by a more ample development of the anterior cerebral lobes, by having an extra inch of brain in the right place.
Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man (1819), 110.
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It is … genius which has given motion and progress to society; prevented the ossification of the human heart and brain; and though, in its processes, it may not ever have followed the rules laid down in primers, it has, at least, saved history from being the region of geology, and our present society from being a collection of fossil remains.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 204.
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It seems a miracle that young children easily learn the language of any environment into which they were born. The generative approach to grammar, pioneered by Chomsky, argues that this is only explicable if certain deep, universal features of this competence are innate characteristics of the human brain. Biologically speaking, this hypothesis of an inheritable capability to learn any language means that it must somehow be encoded in the DNA of our chromosomes. Should this hypothesis one day be verified, then lingusitics would become a branch of biology.
'The Generative Grammar of the Immune System', Nobel Lecture, 8 Dec 1984. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1981-1990 (1993), 223.
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It took Freud 38 years to understand it. You have one night. The psych exam is in 12 hours. And your id wants to party. Your ego wants to conk out. But your superego knows you need to stay awake tonight to cram. Fortunately, you've got Vivarin [caffeine tablets]. It helps keep you awake and mentally alert… So all your brainpower can focus on understanding the brain. If Freud had used Vivarin, maybe he could have understood the brain faster, too.
Advertisement by SmithKline Beecham for Vivarin, student newspaper, Columbia Daily Spectator (16 Apr 1990), Vol. 114, No. 113, (16 April 1990), 4.
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I’m just a speck, standing on this big planet. … The Earth is orbiting the Sun, and the Sun is a huge star. And our star may be a big deal to us, but, my friends, our star is just another speck. … It’s not really in downtown Milky Way, it’s way out on the side. … I'm a speck, living on a speck, orbiting a speck in the middle of specklessness. But … I have this brain … to think about all of this. To think about the vast emptiness of space. I can reason that I'm a speck on a speck in the middle of specklessness. And that’s cool. That’s worthy of respect.
Bill Nye
From narration to PBS TV program, 'Astrobiology', The Eyes of Nye (2005), Ep. 1, Introduction before titles. Also seen quoted as: “We are just a speck, on a speck, orbiting a speck, in the corner of a speck, in the middle of nowhere.”
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I’ve never consciously tried to keep myself out of anything I write, and I’ve always talked clearly when people interview me. I don’t think my life is too interesting. It’s lived mainly inside my brain.
As quoted by Lawrence Toppman, 'Mastermind', The Charlotte Observer (20 Jun 1993), 1E, 6E. As quoted and cited in Dana Richards, 'Martin Gardner: A “Documentary”', collected in Elwyn R. Berlekamp and Tom Rodgers (ed.) The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler: A Collection in Tribute to Martin Gardner (1999), 3.
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Japan’s only natural resources are water, fish, sunlight and brains. We must create or die.
As quoted by Franz Lidz in 'Dr. NakaMats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name', Smithsonian Magazine (Dec 2012).
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Just as a tree constitutes a mass arranged in a definite manner, in which, in every single part, in the leaves as in the root, in the trunk as in the blossom, cells are discovered to be the ultimate elements, so is it also with the forms of animal life. Every animal presents itself as a sum of vital unities, every one of which manifests all the characteristics of life. The characteristics and unity of life cannot be limited to anyone particular spot in a highly developed organism (for example, to the brain of man), but are to be found only in the definite, constantly recurring structure, which every individual element displays. Hence it follows that the structural composition of a body of considerable size, a so-called individual, always represents a kind of social arrangement of parts, an arrangement of a social kind, in which a number of individual existences are mutually dependent, but in such a way, that every element has its own special action, and, even though it derive its stimulus to activity from other parts, yet alone effects the actual performance of its duties.
In Lecture I, 'Cells and the Cellular Theory' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Frank Chance (trans.) ,Cellular Pathology (1860), 13-14.
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Let him [the author] be permitted also in all humility to add … that in consequence of the large arrears of algebraical and arithmetical speculations waiting in his mind their turn to be called into outward existence, he is driven to the alternative of leaving the fruits of his meditations to perish (as has been the fate of too many foregone theories, the still-born progeny of his brain, now forever resolved back again into the primordial matter of thought), or venturing to produce from time to time such imperfect sketches as the present, calculated to evoke the mental co-operation of his readers, in whom the algebraical instinct has been to some extent developed, rather than to satisfy the strict demands of rigorously systematic exposition.
In Philosophic Magazine (1863), 460.
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Like all things of the mind, science is a brittle thing: it becomes absurd when you look at it too closely. It is designed for few at a time, not as a mass profession. But now we have megascience: an immense apparatus discharging in a minute more bursts of knowledge than humanity is able to assimilate in a lifetime. Each of us has two eyes, two ears, and, I hope, one brain. We cannot even listen to two symphonies at the same time. How do we get out of the horrible cacophony that assails our minds day and night? We have to learn, as others did, that if science is a machine to make more science, a machine to grind out so-called facts of nature, not all facts are equally worth knowing. Students, in other words, will have to learn to forget most of what they have learned. This process of forgetting must begin after each exam, but never before. The Ph.D. is essentially a license to start unlearning.
Voices In the Labyrinth: Nature, Man, and Science (1979), 2.
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Looking back over the geological record it would seem that Nature made nearly every possible mistake before she reached her greatest achievement Man—or perhaps some would say her worst mistake of all. ... At last she tried a being of no great size, almost defenseless, defective in at least one of the more important sense organs; one gift she bestowed to save him from threatened extinction—a certain stirring, a restlessness, in the organ called the brain.
…...
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Man carries the world in his head, the whole astronomy and chemistry suspended in a thought. Because the history of nature is charactered in his brain, therefore he is the prophet and discoverer of her secrets. Every known fact in natural science was divined by the presentiment of somebody, before it was actually verified.
Essay, 'Nature', in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alfred Riggs Ferguson (ed.) and Jean Ferguson Carr (ed.), The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume III, Essays: Second Series (1984), 106-107.
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Man has two conditions of existence in the body. Hardly two creatures can be less alike than an infant and a man. The whole fetal state is a preparation for birth ... The human brain, in its earlier stage, resembles that of a fish: as it is developed, it resembles more the cerebral mass of a reptile; in its increase, it is like that of a bird, and slowly, and only after birth, does it assume the proper form and consistence of the human encephalon.
Attributed.
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Men make their own history, but not just as they please. They do not choose the circumstances for themselves, but have to work upon circumstances as they find them, have to fashion the material handed down by the past. The legacy of the dead generations weighs like an alp upon the brains of the living.
Karl Marx
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852).
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Men ought to know that from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs and tears. Through it, in particular, we think, see, hear, and distinguish the ugly from the beautiful, the bad from the good, the pleasant from the unpleasant, in some cases using custom as a test, in others perceiving them from their utility. It is the same thing which makes us mad or delirious, inspires us with dread or fear, whether by night or by day, brings sleeplessness, inopportune mistakes, aimless anxieties, absent-mindedness, and acts that are contrary to habit. These things that we suffer all come from the brain, when it is not healthy, but becomes abnormally hot, cold, moist, or dry, or suffers any other unnatural affection to which it was not accustomed. Madness comes from its moistness.
The Sacred Disease, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 175.
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Men’s brains are only attics stuffed with disused antiques.
In 'Ralph Waldo Emerson', The Philistine (Dec 1904), 20, No. 1, 4.
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MIND, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  217.
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Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind.
The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1980), 154.
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My method consists in allowing the mind to play freely for a very brief period, until a couple or so of ideas have passed through it, and then, while the traces or echoes of those ideas are still lingering in the brain, to turn the attention upon them with a sudden and complete awakening; to arrest, to scrutinise them, and to record their exact appearance... The general impression they have left upon me is like that which many of us have experienced when the basement of our house happens to be under thorough sanitary repairs, and we realise for the first time the complex system of drains and gas and water pipes, flues, bell-wires, and so forth, upon which our comfort depends, but which are usually hidden out of sight, and with whose existence, so long as they acted well, we had never troubled ourselves.
Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (1883),185-6.
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My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain that alone on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine would not, I suppose, have thus suffered, and if I had to live my life over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept alive through use.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 51.
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Nature has provided two great gifts: life and then the diversity of living things, jellyfish and humans, worms and crocodiles. I don't undervalue the investigation of commonalities but can't avoid the conclusion that diversity has been relatively neglected, especially as concerns the brain.
Theodore H. Bullock', in Larry R. Squire (ed.), The History of Science in Autobiography (1996), Vol. I, 144. The History of Science in Autobiography (1996), Vol. I, 144.
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Nature in her unfathomable designs had mixed us of clay and flame, of brain and mind, that the two things hang indubitably together and determine each other’s being but how or why, no mortal may ever know.
Principles of Psychology (1918), 200.
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Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty.
In 'Decay of Lying', The Writings of Oscar Wilde: Epigrams, Phrases and Philosophies For the Use of the Young (1907), 7.
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Neither the absolute nor the relative size of the brain can be used to measure the degree of mental ability in animal or in man. So far as man is concerned, the weights of the brains or the volumes of the cranial cavities of a hundred celebrities of all branches of knowledge all over the world have been listed. … At the bottom of those lists are Gall, the famous phrenologist, Anatole France, the French novelist, and Gambetta, the French statesman, each with about 1,100 cc brain mass. The lists are topped by Dean Jonathan Swift, the English writer, Lord Byron, the English poet, and Turgenev, the Russian novelist, all with about 2,000 cc … Now our mental test! Had Turgenev really twice the mental ability of Anatole France?
In 'The Human Brain in the Light of Its Phylogenetic Development', Scientific Monthly (Aug 1948), 67, No. 2, 104-105. Collected in Sherwood Larned Washburn and ‎Davida Wolffson (eds.), The Shorter Anthropological Papers of Franz Weidenreich Published in the Period 1939-1948: A Memorial Volume (1949), 18.
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No one had ever picked my brains about influenza so expertly as he did.
[Recalling when had met young Jonas Salk, Ann Arbor (1943).]
In M. Burnet, Changing Patterns: an Atypical Autobiography (1968), 169.
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No video, no photographs, no verbal descriptions, no lectures can provide the enchantment that a few minutes out-of-doors can: watch a spider construct a web; observe a caterpillar systematically ravaging the edge of a leaf; close your eyes, cup your hands behind your ears, and listen to aspen leaves rustle or a stream muse about its pools and eddies. Nothing can replace plucking a cluster of pine needles and rolling them in your fingers to feel how they’re put together, or discovering that “sedges have edges and grasses are round,” The firsthand, right-and-left-brain experience of being in the out-of-doors involves all the senses including some we’ve forgotten about, like smelling water a mile away. No teacher, no student, can help but sense and absorb the larger ecological rhythms at work here, and the intertwining of intricate, varied and complex strands that characterize a rich, healthy natural world.
Into the Field: A Guide to Locally Focused Teaching
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Nothing, however, is more common than energy in money-making, quite independent of any higher object than its accumulation. A man who devotes himself to this pursuit, body and soul, can scarcely fail to become rich. Very little brains will do; spend less than you earn; add guinea to guinea; scrape and save; and the pile of gold will gradually rise.
In Self-help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859, 1861), 301-302.
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On quantum theory I use up more brain grease than on relativity.
…...
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One can truly say that the irresistible progress of natural science since the time of Galileo has made its first halt before the study of the higher parts of the brain, the organ of the most complicated relations of the animal to the external world. And it seems, and not without reason, that now is the really critical moment for natural science; for the brain, in its highest complexity—the human brain—which created and creates natural science, itself becomes the object of this science.
Natural Science and Brain (1909), 120.
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One day we shall certainly 'reduce' thought experimentally to molecular and chemical motions in the brain; but does that exhaust the essence of thought?
Dialectics of Nature (1925), trans. Clemens Dutt (1940), 175.
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One day when the whole family had gone to a circus to see some extraordinary performing apes, I remained alone with my microscope, observing the life in the mobile cells of a transparent star-fish larva, when a new thought suddenly flashed across my brain. It struck me that similar cells might serve in the defence of the organism against intruders. Feeling that there was in this something of surpassing interest, I felt so excited that I began striding up and down the room and even went to the seashore in order to collect my thoughts.
I said to myself that, if my supposition was true, a splinter introduced into the body of a star-fish larva, devoid of blood-vessels or of a nervous system, should soon be surrounded by mobile cells as is to be observed in a man who runs a splinter into his finger. This was no sooner said than done.
There was a small garden to our dwelling, in which we had a few days previously organised a 'Christmas tree' for the children on a little tangerine tree; I fetched from it a few rose thorns and introduced them at once under the skin of some beautiful star-fish larvae as transparent as water.
I was too excited to sleep that night in the expectation of the result of my experiment, and very early the next morning I ascertained that it had fully succeeded.
That experiment formed the basis of the phagocyte theory, to the development of which I devoted the next twenty-five years of my life.
In Olga Metchnikoff, Life of Elie Metchnikoff 1845-1916 (1921), 116-7.
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One most necessary function of the brain is to exert an inhibitory power over the nerve centres that lie below it, just as man exercises a beneficial control over his fellow animals of a lower order of dignity; and the increased irregular activity of the lower centres surely betokens a degeneration: it is like the turbulent, aimless action of a democracy without a head.
The Physiology and Pathology of Mind (1868), 94.
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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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Only go on working so long as the brain is quite clear. The moment you feel the ideas getting confused leave off and rest, or your penalty will be that you will never learn Mathematics at all!
From letter to Edith Rix with hints for studying (about Mar 1885), in Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (1898), 241.
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Our brains seem to be organised to make random comparisons of the contents of our memories. Daydreaming allows the process to go into free fall. Suddenly, there is a new idea, born with intense excitement. We cannot organise this process but we can distort or even defeat it.
[Commenting that creativity is not a method that can be learnt and taught.]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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Arthur Stanley Eddington quote: Our story of evolution ended with a stirring in the brain-organ of the latest of Nature’s experi
Our story of evolution ended with a stirring in the brain-organ of the latest of Nature’s experiments; but that stirring of consciousness transmutes the whole story and gives meaning to its symbolism. Symbolically it is the end, but looking behind the symbolism it is the beginning.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 38.
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People have wracked their brains for an explanation of benzene and how the celebrated man [Kekulé] managed to come up with the concept of the benzene theory. With regard to the last point especially, a friend of mine who is a farmer and has a lively interest in chemistry has asked me a question which I would like to share with you. My “agricultural friend” apparently believes he has traced the origins of the benzene theory. “Has Kekulé,” so ran the question, “once been a bee-keeper? You certainly know that bees too build hexagons; they know well that they can store the greatest amount of honey that way with the least amount of wax. I always liked it,” my agricultural friend went on, “When I received a new issue of the Berichte; admittedly, I don't read the articles, but I like the pictures very much. The patterns of benzene, naphthalene and especially anthracene are indeed wonderful. When I look at the pictures I always have to think of the honeycombs of my bee hives.”
A. W. Hofmann, after-dinner speech at Kekulé Benzolfest (Mar 1890). Trans. in W. H. Brock, O. Theodor Benfrey and Susanne Stark, 'Hofmann's Benzene Tree at the Kekulé Festivities', Journal of Chemical Education (1991), 68, 888.
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Persons possessing great intellect and a capacity for excelling in the creative arts and also in the sciences are generally likely to have heavier brains than the ordinary individual. Arguing from this we might expect to find a corresponding lightness in the brain of the criminal, but this is not always the case ... Many criminals show not a single anomaly in their physical or mental make-up, while many persons with marked evidences of morphological aberration have never exhibited the criminal tendency.
Every attempt to prove crime to be due to a constitution peculiar only to criminals has failed signally. It is because most criminals are drawn from the ranks of the low, the degraded, the outcast, that investigators were ever deceived into attempting to set up a 'type' of criminal. The social conditions which foster the great majority of crimes are more needful of study and improvement.
From study of known normal brains we have learned that there is a certain range of variation. No two brains are exactly alike, and the greatest source of error in the assertions of Benedict and Lombroso has been the finding of this or that variation in a criminal’s brains, and maintaining such to be characteristic of the 'criminal constitution,' unmindful of the fact that like variations of structure may and do exist in the brains of normal, moral persons.
Address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia (28 Dec 1904), as quoted in 'Americans of Future Will Have Best Brains', New York Times (29 Dec 1904), 6.
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Pictures, propagated by motion along the fibers of the optic nerves in the brain, are the cause of vision.
In Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections, and Colours of Light (3rd ed., corrected, 1721), 12.
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Pressure, no doubt, has always been a most important factor in the metamorphism of rocks; but there is, I think, at present some danger in over-estimating this, and representing a partial statement of truth as the whole truth. Geology, like many human beings, suffered from convulsions in its infancy; now, in its later years, I apprehend an attack of pressure on the brain.
In 'The Foundation-Stones of the Earth's Crust', Nature, 1888, 39, 93.
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Psychology is physiology above the collar button.
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
…...
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Research is four things: brains with which to think, eyes with which to see, machines with which to measure, and fourth, money.
Quoted in obituary by Walter Sullivan, 'Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Dead; Research Isolated Vitamin C', New York Times (25 Oct 1986), 9.
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Scholars should always receive with thanks new suppositions about things, provided they possess some tincture of sense; another head may often make an important discovery prompted by nothing more than such a stimulus: the generally accepted way of explaining a thing no longer had any effect on his brain and could communicate to it no new notion.
Aphorism 81 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 56.
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Scientific truth is universal, because it is only discovered by the human brain and not made by it, as art is.
In On Aggression (2002), 279.
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Scientists who dislike constraints on research like to remark that a truly great research worker needs only three pieces of equipment: a pencil, a piece of paper and a brain. But they quote this maxim more often at academic banquets than at budget hearings.
In Dr. N Sreedharan, Quotations of Wit and Wisdom (2007), 68.
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Segregationalists will even argue that God was the first segregationalist. “Red birds and blue birds don't fly together”, they contend. … They turn to some pseudo-scientific writing and argue that the Negro’s brain is smaller than the white man’s brain. They do not know, or they refuse to know that the idea of an inferior or superior race has been refuted by the best evidence of the science of anthropology. Great anthropologists, like Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Melville J. Herskovits, agree that, although there may be inferior and superior individuals within all races, there is no superior or inferior race. And segregationalists refuse to acknowledge that there are four types of blood, and these four types are found within every racial group.
'Love in Action', Strength To Love (1963, 1981), 45-46.
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Sexual instinct—as emotion, idea, and impulse—is a function of the cerebral cortex. Thus far no definite region of the cortex has been proved to be exclusively the seat of sexual sensations and impulses.
Psychopathia Sexualis: With Special Reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study (1886), trans. Charles Gilbert Chaddock (1892), 24.
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So long as a man remains a gregarious and sociable being, he cannot cut himself off from the gratification of the instinct of imparting what he is learning, of propagating through others the ideas and impressions seething in his own brain, without stunting and atrophying his moral nature and drying up the surest sources of his future intellectual replenishment.
In Address (22 Feb 1877) for Commemoration Day at Johns Hopkins University. Published as a pamphlet, and reprinted in The Collected Mathematical Papers of James Joseph Sylvester: (1870-1883) (1909), Vol. 3, 77.
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Some of my youthful readers are developing wonderful imaginations. This pleases me. Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams—day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing—are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it.
Opening paragraph of preface, 'To My Readers', The Lost Princess of Oz (1917), 13.
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Something to remember. If you have remembered every word in this article, your memory will have recorded about 150 000 bits of information. Thus, the order in your brain will have increased by about 150 000 units. However, while you have been reading the article, you will have converted about 300 000 joules of ordered energy, in the form of food, into disordered energy, in the form of heat which you lose to the air around you by convection and sweat. This will increase the disorder of the Universe by about 3 x 1024 units, about 20 million million million times the increase in order because you remember my article.
An afterword to his three-page article discussing thermodynamics and entropy, in 'The Direction of Time', New Scientist (9 Jul 1987), 49.
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Such pretensions to nicety in experiments of this nature, are truly laughable! They will be telling us some day of the WEIGHT of the MOON, even to drams, scruples and grains—nay, to the very fraction of a grain!—I wish there were infallible experiments to ascertain the quantum of brains each man possesses, and every man's integrity and candour:—This is a desideratum in science which is most of all wanted.
The Death Warrant of the French Theory of Chemistry (1804), 217.
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Sylvester was incapable of reading mathematics in a purely receptive way. Apparently a subject either fired in his brain a train of active and restless thought, or it would not retain his attention at all. To a man of such a temperament, it would have been peculiarly helpful to live in an atmosphere in which his human associations would have supplied the stimulus which he could not find in mere reading. The great modern work in the theory of functions and in allied disciplines, he never became acquainted with …
What would have been the effect if, in the prime of his powers, he had been surrounded by the influences which prevail in Berlin or in Gottingen? It may be confidently taken for granted that he would have done splendid work in those domains of analysis, which have furnished the laurels of the great mathematicians of Germany and France in the second half of the present century.
In Address delivered at a memorial meeting at the Johns Hopkins University (2 May 1897), published in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (Jun 1897), 303. Also in Johns Hopkins University Circulars, 16 (1897), 54.
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Take the living human brain endowed with mind and thought. …. The physicist brings his tools and commences systematic exploration. All that he discovers is a collection of atoms and electrons and fields of force arranged in space and time, apparently similar to those found in inorganic objects. He may trace other physical characteristics, energy, temperature, entropy. None of these is identical with thought. … How can this collection of ordinary atoms be a thinking machine? … The Victorian physicist felt that he knew just what he was talking about when he used such terms as matter and atoms. … But now we realize that science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom. The physical atom is, like everything else in physics, a schedule of pointer readings.
From a Gifford Lecture, University of Edinburgh (1927), published in 'Pointer Readings: Limits of Physical Knowledge', The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 258-259.
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Taking advantage of the method, found by me, of the black staining of the elements of the brain, staining obtained by the prolonged immersion of the pieces, previously hardened with potassium or ammonium bichromate, in a 0.50 or 1.0% solution of silver nitrate, I happened to discover some facts concerning the structure of the cerebral gray matter that I believe merit immediate communication.
'On the Structure of the Gray Matter of the Brain', Gazetta Medica Italiana, 2 Aug 1873. Trans. Maurizio Santini (ed.), Golgi Centennial Symposium: Perspectives in Neurobiology (1975), 647.
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That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show; (if only my breathing & some other etceteras do not make too rapid a progress towards instead of from mortality).
Before ten years are over, the Devil’s in it if I haven’t sucked out some of the life-blood from the mysteries of this universe, in a way that no purely mortal lips or brains could do.
In letter to Charles Babbage (5 Jul 1843). British Library Additional Manuscripts, MSS 37192, folio 349. As quoted and cited in Dorothy Stein (ed.), 'This First Child of Mine', Ada: A Life and a Legacy (1985), 110.
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That special substance according to whose mass and degree of development all the creatures of this world take rank in the scale of creation, is not bone, but brain.
The Foot-prints of the Creator: Or, The Asterolepis of Stromness (1850, 1859), 160.
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The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony (1984), 42.
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The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.”
In 'Introduction', The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for Soul (1994), 3.
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The brain can be developed just the same as the muscles can be developed, if one will only take the pains to train the mind to think. Why do so many men never amount to anything? Because they don't think!
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.
Attributed. In Peter McDonald Slop, Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 37.
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The brain is an island in an osmotically homogeneous sea.
From a lecture. Quoted in 'The Best Hope of All', Time (3 May 1963)
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The brain is the most complicated kilo of matter in the universe.
Anonymous
Perspectives (1966). In Memory (1999), 15.
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The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head-mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one.
Man on His Nature (1940), 225.
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The brain of man, like that of all animals is double, being parted down its centre by a thin membrane. For this reason pain is not always felt in the same part of the head, but sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other, and occasionally all over.
The Sacred Disease, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 153.
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The brain seems a thoroughfare for nerve-action passing its way to the motor animal. It has been remarked that Life's aim is an act not a thought. To-day the dictum must be modified to admit that, often, to refrain from an act is no less an act than to commit one, because inhibition is coequally with excitation a nervous activity.
The Brain and its Mechanism (1933), 10.
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The brain that isn’t used rusts. The brain that is used responds. The brain is exactly like any other part of the body: it can be strengthened by proper exercise, by proper use. Put your arm in a sling and keep it there for a considerable length of time, and, when you take it out, you find that you can’t use it. In the same way, the brain that isn’t used suffers atrophy.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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The central nerve chain of an invertebrate such as the lobster runs beneath its alimentary canal, whereas the main portion of its rudimentary brain is placed above it, in its forehead. In other words, the lobster’s gullet, from mouth to stomach, has to pass through the midst of its brain ganglia. If its brain were to expand—and expand it must if the lobster is to grow in wisdom—its gullet would be squeezed and it would starve.
In Epilogue, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), 516.
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The cerebrum I consider as the grand organ by which the mind is united to the body. Into it all the nerves from the external organs of the senses enter; and from it all the nerves which are agents of the will pass out.
Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain (1811), 27.
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The constant conditions which are maintained in the body might be termed equilibria. That word, however, has come to have fairly exact meaning as applied to relatively simple physico-chemical states, in closed systems, where known forces are balanced. The coordinated physiological processes which maintain most of the steady states in the organism are so complex and so peculiar to living beings—involving, as they may, the brain and nerves, the heart, lungs, kidneys and spleen, all working cooperatively—that I have suggested a special designation for these states, homeostasis. The word does not imply something set and immobile, a stagnation. It means a condition—a condition which may vary, but which is relatively constant.
In The Wisdom of the Body (1932), 24.
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The crack-brained bobolink courts his crazy mate,
Posed on a bulrush tipsy with his weight.
In poem, 'Spring', collected in Grandmother's Story: And Other Poems (1883, 1903), 75.
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The discovery of the conic sections, attributed to Plato, first threw open the higher species of form to the contemplation of geometers. But for this discovery, which was probably regarded in Plato’s tune and long after him, as the unprofitable amusement of a speculative brain, the whole course of practical philosophy of the present day, of the science of astronomy, of the theory of projectiles, of the art of navigation, might have run in a different channel; and the greatest discovery that has ever been made in the history of the world, the law of universal gravitation, with its innumerable direct and indirect consequences and applications to every department of human research and industry, might never to this hour have been elicited.
In 'A Probationary Lecture on Geometry, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2 (1908), 7.
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The doctrine of foods is of great ethical and political significance. Food becomes blood, blood becomes heart and brain, thoughts and mind stuff. Human fare is the foundation of human culture and thought. Would you improve a nation? Give it, instead of declamations against sin, better food. Man is what he eats [Der Mensch ist, was er isst].
Advertisement to Moleschott, Lehre der Nahrungsmittel: Für das Volk (1850).
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THE DYING AIRMAN
A handsome young airman lay dying,
As on the aerodrome he lay,
To the mechanics who round him came sighing,
These last words he did say.
“Take the cylinders out of my kidneys,
The connecting-rod out of my brain,
Take the cam-shaft from out of my backbone,
And assemble the engine again.”
Anonymous
From Edith L. Tiempo, Introduction to Poetry: Poetry Through Image and Statement (1993), 6.
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The experimental investigation by which Ampere established the law of the mechanical action between electric currents is one of the most brilliant achievements in science. The whole theory and experiment, seems as if it had leaped, full grown and full armed, from the brain of the 'Newton of Electricity'. It is perfect in form, and unassailable in accuracy, and it is summed up in a formula from which all the phenomena may be deduced, and which must always remain the cardinal formula of electro-dynamics.
A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873), Vol. 2, 162.
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The experimental investigation by which Ampère established the law of the mechanical action between electric currents is one of the most brilliant achievements in science. The whole, theory and experiment, seems as if it had leaped, full grown and full armed, from the brain of the “Newton of Electricity”. It is perfect in form, and unassailable in accuracy, and it is summed up in a formula from which all the phenomena may be deduced, and which must always remain the cardinal formula of electro-dynamics.
In James Clerk Maxwell, Electricity and Magnetism (1881), Vol. 2, 163
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The familiar idea of a god who is omniscient: someone who knows everything … does not immediately ring alarm bells in our brains; it is plausible that such a being could exist. Yet, when it is probed more closely one can show that omniscience of this sort creates a logical paradox and must, by the standards of human reason, therefore be judged impossible or be qualified in some way. To see this consider this test statement:
This statement is not known to be true by anyone.
Now consider the plight of our hypothetical Omniscient Being (“Big O”). Suppose first that this statement is true and Big O does not know it. Then Big O would not be omniscient. So, instead, suppose our statement is false. This means that someone must know the statement to be true; hence it must be true. So regardless of whether we assume at the outset that this statement is true or false, we are forced to conclude that it must be true! And therefore, since the statement is true, nobody (including Big O) can know that it is true. This shows that there must always be true statements that no being can know to be true. Hence there cannot be an Omniscient Being who knows all truths. Nor, by the same argument, could we or our future successors, ever attain such a state of omniscience. All that can be known is all that can be known, not all that is true.
In Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits (1999), 11.
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The fate of the physiology of the brain is independent of the truth and falsity of my assertions relative to the laws of the organization of the nervous system, in general, and of the brain in particular, just as the knowledge of the functions of a sense is independent of the knowledge of the structure of its apparatus.
Critical Review of Some Anatomical- Physiological Works; With an Explanation of a New Philosophy of the Moral Qualities and Intellectual Faculties (1835), 237-8.
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The first rule of discovery is to have brains and good luck. The second rule of discovery is to sit tight and wait till you get a bright idea.
In How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (2004), 172.
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The goddess of learning is fabled to have sprung full-grown from the brain of Zeus, but it is seldom that a scientific conception is born in its final form, or owns a single parent. More often it is the product of a series of minds, each in turn modifying the ideas of those that came before, and providing material for those that came after. The electron is no exception.
'Electronic Waves', Nobel Lecture (7 Jun 1938). Nobel Lectures: Physics 1922-1941 (1998), 397.
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The human brain became large by natural selection (who knows why, but presumably for good cause). Yet surely most ‘things’ now done by our brains, and essential both to our cultures and to our very survival, are epiphenomena of the computing power of this machine, not genetically grounded Darwinian entities created specifically by natural selection for their current function.
…...
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The human brain is a machine which alone accounts for all our actions, our most private thoughts, our beliefs. ... To choose a spouse, a job, a religious creed—or even choose to rob a bank—is the peak of a causal chain that runs back to the origin of life and down to the nature of atoms and molecules.
The Mind Machine (1998), 145. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 179.
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The injurious agent in cigarettes comes principally from the burning paper wrapper. The substance thereby formed is called “acrolein.” It has a violent action on the nerve centers, producing degeneration of the cells of the brain, which is quite rapid among boys. Unlike most narcotics, this degeneration is permanent and uncontrollable. I employ no person who smokes cigarettes.
[From the Laboratory of Thomas A. Edison, Orange, N.J., April 26, 1914.]
Quoted in Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver (1914), Vol. 1, 5.
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The key to SETI is to guess the type of communication that an alien society would use. The best guesses so far have been that they would use radio waves, and that they would choose a frequency based on 'universal' knowledge—for instance, the 1420 MHz hydrogen frequency. But these are assumptions formulated by the human brain. Who knows what sort of logic a superadvanced nonhuman life form might use? ... Just 150 years ago, an eyeblink in history, radio waves themselves were inconceivable, and we were thinking of lighting fires to signal the Martians.
Quoted on PBS web page related to Nova TV program episode on 'Origins: Do Aliens Exist in the Milky Way'.
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The losses of the natural world are our loss, their silence silences something within the human mind. Human language is lit with animal life: we play cats-cradle or have hare-brained ideas; we speak of badgering, or outfoxing someone; to squirrel something away and to ferret it out. … When our experience of the wild world shrinks, we no longer fathom the depths of our own words; language loses its lustre and vividness.
In 'Fifty Years On, the Silence of Rachel Carson’s Spring Consumes Us', The Guardian (25 Sep 2012),
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The members of the department became like the Athenians who, according to the Apostle Paul, “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” Anyone who thought he had a bright idea rushed out to try it out on a colleague. Groups of two or more could be seen every day in offices, before blackboards or even in corridors, arguing vehemently about these 'brain storms.' It is doubtful whether any paper ever emerged for publication that had not run the gauntlet of such criticism. The whole department thus became far greater than the sum of its individual members.
Obituary of Gilbert Newton Lewis, Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Science (1958), 31, 212.
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The microbial global brain—gifted with long-range transport, data trading, genetic variants … and the ability to reinvent genomes—began its operations some 91 trillion bacterial generations before the birth of the Internet. Ancient bacteria, if they functioned like those today, had mastered the art of worldwide information exchange. … The earliest microorganisms would have used planet-sweeping currents of wind and water to carry the scraps of genetic code…
In 'Creative Nets in the Precambrian Era', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 18-19.
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The mind can quickly scan not only the past, but also the projected future consequences of a choice. Its dynamics transcend the time and space of brain physiology.
From interview collected in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 187.
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The more efficient causes of progress seem to consist of a good education during youth whilst the brain is impressible, and of a high standard of excellence, inculcated by the ablest and best men, embodied in the laws, customs and traditions of the nation, and enforced by public opinion. It should, however, be borne in mind, that the enforcement of public opinion depends on our appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of others; and this appreciation is founded on our sympathy, which it can hardly be doubted was originally developed through natural selection as one of the most important elements of the social instincts.
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The most extensive computation known has been conducted over the last billion years on a planet-wide scale: it is the evolution of life. The power of this computation is illustrated by the complexity and beauty of its crowning achievement, the human brain.
In Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature (2000), 415.
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The point [is] largely scientific in character …[concerning] the methods which can be invented or adopted or discovered to enable the Earth to control the Air, to enable defence from the ground to exercise control—indeed dominance—upon aeroplanes high above its surface. … science is always able to provide something. We were told that it was impossible to grapple with submarines, but methods were found … Many things were adopted in war which we were told were technically impossible, but patience, perseverance, and above all the spur of necessity under war conditions, made men’s brains act with greater vigour, and science responded to the demands.
[Remarks made in the House of Commons on 7 June 1935. His speculation was later proved correct with the subsequent development of radar during World War II, which was vital in the air defence of Britain.]
Quoting himself in The Second World War: The Gathering Storm (1948, 1986), Vol. 1, 134.
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The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what is in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence which at a given instant knew all the forces acting in nature and the position of every object in the universe—if endowed with a brain sufficiently vast to make all necessary calculations—could describe with a single formula the motions of the largest astronomical bodies and those of the smallest atoms. To such an intelligence, nothing would be uncertain; the future, like the past, would be an open book.
As quoted in The Fascination of Physics by Jacqueline D. Spears and Dean Zollman (1986). Alternate translation: “The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what is in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence which at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective positions, motions, and general effects of all these entities at any time in the past or future.” In Harry Woolf, The Analytic spirit: essays in the history of science in honor of Henry Guerlac (1981), 91, the author states that “the language Laplace used was obviously borrowed from Concdorset, though now the words were reshuffled to express a new idea.”
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The progress of Science is generally regarded as a kind of clean, rational advance along a straight ascending line; in fact it has followed a zig-zag course, at times almost more bewildering than the evolution of political thought. The history of cosmic theories, in particular, may without exaggeration be called a history of collective obsessions and controlled schizophrenias; and the manner in which some of the most important individual discoveries were arrived at reminds one more of a sleepwalker’s performance than an electronic brain’s.
From 'Preface', in The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), 15.
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The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of the forces of nature to human needs.
Opening lines of 'My Inventions', Electrical Experimenter (1919). Reprinted in My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla (2011), 4.
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The relative importance of the white and gray matter is often misunderstood. Were it not for the manifold connection of the nerve cells in the cortex by the tens of millions of fibres which make up the under-estimated white matter, such a brain would be useless as a telephone or telegraph station with all the interconnecting wires destroyed.
Address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia (28 Dec 1904), as quoted in 'Americans of Future Will Have Best Brains', New York Times (29 Dec 1904), 6.
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The responsibility for maintaining the composition of the blood in respect to other constituents devolves largely upon the kidneys. It is no exaggeration to say that the composition of the blood is determined not by what the mouth ingests but by what the kidneys keep; they are the master chemists of our internal environment, which, so to speak, they synthesize in reverse. When, among other duties, they excrete the ashes of our body fires, or remove from the blood the infinite variety of foreign substances which are constantly being absorbed from our indiscriminate gastrointestinal tracts, these excretory operations are incidental to the major task of keeping our internal environment in an ideal, balanced state. Our glands, our muscles, our bones, our tendons, even our brains, are called upon to do only one kind of physiological work, while our kidneys are called upon to perform an innumerable variety of operations. Bones can break, muscles can atrophy, glands can loaf, even the brain can go to sleep, without immediately endangering our survival, but when the kidneys fail to manufacture the proper kind of blood neither bone, muscle, gland nor brain can carry on.
'The Evolution of the Kidney', Lectures on the Kidney (1943), 3.
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The role of inhibition in the working of the central nervous system has proved to be more and more extensive and more and more fundamental as experiment has advanced in examining it. Reflex inhibition can no longer be regarded merely as a factor specially developed for dealing with the antagonism of opponent muscles acting at various hinge-joints. Its role as a coordinative factor comprises that, and goes beyond that. In the working of the central nervous machinery inhibition seems as ubiquitous and as frequent as is excitation itself. The whole quantitative grading of the operations of the spinal cord and brain appears to rest upon mutual interaction between the two central processes 'excitation' and 'inhibition', the one no less important than the other. For example, no operation can be more important as a basis of coordination for a motor act than adjustment of the quantity of contraction, e.g. of the number of motor units employed and the intensity of their individual tetanic activity. This now appears as the outcome of nice co-adjustment of excitation and inhibition upon each of all the individual units which cooperate in the act.
Inhibition as a Coordinative Factor', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1932). Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 288.
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The self-same atoms which, chaotically dispersed, made the nebula, now, jammed and temporarily caught in peculiar positions, form our brains; and the “evolution” of brains, if understood, would be simply the account of how the atoms came to be so caught and jammed.
Principles of Psychology (1918), 146.
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The soul of man is—objectively considered—essentially similar to that of all other vertebrates; it is the physiological action or function of the brain.
In Wonders of Life (1904), 12.
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The source and origin of the nerves is the brain and spinal marrow, and hence some nerves originate from the brain and some from the spinal marrow. Some … experts set down the heart as the origin of the nerves and some the hard membrane that envelops the brain; none of them, however, thought it was the liver or any other viscus of that kind … Aristotle in particular, and quite a few others, thought that the nerves took origin from the heart.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1543), Book IV, 315, as translated by William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman, in 'The Nerves Originate From the Brain', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book III: The Veins And Arteries; Book IV: The Nerves (1998), 160
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The spark of a genius exists in the brain of the truly creative man from the hour of his birth. True genius is always inborn and never cultivated, let alone learned.
Mein Kampf (1925-26), American Edition (1943), 212-13. In William Lawrence Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1990), 110.
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The spiritual and intellectual decline which has overtaken us in the last thirty years … [may be due] to the diversion of all the best brains to technology.
In London Review of Books, 1984.
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The truth is, the Science of Nature has been already too long made only a work of the Brain and the Fancy: It is now high time that it should return to the plainness and soundness of Observations on material and obvious things.
Micrographia (1665). In Extracts from Micrographia (1906), 10.
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The variety of minds served the economy of nature in many ways. The Creator, who designed the human brain for activity, had insured the restlessness of all minds by enabling no single one to envisage all the qualities of the creation. Since no one by himself could aspire to a serene knowledge of the whole truth, all men had been drawn into an active, exploratory and cooperative attitude.
In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (1948, 1993), 125.
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The White medullary Substance of the Brain is also the immediate Instrument, by which Ideas are presented to the Mind: Or, in other Words, whatever Changes are made in this Substance, corresponding Changes are made in our Ideas; and vice versa.
Observations on Man, His Frame, His Duty, and His Expectations (1749), part 1, 8.
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The wreath of cigarette smoke which curls about the head of the growing lad holds his brain in an iron grip which prevents it from growing and his mind from developing just as surely as the iron shoe does the foot of the Chinese girl.
Quoted in Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver (1914), Vol. 1, 20.
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Then I had shown, in the same place, what the structure of the nerves and muscles of the human body would have to be in order for the animal spirits in the body to have the power to move its members, as one sees when heads, soon after they have been cut off, still move and bite the ground even though they are no longer alive; what changes must be made in the brain to cause waking, sleep and dreams; how light, sounds, odours, tastes, warmth and all the other qualities of external objects can impress different ideas on it through the senses; how hunger, thirst, and the other internal passions can also send their ideas there; what part of the brain should be taken as “the common sense”, where these ideas are received; what should be taken as the memory, which stores the ideas, and as the imagination, which can vary them in different ways and compose new ones and, by the same means, distribute the animal spirits to the muscles, cause the limbs of the body to move in as many different ways as our own bodies can move without the will directing them, depending on the objects that are present to the senses and the internal passions in the body. This will not seem strange to those who know how many different automata or moving machines can be devised by human ingenuity, by using only very few pieces in comparison with the larger number of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins and all the other parts in the body of every animal. They will think of this body like a machine which, having been made by the hand of God, is incomparably better structured than any machine that could be invented by human beings, and contains many more admirable movements.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 5, 39-40.
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William Osler quote Two sorts of doctors
Candidate for medical degree being examined in the subject of “Bedside Manner” — Punch (22 Apr 1914) (source)
There are only two sorts of doctors: those who practice with their brains, and those who practice with their tongues.
Address to McGill Medical School (1 Oct 1894), 'Teaching and Thinking', collected in Aequanimitas: With Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 131.
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There cannot always be fresh fields of conquest by the knife; there must be portions of the human frame that will ever remain sacred from its intrusions, at least in the surgeon's hands. That we have already, if not quite, reached these final limits, there can be little question. The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will be forever shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.
Quoted in C. Cerf and V. Navasky (eds.), I Wish I hadn't Said That: The Experts Speak and Get it Wrong! (2000), 31.
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There is no end of hypotheses about consciousness, particularly by philosophers. But most of these are not what we might call principled scientific theories, based on observables and related to the functions of the brain and body. Several theories of consciousness based on functionalism and on the machine model of the mind... have recently been proposed. These generally come in two flavors: one in which consciousness is assumed to be efficacious, and another in which it is considered an epiphenomenon. In the first, consciousness is likened to the executive in a computer systems program, and in the second, to a fascinating but more or less useless by-product of computation.
Bright and Brilliant Fire, On the Matters of the Mind (1992), 112.
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There isn’t one, not one, instance where it’s known what pattern of neural connectivity realizes a certain cognitive content, inate or learned, in either the infant’s nervous system or the adult’s. To be sure, our brains must somehow register the contents of our mental states. The trouble is: Nobody knows how—by what neurological means—they do so. Nobody can look at the patterns of connectivity (or of anything else) in a brain and figure out whether it belongs to somebody who knows algebra, or who speaks English, or who believes that Washington was the Father of his country.
In Critical Condition: Polemic Essays on Cognitive science and the Philosophy of the Mind (1988), 269-71. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 180.
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There must be a marsh in the brains of these men or there would not be so many frogs of wrong ideas gathered in their heads.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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There will one day spring from the brain of science a machine or force so fearful in its potentialities, so absolutely terrifying, that even man, the fighter, who will dare torture and death in order to inflict torture and death, will be appalled, and so abandon war forever.
…...
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They tend to be suspicious, bristly, paranoid-type people with huge egos they push around like some elephantiasis victim with his distended testicles in a wheelbarrow terrified no doubt that some skulking ingrate of a clone student will sneak into his very brain and steal his genius work.
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This is the kingdom of the chemical elements, the substances from which everything tangible is made. It is not an extensive country, for it consists of only a hundred or so regions (as we shall often term the elements), yet it accounts for everything material in our actual world. From the hundred elements that are at the center of our story, all planets, rocks, vegetation, and animals are made. These elements are the basis of the air, the oceans, and the Earth itself. We stand on the elements, we eat the elements, we are the elements. Because our brains are made up of elements, even our opinions are, in a sense, properties of the elements and hence inhabitants of the kingdom.
In 'The Terrain', The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), 3.
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This is the most exciting part of being human. It is using our brains in the highest way. Otherwise we are just healthy animals.
Quoted in Alix Kerr, 'What It Took: Intuition, Goo,' Life (25 Jan 1963), 54, No. 4, 86.
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This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilisation ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism–how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.
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To expect a personality to survive the disintegration of the brain is like expecting a cricket club to survive when all of its members are dead.
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Srinivasa Ramanujan quote: To preserve my brains I want food and this is now my first consideration. Any sympathetic letter from
To preserve my brains I want food and this is now my first consideration. Any sympathetic letter from you will be helpful to me here to get a scholarship…
Letter to G.H. Hardy (27 Feb 1913). Excerpt in obituary notice by G.H. Hardy in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society (2) (1921), 19, xl—lviii. Reprinted in G.H. Hardy, P.V. Seshu Aiyar and B.M. Wilson (eds.) Collected Papers of Srinivasa Ramanujan (1927), xxvii.
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Trace Science, then, with Modesty thy guide,
First strip off all her equipage of Pride,
Deduct what is but Vanity or Dress,
Or Learning's Luxury or idleness,
Or tricks, to show the stretch of the human brain
Mere curious pleasure or ingenious pain.
'Essay On Man', The Works of Alexander Pope (1751), Vol. 3, 31-32.
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Use your feeling brain, not your thinking brain.
As quoted in 'In Memoriam—Jack J. Leedy (1921–2004)', Journal of Poetry Therapy (2004), 17, No. 4, 231.
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Voluntary attention is … a habit, an imitation of natural attention, which … serves, at the same time, as its point of departure and point of support. … Attention … creates nothing; and if the brain be sterile, if the associations are poor, it will act its part in vain.
As translated in The Psychology of Attention (1890), 45 & 65. Also translated as, “Voluntary attention is a habit, an imitation of natural attention, which is its starting-point and its basis. … Attention creates nothing; and if the brain is barren, if the associations are meagre, it functions in vain”, in William W. Speer, Primary Arithmetic: First Year, for the Use of Teachers (1902), 2-3. By
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We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history. But they’ve got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.
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We are having wool pulled over our eyes if we let ourselves be convinced that scientists, taken as a group, are anything special in the way of brains. They are very ordinary professional men, and all they know is their own trade, just like all other professional men. There are some geniuses among them, just as there are mental giants in any other field of endeavor.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 23-24.
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We are in the presence of a recruiting drive systematically and deliberately undertaken by American business, by American universities, and to a lesser extent, American government, often initiated by talent scouts specially sent over here to buy British brains and preempt them for service of the U.S.A. … I look forward earnestly to the day when some reform of the American system of school education enables them to produce their own scientists so that, in an amiable free trade of talent, there may be adequate interchange between our country and theirs, and not a one-way traffic.
Speaking as Britain's Minister of Science in the House of Lords (27 Feb 1963). In 'The Manhunters: British Minister Blames American Recruiters for Emigration of Scientists', Science Magazine (8 Mar 1963), 893. See also the reply from the leader of the Labour Party, Harold Wilson, by using the link below.
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We do not inhabit a perfected world where natural selection ruthlessly scrutinizes all organic structures and then molds them for optimal utility. Organisms inherit a body form and a style of embryonic development; these impose constraint s upon future change and adaptation. In many cases, evolutionary pathways reflect inherited patterns more than current environmental demands. These inheritances constrain, but they also provide opportunity. A potentially minor genetic change ... entails a host of complex, nonadaptive consequences ... What ‘play’ would evolution have if each structure were built for a restricted purpose and could be used for nothing else? How could humans learn to write if our brain had not evolved for hunting, social cohesion, or whatever, and could not transcend the adaptive boundaries of its original purpose?
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We found that each disconnected hemisphere [of the brain] was capable of sustaining its own conscious awareness, each largely oblivious of experience of the other.
As quoted in Melvin P. Shaw and Mark A. Runco (eds.), Creativity and Affect (1994), 215
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We have in the spinal cord the antetype (Vorbild) and the foundation for the entire structure of the brain.
Handbuch der Anatonne des Menschen nnt besonderer Riicksicht auf Physiologie und praktische Medicin (1851), Vol. 2, 682. Trans. Edwin Clarke and L. S. Jacyna, Nineteenth Century Origins of Neuroscentific Concepts (1987), 52.
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We must avoid the impression that the qualification for election is that the prostate is larger than the brain.
Speaking on the age of election of fellows at the Australian Academy of Science, 1980.
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We must remember that all our [models of flying machine] inventions are but developments of crude ideas; that a commercially successful result in a practically unexplored field cannot possibly be got without an enormous amount of unremunerative work. It is the piled-up and recorded experience of many busy brains that has produced the luxurious travelling conveniences of to-day, which in no way astonish us, and there is no good reason for supposing that we shall always be content to keep on the agitated surface of the sea and air, when it is possible to travel in a superior plane, unimpeded by frictional disturbances.
Paper to the Royal Society of New South Wales (4 Jun 1890), as quoted in Octave Chanute, Progress in Flying Machines (1894), 2226.
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We've all seen Apollo 13. NASA guys always have the old 'plastic bag, cardboard tubing, and duct tape' option to fall back on when the shit hits the fan. Neurosurgeons have no such leeway. What it comes down to is this: if a brain surgeon screws up, it means a multi-million-dollar malpractice suit, but if a rocket scientist screws up, it means a multi-million-dollar hit movie starring Tom Hanks.
Lucky Man (2002), 209.
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What can you conceive more silly and extravagant than to suppose a man racking his brains, and studying night and day how to fly? ... wearying himself with climbing upon every ascent, ... bruising himself with continual falls, and at last breaking his neck? And all this, from an imagination that it would be glorious to have the eyes of people looking up at him, and mighty happy to eat, and drink, and sleep, at the top of the highest trees in the kingdom.
In A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1732), 168. This was written before Montgolfier brothers, pioneer balloonists, were born.
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What we do see through geological time is the emergence of more complex worlds. ... [W]hen within the animal we see the emergence of larger and more complex brains, sophisticated vocalizations, echolocation, electrical perception, advanced social systems including eusociality, viviparity, warm-bloodedness, and agriculture—all of which are convergent—then to me that sounds like progress.
Life's Solution, 307. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 184.
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When external objects are impressed on the sensory nerves, they excite vibrations in the aether residing in the pores of these nerves... Thus it seems that light affects both the optic nerve and the aether and ... the affections of the aether are communicated to the optic nerve, and vice versa. And the same may be observed of frictions of the skin, taste, smells and sounds... Vibrations in the aether will agitate the small particles of the medullary substance of the sensory nerves with synchronous vibrations... up to the brain... These vibrations are motions backwards and forwards of small particles, of the same kind with the oscillations of pendulums, and the tremblings of the particles of the sounding bodies (but) exceedingly short and small, so as not to have the least efficacy to disturb or move the whole bodies of the nerves... That the nerves themselves should vibrate like musical strings is highly absurd.
Observations on Man, His Frame, His Duty, and His Expectations (1749), part 1, 11-22.
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When Richard Dawkins first published his idea of a meme, he made it clear he was speaking of “a unit of imitation” … Memes were supposed to be exclusive triumphs of humanity. But memes come in two different kinds—behavioral and verbal. … behavioral memes began brain-hopping long before there were such things as human minds.
In 'Threading a New Tapestry', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 62.
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When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not
http://web.archive.org/web/20070109161311/http://www.knowprose.com/node/12961
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While our behavior is still significantly controlled by our genetic inheritance, we have, through our brains, a much richer opportunity to blaze new behavioral and cultural pathways on short timescales.
The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1977, 1986), 3.
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Whoever it was who searched the heavens with a telescope and found no God would not have found the human mind if he had searched the brain with a microscope.
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Whoever would not remain in complete ignorance of the resources which cause him to act; whoever would seize, at a single philosophical glance, the nature of man and animals, and their relations to external objects; whoever would establish, on the intellectual and moral functions, a solid doctrine of mental diseases, of the general and governing influence of the brain in the states of health and disease, should know, that it is indispensable, that the study of the organization of the brain should march side by side with that of its functions.
On the Organ of the Moral Qualities and Intellectual Faculties, and the Plurality of the Cerebral Organs (1835), 45-6.
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Why Become Extinct? Authors with varying competence have suggested that dinosaurs disappeared because the climate deteriorated (became suddenly or slowly too hot or cold or dry or wet), or that the diet did (with too much food or not enough of such substances as fern oil; from poisons in water or plants or ingested minerals; by bankruptcy of calcium or other necessary elements). Other writers have put the blame on disease, parasites, wars, anatomical or metabolic disorders (slipped vertebral discs, malfunction or imbalance of hormone and endocrine systems, dwindling brain and consequent stupidity, heat sterilization, effects of being warm-blooded in the Mesozoic world), racial old age, evolutionary drift into senescent overspecialization, changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg-eaters, overkill capacity by predators, fluctuation of gravitational constants, development of psychotic suicidal factors, entropy, cosmic radiation, shift of Earth's rotational poles, floods, continental drift, extraction of the moon from the Pacific Basin, draining of swamp and lake environments, sunspots, God’s will, mountain building, raids by little green hunters in flying saucers, lack of standing room in Noah’s Ark, and palaeoweltschmerz.
'Riddles of the Terrible Lizards', American Scientist (1964) 52, 231.
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Why the dinosaurs died out is not known, but it is supposed to be because they had minute brains and devoted themselves to the growth of weapons of offense in the shape of numerous horns. However that may be, it was not through their line that life developed.
In 'Men versus. Insects' (1933), collected in In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), 199.
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Why then does science work? The answer is that nobody knows. It is a complete mystery—perhaps the complete mystery&mdashwhy the human mind should be able to understand anything at all about the wider universe. ... Perhaps it is because our brains evolved through the working of natural law that they somehow resonate with natural law. ... But the mystery, really, is not that we are at one with the universe, but that we are so to some degree at odds with it, different from it, and yet can understand something about it. Why is this so?
Coming of Age in the Milky Way (1988), 385. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 185.
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William Blake called division the sin of man; Faraday was a great man because he was utterly undivided. His whole, very harmonious, very well balanced, … and used the brain in the limited way in which it is useful…. [H]e built up his few but precious speculations. Their simplicity rivals with their forcefulness.