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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it... That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index C > Category: Career

Career Quotes (54 quotes)

A fair number of people who go on to major in astronomy have decided on it certainly by the time they leave junior high, if not during junior high. I think it’s somewhat unusual that way. I think most children pick their field quite a bit later, but astronomy seems to catch early, and if it does, it sticks.
From interview by Rebecca Wright, 'Oral History Transcript' (15 Sep 2000), on NASA website.
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A parable: A man was examining the construction of a cathedral. He asked a stone mason what he was doing chipping the stones, and the mason replied, “I am making stones.” He asked a stone carver what he was doing. “I am carving a gargoyle.” And so it went, each person said in detail what they were doing. Finally he came to an old woman who was sweeping the ground. She said. “I am helping build a cathedral.”
...Most of the time each person is immersed in the details of one special part of the whole and does not think of how what they are doing relates to the larger picture.
[For example, in education, a teacher might say in the next class he was going to “explain Young's modulus and how to measure it,” rather than, “I am going to educate the students and prepare them for their future careers.”]
In The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn (1975, 2005), 195.
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Any country that wants to make full use of all its potential scientists and technologists … must not expect to get the women quite so simply as it gets the men. It seems to me that marriage and motherhood are at least as socially important as military service. Government regulations are framed to ensure (in the United Kingdom) that a man returning to work from military service is not penalized by his absence. Is it utopian, then, to suggest that any country that really wants a woman to return to a scientific career when her children no longer need her physical presence should make special arrangements to encourage her to do so?
In Impact of Science on Society (1970), 20 58. Commenting how for men who went to war, their jobs were held for them pending their return.
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As a boy I had liked both drawing and physics, and I always abhorred the role of being a spectator. In 1908, when I was 15, I designed, built and flew a toy model airplane which won the then-famous James Gordon Bennett Cup. By 16 I had discovered that design could be fun and profitable, and this lesson has never been lost on me.
On the official Raymond Loewry website.
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As a career, the business of an orthodox preacher is about as successful as that of a celluloid dog chasing an asbestos cat through hell.
A Thousand & One Epigrams: Selected from the Writings of Elbert Hubbard (1911), 110. Celluloid, an early plastic, known by that name since 1872 and used for early film stock, is noted for its flammability.
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As for hailing [the new term] scientist as 'good', that was mere politeness: Faraday never used the word, describing himself as a natural philosopher to the end of his career.
Nineteenth-Century Attitudes: Men of Science (1991), 10.
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At no period of [Michael Faraday’s] unmatched career was he interested in utility. He was absorbed in disentangling the riddles of the universe, at first chemical riddles, in later periods, physical riddles. As far as he cared, the question of utility was never raised. Any suspicion of utility would have restricted his restless curiosity. In the end, utility resulted, but it was never a criterion to which his ceaseless experimentation could be subjected.
'The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge', Harper's Magazine (1939) 179, 546. In Hispania (Feb 1944), 27, No. 1, 77.
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Do not expect to be hailed as a hero when you make your great discovery. More likely you will be a ratbag—maybe failed by your examiners. Your statistics, or your observations, or your literature study, or your something else will be patently deficient. Do not doubt that in our enlightened age the really important advances are and will be rejected more often than acclaimed. Nor should we doubt that in our own professional lifetime we too will repudiate with like pontifical finality the most significant insight ever to reach our desk.
Theories of the Earth and Universe (1988), 365.
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First, it must be a pleasure to study the human body the most miraculous masterpiece of nature and to learn about the smallest vessel and the smallest fiber. But second and most important, the medical profession gives the opportunity to alleviate the troubles of the body, to ease the pain, to console a person who is in distress, and to lighten the hour of death of many a sufferer.
Reasons for his choice of medicine as a career, from essay written during his last year in the Gymnasium (high school). As quoted in Leslie Dunn, Rudolf Virchow: Now You Know His Name (2012), 8-9.
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From my father I learned to build things, to take them apart, and to fix mechanical and electrical equipment in general. I spent vast hours in a woodworking shop he maintained in the basement of our house, building gadgets, working both with my father and alone, often late into the night. … This play with building, fixing, and designing was my favorite activity throughout my childhood, and was a wonderful preparation for my later career as an experimentalist working on the frontiers of chemistry and physics.
From 'Richard E. Smalley: Biographical', collected in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1996 (1997).
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From the age of 13, I was attracted to physics and mathematics. My interest in these subjects derived mostly from popular science books that I read avidly. Early on I was fascinated by theoretical physics and determined to become a theoretical physicist. I had no real idea what that meant, but it seemed incredibly exciting to spend one's life attempting to find the secrets of the universe by using one's mind.
From 'Autobiography', in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.) Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2004, (2005).
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Haldane could have made a success of any one of half a dozen careers—as mathematician, classical scholar, philosopher, scientist, journalist or imaginative writer. On his life’s showing he could not have been a politician, administrator (heavens, no!), jurist or, I think, a critic of any kind. In the outcome he became one of the three or four most influential biologists of his generation.
Essay, 'J.B.S.', in Pluto’s Republic: Incorporating The Art of the Soluble and Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (1982), collected in The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science (1996), 87.
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I am persuaded that there is not in the nature of science anything unfavourable to religious feelings, and if I were not so persuaded I should be much puzzled to account for our being invested, as we so amply are, with the facilities that lead us to the discovery of scientific truth. It would be strange if our Creator should be found to be urging us on in a career which tended to be a forgetfulness of him.
Letter to H. J. Rose (19 Nov 1826). Quoted in I. Todhunter (ed.), William Whewell: An Account of His Writings with Selections From His Literary and Scientific Correspondence (1876), Vol. 2, 76.
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I grew up in Brooklyn, New York … a city neighborhood that included houses, lampposts, walls, and bushes. But with an early bedtime in the winter, I could look out my window and see the stars, and the stars were not like anything else in my neighborhood. [At age 5] I didn’t know what they were.
[At age 9] my mother … said to me, “You have a library card now, and you know how to read. Take the streetcar to the library and get a book on stars.” … I stepped up to the big librarian and asked for a book on stars. … I sat down and found out the answer, which was something really stunning.
I found out that the stars are glowing balls of gas. I also found out that the Sun is a star but really close and that the stars are all suns except really far away I didn’t know any physics or mathematics at that time, but I could imagine how far you’d have to move the Sun away from us till it was only as bright as a star. It was in that library, reading that book, that the scale of the universe opened up to me. There was something beautiful about it.
At that young age, I already knew that I’d be very happy if I could devote my life to finding out more about the stars and the planets that go around them. And it’s been my great good fortune to do just that.
Quoted in interview with Jack Rightmyer, in 'Stars in His Eyes', Highlights For Children (1 Jan 1997). Ages as given in Tom Head (ed.), Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), x.
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I haven’t strength of mind not to need a career.
As quoted by Margaret Mead (who was a student of Benedict), in 'Search: 1920-1930', Ruth Benedict, An Anthropologist at Work (1959, 2011), 3.
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I view the major features of my own odyssey as a set of mostly fortunate contingencies. I was not destined by inherited mentality or family tradition to become a paleontologist. I can locate no tradition for scientific or intellectual careers anywhere on either side of my eastern European Jewish background ... I view my serious and lifelong commitment to baseball in entirely the same manner: purely as a contingent circumstance of numerous, albeit not entirely capricious, accidents.
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I was always very interested in science, and I knew that for me, science was a better long-term career than tennis. So I decided on science when I was in college.
Interview conducted on Scholastic website (20 Nov 1998).
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I was just so interested in what I was doing I could hardly wait to get up in the morning and get at it. One of my friends, a geneticist, said I was a child, because only children can't wait to get up in the morning to get at what they want to do.
Quoted in Evelyn Fox Keller, A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1984), 70.
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I … began my career as a wireless amateur. After 43 years in radio, I do not mind confessing that I am still an amateur. Despite many great achievements in the science of radio and electronics, what we know today is far less than what we have still to learn.
Address at Banquet of the International Congress on Rheumatic Diseases, printed in 'Man and Science', Radio Age: Research, Manufacturing, Communications, Broadcasting, Television (Jul 1949), 8, No. 4, 3.
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I … decided that the challenge of starting with a completely clean slate and mapping out a program that would influence astronomy for fifty years was just more than I could turn down.
Recalling why she took the opportunity to leave research at the Naval Research Laboratory for a management job at NASA to set up a program in space astronomy (Feb 1958). From interview by Rebecca Wright, 'Oral History Transcript' (15 Sep 2000), on NASA website.
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If I were entering adulthood now instead of in the environment of fifty years ago, I would choose a career that kept me in touch with nature more than science. … Too few natural areas remain; both by intent and by indifference we have insulated ourselves from the wilderness that produced us.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 10.
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If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.
According to Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When (2006), 53, on other occasions Einstein said 'he might rather have been a musician, or light-house keeper'; however it is a 'popular misquotation' that refers to being a watchmaker.
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In 1912 I went to a book sale and bought ten books for fifty cents. One of the books was by Ostwald The Scientific Foundations of Analytical Chemistry. Ostwald wrote at the beginning of that book that analytical chemists are the maidservants of other chemists. This made quite an impression on me, because I didn't want to be a maidservant.
Comment during interview, Beckman Center (15 March 1984), as recorded on tape held by The Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia. Quotation provided by W. H. Brock.
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It is an occupational risk of biologists to claim, towards the end of their careers, that the problems which they have not solved are insoluble.
'Popper's World', The London Review of Books (18-31 August 1983), 12.
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My decision to begin research in radio astronomy was influenced both by my wartime experience with electronics and antennas and by one of my teachers, Jack Ratcliffe, who had given an excellent course on electromagnetic theory during my final undergraduate year.
From Autobiography in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1974/Nobel Lectures (1975)
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My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.
In Fact and Faith (1934), vi.
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My two Jamaican cousins ... were studying engineering. 'That's where the money is,' Mom advised. ... I was to be an engineering major, despite my allergy to science and math. ... Those who preceded me at CCNY include the polio vaccine discoverer, Dr. Jonas Salk ... and eight Nobel Prize winners. ... In class, I stumbled through math, fumbled through physics, and did reasonably well in, and even enjoyed, geology. All I ever looked forward to was ROTC.
Autobiographical comments on his original reason for going to the City College of New York, where he shortly turned to his military career.
My American Journey (1996), 23-26. ROTC is the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) school-based program of the U.S. military. From there, the self-described 'C-average student out of middling Morris High School' went on to become a four-star general.
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Never burn your bridges, especially if you pursue science as a career.
Found in The NIH Catalyst (May-June 2003), 11, No. 3, 8, as part of list 'A Scientist’s Dozen,' cited as “culled and adapted…from a variety of sources” by Howard Young.
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That one must do some work seriously and must be independent and not merely amuse oneself in life—this our mother [Marie Curie] has told us always, but never that science was the only career worth following.
As quoted by Mary Margaret McBride in A Long Way From Missouri (1959), 123.
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The ancients had a taste, let us say rather a passion, for the marvellous, which caused … grouping together the lofty deeds of a great number of heroes, whose names they have not even deigned to preserve, and investing the single personage of Hercules with them. … In our own time the public delight in blending fable with history. In every career of life, in the pursuit of science especially, they enjoy a pleasure in creating Herculeses.
In François Arago, trans. by William Henry Smyth, Baden Powell and Robert Grant, 'Fourier', Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men (1859), Vol. 1, 408. This comment indicates that a single scientist or inventor may be held as the exemplar, such as James Watt and the steam-engine, although groundwork was laid by predecessors.
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The crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
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The development of science has produced an industrial revolution which has brought different peoples in such close contact with one another through colonization and commerce that no matter how some nations may still look down upon others, no country can harbor the illusion that its career is decided wholly within itself.
In Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (1916), 337.
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The first observation of cancer cells in the smear of the uterine cervix gave me one of the greatest thrills I ever experienced during my scientific career.
Quoted on web page http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/2402.html
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The future mathematician ... should solve problems, choose the problems which are in his line, meditate upon their solution, and invent new problems. By this means, and by all other means, he should endeavor to make his first important discovery: he should discover his likes and dislikes, his taste, his own line.
How to Solve it: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (1957), 206.
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The lives of scientists, considered as Lives, almost always make dull reading. For one thing, the careers of the famous and the merely ordinary fall into much the same pattern, give or take an honorary degree or two, or (in European countries) an honorific order. It could be hardly otherwise. Academics can only seldom lead lives that are spacious or exciting in a worldly sense. They need laboratories or libraries and the company of other academics. Their work is in no way made deeper or more cogent by privation, distress or worldly buffetings. Their private lives may be unhappy, strangely mixed up or comic, but not in ways that tell us anything special about the nature or direction of their work. Academics lie outside the devastation area of the literary convention according to which the lives of artists and men of letters are intrinsically interesting, a source of cultural insight in themselves. If a scientist were to cut his ear off, no one would take it as evidence of a heightened sensibility; if a historian were to fail (as Ruskin did) to consummate his marriage, we should not suppose that our understanding of historical scholarship had somehow been enriched.
'J.B.S: A Johnsonian Scientist', New York Review of Books (10 Oct 1968), reprinted in Pluto's Republic (1982), and inThe Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science (1996), 86.
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The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
Nobody Knows My Name (1961). In The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985 (1985), 302.
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The principal impetus for my entering a career in science … was the successful launching of Sputnik in 1957, and the then current belief that science and technology was going to be where the action was in the coming decades.
From 'Richard E. Smalley: Biographical', collected in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1996 (1997).
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The rigid career path of a professor at a modern university is that One Must Build the Big Research Group, recruit doctoral students more vigorously than the head football coach, bombard the federal agencies with grant applications more numerous than the pollen falling from the heavens in spring, and leave the paper writing and the research to the postdocs, research associates, and students who do all the bench work and all the computer programming. A professor is chained to his previous topics by his Big Group, his network of contacts built up laboriously over decades, and the impossibility of large funding except in areas where the grantee has grown the group from a corner of the building to an entire floor. The senior tenure-track faculty at a research university–the “silverbacks” in anthropological jargon–are bound by invisible chains stronger than the strongest steel to a narrow range of what the Prevailing Consensus agrees are Very Important Problems. The aspiring scientist is confronted with the reality that his mentors are all business managers.
In his Foreword to Cornelius Lanczos, Discourse on Fourier Series, ix-x.
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The success of the paradigm... is at the start largely a promise of success ... Normal science consists in the actualization of that promise... Mopping up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science... That enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 23-4.
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Throughout his career, [Richard] Drew tried to create an environment where people were encouraged to follow their instincts. He was known at 3M as a consummate mentor, encouraging and helping to train many of the company’s young scientists, who went on to develop successful products of their own, paving the way for 3M’s culture of innovation.
In Press Release (7 May 2007) on 3M Company website.
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Using any reasonable definition of a scientist, we can say that 80 to 90 percent of all the scientists that have ever lived are alive now. Alternatively, any young scientist, starting now and looking back at the end of his career upon a normal life span, will find that 80 to 90 percent of all scientific work achieved by the end of the period will have taken place before his very eyes, and that only 10 to 20 percent will antedate his experience.
Little Science, Big Science (1963), 1-2.
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We may be sure, that if Lyell were now living he would frankly recognize new facts, as soon as they were established, and would not shrink from any modification of his theory which these might demand. Great as were his services to geology, this, perhaps, is even greater—for the lesson applies to all sciences and to all seekers alter knowledge—that his career, from first to lost, was the manifestation of a judicial mind, of a noble spirit, raised far above all party passions and petty considerations, of an intellect great in itself, but greater still in its grand humility; that he was a man to whom truth was as the “pearl of price,” worthy of the devotion and, if need be, the sacrifice of a life.
Conclusion in Charles Lyell and Modern Geology (1895), 213.
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When I quitted business and took to science as a career, I thought I had left behind me all the petty meannesses and small jealousies which hinder man in his moral progress; but I found myself raised into another sphere, only to find poor human nature just the same everywhere—subject to the same weaknesses and the same self-seeking, however exalted the intellect.
As quoted “as well as I can recollect” by Mrs. Cornelia Crosse, wife of the scientist Andrew Crosse. She was with him during a visit by Andrew to see his friend Faraday at the Royal Institution, and she had some conversation with him. This was Faraday’s reply to her comment that he must be happy to have elevated himself (presumably, from his apprenticeship as a bookbinder) above all the “meaner aspects and lower aims of common life.” As stated in John Hall Gladstone, Michael Faraday (1872), 117.
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When something comes along and is really important to your career and important to science, important enough so that lots of other people are working on it, you have got to do it in a short time. You have got to get in there and run experiments quickly and get published. That is the killer instinct. I do not think women have that part of it. Part of it comes from sports. It's like scoring a goal.
Quoted in The Door in the Dream: Conversations with Eminent Women in Science by Elga Wasserman, National Academy Press/John Henry Press (2000), p. 182
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When you are famous it is hard to work on small problems. This is what did [Claude Elwood] Shannon in. After information theory, what do you do for an encore? The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little acorns from which the mighty oak trees grow. They try to get the big thing right off. And that isn’t the way things go. So that is another reason why you find that when you get early recognition it seems to sterilize you.
'You and Your Research', Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar, 7 Mar 1986.
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Why did I decide to undertake my doctorate research in the exotic field of boron hydrides? As it happened, my girl friend, Sarah Baylen, soon to become my wife, presented me with a graduation gift, Alfred Stock's book, The Hydrides of Boron and Silicon. I read this book and became interested in the subject. How did it happen that she selected this particular book? This was the time of the Depression. None of us had much money. It appears she selected as her gift the most economical chemistry book ($2.06) available in the University of Chicago bookstore. Such are the developments that can shape a career.
'From Little Acorns Through to Tall Oaks From Boranes Through Organoboranes', Nobel Lecture (8 Dec) 1979. In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry, 1971-1980 (1993), 341.
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With little more knowledge of what I was after than a cat has about catalysts … I set out to become a professional forester.
In Breaking New Ground (1947, 1998), 3.
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You will die but the carbon will not; its career does not end with you. It will return to the soil, and there a plant may take it up again in time, sending it once more on a cycle of plant and animal life.
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Young men, have confidence in those powerful and safe methods, of which we do not yet know all the secrets. And, whatever your career may be, do not let yourselves become tainted by a deprecating and barren skepticism … Live … until the time comes when you have the immense happiness of thinking that you have contributed in some way to the progress and to the good of humanity.
Acceptance speech (27 Dec 1892) when awarded a 70th birthday commemorative medal by the Academy of Sciences in the great theatre of the Sorbonne, as translated in René Vallery-Radot and Mrs R.L. Devonshire (trans.), The Life of Pasteur (1902), Vol. 2, 297-298. Pasteur addressed an audience that included “deep masses of students” and “boys from the lycées.”
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Young men, trust those certain and powerful methods, only the first secrets of which we yet know. And all of you, whatever your career, … do not allow yourselves to be discouraged by the gloom of certain hours which pass a nation.
Advice in Speech (27 Dec 1892) to young scientists at the Golden Jubilee celebration for Pasteur's 70th birthday. As translated in Nature (1893), 47, 205. Also translated as “Young men, have faith in those powerful and safe methods, of which we do not yet know all the secrets. And, whatever your career may be, do not let yourselves be discouraged by the sadness of certain hours which pass over nations.” By René J. Dubos, quoted and cited in Maurice B. Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), 526.
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Young people, especially young women, often ask me for advice. Here it is, valeat quantum. Do not undertake a scientific career in quest of fame or money. There are easier and better ways to reach them. Undertake it only if nothing else will satisfy you; for nothing else is probably what you will receive.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 227.
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[About any invention] (1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal; (2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it; (3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
In News Review section, Sunday Times (29 Aug 1999).
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[Choosing to become a geophysicist was] entirely accidental and was due to the difficulty of getting a job during the depression. There happened to be one available in Cambridge at the time when I needed it.
Quoted in 'Edward Crisp Bullard,' Current Biography (1954)
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[When his physician father died of a heart attack:] It was then and there that I gave myself to medicine the way a monk gives himself to God. Not to have done so would have seemed an act of filial impiety. Since I could not find him in the flesh, I would find him in the work he did.
In Down From Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age (1992), 136.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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