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Who said: “God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.”
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Chief Quotes (97 quotes)

Ac astronomye is an hard thyng,
And yvel for to knowe;
Geometrie and geomesie,
So gynful of speche,
Who so thynketh werche with tho two
Thryveth ful late,
For sorcerie is the sovereyn book
That to tho sciences bilongeth.

Now, astronomy is a difficult discipline, and the devil to learn;
And geometry and geomancy have confusing terminology:
If you wish to work in these two, you will not succeed quickly.
For sorcery is the chief study that these sciences entail.
In William Langland and B. Thomas Wright (ed.) The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman (1842), 186. Modern translation by Terrence Tiller in Piers Plowman (1981, 1999), 94.
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Air Chief Marshal Harris [objecting to a change in strategy recommended by statisticians]: Are we fighting this war with weapons or the slide rule?
Churchill [after puffing on his cigar]: That's a good idea. Let's try the slide rule.
During World War II, Britain lost the advantage when enemy U-boats began listening in to the aircraft radar, were forewarned, and would dive. U-boat sinkings fell to zero. Physicist Patrick S. Blackett with his Operational Research colleagues came up with a solution. Concentrate sufficient aircraft in certain areas, causing the subs to dive so frequently their air supply and batteries were exhausted, forcing them to remain on the surface and be vulnerable to attack. The strategy required diverting several squadrons from Bomber Command to Coastal Command. “Bomber” Harris voiced his objection to Churchill, who made the right choice, proved by successful results. As described by R.V. Jones, 'Churchill and Science', in Robert Blake and Wm. Roger Louis (eds.), Churchill (1996), 437.
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Air Force Chief of Staff: Doctor, what do you think of our new creation, the … Corporation?
von Kármán: Why, General, I think that corporation has already had an effect on the whole industry.
Air Force Chief of Staff: I’m delighted. What effect is that?
von Kármán: Why, they’ve upset the salary schedule of the whole industry.
As quoted by William R. Sears in 'Some Recollections of Theodore von Kármán', Address to the Symposium in Memory of Theodore von Kármán, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, National Meeting (13-14 May 1964), Washington, D.C. Printed in Journal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (Mar 1965), 13>, No. 1, 181. These are likely not verbatim words of Karman, but as recollected by Sears, giving an example of von Kármán’s willingness to speak truth to power.
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Une même expression, dont les géomètres avaient considéré les propriétés abstraites, … représente'aussi le mouvement de la lumière dans l’atmosphère, quelle détermine les lois de la diffusion de la chaleur dans la matière solide, et quelle entre dans toutes les questions principales de la théorie des probabilités.
The same expression whose abstract properties geometers had considered … represents as well the motion of light in the atmosphere, as it determines the laws of diffusion of heat in solid matter, and enters into all the chief problems of the theory of probability.
From Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 7.
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[About Francis Baily] The history of the astronomy of the nineteenth century will be incomplete without a catalogue of his labours. He was one of the founders of the Astronomical Society, and his attention to its affairs was as accurate and minute as if it had been a firm of which he was the chief clerk, with expectation of being taken into partnership.
In Supplement to the Penny Cyclopaedia. Quoted in Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan, Memoir of Augustus De Morgan (1882), 46
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[As Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Ministry of Defence] We persist in regarding ourselves as a Great Power, capable of everything and only temporarily handicapped by economic difficulties. We are not a great power and never will be again. We are a great nation, but if we continue to behave like a Great Power we shall soon cease to be a great nation. Let us take warning from the fate of the Great Powers of the past and not burst ourselves with pride (see Aesop’s fable of the frog). (1949)
As quoted by Peter Hennessy, Whitehall (1989), 155.
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[Trousseau regarded as the chief aim of medicine:] Get that patient well.
As quoted by F.H. Garrison in editorial, 'The Evil Spoken of Physicians and the Answer Thereto', Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine (Feb 1929), 5, No. 2, 145.
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A modern branch of mathematics, having achieved the art of dealing with the infinitely small, can now yield solutions in other more complex problems of motion, which used to appear insoluble. This modern branch of mathematics, unknown to the ancients, when dealing with problems of motion, admits the conception of the infinitely small, and so conforms to the chief condition of motion (absolute continuity) and thereby corrects the inevitable error which the human mind cannot avoid when dealing with separate elements of motion instead of examining continuous motion. In seeking the laws of historical movement just the same thing happens. The movement of humanity, arising as it does from innumerable human wills, is continuous. To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history. … Only by taking an infinitesimally small unit for observation (the differential of history, that is, the individual tendencies of man) and attaining to the art of integrating them (that is, finding the sum of these infinitesimals) can we hope to arrive at the laws of history.
War and Peace (1869), Book 11, Chap. 1.
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Abstractness, sometimes hurled as a reproach at mathematics, is its chief glory and its surest title to practical usefulness. It is also the source of such beauty as may spring from mathematics.
In 'General Prospectus', The Development of Mathematics (1940, 2017), Chap. 1, 9.
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All sorts of dung and compost contain some matter which, when mixed with the soil, ferments therein; and by such ferment dissolves, crumbles, and divides the earth very much. This is the chief and almost only use of dung. … This proves, that its (manure) use is not to nourish, but to dissolve, i.e., divide the terrestrial matter, which affords nourishment to the Mouths of vegetable roots.
His underestimate of the value of manure.
In The Horse-Hoeing Husbandry (1733), 18.
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At bottom each “exact” science is, and must be speculative, and its chief tool of research, too rarely used with both courage and judgement, is the regulated imagination.
In Igneous Rocks and their Origin (1914), Introduction, xxi.
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At the end of 1854 … the aggregate length of railways opened in Great Britain and Ireland at that time measured about 8,054 miles,—about the diameter of the globe, and nearly 500 miles more than the united lengths of the Thames, the Seine, the Rhone, the Ebro, the Tagus, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Vistula, the Dnieper, and the Danube, or the ten chief rivers of Europe. … the work of only twenty-five years.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 511-512.
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Chief Seattle, of the Indians that inhabited the Seattle area, wrote a wonderful paper that has to do with putting oneself in tune with the universe. He said, “Why should I lament the disappearance of my people! All things end, and the white man will find this out also.” And this goes for the universe. One can be at peace with that. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t participate in efforts to correct the situation. But underlying the effort to change must be an “at peace.” To win a dog sled race is great. To lose is okay too.
…...
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Education has, thus, become the chief problem of the world, its one holy cause. The nations that see this will survive, and those that fail to do so will slowly perish. There must be re-education of the will and of the heart as well as of the intellect, and the ideals of service must supplant those of selfishness and greed. ... Never so much as now is education the one and chief hope of the world.
Confessions of a Psychologist (1923). Quoted in Bruce A. Kimball, The True Professional Ideal in America: A History (1996), 198.
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Every discipline must be honored for reason other than its utility, otherwise it yields no enthusiasm for industry.
For both reasons, I consider mathematics the chief subject for the common school. No more highly honored exercise for the mind can be found; the buoyancy [Spannkraft] which it produces is even greater than that produced by the ancient languages, while its utility is unquestioned.
In 'Mathematischer Lehrplan für Realschulen' Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 167. (Mathematics Curriculum for Secondary Schools). As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 61.
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Every work of science great enough to be well remembered for a few generations affords some exemplification of the defective state of the art of reasoning of the time when it was written; and each chief step in science has been a lesson in logic.
'The Fixation of Belief (1877). In Justus Buchler, The Philosophy of Pierce (1940), 6.
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First, the chief character, who is supposed to be a professional astronomer, spends his time fund raising and doing calculations at his desk, rather than observing the sky. Second, the driving force of a scientific project is institutional self-aggrandizement rather than intellectual curiosity.
[About the state of affairs in academia.]
In Marc J. Madou, Fundamentals of Microfabrication: the Science of Miniaturization (2nd ed., 2002), 535
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For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things (which is the chief point) , and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to reconsider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture. So I thought my nature had a kind of familiarity and relationship with Truth.
From 'Progress of philosophical speculations. Preface to intended treatise De Interpretatione Naturæ (1603), in Francis Bacon and James Spedding (ed.), Works of Francis Bacon (1868), Vol. 3, 85.
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Formerly Milton's Paradise Lost had been my chief favourite, and in my excursions during the voyage of the Beagle, when I could take only a single small volume, I always chose Milton.
Nora Barlow (ed.), The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882 (1958), 85.
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John B. Watson quote: Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guar
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. (1930)
Behaviorism (1998), 82.
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Hence, a traveller should be a botanist, for in all views plants form the chief embellishment.
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XXIII, 604.
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I do not maintain that the chief value of the study of arithmetic consists in the lessons of morality that arise from this study. I claim only that, to be impressed from day to day, that there is something that is right as an answer to the questions with which one is able to grapple, and that there is a wrong answer—that there are ways in which the right answer can be established as right, that these ways automatically reject error and slovenliness, and that the learner is able himself to manipulate these ways and to arrive at the establishment of the true as opposed to the untrue, this relentless hewing to the line and stopping at the line, must color distinctly the thought life of the pupil with more than a tinge of morality. … To be neighborly with truth, to feel one’s self somewhat facile in ways of recognizing and establishing what is right, what is correct, to find the wrong persistently and unfailingly rejected as of no value, to feel that one can apply these ways for himself, that one can think and work independently, have a real, a positive, and a purifying effect upon moral character. They are the quiet, steady undertones of the work that always appeal to the learner for the sanction of his best judgment, and these are the really significant matters in school work. It is not the noise and bluster, not even the dramatics or the polemics from the teacher’s desk, that abide longest and leave the deepest and stablest imprint upon character. It is these still, small voices that speak unmistakably for the right and against the wrong and the erroneous that really form human character. When the school subjects are arranged on the basis of the degree to which they contribute to the moral upbuilding of human character good arithmetic will be well up the list.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 18. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 69.
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I have a sense of humor; but over the years that sense has developed one blind spot. I can no longer laugh at ignorance or stupidity. Those are our chief enemies, and it is dangerous to make fun of them.
Draft (22 May 1970) of speech he hoped to give upon his retirement. In Susan Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 309.
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I like to look at mathematics almost more as an art than as a science; for the activity of the mathematician, constantly creating as he is, guided though not controlled by the external world of the senses, bears a resemblance, not fanciful I believe but real, to the activity of an artist, of a painter let us say. Rigorous deductive reasoning on the part of the mathematician may be likened here to technical skill in drawing on the part of the painter. Just as no one can become a good painter without a certain amount of skill, so no one can become a mathematician without the power to reason accurately up to a certain point. Yet these qualities, fundamental though they are, do not make a painter or mathematician worthy of the name, nor indeed are they the most important factors in the case. Other qualities of a far more subtle sort, chief among which in both cases is imagination, go to the making of a good artist or good mathematician.
From 'Fundamental Conceptions and Methods in Mathematics', Bulletin American Mathematical Society (1904), 9, 133. As cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 182.
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I regard sex as the central problem of life. And now that the problem of religion has practically been settled, and that the problem of labor has at least been placed on a practical foundation, the question of sex—with the racial questions that rest on it—stands before the coming generations as the chief problem for solution. Sex lies at the root of life, and we can never learn to reverence life until we know how to understand sex.
Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1897), Vol. 1, xxx.
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I was a reasonably good student in college ... My chief interests were scientific. When I entered college, I was devoted to out-of-doors natural history, and my ambition was to be a scientific man of the Audubon, or Wilson, or Baird, or Coues type—a man like Hart Merriam, or Frank Chapman, or Hornaday, to-day.
In Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (1913), 23.
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If there are any gods whose chief concern is man, they cannot be very important gods.
…...
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If this book were to be dedicated to its first and chief encouragement is should probably salute starlight, insects, the galaxies, and the fossil plants and animals.
From Of Stars and Men: The Human Response to an Expanding Universe (1958 Rev. Ed. 1964), Foreword.
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If we wish to give an account of the atomic constitution of the aromatic compounds, we are bound to explain the following facts:
1) All aromatic compounds, even the most simple, are relatively richer in carbon than the corresponding compounds in the class of fatty bodies.
2) Among the aromatic compounds, as well as among the fatty bodies, a large number of homologous substances exist.
3) The most simple aromatic compounds contain at least six atoms of carbon.
4) All the derivatives of aromatic substances exhibit a certain family likeness; they all belong to the group of 'Aromatic compounds'. In cases where more vigorous reactions take place, a portion of the carbon is often eliminated, but the chief product contains at least six atoms of carbon These facts justify the supposition that all aromatic compounds contain a common group, or, we may say, a common nucleus consisting of six atoms of carbon. Within this nucleus a more intimate combination of the carbon atoms takes place; they are more compactly placed together, and this is the cause of the aromatic bodies being relatively rich in carbon. Other carbon atoms can be joined to this nucleus in the same way, and according to the same law, as in the case of the group of fatty bodies, and in this way the existence of homologous compounds is explained.
Bulletin de la Societé Chimique de France (1865), 1, 98. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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In the fight which we have to wage incessantly against ignorance and quackery among the masses and follies of all sorts among the classes, diagnosis, not drugging, is our chief weapon of offence. Lack of systematic personal training in the methods of the recognition of disease leads to the misapplication of remedies, to long courses of treatment when treatment is useless, and so directly to that lack of confidence in our methods which is apt to place us in the eyes of the public on a level with empirics and quacks.
Address to the Canadian Medical Association, Montreal (17 Sep 1902), 'Chauvinism in Medicine', published in The Montreal Medical Journal (1902), 31, 267. Collected in Aequanimitas, with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 299.
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In the last four days I have got the spectrum given by Tantalum. Chromium. Manganese. Iron. Nickel. Cobalt. and Copper and part of the Silver spectrum. The chief result is that all the elements give the same kind of spectrum, the result for any metal being quite easy to guess from the results for the others. This shews that the insides of all the atoms are very much alike, and from these results it will be possible to find out something of what the insides are made up of.
Letter to his mother (2 Nov 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 209.
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In those early days, the Chief Engineer was almost always the Chief Pilot as well. This had the automatic result of eliminating poor engineering very early in aviation.
In The Story of the Winged-S: The Autobiography of Igor I. Sikorsky (2011).
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Inexact method of observation, as I believe, is one flaw in clinical pathology to-day. Prematurity of conclusion is another, and in part follows from the first; but in chief part an unusual craving and veneration for hypothesis, which besets the minds of most medical men, is responsible. Except in those sciences which deal with the intangible or with events of long past ages, no treatises are to be found in which hypothesis figures as it does in medical writings. The purity of a science is to be judged by the paucity of its recorded hypotheses. Hypothesis has its right place, it forms a working basis; but it is an acknowledged makeshift, and, at the best, of purpose unaccomplished. Hypothesis is the heart which no man with right purpose wears willingly upon his sleeve. He who vaunts his lady love, ere yet she is won, is apt to display himself as frivolous or his lady a wanton.
The Mechanism and Graphic Registration of the Heart Beat (1920), vii.
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Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.
In The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1893), Vol. 9, 458.
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Isolated, so-called “pretty theorems” have even less value in the eyes of a modern mathematician than the discovery of a new “pretty flower” has to the scientific botanist, though the layman finds in these the chief charm of the respective Sciences.
In Die Entwickelung der Mathematik in den letzten Jahrhunderten (1869), 19. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 92. From the original German, “Einzelne, sogenannte „hübsche Sätze“ haben an und für sich in den Augen eines modernen Mathematikers noch weniger Werth, als für den wissenschaftlichen Botaniker die Entdeckung einer neuen „hübschen Blume“, obgleich dem Laien gerade hierin der Hauptreiz der betreffenden Wissenschaft zu liegen pflegt.”
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It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.
[Replying to query about his religious views]
Letter to a Dutch student (2 Apr 1873), in Charles Darwin and Sir Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 276.
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It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man's blessings. Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours... in order that the creations of our minds shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.
Address to students of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California (16 Feb 1931). In New York Times (17 Feb 1931), p. 6.
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It is one of the chief merits of proofs that they instil a certain scepticism as to the result proved.
In The Principles of Mathematics (1903), Vol. 1, 360.
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It is this ideal of progress through cumulative effort rather than through genius—progress by organised effort, progress which does not wait for some brilliant stroke, some lucky discovery, or the advent of some superman, has been the chief gift of science to social philosophy.
Address to 48th annual summer convention of the American Institute of Electriccal Engineers, Cleveland (21 Jun 1932), abridged in 'The Rôle of the Engineer', The Electrical Journal (1932), 109, 223.
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It must be admitted that science has its castes. The man whose chief apparatus is the differential equation looks down upon one who uses a galvanometer, and he in turn upon those who putter about with sticky and smelly things in test tubes. But all of these, and most biologists too, join together in their contempt for the pariah who, not through a glass darkly, but with keen unaided vision, observes the massing of a thundercloud on the horizon, the petal as it unfolds, or the swarming of a hive of bees. And yet sometimes I think that our laboratories are but little earthworks which men build about themselves, and whose puny tops too often conceal from view the Olympian heights; that we who work in these laboratories are but skilled artisans compared with the man who is able to observe, and to draw accurate deductions from the world about him.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 170- 1.
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It often happens that men, even of the best understandings and greatest circumspection, are guilty of that fault in reasoning which the writers on logick call the insufficient, or imperfect enumeration of parts, or cases: insomuch that I will venture to assert, that this is the chief, and almost the only, source of the vast number of erroneous opinions, and those too very often in matters of great importance, which we are apt to form on all the subjects we reflect upon, whether they relate to the knowledge of nature, or the merits and motives of human actions. It must therefore be acknowledged, that the art which affords a cure to this weakness, or defect, of our understandings, and teaches us to enumerate all the possible ways in which a given number of things may be mixed and combined together, that we may be certain that we have not omitted anyone arrangement of them that can lead to the object of our inquiry, deserves to be considered as most eminently useful and worthy of our highest esteem and attention. And this is the business of the art, or doctrine of combinations ... It proceeds indeed upon mathematical principles in calculating the number of the combinations of the things proposed: but by the conclusions that are obtained by it, the sagacity of the natural philosopher, the exactness of the historian, the skill and judgement of the physician, and the prudence and foresight of the politician, may be assisted; because the business of all these important professions is but to form reasonable conjectures concerning the several objects which engage their attention, and all wise conjectures are the results of a just and careful examination of the several different effects that may possibly arise from the causes that are capable of producing them.
Ars conjectandi (1713). In F. Maseres, The Doctrine of Permutations and Combinations (1795), 36.
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It was Darwin’s chief contribution, not only to Biology but to the whole of natural science, to have brought to light a process by which contingencies a priori improbable are given, in the process of time, an increasing probability, until it is their non-occurrence, rather than their occurrence, which becomes highly improbable.
From essay 'Retrospect of the Criticisms of the Theory of Natural Selection', reproduced in Julian Huxley, A.C. Hardy, and E.B. Ford (eds.), Evolution as a Process (1954), 91, as cited in Elizabeth Knowles, What They Didn't Say: A Book of Misquotations (2006), 79-80. “Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability,” which is seen more often, is a summary form of Fisher’s idea (not a verbatim quote) written by Julian Huxley, ibid, 5.
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It were indeed to be wish’d that our art had been less ingenious, in contriving means destructive to mankind; we mean those instruments of war, which were unknown to the ancients, and have made such havoc among the moderns. But as men have always been bent on seeking each other’s destruction by continual wars; and as force, when brought against us, can only be repelled by force; the chief support of war, must, after money, be now sought in chemistry.
A New Method of Chemistry, 3rd edition (1753), Vol. I, trans. P. Shaw, 189-90.
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Its [mathematical analysis] chief attribute is clearness; it has no means for expressing confused ideas. It compares the most diverse phenomena and discovers the secret analogies which unite them. If matter escapes us, as that of air and light because of its extreme tenuity, if bodies are placed far from us in the immensity of space, if man wishes to know the aspect of the heavens at successive periods separated by many centuries, if gravity and heat act in the interior of the solid earth at depths which will forever be inaccessible, mathematical analysis is still able to trace the laws of these phenomena. It renders them present and measurable, and appears to be the faculty of the human mind destined to supplement the brevity of life and the imperfection of the senses, and what is even more remarkable, it follows the same course in the study of all phenomena; it explains them in the same language, as if in witness to the unity and simplicity of the plan of the universe, and to make more manifest the unchangeable order which presides over all natural causes.
From Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), Discours Préliminaire, xiv, (Theory of Heat, Introduction), as translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 7.
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Man's chief enemy and danger is his own unruly nature and the dark forces pent up within him.
In The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1957), Vol. 3, 441.
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MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  212.
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Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth more than ruin more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
…...
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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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Natural Magick is taken to be nothing else, but the chief power of all the natural Sciences; which therefore they call the top and perfection of Natural Philosophy, and which is indeed the active part of the same; which by the assistance of natural forces and faculties, through their mutual & opportune application, performs those things that are above Humane Reason.
In The Vanity of the Arts and Sciences (1530), translation (1676), 110.
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Naturally, some intriguing thoughts arise from the discovery that the three chief particles making up matter—the proton, the neutron, and the electron—all have antiparticles. Were particles and antiparticles created in equal numbers at the beginning of the universe? If so, does the universe contain worlds, remote from ours, which are made up of antiparticles?
In The Intelligent Man's Guide to the Physical Sciences (1960, 1968), 222. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 138.
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Of these austerer virtues the love of truth is the chief, and in mathematics, more than elsewhere, the love of truth may find encouragement for waning faith. Every great study is not only an end in itself, but also a means of creating and sustaining a lofty habit of mind; and this purpose should be kept always in view throughout the teaching and learning of mathematics.
Essay, 'The Study of Mathematics' (1902), collected in Philosophical Essays (1910), 73-74. Also collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1919), 73.
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Once I dipt into the future far as human eye could see,
And I saw the Chief Forecaster, dead as any one can be-
Dead and damned and shut in Hades as a liar from his birth,
With a record of unreason seldom paralleled on earth.
While I looked he reared him solemnly, that incandescent youth,
From the coals that he’s preferred to the advantages of truth.
He cast his eyes about him and above him; then he wrote
On a slab of thin asbestos what I venture here to quote-
For I read it in the rose-light of the everlasting glow:
Cloudy; variable winds, with local showers; cooler; snow.
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Our ancestors, when about to build a town or an army post, sacrificed some of the cattle that were wont to feed on the site proposed and examined their livers. If the livers of the first victims were dark-coloured or abnormal, they sacrificed others, to see whether the fault was due to disease or their food. They never began to build defensive works in a place until after they had made many such trials and satisfied themselves that good water and food had made the liver sound and firm. …healthfulness being their chief object.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 4, Sec. 9. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 20.
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Papyra, throned upon the banks of Nile,
Spread her smooth leaf, and waved her silver style.
The storied pyramid, the laurel’d bust,
The trophy’d arch had crumbled into dust;
The sacred symbol, and the epic song (Unknown the character, forgot the tongue,)
With each unconquer’d chief, or sainted maid,
Sunk undistinguish’d in Oblivion’s shade.
Sad o’er the scatter’d ruins Genius sigh’d,
And infant Arts but learn’d to lisp, and died.
Till to astonish’d realms Papyra taught To paint in mystic colours Sound and Thought,
With Wisdom’s voice to print the page sublime,
And mark in adamant the steps of Time.
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People have noted with admiration how the progress of scientific enquiry is like the growth of a coral reef; each generation of little toilers building a sure foundation on which their successors may build yet further. The simile is apt in many ways, and in one way in particular that is worth considering. When we see how industrious and how prolific are the coral insects, our chief astonishment should be, not how vast are the structures they have built, but how few and scattered. Why is not every coast lined with coral? Why is the abyss if ocean not bridged with it. The answer is that coral only lives under certain limitations; it can only thrive at certain depths, in water of certain temperatures and salinities; outside these limits it languishes and dies. Science is like coral in this. Scientific investigators can only work in certain spots of the ocean of Being, where they are at home, and all outside is unknown to them...
Scientific Method: An Inquiry into the Character and Validy of Natural Law (1923), 195. Quoted in Wilson Gee, Social science research methods (1950), 182.
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Perseverance is the chief, but perseverance must have some practical end, or it does not avail the man possessing it. A person without a practical end in view becomes a crank or an idiot. Such persons fill our asylums.
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), 32.
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Psychiatry's chief contribution to philosophy is the discovery that the toilet is the seat of the soul.
Perspectives (1966). In Rhoda Thomas Tripp, The International Thesaurus of Quotations (1970), 517.
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RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  273.
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Science in the modern world has many uses, its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich. The word “kleptomania” is a vulgar example of what I mean.
From 'Celts and Celtophiles', in Heretics (1905, 1909), 171.
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That is the way of the scientist. He will spend thirty years in building up a mountain range of facts with the intent to prove a certain theory; then he is so happy with his achievement that as a rule he overlooks the main chief fact of all—that all his accumulation proves an entirely different thing.
'The Bee'. In What is Man? and Other Essays? (1917), 283.
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That so few now dare to eccentric, marks the chief danger of our time.
From On Liberty (1859), 121.
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The animal's heart is the basis of its life, its chief member, the sun of its microcosm; on the heart all its activity depends, from the heart all its liveliness and strength arise. Equally is the king the basis of his kingdoms, the sun of his microcosm, the heart of the state; from him all power arises and all grace stems.
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth j. Franklin (1957), Dedication to the King, 3.
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The Arts & Sciences are the Destruction of Tyrannies or Bad Governments. Why should a good government endeavour to depress what is its chief and only support.
Marginal note (c. 1808) written in his copy of The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1798), on table of contents. As given in William Blake, Edwin John Ellis (ed.) and William Butler Yeats (ed.), The Works of William Blake (1893), Vol. 2, 319.
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The belief that mathematics, because it is abstract, because it is static and cold and gray, is detached from life, is a mistaken belief. Mathematics, even in its purest and most abstract estate, is not detached from life. It is just the ideal handling of the problems of life, as sculpture may idealize a human figure or as poetry or painting may idealize a figure or a scene. Mathematics is precisely the ideal handling of the problems of life, and the central ideas of the science, the great concepts about which its stately doctrines have been built up, are precisely the chief ideas with which life must always deal and which, as it tumbles and rolls about them through time and space, give it its interests and problems, and its order and rationality. That such is the case a few indications will suffice to show. The mathematical concepts of constant and variable are represented familiarly in life by the notions of fixedness and change. The concept of equation or that of an equational system, imposing restriction upon variability, is matched in life by the concept of natural and spiritual law, giving order to what were else chaotic change and providing partial freedom in lieu of none at all. What is known in mathematics under the name of limit is everywhere present in life in the guise of some ideal, some excellence high-dwelling among the rocks, an “ever flying perfect” as Emerson calls it, unto which we may approximate nearer and nearer, but which we can never quite attain, save in aspiration. The supreme concept of functionality finds its correlate in life in the all-pervasive sense of interdependence and mutual determination among the elements of the world. What is known in mathematics as transformation—that is, lawful transfer of attention, serving to match in orderly fashion the things of one system with those of another—is conceived in life as a process of transmutation by which, in the flux of the world, the content of the present has come out of the past and in its turn, in ceasing to be, gives birth to its successor, as the boy is father to the man and as things, in general, become what they are not. The mathematical concept of invariance and that of infinitude, especially the imposing doctrines that explain their meanings and bear their names—What are they but mathematicizations of that which has ever been the chief of life’s hopes and dreams, of that which has ever been the object of its deepest passion and of its dominant enterprise, I mean the finding of the worth that abides, the finding of permanence in the midst of change, and the discovery of a presence, in what has seemed to be a finite world, of being that is infinite? It is needless further to multiply examples of a correlation that is so abounding and complete as indeed to suggest a doubt whether it be juster to view mathematics as the abstract idealization of life than to regard life as the concrete realization of mathematics.
In 'The Humanization of Teaching of Mathematics', Science, New Series, 35, 645-46.
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The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.
Epigraph, without citation, in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972), 231. Need primary source. Can you help?
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The chief art of learning, as Locke has observed, is to attempt but little at a time. The widest excursions of the mind are made by short flights frequently repeated; the most lofty fabrics of science are formed by the continued accumulation of single propositions.
'The Need For General Knowledge,' Rambler No. 137 (9 Jul 1751). In Samuel Johnson, Donald Greene (ed.), Samuel Johnson (1984), 223.
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The chief end of science is to make things clear, the educative aim is to foster the inquisitive spirit.
In Riddles of Science (1932), 5.
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The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree.
Aristotle
As translated in Book 13, 1078.a3, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, a Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary by W. D. Ross (1924), Vol. 2, 416.
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The chief instrument of American statistics is the census, which should accomplish a two-fold object. It should serve the country by making a full and accurate exhibit of the elements of national life and strength, and it should serve the science of statistics by so exhibiting general results that they may be compared with similar data obtained by other nations.
Speech (16 Dec 1867) given while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, introducing resolution for the appointment of a committee to examine the necessities for legislation upon the subject of the ninth census to be taken the following year. Quoted in John Clark Ridpath, The Life and Work of James A. Garfield (1881), 219.
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The chief malady of man is restless curiosity about things which he cannot understand; and it is not so bad for him to be in error as to be curious to no purpose.
In Pensées. As translated by W.F. Trotter in Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works (1910), 13.
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The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race.
Attributed. Seen in several collections of quotations, without citation, for example in Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips & Quotes (1968, 1995), 399. If you know the primary source, contact Webmaster.
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The chief pleasure [in eating] does not consist in costly seasoning, or exquisite flavor, but in yourself.
Horace
In Maturin Murray Ballou (ed.) Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors (1871), 125.
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The chief problem of the commercial farmers is overproduction. The chief problem of the low-income farmers is poverty.
In Public Papers of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Fifty-Third Governor of the State of New York (1959), Vol. 1, 1206.
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The chief requisite for the making of a good chicken pie is chicken; nay, no amount of culinary legerdemain can make up for the lack of chicken. In the same way, the chief requisite for the history of science is intimate scientific knowledge; no amount of philosophic legerdemain can make up for its absence.
In 'The Teaching of the History of Science', The Scientific Monthly (Sep 1918), 194.
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The chief thing in life is to do something—to work.
As quoted in Edward J. Wheeler (ed.), 'The Demeanor of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Under Fire,' Current Opinion (Jul 1914), 57, No. 1, 21. This quote was one out of a collation in the article, “from his many talks to the Bible Class he formerly conducted and from various interviews.”
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The chief work of the botanists of yesterday was the study and classification of dried, shriveled plant mummies whose souls had fled.
From Paper (18 Jun 1901), read before the California Academy of Sciences, published in 'The Making of New Flowers', American Gardening (13 Jul 1901), 22, No. 342, 489.
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The eye, the window of the soul, is the chief means whereby the understanding can most fully and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of Nature; and the ear is second.
As quoted in Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers (1983), 350.
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The laboratory routine, which involves a great deal of measurement, filing, and tabulation, is either my lifeline or my chief handicap, I hardly know which.
(1949). Epigraph in Susan Elizabeth Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 62.
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The morphological characteristics of plant and animal species form the chief subject of the descriptive natural sciences and are the criteria for their classification. But not until recently has it been recognized that in living organisms, as in the realm of crystals, chemical differences parallel the variation in structure.
The Specificity of Serological Reactions (1936), 3.
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The necessary has never been man’s top priority. The passionate pursuit of the nonessential and the extravagant is one of the chief traits of human uniqueness. Unlike other forms of life, man’s greatest exertions are made in the pursuit not of necessities but of superfluities. Man is the only creature that strives to surpass himself, and yearns for the impossible.
Commenting on the first moon landing. In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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The Requisites of a good Hypothesis are:
That It be Intelligible.
That It neither Assume nor Suppose anything Impossible, unintelligible, or demonstrably False.
That It be consistent with Itself.
That It be lit and sufficient to Explicate the Phaenomena, especially the chief.
That It be, at least, consistent, with the rest of the Phaenomena It particularly relates to, and do not contradict any other known Phaenomena of nature, or manifest Physical Truth.
The Qualities and Conditions of an Excellent Hypothesis are:
That It be not Precarious, but have sufficient Grounds In the nature of the Thing Itself or at least be well recommended by some Auxiliary Proofs.
That It be the Simplest of all the good ones we are able to frame, at least containing nothing that is superfluous or Impertinent.
That It be the only Hypothesis that can Explicate the Phaenomena; or at least, that do’s Explicate them so well.
That it enable a skilful Naturailst to foretell future Phaenomena by the Congruity or Incongruity to it; and especially the event of such Experlm’ts as are aptly devis’d to examine It, as Things that ought, or ought not, to be consequent to It.
Boyle Papers, 37. Quoted In Barbara Kaplan (ed.), Divulging of Useful Truths in Physick:The Medical Agenda of Robert Boyle (1993), 50.
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The results of ethnic psychology constitute, at the same time, our chief source of information regarding the general psychology of the complex mental processes.
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The science, the art, the jurisprudence, the chief political and social theories, of the modern world have grown out of Greece and Rome—not by favour of, but in the teeth of, the fundamental teachings of early Christianity, to which science, art, and any serious occupation with the things of this world were alike despicable.
'Agnosticism and Christianity'. Collected Essays (1900), 315.
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The sun … is a body of great size and power, the ruler, not only of the seasons and of the different climates, but also of the stars themselves and of the heavens. When we consider his operations, we must regard him as the life, or rather the mind of the universe, the chief regulator and the God of nature; he also lends his light to the other stars. He is the most illustrious and excellent, beholding all things and hearing all things.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 20.
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The sun's rays are the ultimate source of almost every motion which takes place on the surface of the earth. By their heat are produced all winds, and those disturbances in the electric equilibrium of the atmosphere which give rise to the phenomena of terrestrial magnetism. By their vivifying action vegetables are elaborated from inorganic matter, and become in their turn the support of animals and of man, and the sources of those great deposits of dynamical efficiency which are laid up for human use in our coal strata. By them the waters of the sea are made to circulate in vapor through the air, and irrigate the land, producing springs and rivers. By them are produced all disturbances of the chemical equilibrium of the elements of nature which, by a series of compositions and decompositions, give rise to new products, and originate a transfer of materials. Even the slow degradation of the solid constituents of the surface, in which its chief geological changes consist, and their diffusion among the waters of the ocean, are entirely due to the abrasion of the wind, rain, and tides, which latter, however, are only in part the effect of solar influence and the alternate action of the seasons.
from Outlines of Astronomy (1849), 237.
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The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.
In Pudd’nhead Wilson: and, Those Extraordinary Twins (1893, 1899), 132.
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The United States at this moment occupies a lamentable position as being perhaps the chief offender among civilized nations in permitting the destruction and pollution of nature. Our whole modern civilization is at fault in the matter. But we in America are probably most at fault ... We treasure pictures and sculpture. We regard Attic temples and Roman triumphal arches and Gothic cathedrals as of priceless value. But we are, as a whole, still in that low state of civilization where we do not understand that it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals'not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements.
'Our Vanishing Wild Life', The Outlook, 25 Jan 1913. In Donald Davidson (Ed.) The Wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt (2003), 19.
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There are three chief requisites for a successful business man. The first is honesty—absolute honesty … the second … is industry … [and] perseverance is the third.
From address to the Brown University YMCA, as quoted in 'Young Rockefeller: Defending Trusts, Uses American Beauty Similitude,' Cincinnati Enquirer (9 Feb 1902), 4, citing the New York Journal.
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There is scarce any one invention, which this nation has produced in our age, but it has some way or other been set forward by his assistance. ... He is indeed a man born for the good of mankind, and for the honour of his country. ... So I may thank God, that Dr. Wilkins was an Englishman, for wherever he had lived, there had been the chief seat of generous knowledge and true philosophy.
In Micrographia, Preface. Cited in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1976), Vol. 14, 369-370.
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This man, one of the chief architects of the atomic bomb, so the story runs, was out wandering in the woods one day with a friend when he came upon a small tortoise. Overcome with pleasurable excitement, he took up the tortoise and started home, thinking to surprise his children with it. After a few steps he paused and surveyed the tortoise doubtfully.
“What's the matter?” asked his friend.
Without responding, the great scientist slowly retraced his steps as precisely as possible, and gently set the turtle down on the exact spot from which he had taken him.
Then he turned solemnly to his friend. “It just struck me,” he said, “that, perhaps for one man, I have tampered enough with the universe.” He turned, and left the turtle to wander on its way.
From Benjamin Franklin Lecture (1958) at the University of Pennsylvania, printed as 'The Ethic of the Group', in Robert Ernest Spiller, Social Control in a Free Society (1958), 37. Also in The Firmament of Time (1960), 148. Eiseley states that because he cannot vouch for the authenticity of the story, he would not name the scientist, though he hopes “with all his heart that it is true. If it is not, then it ought to be, for it illustrates well what I mean by a growing self-awareness, as sense of responsibility about the universe.”
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This universe whose chief miracle is that it exists,… [is] a great garden in which life is trying to obtain a foothold.
In The Philosopher’s Stone (1969), 232.
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To emphasize this opinion that mathematicians would be unwise to accept practical issues as the sole guide or the chief guide in the current of their investigations, ... let me take one more instance, by choosing a subject in which the purely mathematical interest is deemed supreme, the theory of functions of a complex variable. That at least is a theory in pure mathematics, initiated in that region, and developed in that region; it is built up in scores of papers, and its plan certainly has not been, and is not now, dominated or guided by considerations of applicability to natural phenomena. Yet what has turned out to be its relation to practical issues? The investigations of Lagrange and others upon the construction of maps appear as a portion of the general property of conformal representation; which is merely the general geometrical method of regarding functional relations in that theory. Again, the interesting and important investigations upon discontinuous two-dimensional fluid motion in hydrodynamics, made in the last twenty years, can all be, and now are all, I believe, deduced from similar considerations by interpreting functional relations between complex variables. In the dynamics of a rotating heavy body, the only substantial extension of our knowledge since the time of Lagrange has accrued from associating the general properties of functions with the discussion of the equations of motion. Further, under the title of conjugate functions, the theory has been applied to various questions in electrostatics, particularly in connection with condensers and electrometers. And, lastly, in the domain of physical astronomy, some of the most conspicuous advances made in the last few years have been achieved by introducing into the discussion the ideas, the principles, the methods, and the results of the theory of functions. … the refined and extremely difficult work of Poincare and others in physical astronomy has been possible only by the use of the most elaborate developments of some purely mathematical subjects, developments which were made without a thought of such applications.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Section A, (1897), Nature, 56, 377.
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Trees are necessary to our existence because they are the chief guardians of the soil, keeping it stable and watered.
In The Triumph of the Tree (1950), 9.
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We may now give the following more precise expression to our chief law of biogeny:— The evolution of the foetus (or ontogenesis) is a condensed and abbreviated recapitulation of the evolution of the stem (or phylogenesis); and this recapitulation is the more complete in proportion as the original development (or palingenesis) is preserved by a constant heredity; on the other hand, it becomes less complete in proportion as a varying adaptation to new conditions increases the disturbing factors in the development (or cenogenesis).
The Evolution of Man. Translated from the 5th edition of Anthropogenie by Joseph McCabe (1910), 8.
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We may regard [Scheele] not only as having given the first indication of the rich harvest to be reaped by the investigation of the compounds of organic chemistry, but as having been the first to discover and make use of characteristic reactions by which closely allied substances can be detected and separated, so that he must be considered one of the chief founders of analytical chemistry.
In Treatise on Chemistry (1877, 1890), Vol. 1, 23.
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Yes, Shakespeare foremost and forever (Darwin too). But also teach about the excellence of pygmy bushcraft and Fuegian survival in the world’s harshest climate. Dignity and inspiration come in many guises. Would anyone choose the tinhorn patriotism of George Armstrong Custer over the eloquence of Chief Joseph in defeat?
…...
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… the Einsteins were taken to the Mt. Wilson Observatory in California. Mrs. Einstein was particularly impressed by the giant telescope. “What on earth do they use it for?” she asked. Her host explained that one of its chief purposes was to find out the shape of the universe. “Oh,” said Mrs. Einstein, “my husband does that on the back of an envelope.”
In Try and Stop Me (1945).
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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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