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Chief Quotes (38 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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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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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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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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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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