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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Circumstances Quotes (108 quotes)

[About Sir Roderick Impey Murchison:] The enjoyments of elegant life you early chose to abandon, preferring to wander for many successive years over the rudest portions of Europe and Asia—regions new to Science—in the hope, happily realized, of winning new truths.
By a rare union of favourable circumstances, and of personal qualifications equally rare, you have thus been enabled to become the recognized Interpreter and Historian (not without illustrious aid) of the Silurian Period.
Dedication page in Thesaurus Siluricus: The Flora and Fauna of the Silurian Period (1868), iv.
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A distinguished writer [Siméon Denis Poisson] has thus stated the fundamental definitions of the science:
“The probability of an event is the reason we have to believe that it has taken place, or that it will take place.”
“The measure of the probability of an event is the ratio of the number of cases favourable to that event, to the total number of cases favourable or contrary, and all equally possible” (equally like to happen).
From these definitions it follows that the word probability, in its mathematical acceptation, has reference to the state of our knowledge of the circumstances under which an event may happen or fail. With the degree of information which we possess concerning the circumstances of an event, the reason we have to think that it will occur, or, to use a single term, our expectation of it, will vary. Probability is expectation founded upon partial knowledge. A perfect acquaintance with all the circumstances affecting the occurrence of an event would change expectation into certainty, and leave neither room nor demand for a theory of probabilities.
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 243-244. The Poisson quote is footnoted as from Recherches sur la Probabilité des Jugemens.
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A mind which has once imbibed a taste for scientific enquiry, and has learnt the habit of applying its principles readily to the cases which occur, has within itself an inexhaustable source of pure and exciting contemplations:— One would think that Shakespeare had such a mind in view when he describes a contemplative man as finding
    “Tongues in trees—books in running brooks—
    Sermons in stones—and good in everything.”
Accustomed to trace the operations of general causes and the exemplification of general laws, in circumstances where the uninformed and uninquiring eye, perceives neither novelty nor beauty, he walks in the midst of wonders; every object which falls in his way elucidates some principle, affords some instruction and impresses him with a sense of harmony and order. Nor is it a mere passive pleasure which is thus communicated. A thousand questions are continually arising in his mind, a thousand objects of enquiry presenting themselves, which keep his faculties in constant exercise, and his thoughts perpetually on the wing, so that lassitude is excluded from his life, and that craving after artificial excitement and dissipation of the mind, which leads so many into frivolous, unworthy, and destructive pursuits, is altogether eradicated from his bosom.
In Dionysius Lardner (ed.), Cabinet Cyclopaedia, Vol 1, Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1831), 14-15.
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A noteworthy and often-remarked similarity exists between the facts and methods of geology and those of linguistic study. The science of language is, as it were, the geology of the most modern period, the Age of the Man, having for its task to construct the history of development of the earth and its inhabitants from the time when the proper geological record remains silent … The remains of ancient speech are like strata deposited in bygone ages, telling of the forms of life then existing, and of the circumstances which determined or affected them; while words are as rolled pebbles, relics of yet more ancient formations, or as fossils, whose grade indicates the progress of organic life, and whose resemblances and relations show the correspondence or sequence of the different strata; while, everywhere, extensive denudation has marred the completeness of the record, and rendered impossible a detailed exhibition of the whole course of development.
In Language and the Study of Language (1867), 47.
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A single tree by itself is dependent upon all the adverse chances of shifting circumstances. The wind stunts it: the variations in temperature check its foliage: the rains denude its soil: its leaves are blown away and are lost for the purpose of fertilisation. You may obtain individual specimens of line trees either in exceptional circumstances, or where human cultivation had intervened. But in nature the normal way in which trees flourish is by their association in a forest. Each tree may lose something of its individual perfection of growth, but they mutually assist each other in preserving the conditions of survival. The soil is preserved and shaded; and the microbes necessary for its fertility are neither scorched, nor frozen, nor washed away. A forest is the triumph of the organisation of mutually dependent species.
In Science and the Modern World (1926), 296-7.
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A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.
In Towne v. Eisner (1918), 245 U.S. 425. As quoted in Richard A. Posner (ed.), The Essential Holmes: Selections from the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1992), 287.
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About the year 1821, I undertook to superintend, for the Government, the construction of an engine for calculating and printing mathematical and astronomical tables. Early in the year 1833, a small portion of the machine was put together, and was found to perform its work with all the precision which had been anticipated. At that period circumstances, which I could not control, caused what I then considered a temporary suspension of its progress; and the Government, on whose decision the continuance or discontinuance of the work depended, have not yet communicated to me their wishes on the question.
In The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise: A Fragment (1838), 186.
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According to my derivative hypothesis, a change takes place first in the structure of the animal, and this, when sufficiently advanced, may lead to modifications of habits… . “Derivation” holds that every species changes, in time, by virtue of inherent tendencies thereto. “Natural Selection” holds that no such change can take place without the influence of altered external circumstances educing or selecting such change… . The hypothesis of “natural selection” totters on the extension of a conjectural condition, explanatory of extinction to the majority of organisms, and not known or observed to apply to the origin of any species.
In On the Anatomy of Vertebrates (1868), Vol. 3, 808.
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All living organisms are but leaves on the same tree of life. The various functions of plants and animals and their specialized organs are manifestations of the same living matter. This adapts itself to different jobs and circumstances, but operates on the same basic principles. Muscle contraction is only one of these adaptations. In principle it would not matter whether we studied nerve, kidney or muscle to understand the basic principles of life. In practice, however, it matters a great deal.
'Muscle Research', Scientific American, 1949, 180 (6), 22.
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All men and women are born, live suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about... We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.
…...
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An evolutionary perspective of our place in the history of the earth reminds us that Homo sapiens sapiens has occupied the planet for the tiniest fraction of that planet's four and a half thousand million years of existence. In many ways we are a biological accident, the product of countless propitious circumstances. As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long-extinct species, many of which thrived far longer than the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species. There is no law that declares the human animal to be different, as seen in this broad biological perspective, from any other animal. There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal.
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 256.
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An experiment is an observation that can be repeated, isolated and varied. The more frequently you can repeat an observation, the more likely are you to see clearly what is there and to describe accurately what you have seen. The more strictly you can isolate an observation, the easier does your task of observation become, and the less danger is there of your being led astray by irrelevant circumstances, or of placing emphasis on the wrong point. The more widely you can vary an observation, the more clearly will the uniformity of experience stand out, and the better is your chance of discovering laws.
In A Text-Book of Psychology (1909), 20.
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An Experiment, like every other event which takes place, is a natural phenomenon; but in a Scientific Experiment the circumstances are so arranged that the relations between a particular set of phenomena may be studied to the best advantage.
'General Considerations Concerning Scientific Apparatus', 1876. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 505.
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And invention must still go on for it is necessary that we should completely control our circumstances. It is not sufficient that there should [only] be organization capable of providing food and shelter for all and organization to effect its proper distribution.
Aphorism listed Frederick Seitz, The Cosmic Inventor: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden (1866-1932) (1999), 54, being Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Held at Philadelphia For Promoting Useful Knowledge, Vol. 86, Pt. 6.
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Archimedes constructing his circle pays with his life for his defective biological adaptation to immediate circumstances.
In Ernst Mach and Thomas J. McCormack, Knowledge and Error: Sketches on the Psychology of Enquiry (1976, 2012), Chap. 4, 45. First published in German as Erkenntnis und Irrtum (1905). Translated from 5th edition (1926). The context is the legend that Archimedes was too engrossed in his work to pay attention to an invading Roman soldier, who killed him.
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As soon as the circumstances of an experiment are well known, we stop gathering statistics. … The effect will occur always without exception, because the cause of the phenomena is accurately defined. Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined,Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined, can we compile statistics. … we must learn therefore that we compile statistics only when we cannot possibly help it; for in my opinion, statistics can never yield scientific truth.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 134-137.
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But how is it that they [astrologers] have never been able to explain why, in the life of twins, in their actions, in their experiences, their professions, their accomplishments, their positions—in all the other circumstances of human life, and even in death itself, there is often found such a diversity that in those respects many strangers show more resemblance to them than they show to one another, even though the smallest possible interval separated their births and though they were conceived at the same moment, by a single act of intercourse.
De Civitate Dei (The City of God) [413-426], Book V, chapter I, trans. H. Bettenson (1972),180-181.
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But the idea that any of the lower animals have been concerned in any way with the origin of man—is not this degrading? Degrading is a term, expressive of a notion of the human mind, and the human mind is liable to prejudices which prevent its notions from being invariably correct. Were we acquainted for the first time with the circumstances attending the production of an individual of our race, we might equally think them degrading, and be eager to deny them, and exclude them from the admitted truths of nature.
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By destroying the biological character of phenomena, the use of averages in physiology and medicine usually gives only apparent accuracy to the results. From our point of view, we may distinguish between several kinds of averages: physical averages, chemical averages and physiological and pathological averages. If, for instance, we observe the number of pulsations and the degree of blood pressure by means of the oscillations of a manometer throughout one day, and if we take the average of all our figures to get the true or average blood pressure and to learn the true or average number of pulsations, we shall simply have wrong numbers. In fact, the pulse decreases in number and intensity when we are fasting and increases during digestion or under different influences of movement and rest; all the biological characteristics of the phenomenon disappear in the average. Chemical averages are also often used. If we collect a man's urine during twenty-four hours and mix all this urine to analyze the average, we get an analysis of a urine which simply does not exist; for urine, when fasting, is different from urine during digestion. A startling instance of this kind was invented by a physiologist who took urine from a railroad station urinal where people of all nations passed, and who believed he could thus present an analysis of average European urine! Aside from physical and chemical, there are physiological averages, or what we might call average descriptions of phenomena, which are even more false. Let me assume that a physician collects a great many individual observations of a disease and that he makes an average description of symptoms observed in the individual cases; he will thus have a description that will never be matched in nature. So in physiology, we must never make average descriptions of experiments, because the true relations of phenomena disappear in the average; when dealing with complex and variable experiments, we must study their various circumstances, and then present our most perfect experiment as a type, which, however, still stands for true facts. In the cases just considered, averages must therefore be rejected, because they confuse, while aiming to unify, and distort while aiming to simplify. Averages are applicable only to reducing very slightly varying numerical data about clearly defined and absolutely simple cases.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 134-135.
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By the nineteenth century … new circumstances called for new conformity enforcers… The government locked you in a house of penitence—a penitentiary—where your feelings of remorse would theoretically pummel you without cease.
In 'The Conformity Police', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 89.
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Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.
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Coastal sailing as long as it is perfectly safe and easy commands no magic. Overseas expeditions are invariably bound up with ceremonies and ritual. Man resorts to magic only where chance and circumstances are not fully controlled by knowledge.
Culture (1931), 636.
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Consider the plight of a scientist of my age. I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1940. In the 41 years since then the amount of biological information has increased 16 fold; during these 4 decades my capacity to absorb new information has declined at an accelerating rate and now is at least 50% less than when I was a graduate student. If one defines ignorance as the ratio of what is available to be known to what is known, there seems no alternative to the conclusion that my ignorance is at least 25 times as extensive as it was when I got my bachelor’s degree. Although I am sure that my unfortunate condition comes as no surprise to my students and younger colleagues, I personally find it somewhat depressing. My depression is tempered, however, by the fact that all biologists, young or old, developing or senescing, face the same melancholy situation because of an interlocking set of circumstances.
In 'Scientific innovation and creativity: a zoologist’s point of view', American Zoologist (1982), 22, 228.
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Each new scientific development is due to the pressure of some social need. Of course … insatiable curiosity … is still nothing but a response either to an old problem of nature, or to one arising from new social circumstances.
In 'The Teaching of the History of Science', The Scientific Monthly (Sep 1918), 194.
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Evolution is a blind giant who rolls a snowball down a hill. The ball is made of flakes—circumstances. They contribute to the mass without knowing it. They adhere without intention, and without foreseeing what is to result. When they see the result they marvel at the monster ball and wonder how the contriving of it came to be originally thought out and planned. Whereas there was no such planning, there was only a law: the ball once started, all the circumstances that happened to lie in its path would help to build it, in spite of themselves.
'The Secret History of Eddypus', in Mark Twain and David Ketterer (ed.), Tales of Wonder (2003), 222-23.
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Experiment is the interpreter of nature. Experiments never deceive. It is our judgment which sometimes deceives itself because it expects results which experiment refuses. We must consult experiment, varying the circumstances, until we have deduced general rules, for experiment alone can furnish reliable rules.
In Introductory College Physics by Oswald Blackwood (1939).
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Genes make enzymes, and enzymes control the rates of chemical processes. Genes do not make ‘novelty seeking’ or any other complex and overt behavior. Predisposition via a long chain of complex chemical reactions, mediated through a more complex series of life’s circumstances, does not equal identification or even causation.
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Given any rule, however “fundamental” or “necessary” for science, there are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite. For example, there are circumstances when it is advisable to introduce, elaborate and defend ad hoc hypotheses, or hypotheses which contradict well-established and generally accepted experimental results, or hypotheses whose content is smaller than the content of the existing and empirically adequate alternative, or self-inconsistent hypotheses, and so on.
Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975, 1993), 14-15.
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However, if we consider that all the characteristics which have been cited are only differences in degree of structure, may we not suppose that this special condition of organization of man has been gradually acquired at the close of a long period of time, with the aid of circumstances which have proved favorable? What a subject for reflection for those who have the courage to enter into it!
In Recherches sur l'Organization des corps vivans (1802), as translated in Alpheus Spring Packard, Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution: His Life and Work (1901), 363. Packard's italics.
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I always love geology. In winter, particularly, it is pleasant to listen to theories about the great mountains one visited in the summer; or about the Flood or volcanoes; about great catastrophes or about blisters; above all about fossils … Everywhere there are hypotheses, but nowhere truths; many workmen, but no experts; priests, but no God. In these circumstances each man can bring his hypothesis like a candle to a burning altar, and on seeing his candle lit declare ‘Smoke for smoke, sir, mine is better than yours’. It is precisely for this reason that I love geology.
In Nouvelles Genevoises (1910), 306. First edition, 1841.
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I am quite aware that we have just now lightheartedly expelled in imagination many excellent men who are largely, perhaps chiefly, responsible for the buildings of the temple of science; and in many cases our angel would find it a pretty ticklish job to decide. But of one thing I feel sure: if the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have come to be, any more than a forest can grow which consists of nothing but creepers. For these people any sphere of human activity will do, if it comes to a point; whether they become engineers, officers, tradesmen, or scientists depends on circumstances.
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I definitely deny that any pathological process, i.e. any life-process taking place under unfavourable circumstances, is able to call forth qualitatively new formations lying beyond the customary range of forms characteristic of the species. All pathological formations are either degenerations, transformations, or repetitions of typical physiological structures.
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 13-14, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 81.
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I have been branded with folly and madness for attempting what the world calls impossibilities, and even from the great engineer, the late James Watt, who said ... that I deserved hanging for bringing into use the high-pressure engine. This has so far been my reward from the public; but should this be all, I shall be satisfied by the great secret pleasure and laudable pride that I feel in my own breast from having been the instrument of bringing forward new principles and new arrangements of boundless value to my country, and however much I may be straitened in pecuniary circumstances, the great honour of being a useful subject can never be taken from me, which far exceeds riches.
From letter to Davies Gilbert, written a few months before Trevithick's last illness. Quoted in Francis Trevithick, Life of Richard Trevithick: With an Account of his Inventions (1872), Vol. 2, 395-6.
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I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances. … After we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, … we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 89.
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I say it is impossible that so sensible a people [citizens of Paris], under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing.
[Describing the energy-saving benefit of adopting daylight saving time. (1784)]
'An Economical Project', The Life and Miscellaneous Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1839), 58. A translation of this letter appeared in one of the Paris daily papers about 1784. He estimated, during six months, a saving of over 64 million pound weight of candles, worth over 96 million livres tournois.
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I was often humiliated to see men disputing for a piece of bread, just as animals might have done. My feelings on this subject have very much altered since I have been personally exposed to the tortures of hunger. I have discovered, in fact, that a man, whatever may have been his origin, his education, and his habits, is governed, under certain circumstances, much more by his stomach than by his intelligence and his heart.
In François Arago, trans. by William Henry Smyth, Baden Powell and Robert Grant, 'The History of My Youth: An Autobiography of Francis Arago', Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men (1859), Vol. 1, 55.
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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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If some race of quadrumanous animals, especially one of the most perfect of them, were to lose, by force of circumstances or some other cause, the habit of climbing trees and grasping the branches with its feet in the same way as with its hands, in order to hold on to them; and if the individuals of this race were forced for a series of generations to use their feet only for walking, and to give up using their hands like feet; there is no doubt, according to the observations detailed in the preceding chapter, that these quadrumanous animals would at length be transformed into bimanous, and that the thumbs on their feet would cease to be separated from the other digits, when they only used their feet for walking.
Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Vol. 1, 349, trans. Hugh Elliot (1914), 170.
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If we go back to our chequer game, the fundamental laws are rules by which the chequers move. Mathematics may be applied in the complex situation to figure out what in given circumstances is a good move to make. But very little mathematics is needed for the simple fundamental character of the basic laws. They can be simply stated in English for chequers.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965), 36.
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If worms have the power of acquiring some notion, however rude, of the shape of an object and over their burrows, as seems the case, they deserve to be called intelligent; for they act in nearly the same manner as would man under similar circumstances.
Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms
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In general the actions which we see ever taking place around us are complex, or due to the simultaneous action of many causes. When, as in astronomy, we endeavour to ascertain these causes by simply watching their effects, we observe; when, as in our laboratories, we interfere arbitrarily with the causes or circumstances of a phenomenon, we are said to experiment.
In William Thomson and Peter Guthrie Tait, Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867), Vol. 1, 305.
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In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be, preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work; but I was so anxious to avoid prejudice, that I determined not for some time to write even the briefest sketch of it.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 40.
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In such sad circumstances I but see myself exalted by my own enemies, for in order to defeat some small works of mine they try to make the whole rational medicine and anatomy fall, as if I were myself these noble disciplines.
'Letter to Marescotti about the dispute with Sbaraglia and others, 1689(?)', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), The Correspondence of Marcello Malpighi (1975), Vol. 4, 1561.
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In the performance of our duty one feeling should direct us; the case we should consider as our own, and we should ask ourselves, whether, placed under similar circumstances, we should choose to submit to the pain and danger we are about to inflict.
Quoted in Bransby Blake Cooper, The Life of Sir Astley Cooper (1843), Vol. 2, 207.
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Induction, then, is that operation of the mind by which we infer that what we know to be true in a particular case or cases, will be true in all cases which resemble the former in certain assignable respects. In other words, induction is the process by which we conclude that what is true of certain individuals of a class is true of the whole class, or that what is true at certain times will be true in similar circumstances at all times.
In A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence, and the Methods of Scientific Investigation (1843), Vol. 1, 352.
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It can hardly be pressed forcibly enough on the attention of the student of nature, that there is scarcely any natural phenomenon which can be fully and completely explained, in all its circumstances, without a union of several, perhaps of all, the sciences.
Quoted in John Lubbock, The Pleasures of Life (Appleton, 1887), 182.
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It has hitherto been a serious impediment to the progress of knowledge, that is in investigating the origin or causes of natural productions, recourse has generally been had to the examination, both by experiment and reasoning, of what might be rather than what is. The laws or processes of nature we have every reason to believe invariable. Their results from time to time vary, according to the combinations of influential circumstances; but the process remains the same. Like the poet or the painter, the chemist may, and no doubt often' does, create combinations which nature never produced; and the possibility of such and such processes giving rise to such and such results, is no proof whatever that they were ever in natural operation.
Considerations on Volcanoes (1825), 243.
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It has the property of detonating very violently in certain circumstances. On one occasion a small amount of ether solution of pyroglycerin condensed in a glass bowl. ... When the bowl was heated over a spirit lamp, an extremely violent explosion occurred, which shattered it into small fragments. On another occasion a drop was heated in a test-tube, and exploded with such violence that the glass splinters cut deep into my face and hands, and hurt other people who were standing some distance off in the room.
[Describing early experiments on his discovery of nitroglycerin.]
From speech to the Royal Academy of Turin (1847). In Robert Shaplen, 'Annals of Science, Adventures of a Pacifist,' The New Yorker (15 Mar 1958), 49.
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It is clear, then, that the idea of a fixed method, or of a fixed theory of rationality, rests on too naive a view of man and his social surroundings. To those who look at the rich material provided by history, and who are not intent on impoverishing it in order to please their lower instincts, their craving for intellectual security in the form of clarity, precision, “objectivity”, “truth”, it will become clear that there is only one principle that can be defended under all circumstances and in all stages of human development. It is the principle: anything goes.
Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975, 1993), 18-19.
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It is with our entire past ... that we desire, will and act ... from this survival of the past it follows that consciousness cannot go through the same state twice. The circumstances may still be the same, but they will act no longer on the same person ... that is why our duration is irreversible.
Creative Evolution (1911), trans. Arthur Mitchell, 6.
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It is, however, a most astonishing but incontestable fact, that the history of the evolution of man as yet constitutes no part of general education. Indeed, our so-called “educated classes” are to this day in total ignorance of the most important circumstances and the most remarkable phenomena which Anthropogeny has brought to light.
From Oliver Joseph Thatcher, The Library Of Original Sources (1907), 345.
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It may very properly be asked whether the attempt to define distinct species, of a more or less permanent nature, such as we are accustomed to deal with amongst the higher plants and animals, is not altogether illusory amongst such lowly organised forms of life as the bacteria. No biologist nowadays believes in the absolute fixity of species … but there are two circumstances which here render the problem of specificity even more difficult of solution. The bacteriologist is deprived of the test of mutual fertility or sterility, so valuable in determining specific limits amongst organisms in which sexual reproduction prevails. Further, the extreme rapidity with which generation succeeds generation amongst bacteria offers to the forces of variation and natural selection a field for their operation wholly unparalleled amongst higher forms of life.
'The Evolution of the Streptococci', The Lancet, 1906, 2, 1415-6.
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It would be an easy task to show that the characteristics in the organization of man, on account of which the human species and races are grouped as a distinct family, are all results of former changes of occupation, and of acquired habits, which have come to be distinctive of individuals of his kind. When, compelled by circumstances, the most highly developed apes accustomed themselves to walking erect, they gained the ascendant over the other animals. The absolute advantage they enjoyed, and the new requirements imposed on them, made them change their mode of life, which resulted in the gradual modification of their organization, and in their acquiring many new qualities, and among them the wonderful power of speech.
Quoted in Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel The Evolution of Man (1897), Vol. 1, 70.
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It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. But when asking myself what religion is I cannot think of the answer so easily. And even after finding an answer which may satisfy me at this particular moment, I still remain convinced that I can never under any circumstances bring together, even to a slight extent, the thoughts of all those who have given this question serious consideration.
…...
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It’s no trick to get the right answer when you have all the data. The real creative trick is to get the right answer when you have only half of the data in hand and half of it is wrong and you don't know which half is wrong. When you get the right answer under these circumstances, you are doing something creative.
In autobiography, Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey (1992), 134.
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Living is like working out a long addition sum, and if you make a mistake in the first two totals you will never find the right answer. It means involving oneself in a complicated chain of circumstances.
In The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1961), 56.
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Man is not only part of a field, but a part and member of his group. When people are together, as when they are at work, then the most unnatural behavior, which only appears in late stages or abnormal cases, would be to behave as separate Egos. Under normal circumstances they work in common, each a meaningfully functioning part of the whole.
Lecture at the Kantgesellschaft (Kant Society), Berlin (17 Dec 1924), 'Über Gestalttheorie', as taken down in shorthand. Translated by N. Nairn-Allison in Social Research (1944), 11, 91.
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Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of man. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.
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Men make their own history, but not just as they please. They do not choose the circumstances for themselves, but have to work upon circumstances as they find them, have to fashion the material handed down by the past. The legacy of the dead generations weighs like an alp upon the brains of the living.
Karl Marx
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852).
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Mr. Dalton's aspect and manner were repulsive. There was no gracefulness belonging to him. His voice was harsh and brawling; his gait stiff and awkward; his style of writing and conversation dry and almost crabbed. In person he was tall, bony, and slender. He never could learn to swim: on investigating this circumstance he found that his spec. grav. as a mass was greater than that of water; and he mentioned this in his lectures on natural philosophy in illustration of the capability of different persons for attaining the art of swimming. Independence and simplicity of manner and originality were his best qualities. Though in comparatively humble circumstances he maintained the dignity of the philosophical character. As the first distinct promulgator of the doctrine that the elements of bodies unite in definite proportions to form chemical compounds, he has acquired an undying fame.
Dr John Davy's (brother of Humphry Davy) impressions of Dalton written in c.1830-31 in Malta.
John Davy
Quoted in W. C. Henry, Memoirs of the Life and Scientific Researches of John Dalton (1854), 217-8.
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My experiments proved that the radiation of uranium compounds ... is an atomic property of the element of uranium. Its intensity is proportional to the quantity of uranium contained in the compound, and depends neither on conditions of chemical combination, nor on external circumstances, such as light or temperature.
... The radiation of thorium has an intensity of the same order as that of uranium, and is, as in the case of uranium, an atomic property of the element.
It was necessary at this point to find a new term to define this new property of matter manifested by the elements of uranium and thorium. I proposed the word radioactivity which has since become generally adopted; the radioactive elements have been called radio elements.
In Pierre Curie, with the Autobiographical Notes of Marie Curie, trans. Charlotte and Vernon Kellogg (1923), 96. Also in reprint (2012) 45-46.
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Natural science is founded on minute critical views of the general order of events taking place upon our globe, corrected, enlarged, or exalted by experiments, in which the agents concerned are placed under new circumstances, and their diversified properties separately examined. The body of natural science, then, consists of facts; is analogy,—the relation of resemblance of facts by which its different parts are connected, arranged, and employed, either for popular use, or for new speculative improvements.
'Introductory Lecture to the Chemistry of Nature' (1807), in J. Davy (ed.), The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy (1839-40), Vol 8, 167-8.
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Now this circumscribed power, which we have scarcely examined, scarcely studied, this power to whose actions we nearly always attribute an intention and a goal, this power, finally, that always does necessarily the same things in the same circumstances and nevertheless does so many and such admirable ones, is what we call 'nature' .
Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertèbres (1815), Vol. 1, 312, trans. M. H. Shank and quoted in Madeleine Barthélemy-Madaule, Lamarck the Mythical Precursor: A Study of the Relations between Science and Ideology (1982), 28-9.
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Of Science generally we can remark, first, that it is the most perfect embodiment of Truth, and of the ways of getting at Truth. More than anything else does it impress the mind with the nature of Evidence, with the labour and precautions necessary to prove a thing. It is the grand corrective of the laxness of the natural man in receiving unaccredited facts and conclusions. It exemplifies the devices for establishing a fact, or a law, under every variety of circumstances; it saps the credit of everything that is affirmed without being properly attested.
In Education as a Science (1879), 147-148.
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On the whole, I cannot help saying that it appears to me not a little extraordinary, that a theory so new, and of such importance, overturning every thing that was thought to be the best established in chemistry, should rest on so very narrow and precarious a foundation, the experiments adduced in support of it being not only ambiguous or explicable on either hypothesis, but exceedingly few. I think I have recited them all, and that on which the greatest stress is laid, viz. That of the formation of water from the decomposition of the two kinds of air, has not been sufficiently repeated. Indeed it required so difficult and expensive an apparatus, and so many precautions in the use of it, that the frequent repetition of the experiment cannot be expected; and in these circumstances the practised experimenter cannot help suspecting the accuracy of the result and consequently the certainty of the conclusion.
Considerations on the Doctrine of Phlogiston (1796), 57-8.
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One rarely hears of the mathematical recitation as a preparation for public speaking. Yet mathematics shares with these studies [foreign languages, drawing and natural science] their advantages, and has another in a higher degree than either of them.
Most readers will agree that a prime requisite for healthful experience in public speaking is that the attention of the speaker and hearers alike be drawn wholly away from the speaker and concentrated upon the thought. In perhaps no other classroom is this so easy as in the mathematical, where the close reasoning, the rigorous demonstration, the tracing of necessary conclusions from given hypotheses, commands and secures the entire mental power of the student who is explaining, and of his classmates. In what other circumstances do students feel so instinctively that manner counts for so little and mind for so much? In what other circumstances, therefore, is a simple, unaffected, easy, graceful manner so naturally and so healthfully cultivated? Mannerisms that are mere affectation or the result of bad literary habit recede to the background and finally disappear, while those peculiarities that are the expression of personality and are inseparable from its activity continually develop, where the student frequently presents, to an audience of his intellectual peers, a connected train of reasoning. …
One would almost wish that our institutions of the science and art of public speaking would put over their doors the motto that Plato had over the entrance to his school of philosophy: “Let no one who is unacquainted with geometry enter here.”
In A Scrap-book of Elementary Mathematics: Notes, Recreations, Essays (1908), 210-211.
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Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of human life is to grasp as much as we can out of the infinitude.
Dialogue 21 (28 Jun 1941). Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (1954, 2001) 160.
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Pain is a sensation produced by something contrary to the course of nature and this sensation is set up by one of two circumstances: either a very sudden change of the temperament (or the bad effect of a contrary temperament) or a solution of continuity.
Avicenna
'A General Discussion of the Causes of Pain', in The Canon of Medicine, adapted by L. Bakhtiar (1999), 246.
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People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.
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Philosophers have said that if the same circumstances don't always produce the same results, predictions are impossible and science will collapse. Here is a circumstance—identical photons are always coming down in the same direction to the piece of glass—that produces different results. We cannot predict whether a given photon will arrive at A or B. All we can predict is that out of 100 photons that come down, an average of 4 will be reflected by the front surface. Does this mean that physics, a science of great exactitude, has been reduced to calculating only the probability of an event, and not predicting exactly what will happen? Yes. That's a retreat, but that's the way it is: Nature permits us to calculate only probabilities. Yet science has not collapsed.
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), 19.
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Population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio. … The means of subsistence, under circumstances the most favorable to human industry, could not possibly be made to increase faster than in an arithmetical ratio.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population: (new ed. 1803), Vol. 1, 5 and 7.
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Recurrences of like cases in which A is always connected with B, that is, like results under like circumstances, that is again, the essence of the connection of cause and effect, exist but in the abstraction which we perform for the purpose of mentally reproducing the facts. Let a fact become familiar, and we no longer require this putting into relief of its connecting marks, our attention is no longer attracted to the new and surprising, and we cease to speak of cause and effect.
In The Science of Mechanics (1893), 483.
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Religion reveals the meaning of life, and science only applies this meaning to the course of circumstances.
My Religion, translated by Huntington Smith (3rd Ed., 1885), 121.
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Suicide is merely the product of the general condition of society, and that the individual felon only carries into effect what is a necessary consequence of preceding circumstances. In a given state of society, a certain number of persons must put an end to their own life. This is the general law; and the special question as to who shall commit the crime depends of course upon special laws; which, however, in their total action, must obey the large social law to which they are all subordinate. And the power of the larger law is so irresistible, that neither the love of life nor the fear of another world can avail any thing towards even checking its operation.
In History of Civilization in England (1857, 1904), 15-16.
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That alone is worthy to be called Natural History, which investigates and records the condition of living things, of things in a state of nature; if animals, of living animals:— which tells of their 'sayings and doings,' their varied notes and utterances, songs and cries; their actions, in ease and under the pressure of circumstances; their affections and passions, towards their young, towards each other, towards other animals, towards man: their various arts and devices, to protect their progeny, to procure food, to escape from their enemies, to defend themselves from attacks; their ingenious resources for concealment; their stratagems to overcome their victims; their modes of bringing forth, of feeding, and of training, their offspring; the relations of their structure to their wants and habits; the countries in which they dwell; their connexion with the intimate world around them, mountain or plain, forest or field, barren heath or bushy dell, open savanna or wild hidden glen, river, lake, or sea:— this would be indeed zoology, i.e. the science of living creatures.
A Naturalist's Sojourn in Jamaica (1851), vi-vii.
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The aim of scientific thought, then, is to apply past experience to new circumstances; the instrument is an observed uniformity in the course of events. By the use of this instrument it gives us information transcending our experience, it enables us to infer things that we have not seen from things that we have seen; and the evidence for the truth of that information depends on our supposing that the uniformity holds good beyond our experience.
'On the Aims and Instruments of Scientific Thought,' a Lecture delivered before the members of the British Association, at Brighton, on 19 Aug 1872, in Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays, by the Late William Kingdon Clifford (1886), 90.
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The bitterness of the potion, and the abhorrence of the patient are necessary circumstances to the operation. It must be something to trouble and disturb the stomach that must purge and cure it.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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The cause of rain is now, I consider, no longer an object of doubt. If two masses of air of unequal temperatures, by the ordinary currents of the winds, are intermixed, when saturated with vapour, a precipitation ensues. If the masses are under saturation, then less precipitation takes place, or none at all, according to the degree. Also, the warmer the air, the greater is the quantity of vapour precipitated in like circumstances. ... Hence the reason why rains are heavier in summer than in winter, and in warm countries than in cold.
Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester (1819), 3, 507. Quoted in George Drysdale Dempsey and Daniel Kinnear Clark, On the Drainage of Lands, Towns, & Buildings (1887), 246.
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The determination of the value of an item must not be based on its price, but rather on the utility it yields. The price of the item is dependent only on the thing itself and is equal for everyone; the utility, however, is dependent on the particular circumstances of the person making the estimate. Thus there is no doubt that a gain of one thousand ducats is more significant to a pauper than to a rich man though both gain the same amount.
Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk (1738), 24.
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The difficulties connected with my criterion of demarcation (D) are important, but must not be exaggerated. It is vague, since it is a methodological rule, and since the demarcation between science and nonscience is vague. But it is more than sharp enough to make a distinction between many physical theories on the one hand, and metaphysical theories, such as psychoanalysis, or Marxism (in its present form), on the other. This is, of course, one of my main theses; and nobody who has not understood it can be said to have understood my theory.
The situation with Marxism is, incidentally, very different from that with psychoanalysis. Marxism was once a scientific theory: it predicted that capitalism would lead to increasing misery and, through a more or less mild revolution, to socialism; it predicted that this would happen first in the technically highest developed countries; and it predicted that the technical evolution of the 'means of production' would lead to social, political, and ideological developments, rather than the other way round.
But the (so-called) socialist revolution came first in one of the technically backward countries. And instead of the means of production producing a new ideology, it was Lenin's and Stalin's ideology that Russia must push forward with its industrialization ('Socialism is dictatorship of the proletariat plus electrification') which promoted the new development of the means of production.
Thus one might say that Marxism was once a science, but one which was refuted by some of the facts which happened to clash with its predictions (I have here mentioned just a few of these facts).
However, Marxism is no longer a science; for it broke the methodological rule that we must accept falsification, and it immunized itself against the most blatant refutations of its predictions. Ever since then, it can be described only as nonscience—as a metaphysical dream, if you like, married to a cruel reality.
Psychoanalysis is a very different case. It is an interesting psychological metaphysics (and no doubt there is some truth in it, as there is so often in metaphysical ideas), but it never was a science. There may be lots of people who are Freudian or Adlerian cases: Freud himself was clearly a Freudian case, and Adler an Adlerian case. But what prevents their theories from being scientific in the sense here described is, very simply, that they do not exclude any physically possible human behaviour. Whatever anybody may do is, in principle, explicable in Freudian or Adlerian terms. (Adler's break with Freud was more Adlerian than Freudian, but Freud never looked on it as a refutation of his theory.)
The point is very clear. Neither Freud nor Adler excludes any particular person's acting in any particular way, whatever the outward circumstances. Whether a man sacrificed his life to rescue a drowning, child (a case of sublimation) or whether he murdered the child by drowning him (a case of repression) could not possibly be predicted or excluded by Freud's theory; the theory was compatible with everything that could happen—even without any special immunization treatment.
Thus while Marxism became non-scientific by its adoption of an immunizing strategy, psychoanalysis was immune to start with, and remained so. In contrast, most physical theories are pretty free of immunizing tactics and highly falsifiable to start with. As a rule, they exclude an infinity of conceivable possibilities.
'The Problem of Demarcation' (1974). Collected in David Miller (ed.) Popper Selections (1985), 127-128.
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The functional validity of a working hypothesis is not a priori certain, because often it is initially based on intuition. However, logical deductions from such a hypothesis provide expectations (so-called prognoses) as to the circumstances under which certain phenomena will appear in nature. Such a postulate or working hypothesis can then be substantiated by additional observations ... The author calls such expectations and additional observations the prognosis-diagnosis method of research. Prognosis in science may be termed the prediction of the future finding of corroborative evidence of certain features or phenomena (diagnostic facts). This method of scientific research builds up and extends the relations between the subject and the object by means of a circuit of inductions and deductions.
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 454-5.
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The importance of a result is largely relative, is judged differently by different men, and changes with the times and circumstances. It has often happened that great importance has been attached to a problem merely on account of the difficulties which it presented; and indeed if for its solution it has been necessary to invent new methods, noteworthy artifices, etc., the science has gained more perhaps through these than through the final result. In general we may call important all investigations relating to things which in themselves are important; all those which have a large degree of generality, or which unite under a single point of view subjects apparently distinct, simplifying and elucidating them; all those which lead to results that promise to be the source of numerous consequences; etc.
From 'On Some Recent Tendencies in Geometric Investigations', Rivista di Matematica (1891), 44. In Bulletin American Mathematical Society (1904), 444.
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The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions. As instances of such discoveries, which are in most cases due to the increasing order of accuracy made possible by improvements in measuring instruments, may be mentioned: first, the departure of actual gases from the simple laws of the so-called perfect gas, one of the practical results being the liquefaction of air and all known gases; second, the discovery of the velocity of light by astronomical means, depending on the accuracy of telescopes and of astronomical clocks; third, the determination of distances of stars and the orbits of double stars, which depend on measurements of the order of accuracy of one-tenth of a second-an angle which may be represented as that which a pin's head subtends at a distance of a mile. But perhaps the most striking of such instances are the discovery of a new planet or observations of the small irregularities noticed by Leverrier in the motions of the planet Uranus, and the more recent brilliant discovery by Lord Rayleigh of a new element in the atmosphere through the minute but unexplained anomalies found in weighing a given volume of nitrogen. Many other instances might be cited, but these will suffice to justify the statement that “our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.”
In Light Waves and Their Uses (1903), 23-4. Michelson had some years earlier referenced “an eminent physicist” that he did not name who had “remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals,” near the end of his Convocation Address at the Dedication of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, 'Some of the Objects and Methods of Physical Science' (4 Jul 1894), published in University of Chicago Quarterly Calendar (Aug 1894), 3, No.2, 15. Also
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The observer is not he who merely sees the thing which is before his eyes, but he who sees what parts the thing is composed of. To do this well is a rare talent. One person, from inattention, or attending only in the wrong place, overlooks half of what he sees; another sets down much more than he sees, confounding it with what he imagines, or with what he infers; another takes note of the kind of all the circumstances, but being inexpert in estimating their degree, leaves the quantity of each vague and uncertain; another sees indeed the whole, but makes such an awkward division of it into parts, throwing into one mass things which require to be separated, and separating others which might more conveniently be considered as one, that the result is much the same, sometimes even worse than if no analysis had been attempted at all.
In A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive (1858), 216.
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The physiological combustion theory takes as its starting point the fundamental principle that the amount of heat that arises from the combustion of a given substance is an invariable quantity–i.e., one independent of the circumstances accompanying the combustion–from which it is more specifically concluded that the chemical effect of the combustible materials undergoes no quantitative change even as a result of the vital process, or that the living organism, with all its mysteries and marvels, is not capable of generating heat out of nothing.
Bemerkungen über das mechanische Aequivalent der Wärme [Remarks on the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat] (1851), 17-9. Trans. Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 240.
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The production of motion in the steam engine always occurs in circumstances which it is necessary to recognize, namely when the equilibrium of caloric is restored, or (to express this differently) when caloric passes from the body at one temperature to another body at a lower temperature.
'Réflexions sur la Puissance Motrice du Feu et sur les Machines Propres a Développer cette Puissance' (1824). Trans. Robert Fox, Reflexions on the Motive Power of Fire (1986), 64.
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The progress of science depends less than is usually believed on the efforts and performance of the individual genius ... many important discoveries have been made by men of ordinary talents, simply because chance had made them, at the proper time and in the proper place and circumstances, recipients of a body of doctrines, facts and techniques that rendered almost inevitable the recognition of an important phenomenon. It is surprising that some historian has not taken malicious pleasure in writing an anthology of 'one discovery' scientists. Many exciting facts have been discovered as a result of loose thinking and unimaginative experimentation, and described in wrappings of empty words. One great discovery does not betoken a great scientist; science now and then selects insignificant standard bearers to display its banners.
Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science (1986), 368
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The Reason of making Experiments is, for the Discovery of the Method of Nature, in its Progress and Operations. Whosoever, therefore doth rightly make Experiments, doth design to enquire into some of these Operations; and, in order thereunto, doth consider what Circumstances and Effects, in the Experiment, will be material and instructive in that Enquiry, whether for the confirming or destroying of any preconceived Notion, or for the Limitation and Bounding thereof, either to this or that Part of the Hypothesis, by allowing a greater Latitude and Extent to one Part, and by diminishing or restraining another Part within narrower Bounds than were at first imagin'd, or hypothetically supposed. The Method therefore of making Experiments by the Royal Society I conceive should be this.
First, To propound the Design and Aim of the Curator in his present Enquiry.
Secondly, To make the Experiment, or Experiments, leisurely, and with Care and Exactness.
Thirdly, To be diligent, accurate, and curious, in taking Notice of, and shewing to the Assembly of Spectators, such Circumstances and Effects therein occurring, as are material, or at least, as he conceives such, in order to his Theory .
Fourthly, After finishing the Experiment, to discourse, argue, defend, and further explain, such Circumstances and Effects in the preceding Experiments, as may seem dubious or difficult: And to propound what new Difficulties and Queries do occur, that require other Trials and Experiments to be made, in order to their clearing and answering: And farther, to raise such Axioms and Propositions, as are thereby plainly demonstrated and proved.
Fifthly, To register the whole Process of the Proposal, Design, Experiment, Success, or Failure; the Objections and Objectors, the Explanation and Explainers, the Proposals and Propounders of new and farther Trials; the Theories and Axioms, and their Authors; and, in a Word the history of every Thing and Person, that is material and circumstantial in the whole Entertainment of the said Society; which shall be prepared and made ready, fairly written in a bound Book, to be read at the Beginning of the Sitting of the Society: The next Day of their Meeting, then to be read over and further discoursed, augmented or diminished, as the Matter shall require, and then to be sign'd by a certain Number of the Persons present, who have been present, and Witnesses of all the said Proceedings, who, by Subscribing their names, will prove undoubted testimony to Posterity of the whole History.
'Dr Hooke's Method of Making Experiments' (1664-5). In W. Derham (ed.), Philosophical Experiments and Observations Of the Late Eminent Dr. Robert Hooke, F.R.S. And Geom. Prof. Gresh. and Other Eminent Virtuoso's in his Time (1726), 26-8.
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There are many fine things which you mean to do some day, under what you think will be more favorable circumstances. But the only time that is yours is the present.
…...
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There are three distinctions in the kinds of bodies, or three states, which have more especially claimed the attention of philosophical chemists; namely, those which are marked by the terms elastic fluids, liquids, and solids. A very familiar instance is exhibited to us in water, of a body, which, in certain circumstances, is capable of assuming all the three states. In steam we recognise a perfectly elastic fluid, in water, a perfect liquid, and in ice of a complete solid. These observations have tacitly led to the conclusion which seems universally adopted, that all bodies of sensible magnitude, whether liquid or solid, are constituted of a vast number of extremely small particles, or atoms of matter bound together by a force of attraction.
A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808), Vol. 1, 141.
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There is in Nature a general prototype in each species on which each individual is modeled, but which seems, in realizing itself, to alter itself or perfect itself according to circumstances. So that, relative to certain qualities, this is an extraordinary appearing variation in the succession of these individuals, and at the same time a constancy which appears wonderful in the entire species. The first animal, the first horse, for example, has been the external model and the interieur mold on which all horses which have been born, all those which now exist, and all those which will be born have been formed.
'Le Cheval', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1753), Vol. 4, 215-6. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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There is, however, no universal recipe for scientific advance. It is a matter of groping forward into terra incognita of the outer world by means of methods which should be adapted to the circumstances.
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 455.
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There iz this difference between genius and common sense in a fox: Common sense iz governed bi circumstances, but circumstances iz governed by genius.
In The Complete Works of Josh Billings (1876), 116.
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Therefore it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analysing long-held commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend, and how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. Thus their excessive authority will be broken.
…...
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Truth is a dangerous word to incorporate within the vocabulary of science. It drags with it, in its train, ideas of permanence and immutability that are foreign to the spirit of a study that is essentially an historically changing movement, and that relies so much on practical examination within restricted circumstances. … Truth is an absolute notion that science, which is not concerned with any such permanency, had better leave alone.
In The Universe of Science (1933).
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Under certain given circumstances, and only under those circumstances, an agglomeration of men presents new characteristics very different from those of the individuals composing it. The sentiments and ideas of all the persons in the gathering take one and the same direction, and their conscious personality vanishes. A collective mind is formed, doubtless transitory, but presenting very clearly defined characteristics. The gathering has thus become what, in the absence of a better expression, I will call an organized crowd, or, if the term is considered preferable, a psychological crowd. It forms a single being and is subject to the law of the mental unity of crowds.
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 12. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 1-2. The original French text is, “Dans certaines circonstances données, et seulement dans ces circonstances, une agglomération d’hommes possède des caractères nouveaux fort différents de ceux des individus composant cette agglomération. La personnalité consciente s’évanouit, les sentiments et les idées de toutes les unités sont orientés dans une même direction. Il se forme une âme collective, transitoire sans doute, mais présentant des caractères très nets. La collectivité est alors devenue ce que, faute d’une expression meilleure, j’appellerai une foule organisée, ou, si l’on préfère, une foule psychologique. Elle forme un seul être et se trouve soumise à la loi de l'unité mentale des foules.”
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Very old and wide-spread is the opinion that forests have an important impact on rainfall. ... If forests enhance the amount and frequency of precipitation simply by being there, deforestation as part of agricultural expansion everywhere, must necessarily result in less rainfall and more frequent droughts. This view is most poignantly expressed by the saying: Man walks the earth and desert follows his steps! ... It is not surprising that under such circumstances the issue of a link between forests and climate has ... been addressed by governments. Lately, the Italian government has been paying special attention to reforestation in Italy and its expected improvement of the climate. ... It must be prevented that periods of heavy rainfall alternate with droughts. ...In the Unites States deforestation plays an important role as well and is seen as the cause for a reduction in rainfall. ... committee chairman of the American Association for Advancement of Science demands decisive steps to extend woodland in order to counteract the increasing drought. ... some serious concerns. In 1873, in Vienna, the congress for agriculture and forestry discussed the problem in detail; and when the Prussian house of representatives ordered a special commission to examine a proposed law pertaining to the preservation and implementation of forests for safeguarding, it pointed out that the steady decrease in the water levels of Prussian rivers was one of the most serious consequences of deforestation only to be rectified by reforestation programs. It is worth mentioning that ... the same concerns were raised in Russia as well and governmental circles reconsidered the issue of deforestation.
as quoted in Eduard Brückner - The Sources and Consequences of Climate Change and Climate Variability in Historical Times editted by N. Stehr and H. von Storch (2000)
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We know that nature invariably uses the same materials in its operations. Its ingeniousness is displayed only in the variation of form. Indeed, as if nature had voluntarily confined itself to using only a few basic units, we observe that it generally causes the same elements to reappear, in the same number, in the same circumstances, and in the same relationships to one another. If an organ happens to grow in an unusual manner, it exerts a considerable influence on adjacent parts, which as a result fail to reach their standard degree of development.
'Considérations sur les pieces de la tête osseuse des animaux vertebras, et particulièrement sur celle du crane des oiseaux', Annales du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, 1807, 10, 343. Trans. J. Mandelbaum. Quoted in Pietro Corsi, The Age of Lamarck (1988), 232.
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We may lay it down that a happy person never phantasises, only an unsatisfied one... The motive forces of phantasies are unsatisfied wishes, and every single phantasy is the fulfilment of a wish, a correction of unsatisfying reality. These motivating wishes vary according to the sex, character and circumstances of the person who is having the phantasy; but they fall naturally into two main groups. They are either ambitious wishes, which serve to elevate the subject's personality; or they are erotic ones. It was shocking when Nietzsche said this, but today it is commonplace; our historical position—and no end to it is in sight—is that of having to philosophise without 'foundations'.
Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming (1906), In James Strachey (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychcological Works of Sigmund Freud (1959), Vol 9, 146-7.
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We must avoid war under all possible circumstances, except, my opinion, one: when the freedom of human beings is at stake. … I don't want to kill anybody. I am passionately opposed to killing, but I'm even more passionately fond of freedom.
From debate (20 Feb 1958) between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller on WQED-TV, San Francisco. Transcript published as Fallout and Disarmament: The Pauling-Teller Debate (1958). Reprinted in 'Fallout and Disarmament: A Debate between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller', Daedalus (Spring 1958), 87, No. 2, 154 & 163.
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What we still designate as chance, merely depends on a concatenation of circumstances, the internal connection and final causes of which we have as yet been unable to unravel.
Force and Matter (1884), 226.
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What, then, is it in particular that can be learned from teachers of special distinction? Above all, what they teach is high standards. We measure everything, including ourselves, by comparisons; and in the absence of someone with outstanding ability there is a risk that we easily come to believe that we are excellent and much better than the next man. Mediocre people may appear big to themselves (and to others) if they are surrounded by small circumstances. By the same token, big people feel dwarfed in the company of giants, and this is a most useful feeling. So what the giants of science teach us is to see ourselves modestly and not to overrate ourselves.
Reminiscences and Reflections (1981), 175.
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Whatever be the detail with which you cram your student, the chance of his meeting in after life exactly that detail is almost infinitesimal; and if he does meet it, he will probably have forgotten what you taught him about it. The really useful training yields a comprehension of a few general principles with a thorough grounding in the way they apply to a variety of concrete details. In subsequent practice the men will have forgotten your particular details; but they will remember by an unconscious common sense how to apply principles to immediate circumstances. Your learning is useless to you till you have lost your textbooks, burnt your lecture notes, and forgotten the minutiae which you learned by heart for the examination. What, in the way of detail, you continually require will stick in your memory as obvious facts like the sun and the moon; and what you casually require can be looked up in any work of reference. The function of a University is to enable you to shed details in favor of principles. When I speak of principles I am hardly even thinking of verbal formulations. A principle which has thoroughly soaked into you is rather a mental habit than a formal statement. It becomes the way the mind reacts to the appropriate stimulus in the form of illustrative circumstances. Nobody goes about with his knowledge clearly and consciously before him. Mental cultivation is nothing else than the satisfactory way in which the mind will function when it is poked up into activity.
In 'The Rhythm of Education', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 41.
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When a doctor arrives to attend some patient of the working class, he ought not to feel his pulse the moment he enters, as is nearly always done without regard to the circumstances of the man who lies sick; he should not remain standing while he considers what he ought to do, as though the fate of a human being were a mere trifle; rather let him condescend to sit down for awhile.
De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (1713) Trans. by W.C. Wright in A.L. Birmingham, Classics of Medicine Library (1983). Quoted in Edward J. Huth and T. J. Murray. Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2006), 288.
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When air has been freshly and strongly tainted with putrefaction, so as to smell through the water, sprigs of mint have presently died, upon being put into it, their leaves turning black; but if they do not die presently, they thrive in a most surprizing manner. In no other circumstances have I ever seen vegetation so vigorous as in this kind of air, which is immediately fatal to animal life. Though these plants have been crouded in jars filled with this air, every leaf has been full of life; fresh shoots have branched out in various , and have grown much faster than other similiar plants, growing in the same exposure in common air.
This observation led me to conclude that plants, instead of affecting the air in the same manner with animal respiration, reverse the effects of breathing, and tend to keep the atmosphere sweet and wholesome, when it is become noxious, in consequence on animals living and breathing, or dying and putrefying in it.
In order to ascertain this, I took a quantity of air, made thoroughly noxious, by mice breathing and dying in it, and divided it into two parts; one of which I put into a phial immersed in water; and to the other (which was contained in a glass jar, standing in water) I put a sprig of mint. This was about the beginning of August 1771, and after eight or nine days, I found that a mouse lived perfectly well in that part of the air, in which the sprig of mint had grown, but died the moment it was put into the other part of the same original quantity of air; and which I had kept in the very same exposure, but without any plant growing in it.
'Observations on Different Kinds of Air', Philosophical Transactions (1772), 62, 193-4.
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When not protected by law, by popular favor or superstition, or by other special circumstances, [birds] yield very readily to the influences of civilization, and, though the first operations of the settler are favorable to the increase of many species, the great extension of rural and of mechanical industry is, in a variety of ways, destructive even to tribes not directly warred upon by man.
In Man and Nature, (1864), 93-93.
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Wise men put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances.
In Lecture, Boston, (Mar 1838). Printed in E. P. Peabody (ed.), Aesthetic Papers (1849). Collected in 'War', Complete Works (1883), Vol. 2, 190.
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“She can't do sums a bit!” the Queens said together, with great emphasis.
“Can you do sums?” Alice said, turning suddenly on the White Queen, for she didn't like being found fault with so much.
The Queen gasped and shut her eyes. “I can do Addition, if you give me time-but I can do Subtraction, under any circumstances!”
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871, 1897), 191.
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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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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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