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Clever Quotes (38 quotes)

Ode to The Amoeba
Recall from Time's abysmal chasm
That piece of primal protoplasm
The First Amoeba, strangely splendid,
From whom we're all of us descended.
That First Amoeba, weirdly clever,
Exists today and shall forever,
Because he reproduced by fission;
He split himself, and each division
And subdivision deemed it fitting
To keep on splitting, splitting, splitting;
So, whatsoe'er their billions be,
All, all amoebas still are he.
Zoologists discern his features
In every sort of breathing creatures,
Since all of every living species,
No matter how their breed increases
Or how their ranks have been recruited,
From him alone were evoluted.
King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba
And Hoover sprang from that amoeba;
Columbus, Shakespeare, Darwin, Shelley
Derived from that same bit of jelly.
So famed is he and well-connected,
His statue ought to be erected,
For you and I and William Beebe
Are undeniably amoebae!
(1922). Collected in Gaily the Troubadour (1936), 18.
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A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
Anonymous
Widely found on the web as an Einstein quote, but Webmaster has not yet found a primary source. Can you help? It is probably yet another example of a “wise” quote to which Einstein’s name has been falsely attributed. For authentic quotes see Albert Einstein Quotes on Problem.
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Alvarez seemed to care less about the way the picture in the puzzle would look, when everything fit together, than about the fun of looking for pieces that fit. He loved nothing more than doing something that everybody else thought impossible. His designs were clever, and usually exploited some little-known principle that everyone else had forgotten.
As quoted in Walter Sullivan, 'Luis W. Alvarez, Nobel Physicist Who Explored Atom, Dies at 77: Obituary', New York Times (2 Sep 1988).
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And so many think incorrectly that everything was created by the Creator in the beginning as it is seen, that not only the mountains, valleys, and waters, but also various types of minerals occurred together with the rest of the world, and therefore it is said that it is unnecessary to investigate the reasons why they differ in their internal properties and their locations. Such considerations are very dangerous for the growth of all the sciences, and hence for natural knowledge of the Earth, particularly the art of mining, though it is very easy for those clever people to be philosophers, having learnt by heart the three words 'God so created' and to give them in reply in place of all reasons.
About the Layers of the Earth and other Works on Geology (1757), trans. A. P. Lapov (1949), 55.
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As Littlewood said to me once [of the ancient Greeks], they are not clever school boys or “scholarship candidates,” but “Fellows of another college.”
Quoted in G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 1992), 81.
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Books are fatal: they are the curse of the human race. Nine-tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense. The greatest misfortune that ever befell man was the invention of printing.
In Lothair (1879), Chap. 29, 137.
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Break the chains of your prejudices and take up the torch of experience, and you will honour nature in the way she deserves, instead of drawing derogatory conclusions from the ignorance in which she has left you. Simply open your eyes and ignore what you cannot understand, and you will see that a labourer whose mind and knowledge extend no further than the edges of his furrow is no different essentially from the greatest genius, as would have been proved by dissecting the brains of Descartes and Newton; you will be convinced that the imbecile or the idiot are animals in human form, in the same way as the clever ape is a little man in another form; and that, since everything depends absolutely on differences in organisation, a well-constructed animal who has learnt astronomy can predict an eclipse, as he can predict recovery or death when his genius and good eyesight have benefited from some time at the school of Hippocrates and at patients' bedsides.
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 38.
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Engineers are more clever than artillerymen.
Speaking to General Baron Gaspard Gourgaud at St. Helena (7 Nov 1817). The meaning is that the work of engineers can provide more effective ways to win a battle than firepower alone. The quote with details cited appears as early as 1 Aug 1943, in Ed Edstrom, 'Off the Cuff', Courier-Journal, magazine, 23. Whereas the quote might be recorded in the journal kept by Gourgaud, Webmaster has not yet located any such primary source for verification.
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Evolution is cleverer than you are.
In Jack D. Dunitz and Gerald F. Joyce, 'Leslie Eleazer Orgel', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (2013), Vol. 59, 286.
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He was an admirable marksman, an expert swimmer, a clever rider, possessed of great activity [and] prodigious strength, and was notable for the elegance of his figure and the beauty of his features, and he aided nature by a careful attendance to his dress. Besides other accomplishments he was musical, a good fencer, danced well, and had some acquaintance with legerdemain tricks, worked in hair, and could plait willow baskets.
In Richard Rhodes, John James Audubon: The Making of an American (2004), 36.
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I have been speculating last night what makes a man a discoverer of undiscovered things; and a most perplexing problem it is. Many men who are very clever - much cleverer than the discoverers - never originate anything.
A Century of Family Letters, 1792-1896
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I would proclaim that the vast majority of what [say, Scientific American] is true—yet my ability to defend such a claim is weaker than I would like. And most likely the readers, authors, and editors of that magazine would be equally hard pressed to come up with cogent, non-technical arguments convincing a skeptic of this point, especially if pitted against a clever lawyer arguing the contrary. How come Truth is such a slippery beast?
Metamagical Themas (1985), 93.
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If you could stop every atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could.
Spoken by Thomasina in Arcadia (1993), Act I, Scene 1, 13.
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In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the haughtiest and most mendacious minute of ‘world history’—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die. ... There have been eternities when [human intellect] did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened.
…...
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IODINE
It was Courtois discover'd Iodine
(In the commencement of this century),
Which, with its sisters, bromine and chlorine,
Enjoys a common parentage - the sea;
Although sometimes 'tis found, with other things,
In minerals and many saline springs.

But yet the quantity is so minute
In the great ocean, that a chemist might,
With sensibilities the most acute,
Have never brought this element to light,
Had he not thought it were as well to try
Where ocean's treasures concentrated lie.

And Courtois found that several plants marine,
Sponges, et cetera, exercise the art
Of drawing from the sea its iodine
In quantities sufficient to impart
Its properties; and he devised a plan
Of bringing it before us - clever man!
Anonymous
Discursive Chemical Notes in Rhyme (1876) by the Author of the Chemical Review, a B.
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It is with mathematics not otherwise than it is with music, painting or poetry. Anyone can become a lawyer, doctor or chemist, and as such may succeed well, provided he is clever and industrious, but not every one can become a painter, or a musician, or a mathematician: general cleverness and industry alone count here for nothing.
In Ueber die Anlage zur Mathematik (1900), 5. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 184.
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It just so happens that during the 1950s, the first great age of molecular biology, the English schools of Oxford and particularly of Cambridge produced more than a score of graduates of quite outstanding ability—much more brilliant, inventive, articulate and dialectically skillful than most young scientists; right up in the Jim Watson class. But Watson had one towering advantage over all of them: in addition to being extremely clever he had something important to be clever about.
From the postscript to 'Lucky Jim', New York Review of Books (28 Mar 1968). Also collected in 'Lucky Jim', Pluto’s Republic (1982), 275. Also excerpted in Richard Dawkins (ed.), The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (2008), 186.
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Let us sum up the three possible explanations of the decision to drop the bomb and its timing. The first that it was a clever and highly successful move in the field of power politics, is almost certainly correct; the second, that the timing was coincidental, convicts the American government of a hardly credible tactlessness [towards the Soviet Union]; and the third, the Roman holiday theory [a spectacular event to justify the cost of the Manhattan Project], convicts them of an equally incredible irresponsibility.
In The Political and Military Consequences of Atomic Energy (1948), 126. As cited by Maurice W. Kirby and Jonathan Rosenhead, 'Patrick Blackett (1897)' in Arjang A. Assad (ed.) and Saul I. Gass (ed.),Profiles in Operations Research: Pioneers and Innovators (2011), 17. Blackett regarded the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan as unnecessary because a Japanese surrender was inevitable.
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Like almost every subject of human interest, this one [mathematics] is just as easy or as difficult as we choose to make it. A lifetime may be spent by a philosopher in discussing the truth of the simplest axiom. The simplest fact as to our existence may fill us with such wonder that our minds will remain overwhelmed with wonder all the time. A Scotch ploughman makes a working religion out of a system which appalls a mental philosopher. Some boys of ten years of age study the methods of the differential calculus; other much cleverer boys working at mathematics to the age of nineteen have a difficulty in comprehending the fundamental ideas of the calculus.
In Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 19-20.
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Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. … Aristotle, so far as I know, was the first man to proclaim explicitly that man is a rational animal. His reason for this view was … that some people can do sums. … It is in virtue of the intellect that man is a rational animal. The intellect is shown in various ways, but most emphatically by mastery of arithmetic. The Greek system of numerals was very bad, so that the multiplication table was quite difficult, and complicated calculations could only be made by very clever people.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 5. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 45.
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Man is but a perambulating tool-box and workshop or office, fashioned for itself by a piece of very clever slime, as the result of long experience. ... Hence we speak of man's body as his “trunk.”
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 18.
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Mr Justus Liebig is no doubt a very clever gentleman and a most profound chemist, but in our opinion he knows as much of agriculture as the horse that ploughs the ground, and there is not an old man that stands between the stilts of a plough in Virginia, that cannot tell him of facts totally at variance with his finest spun theories.
Magazine
The Southern Planter (1845), 3, 23.
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Now Einstein was a very clever man,
with us all his philosophies he shared,
He gave us the theory of relativity,
which is E equals M C squared.
From lyrics of song Sod’s Law.
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People give ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy.
c. 1543, in The Experts Speak by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky (1998).
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Tell me these things, Olympian Muses, tell
From the beginning, which first came to be?
Chaos was first of all, but next appeared
Broad-bosomed Earth, Sure standing-place for all
The gods who live on snowy Olympus' peak,
And misty Tartarus, in a recess
Of broad-pathed earth, and Love, most beautiful
Of all the deathless gods. He makes men weak,
He overpowers the clever mind, and tames
The spirit in the breasts of men and gods.
From Chaos came black Night and Erebos.
And Night in turn gave birth to Day and Space
Whom she conceived in love to Erebos.
And Earth bore starry Heaven, first, to be
An equal to herself, to cover her
All over, and to be a resting-place,
Always secure, for all the blessed gods.Theogony, I. 114-28.
Heslod
In Hesiod and Theognis, trans. Dorothea Wender (1973), 26-7.
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The astronomers must be very clever to have found out the narnes of all the stars.
Anonymous
In The Physics Teacher, October 1970.
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The competent programmer is fully aware of the limited size of his own skull. He therefore approaches his task with full humility, and avoids clever tricks like the plague.
…...
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The history of semiconductor physics is not one of grand heroic theories, but one of painstaking intelligent labor. Not strokes of genius producing lofty edifices, but great ingenuity and endless undulation of hope and despair. Not sweeping generalizations, but careful judgment of the border between perseverance and obstinacy. Thus the history of solid-state physics in general, and of semiconductors in particular, is not so much about great men and women and their glorious deeds, as about the unsung heroes of thousands of clever ideas and skillful experiments—reflection of an age of organization rather than of individuality.
'Selected Topics from the History of Semiconductor Physics and Its Applications', in Lillian Hoddeson et al. (eds.), Out of the Crystal Maze (1992), 474.
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The Hypotenuse has a square on,
which is equal Pythagoras instructed,
to the sum of the squares on the other two sides
If a triangle is cleverly constructed.
From lyrics of song Sod’s Law.
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This is the question
Marry
Children—(if it Please God)—Constant companion (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one—object to be beloved and played with—better than a dog anyhow. Home, & someone to take care of house—Charms of music and female chit-chat.—These things good for one’s health.—but terrible loss of time.—
My God, it is Intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working—& nothing after all.—No, no, won’t do. Imagine living all one’s day solitary in smoky dirty London House.—Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps-—Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ Street.
Not Marry
Freedom to go where one liked—choice of Society and little of it. —Conversation of clever men at clubs—Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. —to have the expense and anxiety of children—perhaps quarreling—Loss of time. —cannot read in the Evenings—fatness & idleness—Anxiety & responsibility—less money for books &c—if many children forced to gain one’s bread. —(but then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
Perhaps my wife won’t like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool.
Marry—Marry—Marry Q.E.D.
It being proved necessary to Marry When? Soon or late?
Notes on Marriage, July 1838. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1837-1843 (1986), Vol. 2, 444.
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This law [of gravitation] has been called “the greatest generalization achieved by the human mind”. … I am interested not so much in the human mind as in the marvel of a nature which can obey such an elegant and simple law as this law of gravitation. Therefore our main concentration will not be on how clever we are to have found it all out, but on how clever nature is to pay attention to it.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965), 14.
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To connect the dinosaurs, creatures of interest to everyone but the veriest dullard, with a spectacular extra­terrestrial event like the deluge of meteors … seems a little like one of those plots that a clever publisher might concoct to guarantee enormous sales. All the Alvarez-Raup theories lack is some sex and the involvement of the Royal family and the whole world would be paying attention to them.
In The Canberra Times (20 May 1984).
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To pick a hole–say in the 2nd law of Ωcs, that if two things are in contact the hotter cannot take heat from the colder without external agency.
Now let A & B be two vessels divided by a diaphragm and let them contain elastic molecules in a state of agitation which strike each other and the sides. Let the number of particles be equal in A & B but let those in A have equal velocities, if oblique collisions occur between them their velocities will become unequal & I have shown that there will be velocities of all magnitudes in A and the same in B only the sum of the squares of the velocities is greater in A than in B.
When a molecule is reflected from the fixed diaphragm CD no work is lost or gained.
If the molecule instead of being reflected were allowed to go through a hole in CD no work would be lost or gained, only its energy would be transferred from the one vessel to the other.
Now conceive a finite being who knows the paths and velocities of all the molecules by simple inspection but who can do no work, except to open and close a hole in the diaphragm, by means of a slide without mass.
Let him first observe the molecules in A and when lie sees one coming the square of whose velocity is less than the mean sq. vel. of the molecules in B let him open a hole & let it go into B. Next let him watch for a molecule in B the square of whose velocity is greater than the mean sq. vel. in A and when it comes to the hole let him draw and slide & let it go into A, keeping the slide shut for all other molecules.
Then the number of molecules in A & B are the same as at first but the energy in A is increased and that in B diminished that is the hot system has got hotter and the cold colder & yet no work has been done, only the intelligence of a very observant and neat fingered being has been employed. Or in short if heat is the motion of finite portions of matter and if we can apply tools to such portions of matter so as to deal with them separately then we can take advantage of the different motion of different portions to restore a uniformly hot system to unequal temperatures or to motions of large masses. Only we can't, not being clever enough.
Letter to Peter Guthrie Tait (11 Dec 1867). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 331-2.
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Towards the end of his life, he [Ernest Rutherford] said, “I’ve just finished reading some of my early papers, and you know, when I’d finished I said to myself, ‘Rutherford, my boy, you used to be a damned clever fellow.’”
As quoted in 'The Rutherford Memorial Lecture' (29 Mar 1939), Memorial Lectures Delivered Before the Chemical Society (1951), Vol. 4, 183. Although quoted without source, note that Tizard and Rutherford were friends.
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We can see that there is only one substance in the universe and that man is the most perfect one. He is to the ape and the cleverest animals what Huygens's planetary clock is to one of Julien Leroy's watches. If it took more instruments, more cogs, more springs to show or tell the time, if it took Vaucanson more artistry to make his flautist than his duck, he would have needed even more to make a speaking machine, which can no longer be considered impossible, particularly at the hands of a new Prometheus. Thus, in the same way, nature needed more artistry and machinery to construct and maintain a machine which could continue for a whole century to tell all the beats of the heart and the mind; for we cannot tell the time from the pulse, it is at least the barometer of heat and liveliness, from which we can judge the nature of the soul.
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 33-4.
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We scientists are clever—too clever—are you not satisfied? Is four square miles in one bomb not enough? Men are still thinking. Just tell us how big you want it!
As quoted in James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), 204.
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What is scandalous is not that stupid people should sometimes inherit private incomes; but that clever people should sometimes not.
In The Decline and Fall of Science (1976).
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[T]here are some common animal behaviors that seem to favor the development of intelligence, behaviors that might lead to brainy beasts on many worlds. Social interaction is one of them. If you're an animal that hangs out with others, then there's clearly an advantage in being smart enough to work out the intentions of the guy sitting next to you (before he takes your mate or your meal). And if you're clever enough to outwit the other members of your social circle, you'll probably have enhanced opportunity to breed..., thus passing on your superior intelligence. ... Nature—whether on our planet or some alien world—will stumble into increased IQ sooner or later.
Seth Shostak, Alex Barnett, Cosmic Company: the Search for Life in the Universe (2003), 62 & 67.
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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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Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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