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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index C > Category: Continent

Continent Quotes (39 quotes)

A century ago astronomers, geologists, chemists, physicists, each had an island of his own, separate and distinct from that of every other student of Nature; the whole field of research was then an archipelago of unconnected units. To-day all the provinces of study have risen together to form a continent without either a ferry or a bridge.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 182-183.
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A quarter-horse jockey learns to think of a twenty-second race as if it were occurring across twenty minutes—in distinct parts, spaced in his consciousness. Each nuance of the ride comes to him as he builds his race. If you can do the opposite with deep time, living in it and thinking in it until the large numbers settle into place, you can sense how swiftly the initial earth packed itself together, how swiftly continents have assembled and come apart, how far and rapidly continents travel, how quickly mountains rise and how quickly they disintegrate and disappear.
Annals of the Former World
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A soil adapted to the growth of plants, is necessarily prepared and carefully preserved; and, in the necessary waste of land which is inhabited, the foundation is laid for future continents, in order to support the system of the living world.
In 'Concerning and System of the Earth, its Duration and Stability', a Dissertation presented to the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Mar-Apr 1785). The surviving Abstract is excerpted in Frank H. T. Rhodes, Richard O. Stone and Bruce D. Malamud (eds.), Language of the Earth: A Literary Anthology (2002, 2nd. ed. 2008), 110.
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According to the conclusion of Dr. Hutton, and of many other geologists, our continents are of definite antiquity, they have been peopled we know not how, and mankind are wholly unacquainted with their origin. According to my conclusions drawn from the same source, that of facts, our continents are of such small antiquity, that the memory of the revolution which gave them birth must still be preserved among men; and thus we are led to seek in the book of Genesis the record of the history of the human race from its origin. Can any object of importance superior to this be found throughout the circle of natural science?
An Elementary Treatise on Geology (1809), 82.
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All admit that the mountains of the globe are situated mostly along the border regions of the continents (taking these regions as 300 to 1000 miles or more in width), and that over these same areas the sedimentary deposits have, as a general thing, their greatest thickness. At first thought, it would seem almost incredible that the upliftings of mountains, whatever their mode of origin, should have taken place just where the earth’s crust, through these sedimentary accumulations, was the thickest, and where, therefore, there was the greatest weight to be lifted. … Earthquakes show that even now, in this last of the geological ages, the same border regions of the continents, although daily thickening from the sediments borne to the ocean by rivers, are the areas of the greatest and most frequent movements of the earth’s crust. (1866)
[Thus, the facts were known long ago; the explanation by tectonic activity came many decades later.]
In 'Observations on the Origin of Some of the Earth's Features', The American Journal of Science (Sep 1866), Second Series, 42, No. 125, 210-211.
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Amid all the revolutions of the globe, the economy of Nature has been uniform, ... and her laws are the only things that have resisted the general movement. The rivers and the rocks, the seas and the continents, have been changed in all their parts; but the laws which direct those changes, and the rules to which they are subject, have remained invariably the same.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) collected in The Works of John Playfair (1822), Vol. 1, 415
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But why, it has been asked, did you go there [the Antarctic]? Of what use to civilization can this lifeless continent be? ... [Earlier] expeditions contributed something to the accumulating knowledge of the Antarctic ... that helps us thrust back further the physical and spiritual shadows enfolding our terrestrial existence. Is it not true that one of the strongest and most continuously sustained impulses working in civilization is that which leads to discovery? As long as any part of the world remains obscure, the curiosity of man must draw him there, as the lodestone draws the mariner's needle, until he comprehends its secret.
In 'Hoover Presents Special Medal to Byrd...', New York Times (21 Jun 1930), 1.
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Cezanne is the Christopher Columbus of a new continent of form.
In Art (1958), 139.
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Combining in our survey then, the whole range of deposits from the most recent to the most ancient group, how striking a succession do they present:– so various yet so uniform–so vast yet so connected. In thus tracing back to the most remote periods in the physical history of our continents, one system of operations, as the means by which many complex formations have been successively produced, the mind becomes impressed with the singleness of nature's laws; and in this respect, at least, geology is hardly inferior in simplicity to astronomy.
The Silurian System (1839), 574.
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England was nothing, compared to continental nations until she had become commercial … until about the middle of the last century, when a number of ingenious and inventive men, without apparent relation to each other, arose in various parts of the kingdom, succeeded in giving an immense impulse to all the branches of the national industry; the result of which has been a harvest of wealth and prosperity, perhaps without a parallel in the history of the world.
In Lives of the Engineers (1862, 1874), xvii.
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I with my hammer pounding evermore
The rocky coast, smite Andes into dust.
Strewing my bed and, in another age.
Rebuild a continent for better men.
Poem, 'Seashore' (1857), published in The Boatswain’s Whistle (Boston 18 Nov 1864). Collected in Percy H. Boynton (ed.), American poetry (1921), 217. The blank verse of this poem was recast from a prose passage he wrote in his journal (3 Jul 1857), the day after a two-week visit to Cap Ann.
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If we imagine an observer to approach our planet from outer space, and, pushing aside the belts of red-brown clouds which obscure our atmosphere, to gaze for a whole day on the surface of the earth as it rotates beneath him, the feature, beyond all others most likely to arrest his attention would be the wedge-like outlines of the continents as they narrow away to the South.
The Face of the Earth (1904), Vol. 1, 1.
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In the beginning was the book of Nature. For eon after eon, the pages of the book turned with no human to read them. No eye wondered at the ignition of the sun, the coagulation of the earth, the birth of the moon, the solidification of a terrestrial continent, or the filling of the seas. Yet when the first primitive algae evolved to float on the waters of this ocean, a promise was born—a hope that someday all the richness and variety of the phenomena of the universe would be read with appreciative eyes.
Opening paragraph in Gary G. Tibbetts, How the Great Scientists Reasoned: The Scientific Method in Action (2012), 1.
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Infidels are intellectual discoverers. They sail the unknown seas and find new isles and continents in the infinite realms of thought. An Infidel is one who has found a new fact, who has an idea of his own, and who in the mental sky has seen another star. He is an intellectual capitalist, and for that reason excites the envy and hatred of the theological pauper.
In 'The Great Infidels', The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll (1902), Vol. 3, 309.
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It has been said by a distinguished philosopher that England is “usually the last to enter into the general movement of the European mind.” The author of the remark probably meant to assert that a man or a system may have become famous on the continent, while we are almost ignorant of the name of the man and the claims of his system. Perhaps, however, a wider range might be given to the assertion. An exploded theory or a disadvantageous practice, like a rebel or a patriot in distress, seeks refuge on our shores to spend its last days in comfort if not in splendour.
Opening from essay, 'Elementary Geometry', included in The Conflict of Studies and Other Essays (1873), 136.
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It may be that it is only by the grace of granitization that we have continents to live on.
The Granite Controversy: Geological Addresses Illustrating the Evolution of a Disputant (1957), 373.
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Let us suppose, that the Old and New worlds were formerly but one continent, and that, by a violent earthquake, the ancient Atalantis [sic] of Plato was sunk ... The sea would necessarily rush in from all quarters, and form what is now called the Atlantic ocean.
'Second Discours: Histoire et Théorie de la Terre', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. I, 96; Natural History, General and Particular (1785), Vol. I, trans. W. Smellie, 31.
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Looking back across the long cycles of change through which the land has been shaped into its present form, let us realise that these geographical revolutions are not events wholly of the dim past, but that they are still in progress. So slow and measured has been their march, that even from the earliest times of human history they seem hardly to have advanced at all. But none the less are they surely and steadily transpiring around us. In the fall of rain and the flow of rivers, in the bubble of springs and the silence of frost, in the quiet creep of glaciers and the tumultuous rush of ocean waves, in the tremor of the earthquake and the outburst of the volcano, we may recognise the same play of terrestrial forces by which the framework of the continents has been step by step evolved.
Lecture at the Evening Meeting, Royal Geographical Society (24 Mar 1879), 'Discussion on Geographical Evolution', in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record (1879), New Monthly Series, 1, 443.
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Malaria which is almost unknown in the north of Europe is however of great importance in the south of the Continent particularly in Greece and Italy; these fevers in many of the localities become the dominant disease and the forms become more grave.
From Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1907), 'Protozoa as Causes of Diseases', collected in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967, 1999), 264.
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Notwithstanding, therefore, that we have not witnessed of a large continent, yet, as we may predict the future occurrence of such catastrophes, we are authorized to regard them as part of the present order of Nature.
Principles of Geology (1837), Vol. 1, 94.
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Oh God! that one might read the book of fate,
And see the revolution of the times
Make mountains level, and the continent,
Weary of solid firmness, melt itself
Into the sea.
Henry V (1599), I, ii.
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Physical investigation, more than anything besides, helps to teach us the actual value and right use of the Imagination—of that wondrous faculty, which, left to ramble uncontrolled, leads us astray into a wilderness of perplexities and errors, a land of mists and shadows; but which, properly controlled by experience and reflection, becomes the noblest attribute of man; the source of poetic genius, the instrument of discovery in Science, without the aid of which Newton would never have invented fluxions, nor Davy have decomposed the earths and alkalies, nor would Columbus have found another Continent.
Presidential Address to Anniversary meeting of the Royal Society (30 Nov 1859), Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1860), 10, 165.
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Quite likely the twentieth century is destined to see the natural forces which will enable us to fly from continent to continent with a speed far exceeding that of a bird.
'The Outlook for the Flying Machine'. The Independent: A Weekly Magazine (22 Oct 1903), 2510.
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Reality is never skin-deep. The true nature of the earth and its full wealth of hidden treasures cannot be argued from the visible rocks, the rocks upon which we live and out of which we make our living. The face of the earth, with its upstanding continents and depressed ocean-deeps, its vast ornament of plateau and mountain-chain, is molded by structure and process in hidden depths.
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The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place. All through the long history of Earth it has been an area of unrest where waves have broken heavily against the land, where the tides have pressed forward over the continents, receded, and then returned. For no two suc-cessive days is the shore line precisely the same. Not only do the tides advance and retreat in their eternal rhythms, but the level of the sea itself is never at rest. It rises or falls as the glaciers melt or grow, as the floor of the deep ocean basins shifts under its increasing load of sediments, or as the Earth’s crust along the continental margins warps up or down in adjustment to strain and tension. Today a little more land may belong to the sea, tomorrow a little less. Always the edge of the sea remains an elusive and indefinable boundary.
The Edge of the Sea
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The forces which displace continents are the same as those which produce great fold-mountain ranges. Continental drift, faults and compressions, earthquakes, volcanicity, transgression cycles and polar wandering are undoubtedly connected causally on a grand scale. Their common intensification in certain periods of the earth’s history shows this to be true. However, what is cause and what effect, only the future will unveil.
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 179.
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The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.
The Discoverers (1985), 86.
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The transition from sea-floor spreading to plate tectonics is largely a change of emphasis. Sea-floor spreading is a view about the method of production of new oceans floor on the ridge axis. The magnetic lineations give the history of this production back into the late Mesozoic and illuminate the history of the new aseismic parts of the ocean floor. This naturally directed attention to the relation of the sea-floor to the continents. There are two approaches: in the first, one looks back in time to earlier arrangements of the continents; in the second, one considers the current problem of the disposal of the rapidly growing sea floor.
'The Emergence of Plate Tectonics: A Personal View', Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 1975, 3, 20.
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The United States is the most powerful technically advanced country in the world to-day. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today. This must be changed, if only in the essential interests of the Americans. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.
…...
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There are those who say that the human kidney was created to keep the blood pure, or more precisely, to keep our internal environment in an ideal balanced state. This I must deny. I grant that the human kidney is a marvelous organ, but I cannot grant that it was purposefully designed to excrete urine or to regulate the composition of the blood or to subserve the physiological welfare of Homo sapiens in any sense. Rather I contend that the human kidney manufactures the kind of urine that it does, and it maintains the blood in the composition which that fluid has, because this kidney has a certain functional architecture; and it owes that architecture not to design or foresight or to any plan, but to the fact that the earth is an unstable sphere with a fragile crust, to the geologic revolutions that for six hundred million years have raised and lowered continents and seas, to the predacious enemies, and heat and cold, and storms and droughts; to the unending succession of vicissitudes that have driven the mutant vertebrates from sea into fresh water, into desiccated swamps, out upon the dry land, from one habitation to another, perpetually in search of the free and independent life, perpetually failing, for one reason or another, to find it.
From Fish to Philosopher (1953), 210-1.
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Thus we conclude, that the strata both primary and secondary, both those of ancient and those of more recent origin, have had their materials furnished from the ruins of former continents, from the dissolution of rocks, or the destruction of animal or vegetable bodies, similar, at least in some respects, to those that now occupy the surface of the earth.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 14-5.
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We are consuming our forests three times faster than they are being reproduced. Some of the richest timber lands of this continent have already been destroyed, and not replaced, and other vast areas are on the verge of destruction. Yet forests, unlike mines, can be so handled as to yield the best results of use, without exhaustion, just like grain fields.
Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tennessee (4 Oct 1907), 'Our National Inland Waterways Policy'. In American Waterways (1908), 9.
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We are like the explorers of a great continent, who have penetrated its margins in most points of the compass and have mapped the major mountain chains and rivers. There are still innumerable details to fill in, but the endless horizons no longer exist.
Stating his belief that within a generation or two, scientific progress was likely to halt. In Presidential Address (28 Dec 1970) to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 'Science: Endless Horizons or Golden Age?', Science (8 Jan 1971), 171, No. 3866, 24. Quoted in obituary by Douglas Martin, New York Times (20 Jan 2005).
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We are not at the end of our progress but at the beginning. We have but reached the shores of a great unexplored continent. We cannot turn back. … It is man’s destiny to ponder on the riddle of existence and, as a by-product of his wonderment, to create a new life on this earth.
As quoted in book review, T.A. Boyd, 'Charles F. Kettering: Prophet of Progress', Science (30 Jan 1959), 255.
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We may conclude, that the flux and reflux of the ocean have produced all the mountains, valleys, and other inequalities on the surface of the earth; that currents of the sea have scooped out the valleys, elevated the hills, and bestowed on them their corresponding directions; that that same waters of the ocean, by transporting and depositing earth, &c., have given rise to the parallel strata; that the waters from the heavens gradually destroy the effects of the sea, by continually diminishing the height of the mountains, filling up the valleys, and choking the mouths of rivers; and, by reducing every thing to its former level, they will, in time, restore the earth to the sea, which, by its natural operations, will again create new continents, interspersed with mountains and valleys, every way similar to those we inhabit.
'Second Discours: Histoire et Théorie de la Terre', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. I, 124; Natural History, General and Particular (1785), Vol. I, Irans. W. Smellie, 57-8.
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We urgently need [the landmark National Ocean Policy] initiative, as we use our oceans heavily: Cargo ships crisscross the sea, carrying goods between continents. Commercial and recreational fishing boats chase fish just offshore. Cruise ships cruise. Oil and gas drilling continues, but hopefully we will add renewable energy projects as well. Without planning, however, these various industrial activities amount to what we call “ocean sprawl,” steamrolling the resources we rely upon for our livelihoods, food, fun, and even the air we breathe. While humankind relies on many of these industries, we also need to keep the natural riches that support them healthy and thriving. As an explorer, I know firsthand there are many places in the ocean so full of life that they should be protected.
In 'A Blueprint for Our Blue Home', Huffington Post (18 Jul 2011).
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What intellectual phenomenon can be older, or more oft repeated, than the story of a large research program that impaled itself upon a false central assumption accepted by all practitioners? Do we regard all people who worked within such traditions as dishonorable fools? What of the scientists who assumed that the continents were stable, that the hereditary material was protein, or that all other galaxies lay within the Milky Way? These false and abandoned efforts were pursued with passion by brilliant and honorable scientists. How many current efforts, now commanding millions of research dollars and the full attention of many of our best scientists, will later be exposed as full failures based on false premises?
…...
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When the aggregate amount of solid matter transported by rivers in a given number of centuries from a large continent, shall be reduced to arithmetical computation, the result will appear most astonishing to those...not in the habit of reflecting how many of the mightiest of operations in nature are effected insensibly, without noise or disorder.
Principles of Geology (1837), Vol. 1, 230.
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With such wisdom has nature ordered things in the economy of this world, that the destruction of one continent is not brought about without the renovation of the earth in the production of another.
Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and Illustrations, Vol. 1 (1795), 183.
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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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