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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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Copy Quotes (33 quotes)

To Laplace, on receiving a copy of the Mécanique Céleste:
The first six months, which I can spare will be employed in reading it.
Correspondance de Napoléon ler, 27 vendémiaire an VIII [19 October 1799] no. 4384 (1861), Vol. 6, I. Trans. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science (1997), 176.
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But what exceeds all wonders, I have discovered four new planets and observed their proper and particular motions, different among themselves and from the motions of all the other stars; and these new planets move about another very large star [Jupiter] like Venus and Mercury, and perchance the other known planets, move about the Sun. As soon as this tract, which I shall send to all the philosophers and mathematicians as an announcement, is finished, I shall send a copy to the Most Serene Grand Duke, together with an excellent spyglass, so that he can verify all these truths.
Letter to the Tuscan Court, 30 Jan 1610. Quoted in Albert van Heiden (ed.), Siderius Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger (1989), 18.
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Copy from one, it’s plagiarism; copy from two, it’s research.
…...
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Copying extensively from one source is plagiarism; copying extensively from several is research.
Anonymous
N. E. Renton, Compendium of Good Writing: A Plain English Guide (2007), 113.
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Early in my school days a boy had a copy of the “Wonders of the World,” which I often read, and disputed with other boys about the veracity of some of the statements; and I believe that this book first gave me a wish to travel in remote countries, which was ultimately fulfilled by the voyage of the Beagle.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), 'Autobiography', The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887, 1896), Vol. 1, 31.
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Every complete set of chromosomes contains the full code; so there are, as a rule, two copies of the latter in the fertilized egg cell, which forms the earliest stage of the future individual. In calling the structure of the chromosome fibres a code-script we mean that the all-penetrating mind, once conceived by Laplace, to which every causal connection lay immediately open, could tell from their structure whether the egg would develop, under suitable conditions, into a black cock or into a speckled hen, into a fly or a maize plant, a rhododendron, a beetle, a mouse or a woman. To which we may add, that the appearances of the egg cells are very often remarkably similar; and even when they are not, as in the case of the comparatively gigantic eggs of birds and reptiles, the difference is not so much in the relevant structures as in the nutritive material which in these cases is added for obvious reasons.
But the term code-script is, of course, too narrow. The chromosome structures are at the same time instrumental in bringing about the development they foreshadow. They are law-code and executive power?or, to use another simile, they are architect's plan and builder’s craft-in one.
In What is Life? : The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell (1944), 20-21.
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How might letters be most efficiently copied so that the blind might read them with their fingers?
Aphorism 28 in Notebook J (1789-1793), as translated by R. J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 133.
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I have just received copies of “To-day” containing criticisms of my letter. I am in no way surprised to find that these criticisms are not only unfair and misleading in the extreme. They are misleading in so far that anyone reading them would be led to believe the exact opposite of the truth. It is quite possible that I, an old and trained engineer and chronic experimenter, should put an undue value upon truth; but it is common to all scientific men. As nothing but the truth is of any value to them, they naturally dislike things that are not true. ... While my training has, perhaps, warped my mind so that I put an undue value upon truth, their training has been such as to cause them to abhor exact truth and logic.
[Replying to criticism by Colonel Acklom and other religious parties attacking Maxim's earlier contribution to the controversy about the modern position of Christianity.]
In G.K. Chesterton, 'The Maxims of Maxim', Daily News (25 Feb 1905). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 86.
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If we wish to imitate the physical sciences, we must not imitate them in their contemporary, most developed form; we must imitate them in their historical youth, when their state of development was comparable to our own at the present time. Otherwise we should behave like boys who try to copy the imposing manners of full-grown men without understanding their raison d’être, also without seeing that in development one cannot jump over intermediate and preliminary phases.
Gestalt Psychology (1929), 32.
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In any conceivable method ever invented by man, an automaton which produces an object by copying a pattern, will go first from the pattern to a description to the object. It first abstracts what the thing is like, and then carries it out. It’s therefore simpler not to extract from a real object its definition, but to start from the definition.
From lecture series on self-replicating machines at the University of Illinois, Lecture 5 (Dec 1949), 'Re-evaluation of the Problems of Complicated Automata—Problems of Hierarchy and Evolution', Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (1966).
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It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and eminent people when they are speeches, that we should cultivate habit of thinking of what we are do The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle—they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 61.
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It is essential for genetic material to be able to make exact copies of itself; otherwise growth would produce disorder, life could not originate, and favourable forms would not be perpetuated by natural selection.
Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1962). In Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine, 1942-1962 (1999, 762.
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It is frivolous to fix pedantically the date of particular inventions. They have all been invented over and over fifty times. Man is the arch machine, of which all these shifts drawn from himself are toy models. He helps himself on each emergency by copying or duplicating his own structure, just so far as the need is.
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It would be as if you were appointed to be copy editor to Dante. If you were the assistant to Dante, and then Dante died, and then you had in your possession the whole of “The Divine Comedy,” what would you do?
On the challenge of taking over (from the late Edwin Hubble) and continuing the universe expansion research at the new 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain, California. It was just as the telescope was going into operation, and Sandage was a fresh Ph.D. at age 27. As quoted in Obituary, 'Allan Sandage, 84, Astronomer, Dies; Charted Cosmos’s Age and Expansion', New York Times (17 Nov 2010), B19.
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Nature indifferently copied is far superior to the best idealities.
Journal entry (1 Mar 1827). On an artist’s goal to faithfully reproduce nature as actually observed, not stylized or contrived. He explained this credo a young artist (J.B. Kidd, age 19) over breakfast. Stated in John James Audubon and Mrs. Audubon (ed.), The Life and Adventures of John James Audubon, the Naturalist (1868), 140.
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Parasites are not only incredibly diverse; they are also incredibly successful. There are parasitic stretches of DNA in your own genes, some of which are called retrotransposons. Many of the parasitic stretches were originally viruses that entered our DNA. Most of them don't do us any harm. They just copy and insert themselves in other parts of our DNA, basically replicating themselves. Sometimes they hop into other species and replicate themselves in a new host. According to one estimate, roughly one-third to one-half of all human DNA is basically parasitic.
Talk at Columbia University, 'The Power of Parasites.'
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Politicians, real-estate agents, used-car salesmen, and advertising copy-writers are expected to stretch facts in self-serving directions, but scientists who falsify their results are regarded by their peers as committing an inexcusable crime. Yet the sad fact is that the history of science swarms with cases of outright fakery and instances of scientists who unconsciously distorted their work by seeing it through lenses of passionately held beliefs.
Science Good, Bad and Bogus (1981), 123.
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Politicians, real-estate agents, used-car salesmen, and advertising copy-writers are expected to stretch facts in self-serving directions, but scientists who falsify their results are regarded by their peers as committing an inexcusable crime. Yet the sad fact is that the history of science swarms with cases of outright fakery and instances of scientists who unconsciously distorted their work by seeing it through lenses of passionately held beliefs.
In 'Great Fakes Of Science', Science Good, Bad and Bogus (1983), 123. Excerpted in John Carey (ed.), Eyewitness to Science (1995), 451.
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Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.
…...
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Roger, we copy. It was beautiful from here, Tranquility. Over.
…...
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Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others.
As quoted in The Artist (1978), 93, 5.
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The need for a quick, satisfactory copying machine that could be used right in the office seemed very apparent to me—there seemed such a crying need for it—such a desirable thing if it could be obtained. So I set out to think of how one could be made.
In interview with Dumond (1947) quoted in David owen, Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communications Breakthrough Since Gutenberg (2008), 70.
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The way of pure research is opposed to all the copy-book maxims concerning the virtues of industry and a fixed purpose, and the evils of guessing, but it is damned useful when it comes off. It is the diametrical opposite of Edison’s reputed method of trying every conceivable expedient until he hit the right one. It requires, not diligence, but experience, information, and a good nose for the essence of a problem.
Letter to Paul de Kruif (3 Aug 1933), as quoted in Nathan Reingold, Science in America: A Documentary History 1900-1939 (1981), 409.
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There is a noble vision of the great Castle of Mathematics, towering somewhere in the Platonic World of Ideas, which we humbly and devotedly discover (rather than invent). The greatest mathematicians manage to grasp outlines of the Grand Design, but even those to whom only a pattern on a small kitchen tile is revealed, can be blissfully happy. … Mathematics is a proto-text whose existence is only postulated but which nevertheless underlies all corrupted and fragmentary copies we are bound to deal with. The identity of the writer of this proto-text (or of the builder of the Castle) is anybody’s guess. …
In 'Mathematical Knowledge: Internal, Social, and Cultural Aspects', Mathematics As Metaphor: Selected Essays (2007), 4.
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They say that every formula halves the sales of a popular science book. This is rubbish–if it was true, then The Emperor’s New Mind by Roger Penrose would have sold one-eighth of a copy, whereas its actual sales were in the hundreds of thousands.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 23.
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To copy others is necessary but to copy oneself is pathetic.
1959 Spring, As quoted, without citation, in Cyril Barrett, 'The Mystery of Pablo Picasso: Harlequin and the Minotaur', Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review (Spring 1959), 48, No. 189, 47. As cited on quoteinvestigator.com website.
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To learn the language of art, copy for ever is my rule.
Marginal note (c. 1808) written on table of contents page in his copy of The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1798), beside “Much copying discountenanced”. As given in William Blake, Edwin John Ellis (ed.) and William Butler Yeats (ed.), The Works of William Blake (1893), Vol. 2, 319.
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We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA. ... This is exactly what we are for. We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object's sole reason for living.
Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, 'The Ultraviolet Garden', (No. 4, 1991). Quoted in Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 187.
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What we do may be small, but it has a certain character of permanence and to have produced anything of the slightest permanent interest, whether it be a copy of verses or a geometrical theorem, is to have done something utterly beyond the powers of the vast majority of men.
From Inaugural Lecture, Oxford (1920). Recalled in A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 76.
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When Ramanujan was sixteen, he happened upon a copy of Carr’s Synopsis of Mathematics. This chance encounter secured immortality for the book, for it was this book that suddenly woke Ramanujan into full mathematical activity and supplied him essentially with his complete mathematical equipment in analysis and number theory. The book also gave Ramanujan his general direction as a dealer in formulas, and it furnished Ramanujan the germs of many of his deepest developments.
In Mathematical Circles Squared (1972), 158. George Shoobridge Carr (1837-1914) wrote his Synopsis of Elementary Results in Mathematics in 1886.
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Whereas what knowledge we derive from lectures, reading and conversation, is but the copy of other men’s men's ideas; that is, the picture of a picture; and ’tis one remove farther from the original.
In Interesting Anecdotes, Memoirs, Allegories, Essays, and Poetical Fragments (1793), Vols 3-4, Vol 4, 72-73.
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Your life is your spiritual path. It’s what’s right in front of you. You can’t live anyone else’s life. The task is to live yours and stop trying to copy one you think looks better.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 245
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[Florence Nightingale] was a great administrator, and to reach excellence here is impossible without being an ardent student of statistics. Florence Nightingale has been rightly termed the “Passionate Statistician.” Her statistics were more than a study, they were indeed her religion. For her, Quetelet was the hero as scientist, and the presentation copy of his Physique Sociale is annotated by her on every page. Florence Nightingale believed—and in all the actions of her life acted upon that belief—that the administrator could only be successful if he were guided by statistical knowledge. The legislator—to say nothing of the politician—too often failed for want of this knowledge. Nay, she went further: she held that the universe—including human communities—was evolving in accordance with a divine plan; that it was man's business to endeavour to understand this plan and guide his actions in sympathy with it. But to understand God's thoughts, she held we must study statistics, for these are the measure of his purpose. Thus the study of statistics was for her a religious duty.
In Karl Pearson, The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton (1924), Vol. 2, 414-5.
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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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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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