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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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Curiosity Quotes (128 quotes)


230(231-1) ... is the greatest perfect number known at present, and probably the greatest that ever will be discovered; for; as they are merely curious without being useful, it is not likely that any person will attempt to find a number beyond it.
In An Elementary Investigation of the Theory of Numbers (1811), 43. The stated number, which evaluates as 2305843008139952128 was discovered by Euler in 1772 as the eighth known perfect number. It has 19 digits. By 2013, the 48th perfect number found had 34850340 digits.
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Error of confounding cause and effect.—There is no more dangerous error than confounding consequence with cause: I call it the intrinsic depravity of reason. … I take an example: everybody knows the book of the celebrated Comaro, in which he recommends his spare diet as a recipe for a long and happy life,—for a virtuous life also. Few books have been read so much… I believe hardly any book … has caused so much harm, has shortened so many lives, as this well-meant curiosity. The source of this mischief is in confounding consequence with cause. The candid Italian saw in his diet the cause of his long life, while the prerequisite to long life, the extraordinary slowness of the metabolic process, small consumption, was the cause of his spare diet. He was not at liberty to eat little or much; his frugality—was not of “free will;” he became sick when he ate more.
From 'The Four Great Errors', The Twilight of the Idols (1888), collected in Thomas Common (trans.), The Works of Friedrich Nietzsche (1896), Vol. 11, 139.
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L’art d’enseigner n’est que l’art d’éveiller la curiosité des jeunes âmes pour la satisfaire ensuite.
The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.
The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1894) translated by Lafcadio Hearn, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 198.
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A good scientist is a person in whom the childhood quality of perennial curiosity lingers on. Once he gets an answer, he has other questions.
Widely circulated without citation, for example, in Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans III and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (1991), 471. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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A great discovery solves a great problem, but there is a grain of discovery in the solution of any problem. Your problem may be modest, but if it challenges your curiosity and brings into play your inventive faculties, and if you solve it by your own means, you may experience the tension and enjoy the triumph of discovery.
From Preface to the first printing, reprinted in How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (2004), v.
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A teacher of mathematics has a great opportunity. If he fills his allotted time with drilling his students in routine operations he kills their interest, hampers their intellectual development, and misuses his opportunity. But if he challenges the curiosity of his students by setting them problems proportionate to their knowledge, and helps them to solve their problems with stimulating questions, he may give them a taste for, and some means of, independent thinking.
In How to Solve It (1948), Preface.
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All anybody has to say to Edward [Teller] is, ‘We’ve got a problem here, we need you,’ and— zip! he’s into it. It’s helpfulness, plus maybe vanity, but mostly just curiosity.
Anonymous
As described by an unidentified friend, quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 62.
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All children are curious and I wonder by what process this trait becomes developed in some and suppressed in others. I suspect again that schools and colleges help in the suppression insofar as they meet curiosity by giving the answers, rather than by some method that leads from narrower questions to broader questions. It is hard to satisfy the curiosity of a child, and even harder to satisfy the curiosity of a scientist, and methods that meet curiosity with satisfaction are thus not apt to foster the development of the child into the scientist. I don't advocate turning all children into professional scientists, although I think there would be advantages if all adults retained something of the questioning attitude, if their curiosity were less easily satisfied by dogma, of whatever variety.
The Nature of Natural History (1950, 1990), 256-257.
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All the good experimental physicists I have known have had an intense curiosity that no Keep Out sign could mute.
In Adventures of a Physicist (1987), 14.
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Almost in the beginning was curiosity.
In The Intelligent Man’s Guide to the Physical Sciences (1960, 1968), 1. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 194.
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Animals manifestly enjoy excitement, and suffer from annul and may exhibit curiosity.
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), Vol. 1, 41.
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Applied research generates improvements, not breakthroughs. Great scientific advances spring from pure research. Even scientists renowned for their “useful” applied discoveries often achieved success only when they abandoned their ostensible applied-science goal and allowed their minds to soar—as when Alexander Fleming, “just playing about,” refrained from throwing away green molds that had ruined his experiment, studied them, and discovered penicillin. Or when C. A. Clarke, a physician affiliated with the University of Liverpool, became intrigued in the 1950s by genetically created color patterns that emerged when he cross-bred butterflies as a hobby. His fascination led him—“by the pleasant route of pursuing idle curiosity”—to the successful idea for preventing the sometimes fatal anemia that threatened babies born of a positive-Rhesus-factor father and a negative-Rhesus-factor mother.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 214-215.
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Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
In Juz Griffiths, Disneyland Paris - The Family Guide (2007), opening page.
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As a naturalist you will never suffer from that awful modern disease called boredom—so go out and greet the natural world with curiosity and delight, and enjoy it.
In The Amateur Naturalist (1989), 7.
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As children we all possess a natural, uninhibited curiosity, a hunger for explanation, which seems to die slowly as we age—suppressed, I suppose, by the high value we place on conformity and by the need not to appear ignorant.
It betokens a conviction that somehow science is innately incomprehensible. It precludes reaching deeper, thereby denying the profound truth that understanding enriches experience, that explanation vastly enhances the beauty of the natural world in the eye of the beholder.
In Toward the Habit of Truth (1990).
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As I strayed into the study of an eminent physicist, I observed hanging against the wall, framed like a choice engraving, several dingy, ribbon-like strips of, I knew not what... My curiosity was at once aroused. What were they? ... They might be shreds of mummy-wraps or bits of friable bark-cloth from the Pacific, ... [or] remnants from a grandmother’s wedding dress... They were none of these... He explained that they were carefully-prepared photographs of portions of the Solar Spectrum. I stood and mused, absorbed in the varying yet significant intensities of light and shade, bordered by mystic letters and symbolic numbers. As I mused, the pale legend began to glow with life. Every line became luminous with meaning. Every shadow was suffused with light shining from behind, suggesting some mighty achievement of knowledge; of knowledge growing more daring in proportion to the remoteness of the object known; of knowledge becoming more positive in its answers, as the questions which were asked seemed unanswerable. No Runic legend, no Babylonish arrowhead, no Egyptian hieroglyph, no Moabite stone, could present a history like this, or suggest thoughts of such weighty import or so stimulate and exalt the imagination.
The Sciences of Nature Versus the Science of Man: A Plea for the Science of Man (1871), 7-9.
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As long as museums and universities send out expeditions to bring to light new forms of living and extinct animals and new data illustrating the interrelations of organisms and their environments, as long as anatomists desire a broad comparative basis human for anatomy, as long as even a few students feel a strong curiosity to learn about the course of evolution and relationships of animals, the old problems of taxonomy, phylogeny and evolution will gradually reassert themselves even in competition with brilliant and highly fruitful laboratory studies in cytology, genetics and physiological chemistry.
'Genetics Versus Paleontology', The American Naturalist, 1917, 51, 623.
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At no period of [Michael Faraday’s] unmatched career was he interested in utility. He was absorbed in disentangling the riddles of the universe, at first chemical riddles, in later periods, physical riddles. As far as he cared, the question of utility was never raised. Any suspicion of utility would have restricted his restless curiosity. In the end, utility resulted, but it was never a criterion to which his ceaseless experimentation could be subjected.
'The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge', Harper's Magazine (Jun/Nov 1939), No. 179, 546. In Hispania (Feb 1944), 27, No. 1, 77.
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But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge: for men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men...
The First Book of Francis Bacon of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning (1605). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 174
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But weightier still are the contentment which comes from work well done, the sense of the value of science for its own sake, insatiable curiosity, and, above all, the pleasure of masterly performance and of the chase. These are the effective forces which move the scientist. The first condition for the progress of science is to bring them into play.
from his preface to Claude Bernard's 'Experimental Medicine'
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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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By profession a biologist, [Thomas Henry Huxley] covered in fact the whole field of the exact sciences, and then bulged through its four fences. Absolutely nothing was uninteresting to him. His curiosity ranged from music to theology and from philosophy to history. He didn't simply know something about everything; he knew a great deal about everything.
'Thomas Henry Huxley.' In the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925). Reprinted in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy: A New Selection from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (2006), 157.
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Conquest has explored more than ever curiosity has done; and the path for science has been commonly opened by the sword.
In 'Island of Ceylon', Edinburgh Review (1803) collected in The Works of the Rev. Sydney Smith (1840), 350.
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Curiosity is as much the parent of attention, as attention is of memory.
From Annotation to Essay 50, 'Of Studies', in Bacon’s Essays: With Annotations (1856), 446.
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Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.
As quoted, without citation in Quotable Quotes (1997), 136. Webmaster has not yet found an earlier example. As an interesting, pithy quote, why does it not appear in vintage quote collections? Be cautious in accepting the attribution. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Curiosity that inborn property of man, daughter of ignorance and mother of knowledge when wonder wakens our minds, has the habit, wherever it sees some extraordinary phenomenon of nature, a comet for example, a sun-dog, or a midday star, of asking straightway what it means.
In The New Science (3rd ed., 1744), Book 1, Para. 189, as translated by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch, The New Science of Giambattista Vico (1948), 64.
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Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.
The Crock of Gold (1912), 9
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Dust consisting of fine fibers of asbestos, which are insoluble and virtually indestructible, may become a public health problem in the near future. At a recent international conference on the biological effects of asbestos sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, participants pointed out on the one hand that workers exposed to asbestos dust are prone in later life to develop lung cancer, and on the other hand that the use of this family of fibrous silicate compounds has expanded enormously during the past few decades. A laboratory curiosity 100 years ago, asbestos today is a major component of building materials.
Magazine
In Scientific American (Sep 1964). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Dec 2014), 311, No. 6, 98.
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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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First, the chief character, who is supposed to be a professional astronomer, spends his time fund raising and doing calculations at his desk, rather than observing the sky. Second, the driving force of a scientific project is institutional self-aggrandizement rather than intellectual curiosity.
[About the state of affairs in academia.]
In Marc J. Madou, Fundamentals of Microfabrication: the Science of Miniaturization (2nd ed., 2002), 535
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For I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, nor an experimenter, not a thinker. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador—an adventurer... with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort.
Letter to Wilhelm Fliess, 1 Feb 1900. In Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (ed.), The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess (1985), 398.
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Gas Lights - Without Oil, Tallow, Wicks or Smoke. It is not necessary to invite attention to the gas lights by which my salon of paintings is now illuminated; those who have seen the ring beset with gems of light are sufficiently disposed to spread their reputation; the purpose of this notice is merely to say that the Museum will be illuminated every evening until the public curiosity be gratified.
[Promoting the gas lights Peale installed to attract paying visitors to his museum of portraits and natural history exhibits.]
First advertisement for Peale's Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts, American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (13 Jun 1816) (source)
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Give people facts and you feed their minds for an hour. Awaken curiosity and they feed their own minds for a lifetime.
Originally written for an ECSITE Newsletter, Food for Thought article, used for a long time as a personal e-mail signature, then posted on the website of interactives.co.uk
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Have holy curiosity.
…...
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Human behaviour reveals uniformities which constitute natural laws. If these uniformities did not exist, then there would be neither social science nor political economy, and even the study of history would largely be useless. In effect, if the future actions of men having nothing in common with their past actions, our knowledge of them, although possibly satisfying our curiosity by way of an interesting story, would be entirely useless to us as a guide in life.
In Cours d’Economie Politique (1896-7), Vol. 2, 397.
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I am curious in a super-apish way. I like finding out things. That … is all that the “noble self-sacrificing devotion to truth” of 99-44/100% of all scientists amounts to—simple curiosity. That is the spirit in which nearly all productive scientific research is carried on.
Letter from London (20 Apr 1937), No. 81, in George Gaylord Simpson and Léo F. LaPorte (ed.), Simple Curiosity: Letters from George Gaylord Simpson to His Family, 1921-1970 (1987), 34.
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I do believe that a scientist is a freelance personality. We’re driven by an impulse which is one of curiosity, which is one of the basic instincts that a man has. So we are … driven … not by success, but by a sort of passion, namely the desire of understanding better, to possess, if you like, a bigger part of the truth. I do believe that science, for me, is very close to art.
From 'Asking Nature', collected in Lewis Wolpert and Alison Richards (eds.), Passionate Minds: The Inner World of Scientists (1997), 197.
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I do not think we can impose limits on research. Through hundreds of thousands of years, man’s intellectual curiosity has been essential to all the gains we have made. Although in recent times we have progressed from chance and hit-or-miss methods to consciously directed research, we still cannot know in advance what the results may be. It would be regressive and dangerous to trammel the free search for new forms of truth.
In Margaret Mead and Rhoda Bubendey Métraux (ed.), Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views (1979), 89.
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I had at one time a very bad fever of which I almost died. In my fever I had a long consistent delirium. I dreamt that I was in Hell, and that Hell is a place full of all those happenings that are improbable but not impossible. The effects of this are curious. Some of the damned, when they first arrive below, imagine that they will beguile the tedium of eternity by games of cards. But they find this impossible, because, whenever a pack is shuffled, it comes out in perfect order, beginning with the Ace of Spades and ending with the King of Hearts. There is a special department of Hell for students of probability. In this department there are many typewriters and many monkeys. Every time that a monkey walks on a typewriter, it types by chance one of Shakespeare's sonnets. There is another place of torment for physicists. In this there are kettles and fires, but when the kettles are put on the fires, the water in them freezes. There are also stuffy rooms. But experience has taught the physicists never to open a window because, when they do, all the air rushes out and leaves the room a vacuum.
'The Metaphysician's Nightmare', Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories (1954), 38-9.
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I happen to be a kind of monkey. I have a monkeylike curiosity that makes me want to feel, smell, and taste things which arouse my curiosity, then to take them apart. It was born in me. Not everybody is like that, but a scientific researchist should be. Any fool can show me an experiment is useless. I want a man who will try it and get something out of it.
Quoted in Guy Suits, ''Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 357.
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I think all museums should be directed toward 12-year-old boys. They’re the brightest group you can find and this is the age when you can arouse their curiosity and interest.
As quoted in Frances Glennon, 'Student and Teacher of Human Ways', Life (14 Sep 1959), 147.
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I think physicists are the Peter Pans of the human race. They never grow up, and they keep their curiosity.
In Jeremy Bernstein, 'Rabi: The Modern Age', Experiencing Science (1978), 102. Part of Rabi’s response to Bernstein’s interview question, about at which age, in his opinion, physicists tend to run down. Previously published in 'Physicist', The New Yorker (1970).
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I wanted to see what no one had yet observed, even if I had to pay for this curiosity with my life.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea translated by Walter James Miller and Frederick Paul Walter (1870). In Gary Westfahl, Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (2006), 116.
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If intellectual curiosity, professional pride, and ambition are the dominant incentives to research, then assuredly no one has a fairer chance of gratifying them than a mathematician.
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 80.
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In future times Tait will be best known for his work in the quaternion analysis. Had it not been for his expositions, developments and applications, Hamilton’s invention would be today, in all probability, a mathematical curiosity.
In Bibliotheca Mathematica (1903), 3, 189. As cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 178. [Note: Tait is Peter Guthrie Tait; Hamilton is Sir William Rowan Hamilton. —Webmaster]
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In geometry, as in most sciences, it is very rare that an isolated proposition is of immediate utility. But the theories most powerful in practice are formed of propositions which curiosity alone brought to light, and which long remained useless without its being able to divine in what way they should one day cease to be so. In this sense it may be said, that in real science, no theory, no research, is in effect useless.
In 'Geometry', A Philosophical Dictionary, (1881), Vol. l, 374.
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In its earliest development knowledge is self-sown. Impressions force themselves upon men’s senses whether they will or not, and often against their will. The amount of interest in which these impressions awaken is determined by the coarser pains and pleasures which they carry in their train or by mere curiosity; and reason deals with the materials supplied to it as far as that interest carries it, and no further. Such common knowledge is rather brought than sought; and such ratiocination is little more than the working of a blind intellectual instinct. It is only when the mind passes beyond this condition that it begins to evolve science. When simple curiosity passes into the love of knowledge as such, and the gratification of the æsthetic sense of the beauty of completeness and accuracy seems more desirable that the easy indolence of ignorance; when the finding out of the causes of things becomes a source of joy, and he is accounted happy who is successful in the search, common knowledge passes into what our forefathers called natural history, whence there is but a step to that which used to be termed natural philosophy, and now passes by the name of physical science.
In this final state of knowledge the phenomena of nature are regarded as one continuous series of causes and effects; and the ultimate object of science is to trace out that series, from the term which is nearest to us, to that which is at the farthest limit accessible to our means of investigation.
The course of nature as it is, as it has been, and as it will be, is the object of scientific inquiry; whatever lies beyond, above, or below this is outside science. But the philosopher need not despair at the limitation on his field of labor; in relation to the human mind Nature is boundless; and, though nowhere inaccessible, she is everywhere unfathomable.
The Crayfish: an Introduction to the Study of Zoölogy (1880), 2-3. Excerpted in Popular Science (Apr 1880), 16, 789-790.
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In matters of science, curiosity gratified begets not indolence, but new desires.
Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and Illustrations, Vol. 3, ed. Archibald Geikie (1899), 16.
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In physiology, as in all other sciences, no discovery is useless, no curiosity misplaced or too ambitious, and we may be certain that every advance achieved in the quest of pure knowledge will sooner or later play its part in the service of man.
The Linacre Lecture on the Law of the Heart (1918), 147.
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In reality, all Arguments from Experience are founded on the Similarity which we discover among natural Objects, and by which we are induc'd to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such Objects. And tho' none but a Fool or Madman will ever pretend to dispute the Authority of Experience, or to reject that great Guide of human Life, it may surely be allow'd a Philosopher to have so much Curiosity at least as to examine the Principle of human Nature, which gives this mighty Authority to Experience, and makes us draw Advantage from that Similarity which Nature has plac'd among different Objects. From Causes which appear similar we expect similar Effects. This is the Sum of our experimental Conclusions.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 63.
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In the enfranchised mind of the scientific naturalist, the usual feelings of repugnance simply do not exist. Curiosity conquers prejudice.
Under pen-name of W. N. P. Barbellion, Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919), 215
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In the year 2000, the solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people: harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.
[The next President, Republican Ronald Reagan, removed the solar panels and gutted renewable energy research budgets. The road was not taken, nationally, in the eight years of his presidency. Several of the panels are, indeed, now in museums. Most were bought as government surplus and put to good use on a college roof.]
Speech, at dedication of solar panels on the White House roof, 'Solar Energy Remarks Announcing Administration Proposals' (20 Jun 1979).
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Individual curiosity, often working without practical ends in mind, has always been a driving force for innovation.
From The Science Matrix: The Journey, Travails, Triumphs (1992, 1998), 39.
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Inventive genius requires pleasurable mental activity as a condition for its vigorous exercise. “Necessity is the mother of invention” is a silly proverb. “Necessity is the mother of futile dodges” is much closer to the truth. The basis of growth of modern invention is science, and science is almost wholly the outgrowth of pleasurable intellectual curiosity.
In 'Technical Education and Its Relation to Science and Literature', The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1917), 69.
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Is it not true that electricity, and all the prodigies it has hitherto discovered, have only served to excite curiosity?
Letter to Jean le Rond D'Alembert (7 Jan 1768). Collected in Correspondence: Letters Between Frederick II and M. D’Alembert (1789), 79, as translated by Thomas Holcroft.
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It is a strange feeling which comes over one as he stands in the centre of the tunnel, and knows that a mighty river is rolling on over his head, and that great ships with their thousands of tons burthen, sail over him. ... There is no single work of Art in London (with the exception of St. Paul's Cathedral) which excites so much curiosity and admiration among foreigners as the Tunnel. Great buildings are common to all parts of Europe, but the world has not such another Tunnel as this. There is something grand in the idea of walking under a broad river—making a pathway dry and secure beneath ships and navies!
[About visiting Brunel's Thames Tunnel, the first in the world under a navigable waterway.]
What I Saw in London: or, Men and Things in the Great Metropolis (1853), 168-169.
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It is better to have a few forms well known than to teach a little about many hundred species. Better a dozen specimens thoroughly studied as the result of the first year’s work, than to have two thousand dollars’ worth of shells and corals bought from a curiosity-shop. The dozen animals would be your own.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147.
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It is curious how often erroneous theories have had a beneficial effect for particular branches of science.
The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution and Inheritance (1982), 847.
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It is curious to observe how differently these great men [Plato and Bacon] estimated the value of every kind of knowledge. Take Arithmetic for example. Plato, after speaking slightly of the convenience of being able to reckon and compute in the ordinary transactions of life, passes to what he considers as a far more important advantage. The study of the properties of numbers, he tells us, habituates the mind to the contemplation of pure truth, and raises us above the material universe. He would have his disciples apply themselves to this study, not that they may be able to buy or sell, not that they may qualify themselves to be shop-keepers or travelling merchants, but that they may learn to withdraw their minds from the ever-shifting spectacle of this visible and tangible world, and to fix them on the immutable essences of things.
Bacon, on the other hand, valued this branch of knowledge only on account of its uses with reference to that visible and tangible world which Plato so much despised. He speaks with scorn of the mystical arithmetic of the later Platonists, and laments the propensity of mankind to employ, on mere matters of curiosity, powers the whole exertion of which is required for purposes of solid advantage. He advises arithmeticians to leave these trifles, and employ themselves in framing convenient expressions which may be of use in physical researches.
In 'Lord Bacon', Edinburgh Review (Jul 1837). Collected in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays: Contributed to the Edinburgh Review (1857), Vol. 1, 394.
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It is hard to hide our genes completely. However devoted someone may be to the privacy of his genotype, others with enough curiosity and knowledge can draw conclusions from the phenotype he presents and from the traits of his relatives.
In The Lives to Come: the Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities (1997), 127.
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It is not easy to name another sailor who has supplied such valuable information to the world; he had a passion for reporting exactly as he saw it, with a delicate and perfect style; he felt an unending curiosity that made his accounts have a unique delicate touch.
describing William Dampier in Burney's Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea (1803)
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It is said that the composing of the Lilavati was occasioned by the following circumstance. Lilavati was the name of the author’s daughter, concerning whom it appeared, from the qualities of the ascendant at her birth, that she was destined to pass her life unmarried, and to remain without children. The father ascertained a lucky hour for contracting her in marriage, that she might be firmly connected and have children. It is said that when that hour approached, he brought his daughter and his intended son near him. He left the hour cup on the vessel of water and kept in attendance a time-knowing astrologer, in order that when the cup should subside in the water, those two precious jewels should be united. But, as the intended arrangement was not according to destiny, it happened that the girl, from a curiosity natural to children, looked into the cup, to observe the water coming in at the hole, when by chance a pearl separated from her bridal dress, fell into the cup, and, rolling down to the hole, stopped the influx of water. So the astrologer waited in expectation of the promised hour. When the operation of the cup had thus been delayed beyond all moderate time, the father was in consternation, and examining, he found that a small pearl had stopped the course of the water, and that the long-expected hour was passed. In short, the father, thus disappointed, said to his unfortunate daughter, I will write a book of your name, which shall remain to the latest times—for a good name is a second life, and the ground-work of eternal existence.
In Preface to the Persian translation of the Lilavati by Faizi (1587), itself translated into English by Strachey and quoted in John Taylor (trans.) Lilawati, or, A Treatise on Arithmetic and Geometry by Bhascara Acharya (1816), Introduction, 3. [The Lilavati is the 12th century treatise on mathematics by Indian mathematician, Bhaskara Acharya, born 1114.]
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It required unusual inquisitiveness to pursue the development of scientific curiosities such as charged pith balls, the voltaic cell, and the electrostatic machine. Without such endeavors and the evolution of associated instrumentation, initially of purely scientific interest, most of the investigations that lead to the basic equations of electromagnetism would have been missed. … We would have been deprived of electromagnetic machinery as well as knowledge of electromagnetic waves.
From The Science Matrix: The Journey, Travails, Triumphs (1992, 1998), 14.
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John [H.] Van Vleck, who was a leading young theoretical physicist when I was also a leading young theoretical physicist, said to me one day, “I never have made a contribution to physics that I didn’t get by fiddling with the equations,” and I said, “I’ve never made a contribution that I didn’t get by just having a new idea. Then I would fiddle with the equations to help support the new idea.” Van Vleck was essentially a mathematical physicist, you might say, and I was essentially a person of ideas. I don’t think I’m primarily mathematical. … I have a great curiosity about the nature of the world as a whole, and most of my ideas are qualitative rather than quantitative.
Interview with George B. Kauffman and Laurie M. Kauffman, in 'Linus Pauling: Reflections', American Scientist (Nov-Dec 1994), 82, No. 6, 523.
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Joy in the universe, and keen curiosity about it all—that has been my religion.
The Heart of Burroughs's Journals (1928), 257.
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Knowledge of the laws of nature offers humankind the only chance of survival in a changing environment. … The search for knowledge gives expression to a basic curiosity which appears to be the salient defining characteristic of human beings.
From opening paragraph of Preface, Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies (1987).
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Learning is by nature, curiosity.
Philo
…...
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Looking at the thunder machine which had been set up, I saw not the slightest indication of the presence of electricity. However, while they were putting the food on the table, I obtained extraordinary electric sparks from the wire. My wife and others approached from it, for the reason that I wished to have witnesses see the various colors of fire about which the departed Professor Richmann used to argue with me. Suddenly it thundered most violently at the exact time that I was holding my hand to the metal, and sparks crackled. All fled away from me, and my wife implored that I go away. Curiosity kept me there two or three minutes more, until they told me that the soup was getting cold. By that time the force of electricity greatly subsided. I had sat at table only a few minutes when the man servant of the departed Richmann suddenly opened the door, all in tears and out of breath from fear. I thought that some one had beaten him as he was on his way to me, but he said, with difficulty, that the professor had been injured by thunder… . Nonetheless, Mr. Richmann died a splendid death, fulfilling a duty of his profession.
As quoted in Boris Menshutkin, 'Lomonosov: Excerpts', collected in Thomas Riha (ed.), Readings for Introduction to Russian Civilization (1963), Vol. 2, 30.
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Many of the things that have happened in the laboratory have happened in ways it would have been impossible to foresee, but not impossible to plan for in a sense. I do not think Dr. Whitney deliberately plans his serendipity but he is built that way; he has the art—an instinctive way of preparing himself by his curiosity and by his interest in people and in all kinds of things and in nature, so that the things he learns react on one another and thereby accomplish things that would be impossible to foresee and plan.
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 355.
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Mars is the next frontier, what the Wild West was, what America was 500 years ago. It’s time to strike out anew. Mars is where the action is for the next thousand years. The characteristic of human nature, and perhaps our simian branch of the family, is curiosity and exploration. When we stop doing that, we won’t be humans anymore. I’ve seen far more in my lifetime than I ever dreamed. Many of our problems on Earth can only be solved by space technology. The next step is in space. It’s inevitable.
…...
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Men will gather knowledge no matter what the consequences. Science will go on whether we are pessimistic or optimistic, as I am. More interesting discoveries than we can imagine will be made, and I am awaiting them, full of curiosity and enthusiasm.
'Dr Linus Pauling, Atomic Architect', Science Illustrated (1948), 3, 40.
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MUMMY, n. An ancient Egyptian, formerly in universal use among modern civilized nations as medicine, and now engaged in supplying art with an excellent pigment. He is handy, too, in museums in gratifying the vulgar curiosity that serves to distinguish man from the lower animals.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  226.
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My colleagues in elementary particle theory in many lands [and I] are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game. I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results. How can it be that writing down a few simple and elegant formulae, like short poems governed by strict rules such as those of the sonnet or the waka, can predict universal regularities of Nature?
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1969), in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.),Les Prix Nobel en 1969 (1970).
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My deeply held belief is that if a god of anything like the traditional sort exists, our curiosity and intelligence were provided by such a god…on the other hand if such a god does not exist then our curiosity and intelligence are the essential tools for survival. In either case the enterprise of knowledge is essential for the welfare of the human species.
In Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979), 341.
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Natural Magick therefore is that, which considering well the strength and force of Natural and Celestial beings, and with great curiosity labouring to discover their affections, produces into open Act the hidden and concealed powers of Nature.
In The Vanity of the Arts and Sciences (1530), translation (1676), 111.
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Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection.
In Emerson’s Complete Works: Volume 1, Nature, Addresses and Lectures (1855, 1889), 13-14.
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Never lose a holy curiosity.
…...
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Never was there a dogma more calculated to foster indolence, and to blunt the keen edge of curiosity, than ... [the] assumption of the discordance between the former and the existing causes of change.
Principles of Geology(1830-3), Vol. 3, 2-3.
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No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a publick library; for who can see the wall crouded on every side by mighty volumes, the works of laborious meditation, and accurate inquiry, now scarcely known but by the catalogue, and preserved only to encrease the pomp of learning, without considering how many hours have been wasted in vain endeavours, how often imagination has anticipated the praises of futurity, how many statues have risen to the eye of vanity, how many ideal converts have elevated zeal, how often wit has exulted in the eternal infamy of his antagonists, and dogmatism has delighted in the gradual advances of his authority, the immutability of his decrees, and the perpetuity of his power.
Non unquam dedit
Documenta fors majora, quam fragili loco
Starent superbi.

Seneca, Troades, II, 4-6
Insulting chance ne'er call'd with louder voice,
On swelling mortals to be proud no more.
Of the innumerable authors whose performances are thus treasured up in magnificent obscurity, most are forgotten, because they never deserved to be remembered, and owed the honours which they have once obtained, not to judgment or to genius, to labour or to art, but to the prejudice of faction, the stratagem of intrigue, or the servility of adulation.
Nothing is more common than to find men whose works are now totally neglected, mentioned with praises by their contemporaries, as the oracles of their age, and the legislators of science. Curiosity is naturally excited, their volumes after long enquiry are found, but seldom reward the labour of the search. Every period of time has produced these bubbles of artificial fame, which are kept up a while by the breath of fashion and then break at once and are annihilated. The learned often bewail the loss of ancient writers whose characters have survived their works; but perhaps if we could now retrieve them we should find them only the Granvilles, Montagus, Stepneys, and Sheffields of their time, and wonder by what infatuation or caprice they could be raised to notice.
It cannot, however, be denied, that many have sunk into oblivion, whom it were unjust to number with this despicable class. Various kinds of literary fame seem destined to various measures of duration. Some spread into exuberance with a very speedy growth, but soon wither and decay; some rise more slowly, but last long. Parnassus has its flowers of transient fragrance as well as its oaks of towering height, and its laurels of eternal verdure.
The Rambler, Number 106, 23 Mar 1751. In W. J. Bate and Albrecht B. Strauss (eds.), The Rambler (1969), Vol. 2, 200-1.
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Perhaps I am just a hopeless rationalist, but isn’t fascination as comforting as solace? Isn’t nature immeasurably more interesting for its complexities and its lack of conformity to our hopes? Isn’t curiosity as wondrously and fundamentally human as compassion?
…...
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Physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation, but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity.
letter to E. Ray Lankester
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Real knowledge goes into natural man in tidbits. A scrap here, a scrap there; always pertinent, linked to safety or nutrition or pleasure. Human curiosity survives and is catered for, by the twopenny weeklies, 24 lines on chromosomes, six lines on a three-headed calf.
From Culture (1938). Reprinted as Guide to Kulchur (1952, 1970), 99.
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Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.
Zora Neale Hurston, Robert Hemenway, Dust Tracks on a Road: an Autobiography (1942, 1984), 182.
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Science can be interpreted effectively only for those who have more than the usual intelligence and innate curiosity. These will work hard if given the chance and if they find they acquire something by so doing.
(1940). Epigraph, without citation, in I. Bernard Cohen, Science, Servant of Man: A Layman's Primer for the Age of Science (1948), xi.
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Science is really about describing the way the universe works in one aspect or another in all branches of science—how a life-form works, how this works, how that works. ... You have to have a natural curiosity for that.
Quoted in press release 'Steven Chu Named Sixth Lab Director' (2004) on Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory websire.
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Scientists are convinced that they, as scientists, possess a number of very admirable human qualities, such as accuracy, observation, reasoning power, intellectual curiosity, tolerance, and even humility.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 15-16.
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Scientists have one thing in common with children: curiosity. To be a good scientist you must have kept this trait of childhood, and perhaps it is not easy to retain just one trait. A scientist has to be curious like a child; perhaps one can understand that there are other childish features he hasn't grown out of.
What Little I Remember (1979), 86.
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Since my mother is the type that's called schizophrenogenic in the literature—she's the one who makes crazy people, crazy children—I was awfully curious to find out why I didn't go insane.
Quoted in Colin Wilson,New Pathways in Psychology: Maslow and the Post-Freudian Revolution (1972, 2001), 155-56.
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So many of the properties of matter, especially when in the gaseous form, can be deduced from the hypothesis that their minute parts are in rapid motion, the velocity increasing with the temperature, that the precise nature of this motion becomes a subject of rational curiosity. Daniel Bernoulli, Herapath, Joule, Kronig, Clausius, &c., have shewn that the relations between pressure, temperature and density in a perfect gas can be explained by supposing the particles move with uniform velocity in straight lines, striking against the sides of the containing vessel and thus producing pressure. (1860)
In W.D. Niven (ed.) 'Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases,' The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, Vol 1, 377. Quoted in John David Anderson, Jr., Hypersonic and High Temperature Gas Dynamics (2000), 468.
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Somebody is always reflectively monkeying with some of the parts of an infinite universe – monkeying as distinct from aping.
[About natural curiosity.]
In 'What Curiosity Can Do For You', Boys Life (Jun 1942), 29
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The chief malady of man is restless curiosity about things which he cannot understand; and it is not so bad for him to be in error as to be curious to no purpose.
In Pensées. As translated by W.F. Trotter in Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works (1910), 13.
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The determination of the average man is not merely a matter of speculative curiosity; it may be of the most important service to the science of man and the social system. It ought necessarily to precede every other inquiry into social physics, since it is, as it were, the basis. The average man, indeed, is in a nation what the centre of gravity is in a body; it is by having that central point in view that we arrive at the apprehension of all the phenomena of equilibrium and motion.
A Treatise on Man and the Development of his Faculties (1842). Reprinted with an introduction by Solomon Diamond (1969), 96.
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The faith of scientists in the power and truth of mathematics is so implicit that their work has gradually become less and less observation, and more and more calculation. The promiscuous collection and tabulation of data have given way to a process of assigning possible meanings, merely supposed real entities, to mathematical terms, working out the logical results, and then staging certain crucial experiments to check the hypothesis against the actual empirical results. But the facts which are accepted by virtue of these tests are not actually observed at all. With the advance of mathematical technique in physics, the tangible results of experiment have become less and less spectacular; on the other hand, their significance has grown in inverse proportion. The men in the laboratory have departed so far from the old forms of experimentation—typified by Galileo's weights and Franklin's kite—that they cannot be said to observe the actual objects of their curiosity at all; instead, they are watching index needles, revolving drums, and sensitive plates. No psychology of 'association' of sense-experiences can relate these data to the objects they signify, for in most cases the objects have never been experienced. Observation has become almost entirely indirect; and readings take the place of genuine witness.
Philosophy in a New Key; A Study in Inverse the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (1942), 19-20.
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The first business of a teacher … should be to excite … curiosity. … This process saves a student from being (as many are) intellectually damaged by having a very good memory.
From Annotation to Essay 50, 'Of Studies', in Bacon’s Essays: With Annotations (1856), 446.
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The Greeks in the first vigour of their pursuit of mathematical truth, at the time of Plato and soon after, had by no means confined themselves to those propositions which had a visible bearing on the phenomena of nature; but had followed out many beautiful trains of research concerning various kinds of figures, for the sake of their beauty alone; as for instance in their doctrine of Conic Sections, of which curves they had discovered all the principal properties. But it is curious to remark, that these investigations, thus pursued at first as mere matters of curiosity and intellectual gratification, were destined, two thousand years later, to play a very important part in establishing that system of celestial motions which succeeded the Platonic scheme of cycles and epicycles. If the properties of conic sections had not been demonstrated by the Greeks and thus rendered familiar to the mathematicians of succeeding ages, Kepler would probably not have been able to discover those laws respecting the orbits and motions of planets which were the occasion of the greatest revolution that ever happened in the history of science.
In History of Scientific Ideas, Bk. 9, chap. 14, sect. 3.
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The history of aëronautic adventure affords a curious illustration of the same [dip of the horizon] principle. The late Mr. Sadler, the celebrated aeronaut, ascended on one occasion in a balloon from Dublin, and was wafted across the Irish Channel, when, on his approach to the Welsh coast, the balloon descended nearly to the surface of the sea. By this time the sun was set, and the shades of evening began to close in. He threw out nearly all his ballast, and suddenly sprang upwards to a great height, and by so doing brought his horizon to dip below the sun, producing the whole phenomenon of a western sunrise. Subsequently descending in Wales, he of course witnessed a second sunset on the same evening.
This describes how a rapidly ascending balloonist can see more of a setting sun, from the top down, as the viewer gradually rises more and thus sees further, beyond the curvature of the earth. The sun gradually appears as if at sunrise. It is the reverse of the view of a ship sailing toward the horizon which disappears from its hull up to the tip of the mast. In Outlines of Astronomy (1849), 20. A similar description appeared earlier, in Astronomy (1833), 36, which also footnoted Herschel's comment that he had this anecdote from Dr. Lardner, who was present at the ascent
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The hybridoma technology was a by-product of basic research. Its success in practical applications is to a large extent the result of unexpected and unpredictable properties of the method. It thus represents another clear-cut example of the enormous practical impact of an investment in research which might not have been considered commercially worthwhile, or of immediate medical relevance. It resulted from esoteric speculations, for curiosity’s sake, only motivated by a desire to understand nature.
From Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1984), collected in Tore Frängsmyr and Jan Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures in Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 267-268.
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The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.
Recollection of a statement to William Miller, an editor, as quoted in, 'Old Man’s Advice to Youth: “Never Lose a Holy Curiosity”', Life (2 May 1955), 64.
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The labor of love aspect is important. The most successful scientists are not the most talented. But they are the ones who are impelled by curiosity. They’ve got to know what the answer is.
As quoted in Andrew Grant and Gaia Grant, Who Killed Creativity?: ...And How Do We Get It Back? (2012).
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The main sources of mathematical invention seem to be within man rather than outside of him: his own inveterate and insatiable curiosity, his constant itching for intellectual adventure; and likewise the main obstacles to mathematical progress seem to be also within himself; his scandalous inertia and laziness, his fear of adventure, his need of conformity to old standards, and his obsession by mathematical ghosts.
In The Study of the History of Mathematics (1936), 16.
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The man who inspired me most, I think, was Dr. Alfred Blalock, who was professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins. He was a rather simple man with a burning curiosity. It was through his curiosity that he made many real contributions to medical science.
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The one who stays in my mind as the ideal man of science is, not Huxley or Tyndall, Hooker or Lubbock, still less my friend, philosopher and guide Herbert Spencer, but Francis Galton, whom I used to observe and listen to—I regret to add, without the least reciprocity—with rapt attention. Even to-day. I can conjure up, from memory’s misty deep, that tall figure with its attitude of perfect physical and mental poise; the clean-shaven face, the thin, compressed mouth with its enigmatical smile; the long upper lip and firm chin, and, as if presiding over the whole personality of the man, the prominent dark eyebrows from beneath which gleamed, with penetrating humour, contemplative grey eyes. Fascinating to me was Francis Galton’s all-embracing but apparently impersonal beneficence. But, to a recent and enthusiastic convert to the scientific method, the most relevant of Galton’s many gifts was the unique contribution of three separate and distinct processes of the intellect; a continuous curiosity about, and rapid apprehension of individual facts, whether common or uncommon; the faculty for ingenious trains of reasoning; and, more admirable than either of these, because the talent was wholly beyond my reach, the capacity for correcting and verifying his own hypotheses, by the statistical handling of masses of data, whether collected by himself or supplied by other students of the problem.
In My Apprenticeship (1926), 134-135.
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The philosophic spirit of inquiry may be traced to brute curiosity, and that to the habit of examining all things in search of food. Artistic genius is an expansion of monkey imitativeness.
In The Martyrdom of Man (14th ed., 1892), 392.
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The ponderous instrument of synthesis, so effective in his [Newton’s] hands, has never since been grasped by one who could use it for such purposes; and we gaze at it with admiring curiosity, as on some gigantic implement of war, which stands idle among the memorials of ancient days, and makes us wonder what manner of man he was who could wield as a weapon what we can hardly lift as a burden.
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1857), Vol. 2, 128.
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The trouble is that all the investigators proceeded in exactly the same spirit, the spirit that is of scientific curiosity, and with no possibility of telling whether the issue of their work would prove them to be fiends, or dreamers, or angels.
'The Presidential Address: Part II Science and Warfare', Reports of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1938), 18-9.
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The valuable attributes of research men are conscious ignorance and active curiosity.
In 'The Stimulation of Research in Pure Science Which Has Resulted from the Needs of Engineers and of Industry', Science, (March 1927).
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The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves some of the greatest men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigators. What animates a great pathologist? Is it the desire to cure disease, to save life? Surely not, save perhaps as an afterthought. He is too intelligent, deep down in his soul, to see anything praiseworthy in such a desire. He knows by life-long observation that his discoveries will do quite as much harm as good, that a thousand scoundrels will profit to every honest man, that the folks who most deserve to be saved will probably be the last to be saved. No man of self-respect could devote himself to pathology on such terms. What actually moves him is his unquenchable curiosity–his boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but the dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.
In 'Types of Men: The Scientist', Prejudices (1923), 269-70.
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The various systems of doctrine that have held dominion over man have been demonstrated to be true beyond all question by rationalists of such power—to name only a few—as Aquinas and Calvin and Hegel and Marx. Guided by these master hands the intellect has shown itself more deadly than cholera or bubonic plague and far more cruel. The incompatibility with one another of all the great systems of doctrine might surely be have expected to provoke some curiosity about their nature.
In 'Has the Intellect A Function?', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 167.
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The way a child discovers the world constantly replicates the way science began. You start to notice what’s around you, and you get very curious about how things work. How things interrelate. It’s as simple as seeing a bug that intrigues you. You want to know where it goes at night; who its friends are; what it eats.
In David Chronenberg and Chris Rodley (ed.), Chronenberg on Chronenberg (1992), 5.
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There is another form of temptation even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. ... It is this which drives us on to try to discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which men should not wish to learn.
In Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan (1977).
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There is no way to guarantee in advance what pure mathematics will later find application. We can only let the process of curiosity and abstraction take place, let mathematicians obsessively take results to their logical extremes, leaving relevance far behind, and wait to see which topics turn out to be extremely useful. If not, when the challenges of the future arrive, we won’t have the right piece of seemingly pointless mathematics to hand.
In 'The Unplanned Impact of Mathematics', Nature (14 Jul 2011), 475, No. 7355, 167.
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Things that people learn purely out of curiosity can have a revolutionary effect on human affairs.
From interview (3 Sep 1997), published on George C. Marshall Institute web site
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This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon; more still than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.
…...
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This is, in truth, the first charm of chemistry, and the secret of the almost universal interest excited by its discoveries. The serious complacency which is afforded by the sense of truth, utility, permanence, and progression, blends with and ennobles the exhilarating surprise and the pleasurable sting of curiosity, which accompany the propounding and the solving of an Enigma... If in SHAKPEARE [sic] we find Nature idealized into Poetry, through the creative power of a profound yet observant meditation, so through the meditative observation of a DAVY, a WOOLLASTON [sic], or a HATCHETT; we find poetry, as if were, substantiated and realized in nature.
Essays on the Principle of Method, Essay VI (1818). In The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Friend (1969), Vol. 4, 1, Barbara E. Rooke (ed.), 471.
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To teach one who has no curiosity to learn, is to sow a field without ploughing it.
From Annotation to Essay 50, 'Of Studies', in Bacon’s Essays: With Annotations (1856), 446.
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Train yourselves. Don’t wait to be fed knowledge out of a book. Get out and seek it. Make explorations. Do your own research work. Train your hands and your mind. Become curious. Invent your own problems and solve them. You can see things going on all about you. Inquire into them. Seek out answers to your own questions. There are many phenomena going on in nature the explanation of which cannot be found in books. Find out why these phenomena take place. Information a boy gets by himself is enormously more valuable than that which is taught to him in school.
In 'Dr. Irving Langmuir', Boys' Life (Jul 1941), 12.
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True majorities, in a TV-dominated and anti-intellectual age, may need sound bites and flashing lights–and I am not against supplying such lures if they draw children into even a transient concern with science. But every classroom has one [Oliver] Sacks, one [Eric] Korn, or one [Jonathan] Miller, usually a lonely child with a passionate curiosity about nature, and a zeal that overcomes pressures for conformity. Do not the one in fifty deserve their institutions as well–magic places, like cabinet museums, that can spark the rare flames of genius?
…...
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We may affirm of Mr. Buffon, that which has been said of the chemists of old; though he may have failed in attaining his principal aim, of establishing a theory, yet he has brought together such a multitude of facts relative to the history of the earth, and the nature of its fossil productions, that curiosity finds ample compensation, even while it feels the want of conviction.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1847), Vol. 1, 73.
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What animates a great pathologist? Is it the desire to cure disease, to save life? Surely not, save perhaps as an afterthought. He is too intelligent, deep in his soul, to see anything praiseworthy in such a desire. He knows from life-long observation that his discoveries will do quite as much harm as good, that a thousand scoundrels will profit to every honest man, that the folks who most deserve to be saved will probably be the last to be saved. ... What actually moves him is his unquenchable curiosity—his boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. ... [like] the dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes. ... And yet he stands in the very front rank of the race
In 'The Scientist', Prejudices: third series (1922), 269-70.
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What has been learned in physics stays learned. People talk about scientific revolutions. The social and political connotations of revolution evoke a picture of a body of doctrine being rejected, to be replaced by another equally vulnerable to refutation. It is not like that at all. The history of physics has seen profound changes indeed in the way that physicists have thought about fundamental questions. But each change was a widening of vision, an accession of insight and understanding. The introduction, one might say the recognition, by man (led by Einstein) of relativity in the first decade of this century and the formulation of quantum mechanics in the third decade are such landmarks. The only intellectual casualty attending the discovery of quantum mechanics was the unmourned demise of the patchwork quantum theory with which certain experimental facts had been stubbornly refusing to agree. As a scientist, or as any thinking person with curiosity about the basic workings of nature, the reaction to quantum mechanics would have to be: “Ah! So that’s the way it really is!” There is no good analogy to the advent of quantum mechanics, but if a political-social analogy is to be made, it is not a revolution but the discovery of the New World.
From Physics Survey Committee, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, 'The Nature of Physics', in report Physics in Perspective (1973), 61-62. As cited in I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (1985), 554-555.
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What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.
In Christian Science Monitor (21 July 1971). As cited in Michael C. Thomsett, Linda Rose Thomsett, A Speaker's Treasury of Quotations: Maxims, Witticisms and Quips for Speeches and Presentations (2009), 102.
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When we take a slight survey of the surface of our globe a thousand objects offer themselves which, though long known, yet still demand our curiosity.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1847), Vol. 1, 67.
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Whereas there is nothing more necessary for promoting the improvement of Philosophical Matters, than the communicating to such, as apply their Studies and Endeavours that way, such things as are discovered or put in practice by others; it is therefore thought fit to employ the Press, as the most proper way to gratifie those, whose engagement in such Studies, and delight in the advancement of Learning and profitable Discoveries, doth entitle them to the knowledge of what this Kingdom, or other parts of the World, do, from time to time, afford as well of the progress of the Studies, Labours, and attempts of the Curious and learned in things of this kind, as of their compleat Discoveries and performances: To the end, that such Productions being clearly and truly communicated, desires after solid and usefull knowledge may be further entertained, ingenious Endeavours and Undertakings cherished, and those, addicted to and conversant in such matters, may be invited and encouraged to search, try, and find out new things, impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving Natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophical Arts, and Sciences. All for the Glory of God, the Honour and Advantage of these Kingdoms, and the Universal Good of Mankind.
'Introduction', Philosophical Transactions (1665), 1, 1-2.
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You have all heard of that celebrated painter who would never allow any one to mix his colors for him. He always insisted on doing that himself, and at last one of his students, whose curiosity had been aroused, said: “Professor, what do you mix your colors with?” “With brains, sir,” said the professor. Now, that is what we have to do with our observations.
From Address (22 May 1914) to the graduating class of the Friends’ School, Washington, D.C. Printed in 'Discovery and Invention', The National Geographic Magazine (1914), 25, 650.
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You will be astonished when I tell you what this curious play of carbon amounts to. A candle will burn some four, five, six, or seven hours. What, then, must be the daily amount of carbon going up into the air in the way of carbonic acid! ... Then what becomes of it? Wonderful is it to find that the change produced by respiration ... is the very life and support of plants and vegetables that grow upon the surface of the earth.
In A Course of Six Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle (1861), 117.
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[About research with big particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider.] I think the primary justification for this sort of science that we do is fundamental human curiosity. ... It's true, of course, that every previous generation that's made some breakthrough in understanding nature has seen those discoveries translated into new technologies, new possibilities for the human race. That may well happen with the Higgs boson. Quite frankly, at the moment I don't see how you can use the Higgs boson for anything useful.
As quoted in Alan Boyle, 'Discovery of Doom? Collider Stirs Debate', article (8 Sep 2008) on a msnbc.com web page.
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[Barbara McClintock's] burning curiosity, enthusiasm, and uncompromising honesty serve as a constant reminder of what drew us all to science in the first place
Obituary, 'Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)' Nature (24 Sep 1992), 272.
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[Boundless curiosity.] That’s what being alive is about. I mean, it’s the fun of it all, making sense of it, understanding it. There’s a great pleasure in knowing why trees shed their leaves in winter. Everybody knows they do, but why? If you lose that, then you’ve lost pleasure.
From interview with Sophie Elmhirst, 'I Think the BBC Has Strayed From the Straight and Narrow', New Statesman (10 Jan 2011), 140, No. 5035, 32.
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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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