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Who said: “Dangerous... to take shelter under a tree, during a thunder-gust. It has been fatal to many, both men and beasts.”
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Death Quotes (388 quotes)

“Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let me touch the axis.” So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the three level, radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing, suddenly and nervously twitched them; meanwhile, glancing intently from Starbuck to Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some nameless, interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of Starbuck fell downright.
“In vain!&rsdquo; cried Ahab; “but, maybe, 'tis well. For did ye three but once take the full-forced shock, then mine own electric thing, that had perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too, it would have dropped ye dead. ...”
[Commentary by Henry Schlesinger: Electricity—mysterious and powerful as it seemed at the time—served as a perfect metaphor for Captain Ahab's primal obsession and madness, which he transmits through the crew as if through an electrical circuit in Moby-Dick.]
Extract from Herman Melville, Moby-Dick and comment by Henry Schlesinger in The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution (2010), 64.
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Atten. Pray of what disease did Mr. Badman die, for now I perceive we are come up to his death? Wise. I cannot so properly say that he died of one disease, for there were many that had consented, and laid their heads together to bring him to his end. He was dropsical, he was consumptive, he was surfeited, was gouty, and, as some say, he had a tang of the pox in his bowels. Yet the captain of all these men of death that came against him to take him away, was the consumption, for it was that that brought him down to the grave.
The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1680). In Grace Abounding & The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1928), 282.
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Dilbert: You joined the “Flat Earth Society?”
Dogbert: I believe the earth must be flat. There is no good evidence to support the so-called “round earth theory.”
Dilbert: I think Christopher Columbus would disagree.
Dogbert: How convenient that your best witness is dead.
Dilbert comic strip (9 Oct 1989).
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Dogbert (advice to Boss): Every credible scientist on earth says your products harm the environment. I recommend paying weasels to write articles casting doubt on the data. Then eat the wrong kind of foods and hope you die before the earth does.
Dilbert cartoon strip (30 Oct 2007).
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Dogbert: So, Since Columbus is dead, you have no evidence that the earth is round.
Dilbert: Look. You can Ask Senator John Glenn. He orbited the earth when he was an astronaut.
Dogbert: So, your theory depends on the honesty of politicians.
Dilbert: Yes... no, wait...
Dilbert comic strip (10 Oct 1989).
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Hie locus est ubi mars gaudet succurere vitae.
This place is where death rejoices to come to the aid of life.
Anonymous
In the anatomical dissection theatre of the University of Bologna.
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La nature veut que dans certains temps les hommes se succèdent les uns aux autres par le moyen de la mort; il leur est permis de se défendre contr’elle jusqu’à un certain point; mais passé cela, on aura beau faire de nouvelles découvertes dans l’Anatomie, on aura beau pénétrer de plus en plus dans les secrets de la structure du corps humain, on ne prendra point la Nature pour dupe, on mourra comme à l’ordinaire.
Nature intends that at fixed periods men should succeed each other by the instrumentality of death. They are allowed to keep it at bay up to a certain point; but when that is passed, it will be of no use to make new discoveries in anatomy, or to penetrate more and more into the secrets of the structure of the human body; we shall never outwit nature, we shall die as usual.
In 'Dialogue 5: Dialogues De Morts Anciens', Nouveaux Dialogues des Morts (2nd Ed., 1683), Vol. 1, 154-155. As translated in Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 113.
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Les Leucocytes Et L'esprit De Sacrifice. — Il semble, d'après les recherches de De Bruyne (Phagocytose, 1895) et de ceux qui le citent, que les leucocytes des Lamellibranches — probablement lorsqu'ils ont phagocyté, qu'ils se sont chargés de résidus et de déchets, qu'ils ont, en un mot, accompli leur rôle et bien fait leur devoir — sortent du corps de l'animal et vont mourir dans le milieu ambiant. Ils se sacrifient. Après avoir si bien servi l'organisme par leur activité, ils le servent encore par leur mort en faisant place aux cellules nouvelles, plus jeunes.
N'est-ce pas la parfaite image du désintéressement le plus noble, et n'y a-t-il point là un exemple et un modèle? Il faut s'en inspirer: comme eux, nous sommes les unités d'un grand corps social; comme eux, nous pouvons le servir et envisager la mort avec sérénité, en subordonnant notre conscience individuelle à la conscience collective.
(30 Jan 1896)
Leukocytes and The Spirit Of Sacrifice. - It seems, according to research by De Bruyne (Phagocytosis, 1885) and those who quote it, that leukocytes of Lamellibranches [bivalves] - likely when they have phagocytized [ingested bacteria], as they become residues and waste, they have, in short, performed their role well and done their duty - leave the body of the animal and will die in the environment. They sacrifice themselves. Having so well served the body by their activities, they still serve in their death by making room for new younger cells.
Isn't this the perfect image of the noblest selflessness, and thereby presents an example and a model? It should be inspiring: like them, we are the units of a great social body, like them, we can serve and contemplate death with equanimity, subordinating our individual consciousness to collective consciousness.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 194. Google translation by Webmaster. Please give feedback if you can improve it.
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L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’univers entier s’arme pour l’écraser; une vapeur, une goutte d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’univers l’écraserait, l’homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, parce qu’il sait qu’il meurt et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui; l’univers n'en sait rien.
Man is a reed, the feeblest thing in nature. But a reed that can think. The whole universe need not fly to arms to kill him ; for a little heat or a drop of water can slay a man. But, even then, man would be nobler than his destroyer, for he would know he died, while the whole universe would know nothing of its victory.
Pensées. As given and translated in Hugh Percy Jones (ed.), Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations (1908), 292.
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On examinations: Das Wissen ist der Tad der Forschung.
Knowledge is the death of research.
Nernst's motto.
Erwin N. Hiebert, 'Hermann Walther Nemst', in C. C. Gillispie (ed.), The Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1981), Supplement, Vol. 15, 450.
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Opfer müssen gebracht werden!
Sacrifices must be made!
Remark made when near death after breaking his spine in an airplane crash in a glider of his design.
Quoted in Warren F. Phillips, Mechanics of Flight (2004), 371.
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Para todo hay remedio, sino es para la Muerte.
[Italian:] A tutto c' é rimedio fuorohe alia morte.
There is a remedy for everything except death.
In Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, James Fitzmaurice-Kelly (ed.) and John Ormsby (trans.) The Complete Works of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote (1901), Vol. 6, 221. Note: c.f. medieval Latin saying, "Against the evil of death there is no remedy in the garden." in Elizabeth Knowles, Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (2006).
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Question: Explain why pipes burst in cold weather.
Answer: People who have not studied acoustics think that Thor bursts the pipes, but we know that is nothing of the kind for Professor Tyndall has burst the mythologies and has taught us that it is the natural behaviour of water (and bismuth) without which all fish would die and the earth be held in an iron grip. (1881)
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1881), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 186-7, Question 10. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.) Webmaster notes that “fish would die” may refer to being taught that water's greatest density is at 4°C, and sinks below a frozen surface, so bodies of water can remain liquid underneath, to the benefit of the fish. The student was likely taught that bismuth, like water, expands when it freezes.
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Question: On freezing water in a glass tube, the tube sometimes breaks. Why is this? An iceberg floats with 1,000,000 tons of ice above the water line. About how many tons are below the water line?
Answer: The water breaks the tube because of capallarity. The iceberg floats on the top because it is lighter, hence no tons are below the water line. Another reason is that an iceberg cannot exceed 1,000,000 tons in weight: hence if this much is above water, none is below. Ice is exceptional to all other bodies except bismuth. All other bodies have 1090 feet below the surface and 2 feet extra for every degree centigrade. If it were not for this, all fish would die, and the earth be held in an iron grip.
P.S.—When I say 1090 feet, I mean 1090 feet per second.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 179-80, Question 13. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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[Concerning the former belief that there were no genetic connections among species:] This view, as a rounded whole and in all its essential elements, has very recently disappeared from science. It died a royal death with Agassiz.
Asa Gray
From lecture 'Scientific Beliefs', as published in Natural Science and Religion: Two Lectures delivered to the Theological School of Yale College (1880), Vol. 3, Lecture 1, 35.
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[Elementary student, laying a cocoon on the teacher's desk:] That is serendipity. The caterpillar thinks it is dying but it is really being born.
Anonymous
As quoted, without citation, by Marcus Bach, 'Serendiptiy in the Business World', in The Rotarian (Oct 1981), 139, No. 4, 40.
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CALPURNIA: When beggars die there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
CAESAR: Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Julius Caesar (1599), II, ii.
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CLAUDIO: Death is a fearful thing.
ISABELLA: And shamed life a hateful.
CLAUDIO: Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprisioned in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worst than worst
Of those lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling—'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisionment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
Measure for Measure (1604), III, i.
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QUEEN: Thou know'st 'tis common—all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common.
Hamlet (1601), I, ii.
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A disease which new and obscure to you, Doctor, will be known only after death; and even then not without an autopsy will you examine it with exacting pains. But rare are those among the extremely busy clinicians who are willing or capable of doing this correctly.
In Atrocis, nee Descipti Prius, Morbi Historia as translated in Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (1944), 43, 217.
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A first step in the study of civilization is to dissect it into details, and to classify these in their proper groups. Thus, in examining weapons, they are to be classed under spear, club, sling, bow and arrow, and so forth; among textile arts are to be ranged matting, netting, and several grades of making and weaving threads; myths are divided under such headings as myths of sunrise and sunset, eclipse-myths, earthquake-myths, local myths which account for the names of places by some fanciful tale, eponymic myths which account for the parentage of a tribe by turning its name into the name of an imaginary ancestor; under rites and ceremonies occur such practices as the various kinds of sacrifice to the ghosts of the dead and to other spiritual beings, the turning to the east in worship, the purification of ceremonial or moral uncleanness by means of water or fire. Such are a few miscellaneous examples from a list of hundreds … To the ethnographer, the bow and arrow is the species, the habit of flattening children’s skulls is a species, the practice of reckoning numbers by tens is a species. The geographical distribution of these things, and their transmission from region to region, have to be studied as the naturalist studies the geography of his botanical and zoological species.
In Primitive Culture (1871), Vol. 1, 7.
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A fool who, after plain warning, persists in dosing himself with dangerous drugs should be free to do so, for his death is a benefit to the race in general.
…...
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A great surgeon performs operations for stone by a single method; later he makes a statistical summary of deaths and recoveries, and he concludes from these statistics that the mortality law for this operation is two out of five. Well, I say that this ratio means literally nothing scientifically and gives us no certainty in performing the next operation; for we do not know whether the next case will be among the recoveries or the deaths. What really should be done, instead of gathering facts empirically, is to study them more accurately, each in its special determinism. We must study cases of death with great care and try to discover in them the cause of mortal accidents so as to master the cause and avoid the accidents.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 137-138. (Note that Bernard overlooks how the statistical method can be useful: a surgeon announcing a mortality rate of 40% invites comparison. A surgeon with worse outcomes should adopt this method. If a surgeon has a better results, that method should be adopted.)
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A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 265.
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A man of about fifty-four years of age, had begun, five or six months before, to be somewhat emaciated in his whole body...a troublesome vomiting came on, of a fluid which resembl’d water, tinctur’d with soot.... Death took place.... In the stomach...was an ulcerated cancerous tumour.... Betwixt the stomach and the spleen were two glandular bodies, of the bigness of a bean, and in their colour, and substance, not much unlike that tumour which I have describ’d in the stomach.
About stomach cancer. In De Sedibus Causis Morborum (1761). Translated by Benjamin Alexander in The Seats and Causes of Diseases (1960), 43
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A Miracle is a Violation of the Laws of Nature; and as a firm and unalterable Experience has established these Laws, the Proof against a Miracle, from the very Nature of the Fact, is as entire as any Argument from Experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all Men must die; that Lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the Air; that Fire consumes Wood, and is extinguished by Water; unless it be, that these Events are found agreeable to the Laws of Nature, and there is required a Violation of these Laws, or in other Words, a Miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteem'd a Miracle, if it ever happen in the common Course of Nature... There must, therefore, be a uniform Experience against every miraculous Event, otherwise the Event would not merit that Appellation. And as a uniform Experience amounts to a Proof, there is here a direct and full Proof, from the Nature of the Fact, against the Existence of any Miracle; nor can such a Proof be destroy'd, or the Miracle render'd credible, but by an opposite Proof, which is superior.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 180-181.
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A nuclear power plant is infinitely safer than eating, because 300 people choke to death on food every year. (1977)
Quoted in G. Barry Golson (ed.) The Playboy Interview (1981).
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A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.
Anonymous
According to Ralph Keyes in The Quote Verifier this is not a quote by Joseph Stalin. Although a 1958 book review in the New York Times used similar words, no citation was provided, and likely because there is none. However, the quote is often seen incorrectly attributed to Stalin, and sometimes Lenin or Heinrich Himmler.
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A sufferer from angina, Hunter found that his attacks were often brought on by anger. He declared, 'My life is at the mercy of the scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion.' This proved prophetic: at a meeting of the board of St. George's Hospital, London, of which he was a member, he became involved in a heated argument with other board members, walked out of the meeting and dropped dead in the next room.
As described in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 282, citing New Scientist (9 Nov 1981).
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A work of genius is something like the pie in the nursery song, in which the four and twenty blackbirds are baked. When the pie is opened, the birds begin to sing. Hereupon three fourths of the company run away in a fright; and then after a time, feeling ashamed, they would fain excuse themselves by declaring, the pie stank so, they could not sit near it. Those who stay behind, the men of taste and epicures, say one to another, We came here to eat. What business have birds, after they have been baked, to be alive and singing? This will never do. We must put a stop to so dangerous an innovation: for who will send a pie to an oven, if the birds come to life there? We must stand up to defend the rights of all the ovens in England. Let us have dead birds..dead birds for our money. So each sticks his fork into a bird, and hacks and mangles it a while, and then holds it up and cries, Who will dare assert that there is any music in this bird’s song?
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 86. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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Act as if you are going to live for ever and cast your plans way ahead. You must feel responsible without time limitations, and the consideration of whether you may or may not be around to see the results should never enter your thoughts.
In Theodore Rockwell, The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made A Difference (2002), 342.
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After death, life reappears in a different form and with different laws. It is inscribed in the laws of the permanence of life on the surface of the earth and everything that has been a plant and an animal will be destroyed and transformed into a gaseous, volatile and mineral substance.
Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 110.
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All men and women are born, live suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about... We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.
…...
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All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than the animals that know nothing. A day will come when science will turn upon its error and no longer hesitate to shorten our woes. A day will come when it will dare and act with certainty; when life, grown wiser, will depart silently at its hour, knowing that it has reached its term.
Our Eternity, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (1913), 24.
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All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 76.
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Alphonse of Castile is reported to have said that if he had had the making of the universe he would have done it much better. And I think so too. Instead of making a man go through the degradation of faculties and death, he should continually improve with age, and then be translated from this world to a superior planet, where he should begin life with the knowledge gained here, and so on. That would be to my mind, as an old man, a more satisfactory way of conducting affairs
Address, in 'Report to the Chemical Society's Jubilee', Nature (26 Mar 1891), 43, 493.
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Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.
In John Altson, Patti Rae Miliotis, What Happened to Grandpa? (2009).
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Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil, where the powers of Life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where Death and Decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature: no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XXIII, 604-5.
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An animal might be frozen to death in the midst of summer by repeatedly sprinkling ether upon him, for its evaporation would shortly carry off the whole of his vital heat.
From 'Artist and Mechanic', The artist & Tradesman’s Guide: embracing some leading facts & principles of science, and a variety of matter adapted to the wants of the artist, mechanic, manufacturer, and mercantile community (1827), 12.
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An inventor is an opportunist, one who takes occasion by the hand; who, having seen where some want exists, successfully applies the right means to attain the desired end. The means may be largely, or even wholly, something already known, or there may be a certain originality or discovery in the means employed. But in every case the inventor uses the work of others. If I may use a metaphor, I should liken him to the man who essays the conquest of some virgin alp. At the outset he uses the beaten track, and, as he progresses in the ascent, he uses the steps made by those who have preceded him, whenever they lead in the right direction; and it is only after the last footprints have died out that he takes ice-axe in hand and cuts the remaining steps, few or many, that lift him to the crowning height which is his goal.
In Kenneth Raydon Swan, Sir Joseph Swan (1946), 44.
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Ancient stars in their death throes spat out atoms like iron which this universe had never known. ... Now the iron of old nova coughings vivifies the redness of our blood.
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st century (2003), 223. Quoted in Rob Brezsny, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia (2005), 228.
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And many kinds of creatures must have died,
Unable to plant out new sprouts of life.
For whatever you see that lives and breathes and thrives
Has been, from the very beginning, guarded, saved
By it's trickery for its swiftness or brute strength.
And many have been entrusted to our care,
Commended by their usefulness to us.
For instance, strength supports a savage lion;
Foxes rely on their cunning; deer their flight.
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 5, lines 852-60, 183.
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Animals, even plants, lie to each other all the time, and we could restrict the research to them, putting off the real truth about ourselves for the several centuries we need to catch our breath. What is it that enables certain flowers to resemble nubile insects, or opossums to play dead, or female fireflies to change the code of their flashes in order to attract, and then eat, males of a different species?
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 131.
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Art is the Tree of Life. Science is the Tree of Death.
Annotations to the print (c. 1826-27), Laocoön: Jehovah & His Two Sons, Satan & Adam. An engraving of Laocoön, the well-known classical sculpture, is surrounded with many short, graffiti-like comments. These two sayings are in the blank space to the right of the picture. This was Blake's last illuminated work. Transcribed in William Blake and Edwin John Ellis (ed.), The Poetical Works of William Blake (1906), Vol. 1, 435.
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As a scientist and geneticist I started to feel that science would probably soon reach the point where its interference into the life processes would be counterproductive if a properly designed governing policy was not implemented. A heavily overcrowded planet, ninety-five percent urbanized with nuclear energy as the main source of energy and with all aspects of life highly computerized, is not too pleasant a place for human life. The life of any individual soon will be predictable from birth to death. Medicine, able to cure almost everything, will make the load of accumulated defects too heavy in the next two or three centuries. The artificial prolongation of life, which looked like a very bright idea when I started research in aging about twenty-five years ago, has now lost its attractiveness for me. This is because I now know that the aging process is so multiform and complex that the real technology and chemistry of its prevention by artificial interference must be too complex and expensive. It would be the privilege of a few, not the method for the majority. I also was deeply concerned about the fact that most research is now either directly or indirectly related to military projects and objectives for power.
Quoted in 'Zhores A(leksandrovich) Medvedev', Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002.
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As I stood behind the coffin of my little son the other day, with my mind bent on anything but disputation, the officiating minister read, as part of his duty, the words, 'If the dead rise not again, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' I cannot tell you how inexpressibly they shocked me. Paul had neither wife nor child, or he must have known that his alternative involved a blasphemy against all that well best and noblest in human nature. I could have laughed with scorn. What! Because I am face to face with irreparable loss, because I have given back to the source from whence it came, the cause of a great happiness, still retaining through all my life the blessings which have sprung and will spring from that cause, I am to renounce my manhood, and, howling, grovel in bestiality? Why, the very apes know better, and if you shoot their young, the poor brutes grieve their grief out and do not immediately seek distraction in a gorge.
Letter to Charles Kingsley (23 Sep 1860). In L. Huxley, The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1903), Vol. 1, 318.
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As to Science, she has never sought to ally herself to civil power. She has never attempted to throw odium or inflict social ruin on any human being. She has never subjected anyone to mental torment, physical torture, least of all to death, for the purpose of upholding or promoting her ideas. She presents herself unstained by cruelties and crimes. But in the Vatican—we have only to recall the Inquisition—the hands that are now raised in appeals to the Most Merciful are crimsoned. They have been steeped in blood!
History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1875), xi.
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Atomic energy bears that same duality that has faced man from time immemorial, a duality expressed in the Book of Books thousands of years ago: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good and death and evil … therefore choose life.”
In This I Do Believe edited by Edward R. Murrow (1949).
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Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.
Epitaph on monument over his grave. Quoted in Thomas Williams Bicknell et al., Education (1912), 647
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Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
In Mark Twain and Alex Ayres (ed.), The Wit & Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987), 97.
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Beasts have not the high advantages which we possess; but they have some which we have not. They have not our hopes, but then they have not our fears; they are subject like us to death, but it is without being aware of it; most of them are better able to preserve themselves than we are, and make a less bad use of their passions.
In Edwin Davies, Other Men's Minds, Or, Seven Thousand Choice Extracts (1800), 55.
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Biography is one of the new terrors of death.
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Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death
I’ve been born, and once is enough.
Sweeney Agonistes (1932), 24-5.
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Both died, ignored by most; they neither sought nor found public favour, for high roads never lead there. Laurent and Gerhardt never left such roads, were never tempted to peruse those easy successes which, for strongly marked characters, offer neither allure nor gain. Their passion was for the search for truth; and, preferring their independence to their advancement, their convictions to their interests, they placed their love for science above that of their worldly goods; indeed above that for life itself, for death was the reward for their pains. Rare example of abnegation, sublime poverty that deserves the name nobility, glorious death that France must not forget!
'Éloge de Laurent et Gerhardt', Moniteur Scientifique (1862), 4, 473-83, trans. Alan J. Rocke.
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Break the chains of your prejudices and take up the torch of experience, and you will honour nature in the way she deserves, instead of drawing derogatory conclusions from the ignorance in which she has left you. Simply open your eyes and ignore what you cannot understand, and you will see that a labourer whose mind and knowledge extend no further than the edges of his furrow is no different essentially from the greatest genius, as would have been proved by dissecting the brains of Descartes and Newton; you will be convinced that the imbecile or the idiot are animals in human form, in the same way as the clever ape is a little man in another form; and that, since everything depends absolutely on differences in organisation, a well-constructed animal who has learnt astronomy can predict an eclipse, as he can predict recovery or death when his genius and good eyesight have benefited from some time at the school of Hippocrates and at patients' bedsides.
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 38.
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But as the wilderness areas are progressively exploited or “improve”, as the jeeps and bulldozers of uranium prospectors scar up the deserts and the roads are cut into the alpine timberlands, and as the remnants of the unspoiled and natural world are progressively eroded, every such loss is a little death in me. In us.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 150.
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But how is it that they [astrologers] have never been able to explain why, in the life of twins, in their actions, in their experiences, their professions, their accomplishments, their positions—in all the other circumstances of human life, and even in death itself, there is often found such a diversity that in those respects many strangers show more resemblance to them than they show to one another, even though the smallest possible interval separated their births and though they were conceived at the same moment, by a single act of intercourse.
De Civitate Dei (The City of God) [413-426], Book V, chapter I, trans. H. Bettenson (1972),180-181.
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But it is not given to every electrician to die in so glorious a manner as the justly envied Richmann.
[G. W. Richmann died from being hit by lightning, which he had been investigating.]
The History and Present State of Electricity, with Original Experiments (1767), 3rd edition (1775), Vol. 1, 108.
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But poverty, though it does not prevent the generation, is extremely unfavourable to the rearing of children. The tender plant is produced, but in so cold a soil, and so severe a climate, soon withers and dies.
An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). In The Works of Adam Smith (1812), Vol. 2, 120.
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But, however many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive.
The Blind Watchmaker (1996), 9.
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By death the moon was gathered in Long ago, ah long ago;
Yet still the silver corpse must spin
And with another's light must glow.
Her frozen mountains must forget
Their primal hot volcanic breath,
Doomed to revolve for ages yet,
Void amphitheatres of death.
And all about the cosmic sky,
The black that lies beyond our blue,
Dead stars innumerable lie,
And stars of red and angry hue
Not dead but doomed to die.
'Cosmic Death' (1923), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 30.
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By medicine life may be prolong’d, yet death
Will seize the Doctor too.
Cymbeline (1609, publ. 1623), Act 5, Scene 5. In Charles Knight (ed.), The Works of William Shakspere (1868), 605.
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By the death of Mr. O. Chanute the world has lost one whose labors had to an unusual degree influenced the course of human progress. If he had not lived the entire history of progress in flying would have been other than it has been.
Writing in Aeronautics in Jan 1911 about Chanute's death, collected in Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright: Volume Two 1906-1948 (1953), 1013.
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By the year 2000 the commonest killers such as coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory, diseases and many cancers will be wiped out.
Anonymous
Irish Times (24 Apr 1987).
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Certainlie these things agree,
The Priest, the Lawyer, & Death all three:
Death takes both the weak and the strong.
The lawyer takes from both right and wrong,
And the priest from living and dead has his Fee.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1737).
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Common sense is the favorite daughter of Reason, and altho thare are menny other wimmin more attraktive for a time, thare is nothing but death kan rob common sense ov her buty.
In The Complete Works of Josh Billings (1876), 214.
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Conformity-enforcing packs of vicious children and adults gradually shape the social complexes we know as religion, science, corporations, ethnic groups, and even nations. The tools of our cohesion include ridicule, rejection, snobbery, self-righteousness, assault, torture, and death by stoning, lethal injection, or the noose. A collective brain may sound warm and fuzzily New Age, but one force lashing it together is abuse.
In 'The Conformity Police', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 89.
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Cure the disease and kill the patient.
‘Of Friendship’, Essays.
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Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history. One has to put up with the crude English method of development, of course. Despite all deficiencies not only is the death-blow dealt here for the first time to “teleology” in the natural sciences, but their rational meaning is empirically explained.
Karl Marx
Marx to Lasalle, 16 Jan 1861. In Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, 1846-95, trans. Donna Torr (1934), 125.
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De Morgan was explaining to an actuary what was the chance that a certain proportion of some group of people would at the end of a given time be alive; and quoted the actuarial formula, involving p [pi], which, in answer to a question, he explained stood for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. His acquaintance, who had so far listened to the explanation with interest, interrupted him and exclaimed, “My dear friend, that must be a delusion, what can a circle have to do with the number of people alive at a given time?”
In Mathematical Recreations and Problems (1896), 180; See also De Morgan’s Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 172.
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Death is a release from the impressions of sense, and from impulses that make us their puppets, from the vagaries of the mind, and the hard service of the flesh.
Meditations, VI, 28.
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Death seems to have been a rather late invention in evolution. One can go a long way in evolution before encountering an authentic corpse.
In talk, 'Origin of Death' (1970). Evolution began with one-celled organisms reproducing indefinitely by cell division.
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Death, like the sun, cannot be looked at steadily.
Maxims (1678), no. 26, trans. F. G. Stevens (1939), 11.
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Deaths, births, and marriages, considering how much they are separately dependent on the freedom of the human will, should seem to be subject to no law according to which any calculation could be made beforehand of their amount; and yet the yearly registers of these events in great countries prove that they go on with as much conformity to the laws of nature as the oscillations of the weather.
'Idea of a Universal history on a Cosmo-Political Plan' (1784). As translated by Thomas De Quinsey in The London Magazine (Oct 1824), 10, 385. Reprinted in 1859 by De Quincey in Vol. 8 of his Collective Edition of his writings.
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Disease is largely a removable evil. It continues to afflict humanity, not only because of incomplete knowledge of its causes and lack of individual and public hygiene, but also because it is extensively fostered by harsh economic and industrial conditions and by wretched housing in congested communities. ... The reduction of the death rate is the principal statistical expression and index of human social progress. It means the saving and lengthening of lives of thousands of citizens, the extension of the vigorous working period well into old age, and the prevention of inefficiency, misery, and suffering. These advances can be made by organized social effort. Public health is purchasable. (1911)
Quoted in Evelynn Maxine Hammonds, Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880-1930(1999), 221.
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Disease is not something personal and special, but only a manifestation of life under modified conditions, operating according to the same laws as apply to the living body at all times, from the first moment until death.
In Ian F. McNeely, Medicine on a Grand Scale: Rudolf Virchow, Liberalism, and the Public Health (2002), 26.
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Doctor Johnson said, that in sickness there were three things that were material; the physician, the disease, and the patient: and if any two of these joined, then they get the victory; for, Ne Hercules quidem contra duos [Not even Hercules himself is a match for two]. If the physician and the patient join, then down goes the disease; for then the patient recovers: if the physician and the disease join, that is a strong disease; and the physician mistaking the cure, then down goes the patient: if the patient and the disease join, then down goes the physician; for he is discredited.
In 'A Collection of Apophthegms, New and Old' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), No. 147, 308. The doctor is identified Ben Johnson by Forbes Winslow in his notes appended to Physic and Physicians (1842). Notes section, 39. Perhaps he means poet and playwright of stage comedy, Ben Jonson (1572-1637), also referred to in the book as “Benjamin Johnson” and once as “Dr. Johnson.” Note that Francis Bacon (1561-1626) died well before the life of writer Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).
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Doctors can do almost anything nowadays, can't they, unless they kill you while they're trying to cure you.
Endless Night (2002), 117.
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Doctors in all ages have made fortunes by killing their patients by means of their cures. The difference in psychiatry is that is the death of the soul.
From Address (Jul 1967), 'The Obvious', to the Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation, London, collected in David Cooper, The Dialectics of Liberation (2015), 19.
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Don't be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.
My American Journey (1996), 99.
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Drunkenness, the ruin of reason, the destruction of strength, premature old age, momentary death.
Homilies, No. XIV, Ch. 7.
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Each pregnant Oak ten thousand acorns forms
Profusely scatter’d by autumnal storms;
Ten thousand seeds each pregnant poppy sheds
Profusely scatter’d from its waving heads;
The countless Aphides, prolific tribe,
With greedy trunks the honey’d sap imbibe;
Swarm on each leaf with eggs or embryons big,
And pendent nations tenant every twig ...
—All these, increasing by successive birth,
Would each o’erpeople ocean, air, and earth.
So human progenies, if unrestrain’d,
By climate friended, and by food sustain’d,
O’er seas and soils, prolific hordes! would spread
Erelong, and deluge their terraqueous bed;
But war, and pestilence, disease, and dearth,
Sweep the superfluous myriads from the earth...
The births and deaths contend with equal strife,
And every pore of Nature teems with Life;
Which buds or breathes from Indus to the Poles,
And Earth’s vast surface kindles, as it rolls!
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 347-54, 367-74, 379-82, pages 156-60.
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Eventually the process of aging, which is unlikely to be simple, should be understandable. Hopefully some of its processes can be slowed down or avoided. In fact, in the next century, we shall have to tackle the question of the preferred form of death.
(1986).
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Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle; when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.
Anonymous
As seen in The Economist (1985), 296, 37. Sometimes cited in other sources as an African proverb. For example, referred as from a poster of an old African proverb in Venise T. Berry, So Good (1996), 241.
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Everyone is aware of the difficult and menacing situation in which human society–shrunk into one community with a common fate–now finds itself, but only a few act accordingly. Most people go on living their every-day life: half frightened, half indifferent, they behold the ghostly tragicomedy which is being performed on the international stage before the eyes and ears of the world. But on that stage, on which the actors under the floodlights play their ordained parts, our fate of tomorrow, life or death of the nations, is being decided.
…...
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Evolution is a hard, inescapable mistress. There is just no room for compassion or good sportsmanship. Too many organisms are born, so, quite simply, a lot of them are going to have to die because there isn't enough food and space to go around. You can be beautiful, fast and strong, but it might not matter. The only thing that does matter is, whether you leave more children carrying your genes than the next person leaves. It’s true whether you’re a prince, a frog, or an American elm.
From The Center of Life: A Natural History of the Cell (1977, 1978), 37.
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Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema
I turn the handle and the story starts:
Reel after reel is all astronomy,
Till life, enkindled in a niche of sky,
Leaps on the stage to play a million parts.
Life leaves the slime and through all ocean darts;
She conquers earth, and raises wings to fly;
Then spirit blooms, and learns how not to die,-
Nesting beyond the grave in others' hearts.
I turn the handle: other men like me
Have made the film: and now I sit and look
In quiet, privileged like Divinity
To read the roaring world as in a book.
If this thy past, where shall they future climb,
O Spirit, built of Elements and Time?
'Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema' (1922), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 55.
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Evolutionary plasticity can be purchased only at the ruthlessly dear price of continuously sacrificing some individuals to death from unfavourable mutations. Bemoaning this imperfection of nature has, however, no place in a scientific treatment of this subject.
Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), 127.
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Expect an early death - it will keep you busier.
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Thomas Robert Malthus quote Famine … the most dreadful resource of nature.
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Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), 140, and in new enlarged edition (1803), 350.
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First need in the reform of hospital management? That’s easy! The death of all dietitians, and the resurrection of a French chef.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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First, it must be a pleasure to study the human body the most miraculous masterpiece of nature and to learn about the smallest vessel and the smallest fiber. But second and most important, the medical profession gives the opportunity to alleviate the troubles of the body, to ease the pain, to console a person who is in distress, and to lighten the hour of death of many a sufferer.
Reasons for his choice of medicine as a career, from essay written during his last year in the Gymnasium (high school). As quoted in Leslie Dunn, Rudolf Virchow: Now You Know His Name (2012), 8-9.
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For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible! Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have, any hold on him. A God who rewards and punishes is for him unthinkable, because man acts in accordance with an inner and outer necessity, and would, in the eyes of God, be as little responsible as an inanimate object is for the movements which it makes. Science, in consequence, has been accused of undermining morals—but wrongly. The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man’s plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.
From 'Religion and Science', The New York Times Magazine, (9 Nov 1930), 1. Article in full, reprinted in Edward H. Cotton (ed.), Has Science Discovered God? A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931), 101. The wording differs significantly from the version collected in 'Religion And Science', Ideas And Opinions (1954), 39, giving its source as: “Written expressly for the New York Times Magazine. Appeared there November 9, 1930 (pp. 1-4). The German text was published in the Berliner Tageblatt, November 11, 1930.” This variant form of the quote from the book begins, “The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation….” and is also on the Albert Einstein Quotes page on this website. As for why the difference, Webmaster speculates the book form editor perhaps used a revised translation from Einstein’s German article.
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For terrestrial vertebrates, the climate in the usual meteorological sense of the term would appear to be a reasonable approximation of the conditions of temperature, humidity, radiation, and air movement in which terrestrial vertebrates live. But, in fact, it would be difficult to find any other lay assumption about ecology and natural history which has less general validity. … Most vertebrates are much smaller than man and his domestic animals, and the universe of these small creatures is one of cracks and crevices, holes in logs, dense underbrush, tunnels, and nests—a world where distances are measured in yards rather than miles and where the difference between sunshine and shadow may be the difference between life and death. Actually, climate in the usual sense of the term is little more than a crude index to the physical conditions in which most terrestrial animals live.
From 'Interaction of physiology and behavior under natural conditions', collected in R.I. Bowman (ed.), The Galapagos (1966), 40.
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For the world, I count it not an inn, but an hospital, and a place, not to live, but to die in.
In Religio Medici (1642, 1754), pt. 2, sec. 11, 203.
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For want of timely care
Millions have died of medicable wounds.
Art of Preserving Health.
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Francis Galton, whose mission it seems to be to ride other men's hobbies to death, has invented the felicitous expression 'structureless germs'.
Letter from James Clerk Maxwell to Professor Lewis Campbell, 26th Sep 1874. Quoted in Lewis Campbell and William Garnett (eds.), The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1884), 299.
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Giordano Bruno was the martyr; though the cause for which he suffered was not that of science, but that of free imaginative speculation. His death in the year 1600 ushered in the first century of modern science in the strict sense of the term.
In 'The Origins of Modern Science', Science and the Modern World (1926, 2011), 1.
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God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
The Gay Science (1882), book 3, no. 125, trans. W. Kaufmann (1974), 181.
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Good company robs even death of some of its terrors.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 247.
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Good scholars struggle to understand the world in an integral way (pedants bite off tiny bits and worry them to death). These visions of reality ... demand our respect, for they are an intellectual’s only birthright. They are often entirely wrong and always flawed in serious ways, but they must be understood honorably and not subjected to mayhem by the excision of patches.
…...
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Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.
[Final words in a 'Message to the Public' left written in his diary dated 25 March 1912, shortly before he died on the Ross Ice Barrier, Antarctica. When searchers found his body, on 12 Nov 1912, Scott was discovered sitting upright against the pole of the tent with the diary behind his head, as if for a pillow.]
Final words in a 'Message to the Public' left written in his diary dated 25 March 1912, shortly before he died on the Ross Ice Barrier, Antarctica. In Logan Marshall, The Story of Polar Conquest: The Complete History of Arctic and Antarctic (1913), 24-25. by Logan Marshall - Polar regions - 1913
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Has anyone ever given credit to the Black Death for the Renaissance—in other words, for modern civilization? … [It] exterminated such huge masses of the European proletariat that the average intelligence and enterprise of the race were greatly lifted, and that this purged and improved society suddenly functioned splendidly. … The best brains of the time, thus suddenly emancipated, began to function freely and magnificently. There ensued what we call the Renaissance.
From American Mercury (Jun 1924), 188-189. Collected in 'Eugenic Note', A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 376-377.
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Having been the discoverer of many splendid things, he is said to have asked his friends and relations that, after his death, they should place on his tomb a cylinder enclosing a sphere, writing on it the proportion of the containing solid to that which is contained.
Plutarch, Life of Marcellus, 17.12. Trans. R. W. Sharples.
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He (Anaxagoras) is said to have been twenty years old at the time of Xerxes' crossing, and to have lived to seventy-two. Apollodorus says in his Chronicles that he was born in the seventieth Olympiad (500-497 B.C.) and died in the first year of the eighty-eighth (428/7). He began to be a philosopher at Athens in the archonship of Callias (456/5), at the age of twenty, as Demetrius Phalereus tells us in his Register of Archons, and they say he spent thirty years there. … There are different accounts given of his trial. Sotion, in his Succession of Philosophers, says that he was prosecuted by Cleon for impiety, because he maintained that the sun was a red hot mass of metal, and after that Pericles, his pupil, had made a speech in his defence, he was fined five talents and exiled. Satyrus in his Uves, on the other hand, says that the charge was brought by Thucydides in his political campaign against Pericles; and he adds that the charge was not only for the impiety but for Medism as well; and he was condemned to death in his absence. ... Finally he withdrew to Lampsacus, and there died. It is said that when the rulers of the city asked him what privilege he wished to be granted, he replied that the children should be given a holiday every year in the month in which he died. The custom is preserved to the present day. When he died the Lampsacenes buried him with full honours.
Diogenes Laërtius 2.7. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 353.
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He neither drank, smoked, nor rode a bicycle. Living frugally, saving his money, he died early, surrounded by greedy relatives. It was a great lesson to me.
The Stage (Jan 1941).
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He, who for an ordinary cause, resigns the fate of his patient to mercury, is a vile enemy to the sick; and, if he is tolerably popular, will, in one successful season, have paved the way for the business of life, for he has enough to do, ever afterward, to stop the mercurial breach of the constitutions of his dilapidated patients. He has thrown himself in fearful proximity to death, and has now to fight him at arm's length as long as the patient maintains a miserable existence.
Quoted by William M. Scribner, 'Treatment of Pneumonia and Croup, Once More, Etc,' in The Medical World (1885), 3, 187.
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Here lies one who for medicines would not give
A little gold, and so his life he lost;
I fancy now he'd wish again to live,
Could he but guess how much his funeral cost.
Anonymous
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Heroes and scholars represent the opposite extremes... The scholar struggles for the benefit of all humanity, sometimes to reduce physical effort, sometimes to reduce pain, and sometimes to postpone death, or at least render it more bearable. In contrast, the patriot sacrifices a rather substantial part of humanity for the sake of his own prestige. His statue is always erected on a pedestal of ruins and corpses... In contrast, all humanity crowns a scholar, love forms the pedestal of his statues, and his triumphs defy the desecration of time and the judgment of history.
From Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999) 41-42.
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His work was so great that it cannot be compassed in a few words. His death is one of the greatest losses ever to occur to British science.
Describing Ernest Rutherford upon his death at age 66. Thomson, then 80 years old, was once his teacher.
Quoted in Time Magazine (1 Nov 1937).
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Hitherto man had to live with the idea of death as an individual; from now onward mankind will have to live with the idea of its death as a species.
As excerpted in Paul S. Burtness, 'Arthur Koestler (1905-)', The Contemporary University Reader (1963), 286.
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Hour-glasses remind us, not only of how time flies, but at the same time of the dust into which we shall one day decay.
Aphorism 4 in Notebook C (1772-1773), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 31.
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How would we express in terms of the statistical theory the marvellous faculty of a living organism, by which it delays the decay into thermodynamical equilibrium (death)? … It feeds upon negative entropy … Thus the device by which an organism maintains itself stationary at a fairly high level of orderliness (= fairly low level of entropy) really consists in continually sucking orderliness from its environment.
In 'Organization Maintained by Extracting “Order” from the Environment', What is Life? : The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell (1944), 74.
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Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind.
In Elwyn Brooks White, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, first paragraph, 'The Preaching Humorist', The Saturday Review (18 Oct 1941), 16. Also collected in the same authors’ book, A Subtreasury of American Humor (1941), xvii. Seen in later books, in a number of variants, for example, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it”, in Bob Phillips, Phillips’ Treasury of Humorous Quotations (2004), 130.
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I admit that the generation which produced Stalin, Auschwitz and Hiroshima will take some beating, but the radical and universal consciousness of the death of God is still ahead of us. Perhaps we shall have to colonise the stars before it is finally borne in upon us that God is not out there.
In Thomas Mann: a Critical Study (1971), 175.
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I am a great believer in the simplicity of things and as you probably know I am inclined to hang on to broad & simple ideas like grim death until evidence is too strong for my tenacity.
Letter to Irving Langmuir (10 Jun 1919). Quoted in Nathan Reingold and Ida H. Reingold, Science in America: A Documentary History 1900-1939 (1981), 354.
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I am absolutely enraptured by the atmosphere of a wreck. A dead ship is the house of a tremendous amount of life—fish and plants. The mixture of life and death is mysterious, even religious. There is the same sense of peace and mood that you feel on entering a cathedral.
Quoted in 'Sport: Poet of the Depths', Time (28 Mar 1960)
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I am become death, The Shatterer of Worlds.
At the moment the first test atomic device exploded, Oppenheimer recalled a few lines from the 2,000-year-old Bhagavad Gita of India. This line is the most often quoted. In Abraham Pais and Robert P. Crease, J. Robert Oppenheimer: a Life (2006), 44. Also seen translated as “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
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I am dying with the help of too many physicians.
Comment on his deathbed.
Attributed. Peter McDonald, In The Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 2.
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I believe—and human psychologists, particularly psychoanalysts should test this—that present-day civilized man suffers from insufficient discharge of his aggressive drive. It is more than probable that the evil effects of the human aggressive drives, explained by Sigmund Freud as the results of a special death wish, simply derive from the fact that in prehistoric times intra-specific selection bred into man a measure of aggression drive for which in the social order today he finds no adequate outlet.
On Aggression, trans. M. Latzke (1966), 209.
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I boast nothing, but plainely say, we all labour against our owne cure, for death is the cure of all diseases.
Religio Medici (1642), Part I, Section 9. In L. C. Martin (ed.), Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Other Works (1964), 68.
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I came from Paris in the Spring of 1884, and was brought in intimate contact with him [Thomas Edison]. We experimented day and night, holidays not excepted. His existence was made up of alternate periods of work and sleep in the laboratory. He had no hobby, cared for no sport or amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. There can be no doubt that, if he had not married later a woman of exceptional intelligence, who made it the one object of her life to preserve him, he would have died many years ago from consequences of sheer neglect. So great and uncontrollable was his passion for work.
As quoted in 'Tesla Says Edison Was an Empiricist', The New York Times (19 Oct 1931), 25.
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I can think of a few microorganisms, possibly the tubercle bacillus, the syphilis spirochete, the malarial parasite, and a few others, that have a selective advantage in their ability to infect human beings, but there is nothing to be gained, in an evolutionary sense, by the capacity to cause illness or death. Pathogenicity may be something of a disadvantage for most microbes…
In 'Germs', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 90.
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I cannot accept any concept of God based on the fear of life or the fear of death, or blind faith.
As recollected from a visit some months earlier, and quoted in William Miller, 'Old Man’s Advice to Youth: “Never Lose a Holy Curiosity”', Life (2 May 1955), 62.
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I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.
…...
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I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own–a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.
From 'What I Believe: Living Philosophies XIII', Forum and Century (Oct 1930), 84, No. 4, 194. Article in full, reprinted in Edward H. Cotton (ed.), Has Science Discovered God? A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931), 97.
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I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I became man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
'I Died as a Mineral', in Arthur John Arberry, Classical Persian Literature (1994), 241.
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I feel like a white granular mass of amorphous crystals—my formula appears to be isomeric with Spasmotoxin. My aurochloride precipitates into beautiful prismatic needles. My Platinochloride develops octohedron crystals,—with fine blue florescence. My physiological action is not indifferent. One millionth of a grain injected under the skin of a frog produced instantaneous death accompanied by an orange blossom odor. The heart stopped in systole. A base—L3H9NG4—offers analogous reaction to phosmotinigstic acid.
In letter to George M. Gould (1889), collected in Elizabeth Bisland The Writings of Lafcadio Hearn (1922), Vol. 14, 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 have had a fairly long life, above all a very happy one, and I think that I shall be remembered with some regrets and perhaps leave some reputation behind me. What more could I ask? The events in which I am involved will probably save me from the troubles of old age. I shall die in full possession of my faculties, and that is another advantage that I should count among those that I have enjoyed. If I have any distressing thoughts, it is of not having done more for my family; to be unable to give either to them or to you any token of my affection and my gratitude is to be poor indeed.
Letter to Augez de Villiers, undated. Quoted in D. McKie, Antoine Lavoisier: Scientist, Economist, Social Reformer (1952), 303.
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I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If as I believe that my theory is true & if it be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a considerable step in science. I therefore write this, in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn & last request, which I am sure you will consider the same as if legally entered in my will, that you will devote 400£ to its publication & further will yourself, or through Hensleigh [Wedgwood], take trouble in promoting it.
Letter to Emma Darwin, 5 July 1844. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1844-1846 (1987), Vol. 3, 43.
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I hope when I get to Heaven I shall not find the women playing second fiddle.
(Shortly before her death)
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I scrutinize life.
Part of a longer quote that begins, “You disembowel the animal…” on the Jean-Henri Fabre Quotes page of this website.
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I tell my students, with a feeling of pride that I hope they will share, that the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that make up ninety-nine per cent of our living substance were cooked in the deep interiors of earlier generations of dying stars. Gathered up from the ends of the universe, over billions of years, eventually they came to form, in part, the substance of our sun, its planets, and ourselves. Three billion years ago, life arose upon the earth. It is the only life in the solar system.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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I think if a physician wrote on a death certificate that old age was the cause of death, he’d be thrown out of the union. There is always some final event, some failure of an organ, some last attack of pneumonia, that finishes off a life. No one dies of old age.
In talk, 'Origin of Death' (1970). Evolution began with one-celled organisms reproducing indefinitely by cell division.
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I think it perfectly just, that he who, from the love of experiment, quits an approved for an uncertain practice, should suffer the full penalty of Egyptian law against medical innovation; as I would consign to the pillory, the wretch, who out of regard to his character, that is, to his fees, should follow the routine, when, from constant experience he is sure that his patient will die under it, provided any, not inhuman, deviation would give his patient a chance.
From his researches in Fever, 196. In John Edmonds Stock, Memoirs of the life of Thomas Beddoes (1810), 400.
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I thought that the wisdom of our City had certainly designed the laudable practice of taking and distributing these accompts [parish records of christenings and deaths] for other and greater uses than [merely casual comments], or, at least, that some other uses might be made of them; and thereupon I ... could, and (to be short) to furnish myself with as much matter of that kind ... the which when I had reduced into tables ... so as to have a view of the whole together, in order to the more ready comparing of one Year, Season, Parish, or other Division of the City, with another, in respect of all Burials and Christnings, and of all the Diseases and Casualties happening in each of them respectively...
Moreover, finding some Truths and not-commonly-believed opinions to arise from my meditations upon these neglected Papers, I proceeded further to consider what benefit the knowledge of the same would bring to the world, ... with some real fruit from those ayrie blossoms.
From Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index and Made upon Bills of Mortality (1662), Preface. Reproduced in Cornelius Walford, The Insurance Cyclopaedia (1871), Vol. 1, 286-287.
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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Walden (1854), 143.
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I would have picked up the artificial heart and thrown it on the floor and walked out and said he's dead if the press had not been there.
[Recalling moments of frustration caused by difficulties during the 7½-hour surgery on Barney Clark for the first human implant of an artificial heart.]
Quoted by Lawrence K. Altman in “Clark's Surgeon Was ‘Worried To Death’&rdquo, New York Times (12 Apr 1983), C1.
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I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
'Jack London Credo' quoted, without citing a source, in Irving Shepard (ed.), Jack London’s Tales of Adventure (1956), Introduction, vii. (Irving Shepard was London's literary executor.) This sentiment, expressed two months before his death, was quoted by journalist Ernest J. Hopkins in the San Francisco Bulletin (2 Dec 1916), Pt. 2, 1. No direct source in London's writings has been found, though he wrote “I would rather be ashes than dust&rdquo. as an inscription in an autograph book. Biographer Clarice Stasz cautions that although Hopkins had visited the ranch just weeks before London's death, the journalist's quote (as was not uncommon in his time) is not necessarily reliable, or may be his own invention. See this comment in 'Apocrypha' appended to Jack London, The Call Of The Wild (eBookEden.com).
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John B. Watson quote: I would rather see the behavior of one white rat observed carefully from the moment of birth until death t
I would rather see the behavior of one white rat observed carefully from the moment of birth until death than to see a large volume of accurate statistical data on how 2,000 rats learned to open a puzzle box.
Introduction to G. V. Hamilton and Kenneth Macgowan, What Is Wrong with Marriage? (1929), xx.
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I would request that my body in death be buried, not cremated so that the energy content contained within in gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it just as I’ve dined upon flora and fauna throughout my life.
…...
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I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn't, I would die.
Isaac Asimov, Stanley Asimov (ed.), Yours, Isaac Asimov: a Lifetime of Letters (1995), 8.
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If a given scientist had not made a given discovery, someone else would have done so a little later. Johann Mendel dies unknown after having discovered the laws of heredity: thirty-five years later, three men rediscover them. But the book that is not written will never be written. The premature death of a great scientist delays humanity; that of a great writer deprives it.
Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), 89.
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If a hundred or a thousand people, all of the same age, of the same constitution and habits, were suddenly seized by the same illness, and one half of them were to place themselves under the care of doctors, such as they are in our time, whilst the other half entrusted themselves to Nature and to their own discretion, I have not the slightest doubt that there would be more cases of death amongst the former, and more cases of recovery among the latter.
…...
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If coal plants release mercury—and mercury is a neurotoxin that damages children's brains—then reducing the amount of mercury in emissions doesn’t stop that. It just says, “We’ll tell you at what rate you can dispense death.”
In interview article, 'Designing For The Future', Newsweek (15 May 2005).
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If in our withered leaves you see
Hint of your own mortality:—
Think how, when they have turned to earth,
New loveliness from their rich worth
Shall spring to greet the light; then see
Death as the keeper of eternity,
And dying Life’s perpetual re-birth !
Anonymous
Poem attributed with initials W.L., epigraph for chapter on 'The Nitrogen Cycle', in Arthur E. Shipley, Life: A Book for Elementary Students (1925, 2013), 37.
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If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.
Life (1984).
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If patterns of ones and zeros were “like” patterns of human lives and death, if everything about an individual could be represented in a computer record by a long string of ones and zeros, then what kind of creature would be represented by a long string of lives and deaths?
Vineland (1900, 1997), 90.
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If the doctor cures, the sun sees it; but if he kills, the earth hides it.
In John Wade, Select Proverbs of all Nations (1824), 124.
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If the patient dies, the doctor has killed him; if he gets well, the saints have saved him.
In H. Pullar-Strecker, Proverbs for Pleasure (1954), 194.
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If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One …
I am become Death,
The shatterer of worlds.
His thoughts in reaction to viewing the fireball of the Trinity test of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, N.M. (16 Jul 1945). Fragments from Sacred Hindu Epic, Bhagavad-Gita. Quoted in A. Berry (ed.), The Book of Scientific Anecdotes (1989), 175.
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If we die, we want people to accept it. We’re in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.
As quoted in John Andrews Barbour, Footprints on the Moon (1969), 125.
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If you have a lawsuit, and you get one bad lawyer, you lose your suit, but you can appeal; but if you have one bad doctor, and he kills you, then there can be no appeal.
In Stephen Wickes and Jonathan Dickinson, History of Medicine in New Jersey: And of Its Medical Men, from the Settlement of the Province to A.D. 1800 (1879), 143.
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If you wish to die young, make your physician your heir.
In H. Pullar-Strecker, Proverbs for Pleasure (1954), 193.
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If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten
Either write things worth reading,
Or do things worth the writing.
Collected in Poor Richard's Almanack (1914), 32, No. 285.
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If you've got time to kill, work it to death.
Anonymous
In Bob Phillips, Phillips' Treasury of Humorous Quotations (2004), 253.
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In 1906 I indulged my temper by hurling invectives at Neo-Darwinians in the following terms. “I really do not wish to be abusive [to Neo-Darwinians]; but when I think of these poor little dullards, with their precarious hold of just that corner of evolution that a blackbeetle can understand—with their retinue of twopenny-halfpenny Torquemadas wallowing in the infamies of the vivisector’s laboratory, and solemnly offering us as epoch-making discoveries their demonstrations that dogs get weaker and die if you give them no food; that intense pain makes mice sweat; and that if you cut off a dog’s leg the three-legged dog will have a four-legged puppy, I ask myself what spell has fallen on intelligent and humane men that they allow themselves to be imposed on by this rabble of dolts, blackguards, imposters, quacks, liars, and, worst of all, credulous conscientious fools.”
In Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), lxi
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In 399 B.C. Socrates was accused of introducing new gods and questioning accepted gods. He was sentenced to death by a jury of 500 of his peers. His philosophy did not pass peer review.
Please contact webmaster if you have the primary source for this interesting quote.
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In a Dublin hospital, many years ago, it was noticed that the death-rate was markedly higher in the ground-floor wards than it was in the wards upstairs. This fact was commented on in an official report, and marked down as requiring investigation. Then it was discovered that, when new patients came in, the porter of the hospital was in the habit of putting them upstairs if they could walk by themselves, and downstairs if they could not.
From 'Figures Can Lie', Science Digest (Sep 1951), 30, No. 3, 53. (As condensed from The Listener). Excerpted in Meta Riley Emberger and Marian Ross Hall, Scientific Writing (1955), 407.
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In every case the awakening touch has been the mathematical spirit, the attempt to count, to measure, or to calculate. What to the poet or the seer may appear to be the very death of all his poetry and all his visions—the cold touch of the calculating mind,—this has proved to be the spell by which knowledge has been born, by which new sciences have been created, and hundreds of definite problems put before the minds and into the hands of diligent students. It is the geometrical figure, the dry algebraical formula, which transforms the vague reasoning of the philosopher into a tangible and manageable conception; which represents, though it does not fully describe, which corresponds to, though it does not explain, the things and processes of nature: this clothes the fruitful, but otherwise indefinite, ideas in such a form that the strict logical methods of thought can be applied, that the human mind can in its inner chamber evolve a train of reasoning the result of which corresponds to the phenomena of the outer world.
In A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1896), Vol. 1, 314.
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In fact, the thickness of the Earth's atmosphere, compared with the size of the Earth, is in about the same ratio as the thickness of a coat of shellac on a schoolroom globe is to the diameter of the globe. That's the air that nurtures us and almost all other life on Earth, that protects us from deadly ultraviolet light from the sun, that through the greenhouse effect brings the surface temperature above the freezing point. (Without the greenhouse effect, the entire Earth would plunge below the freezing point of water and we'd all be dead.) Now that atmosphere, so thin and fragile, is under assault by our technology. We are pumping all kinds of stuff into it. You know about the concern that chlorofluorocarbons are depleting the ozone layer; and that carbon dioxide and methane and other greenhouse gases are producing global warming, a steady trend amidst fluctuations produced by volcanic eruptions and other sources. Who knows what other challenges we are posing to this vulnerable layer of air that we haven't been wise enough to foresee?
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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In medical practice a man may die when, scientifically speaking, he ought to have lived. I have actually known a man to die of a disease from which he was, scientifically speaking, immune. But that does not affect the fundamental truth of science.
B.B. character in The Doctor's Dilemma, Act 3 (First produced in 1906). In The Doctor's Dilemma: With a Preface on Doctors (1911), 70.
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IN MEMORIAM: FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
She whom we love, our Lady of Compassion,
Can never die, for Love forbids her death.
Love has bent down in his old kindly fashion,
And breathed upon her his immortal breath.
On wounded soldiers, in their anguish lying,
Her gentle spirit shall descend like rain.
Where the white flag with the red cross is flying,
There shall she dwell, the vanquisher of pain.
[In remembrance of 'The Lady of the Lamp' who died 13 Aug 1910.]
In New York Times (29 Aug 1910), 6. Collected in Summer of Love (1911), 72.
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In science, self-satisfaction is death. Personal self-satisfaction is the death of the scientist. Collective self-satisfaction is the death of the research. It is restlessness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, agony of mind that nourish science.
Quoted in 'Ariadne', New Scientist (17 Jun 1976) 70, 680, which states it comes from Le Nouvel Observateur which revived the quote, “from an earlier interview.” If you know this primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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In spite of what moralists say, the, animals are scarcely less wicked or less unhappy than we are ourselves. The arrogance of the strong, the servility of the weak, low rapacity, ephemeral pleasure purchased by great effort, death preceded by long suffering, all belong to the animals as they do to men.
Recueil des Éloges Historiques 1819-27, Vol. 1, 91.
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In the arts of life main invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine. … There is nothing in Man's industrial machinery but his greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons.
Play, Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy (1903)
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In the Mortality Bills, pneumonia is an easy second, to tuberculosis; indeed in many cities the death-rate is now higher and it has become, to use the phrase of Bunyan 'the captain of the men of death.'
'Medicine in the Nineteenth Century' (1904). In Aequanimitas with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 260.
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In the patient who succumbed, the cause of death was evidently something which was not found in the patient who recovered; this something we must determine, and then we can act on the phenomena or recognize and foresee them accurately. But not by statistics shall we succeed in this; never have statistics taught anything, and never can they teach anything about the nature of the phenomenon.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 138.
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In the year 1692, James Bernoulli, discussing the logarithmic spiral [or equiangular spiral, ρ = αθ] … shows that it reproduces itself in its evolute, its involute, and its caustics of both reflection and refraction, and then adds: “But since this marvellous spiral, by such a singular and wonderful peculiarity, pleases me so much that I can scarce be satisfied with thinking about it, I have thought that it might not be inelegantly used for a symbolic representation of various matters. For since it always produces a spiral similar to itself, indeed precisely the same spiral, however it may be involved or evolved, or reflected or refracted, it may be taken as an emblem of a progeny always in all things like the parent, simillima filia matri. Or, if it is not forbidden to compare a theorem of eternal truth to the mysteries of our faith, it may be taken as an emblem of the eternal generation of the Son, who as an image of the Father, emanating from him, as light from light, remains ὁμοούσιος with him, howsoever overshadowed. Or, if you prefer, since our spira mirabilis remains, amid all changes, most persistently itself, and exactly the same as ever, it may be used as a symbol, either of fortitude and constancy in adversity, or, of the human body, which after all its changes, even after death, will be restored to its exact and perfect self, so that, indeed, if the fashion of Archimedes were allowed in these days, I should gladly have my tombstone bear this spiral, with the motto, ‘Though changed, I arise again exactly the same, Eadem numero mutata resurgo.’”
In 'The Uses of Mathesis', Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 32, 516-516. [The Latin phrase “simillima filia matri” roughly translates as “the daughter resembles the mother”. “Spira mirabilis” is Latin for “marvellous spiral”. The Greek word (?µ???s???) translates as “consubstantial”, meaning of the same substance or essence (used especially of the three persons of the Trinity in Christian theology). —Webmaster]
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It has become, in my view, a bit too trendy to regard the acceptance of death as something tantamount to intrinsic dignity. Of course I agree with the preacher of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to love and a time to die - and when my skein runs out I hope to face the end calmly and in my own way. For most situations, however, I prefer the more martial view that death is the ultimate enemy - and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light.
Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections on Natural History (1991).
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It has cost them but a moment to cut off that head; but a hundred years will not be sufficient to produce another like it.
Comment to Delambre about Lavoisier, who was executed on 8 May 1794. As quoted by Charles Hutton in A Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary (1815), Vol. 1, 708. The quotation is given in Douglas McKie, Antoine Lavoisier: The Father of Modern Chemistry (1935), 299, as: “Only a moment to cut off this head and perhaps a hundred years before we shall have another like it.” In The Doctor Explains (1931), 134-135, Ralph Hermon Major words it as, “It took but an instant to cut off his head; a hundred years will not suffice to produce one like it,” but in A History of Medicine (1954), Vol. 2, 618, Major repeats it as, “A moment was sufficient to sever his head, but a hundred years will not be enough perhaps to produce another like it.” Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source, presumably in French.
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It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other.
‘Of Death’, Essays.
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It is as natural to man to die as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other.
Of Death. In Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979, 1986), 206.
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It is better to employ a doubtful remedy than to condemn the patient to a certain death.
Anonymous
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It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of missiles and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings. This last I regard as the most criminal artifice that has been devised by the human mind; for, as if to bring death upon man with still greater rapidity, we have given wings to iron and taught it to fly. ... Nature, in conformity with her usual benevolence, has limited the power of iron, by inflicting upon it the punishment of rust; and has thus displayed her usual foresight in rendering nothing in existence more perishable, than the substance which brings the greatest dangers upon perishable mortality.
Natural History of Pliny, translation (1857, 1898) by John Bostock and H. T. Riley, 205-6.
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It is difficult to see anything but infatuation in the destructive temperament which leads to the action … that each of us is to rejoice that our several units are to be distinguished at death into countless millions of organisms; for such, it seems, is the latest revelation delivered from the fragile tripod of a modern Delphi.
In 'Dawn and the Creation of Worship', The Nineteenth Century, 1885, 18, 706.
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It is given to but few men to achieve immortality, still less to achieve Olympian rank, during their own lifetime. In a generation that witnesses one of the greatest revolutions in the entire history of science [Ernest Rutherford] was universally acknowledged as the leading explorer of the vast infinitely complex universe within the atom, a universe that he was first to penetrate.
(Rutherford's death was front page news in the New York Times.)
William L. Lawrence, New York Times (20 Oct 1937), 18.
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It is hard to think of fissionable materials when fashioned into bombs as being a source of happiness. However this may be, if with such destructive weapons men are to survive, they must grow rapidly in human greatness. A new level of human understanding is needed. The reward for using the atom’s power towards man’s welfare is great and sure. The punishment for its misuse would seem to be death and the destruction of the civilization that has been growing for a thousand years. These are the alternatives that atomic power, as the steel of Daedalus, presents to mankind. We are forced to grow to greater manhood.
Atomic Quest: A Personal Narrative (1956), xix.
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It is in all cases unavoidable that the heart is afflicted when death occurs.
As quoted in Robert Taylor, White Coat Tales: Medicine's Heroes, Heritage, and Misadventures (2010), 125.
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It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Concluding remarks in final chapter, The Origin of Species (1859), 490. In the second edition, Darwin changed “breathed” to “breathed by the Creator”.
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It is ironical that, in the very field in which Science has claimed superiority to Theology, for example—in the abandoning of dogma and the granting of absolute freedom to criticism—the positions are now reversed. Science will not tolerate criticism of special relativity, while Theology talks freely about the death of God, religionless Christianity, and so on.
In 'Preface', Science at the Crossroads (1972), 13.
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It is not possible for me to purchase intellectual peace at the price of intellectual death.
In 'Address Delivered Before The British Association Assembled at Belfast' (19 Aug 1874), in Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Lectures, and Reviews (1892), Vol. 2, 200.
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It is rigid dogma that destroys truth; and, please notice, my emphasis is not on the dogma, but on the rigidity. When men say of any question, “This is all there is to be known or said of the subject; investigation ends here,” that is death. It may be that the mischief comes not from the thinker but for the use made of his thinking by late-comers. Aristotle, for example, gave us our scientific technique … yet his logical propositions, his instruction in sound reasoning which was bequeathed to Europe, are valid only within the limited framework of formal logic, and, as used in Europe, they stultified the minds of whole generations of mediaeval Schoolmen. Aristotle invented science, but destroyed philosophy.
Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, as recorded by Lucien Price (1954, 2001), 165.
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It is tempting to wonder if our present universe, large as it is and complex though it seems, might not be merely the result of a very slight random increase in order over a very small portion of an unbelievably colossal universe which is virtually entirely in heat-death. Perhaps we are merely sliding down a gentle ripple that has been set up, accidently and very temporarily, in a quiet pond, and it is only the limitation of our own infinitesimal range of viewpoint in space and time that makes it seem to ourselves that we are hurtling down a cosmic waterfall of increasing entropy, a waterfall of colossal size and duration.
(1976). In Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 331.
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It is the destiny of wine to be drunk, and it is the destiny of glucose to be oxidized. But it was not oxidized immediately: its drinker kept it in his liver for more than a week, well curled up and tranquil, as a reserve aliment for a sudden effort; an effort that he was forced to make the following Sunday, pursuing a bolting horse. Farewell to the hexagonal structure: in the space of a few instants the skein was unwound and became glucose again, and this was dragged by the bloodstream all the way to a minute muscle fiber in the thigh, and here brutally split into two molecules of lactic acid, the grim harbinger of fatigue: only later, some minutes after, the panting of the lungs was able to supply the oxygen necessary to quietly oxidize the latter. So a new molecule of carbon dioxide returned to the atmosphere, and a parcel of the energy that the sun had handed to the vine-shoot passed from the state of chemical energy to that of mechanical energy, and thereafter settled down in the slothful condition of heat, warming up imperceptibly the air moved by the running and the blood of the runner. 'Such is life,' although rarely is it described in this manner: an inserting itself, a drawing off to its advantage, a parasitizing of the downward course of energy, from its noble solar form to the degraded one of low-temperature heat. In this downward course, which leads to equilibrium and thus death, life draws a bend and nests in it.
The Periodic Table (1975), trans. Raymond Rosenthal (1984), 192-3.
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It is the doctors who desert the dying and there is so much to be learned about pain.
Quoted in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (2001), 94, 430.
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It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man, so weak, but it mates, and masters, the fear of death; and therefore, death is no such terrible enemy, when a man hath so many attendants about him, that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over death; love slights it; honor aspireth to it; grief flieth to it; fear preoccupieth it.
In 'Of Death', Essays (1625, 1883), 10.
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It may well be doubted whether, in all the range of Science, there is any field so fascinating to the explorer—so rich in hidden treasures—so fruitful in delightful surprises—as that of Pure Mathematics. The charm lies chiefly, I think, in the absolute certainty of its results: for that is what, beyond all mental treasures, the human intellect craves for. Let us only be sure of something! More light, more light … “And if our fate be death, give light and let us die” This is the cry that, through all the ages, is going up from perplexed Humanity, and Science has little else to offer, that will really meet the demands of its votaries, than the conclusions of Pure Mathematics.
Opening of 'Introduction', A New Theory of Parallels (1890), xv. As a non-fiction work, the author’s name on the title page of this book was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Being better known for his works of fiction as Lewis Carroll, all quotes relating to this one person, published under either name, are gathered on this single web page under his pen name.
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It was cold. Space, the air we breathed, the yellow rocks, were deadly cold. There was something ultimate, passionless, and eternal in this cold. It came to us as a single constant note from the depths of space. We stood on the very boundary of life and death.
…...
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It was not noisy prejudice that caused the work of Mendel to lie dead for thirty years, but the sheer inability of contemporary opinion to distinguish between a new idea and nonsense.
In 'The Commemoration of Great Men', British Medical Journal (20 Feb 1932). In The Adelphi (1932), 4, 480, and in The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 27.
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It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
Spoken by the character Kleinman in Death: A Comedy in One Act p. 63 (1975)
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I’m gradually managing to cram my mind more and more full of things. I’ve got this beautiful mind and it’s going to die, and it’ll all be gone. And then I say, not in my case. Every idea I’ve ever had I’ve written down, and it’s all there on paper. And I won’t be gone; it’ll be there.
'Isaac Asimov Speaks' with Bill Moyers in The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1989), 49. Reprinted in Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), 139.
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I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, Mr. President, but I do say not more than ten to twenty million dead depending upon the breaks.
In Robert Andrews Famous Lines: a Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations (1997), 340.
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Just as certain as death, Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a [alternating current] system of any size.
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Just as certain as death, Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a [alternating current] system of any size.
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Kin Hubbard is dead. To us folks that attempt to write a little humor his death is just like Edison's would be to the world of invention. No man in our generation was within a mile of him, and I am so glad that I didn't wait for him to go to send flowers. I have said it from the stage and in print for twenty years. … Just think — only two lines a day, yet he expressed more original philosophy in ’em than all the rest of the paper combined. What a kick Twain and all that gang will get out of Kin.
In 'Will Rogers Pays Tribute To Hubbard and His Humor', The New York Times (27 Dec 1930), 15.
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Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
... Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal Man unfold all Nature's law,
Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And shew'd a NEWTON as we shew an Ape.
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle II. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 516-7.
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Laboratory and discovery are related terms. Do away with laboratories, and the physical sciences will be become the image of the sterility of death.
Laboratoires et découvertes sont des termes corrélatifs. Supprimez les laboratoires, les sciences physiques deviendront l’image de la stérilité et de la mort.
In article 'The Budget of Science', Revue des Cours Scientifiques (1 Feb 1868) and published as a pamphlet, Some Reflections on Science in France. As translated in Patrice Debré and Elborg Forster (trans.), Louis Pasteur (2000), 143. Original French quote in René Vallery-Radot, La Vie de Pasteur (1900), 215. Note: Pasteur was fighting for a new laboratory building, but funding had been withdrawn—yet many millions were being spent to build an opera house. The full article, which was scorching, had been first sent to the newspaper, Moniteur in early Jan 1868, but it was declined as too politically controversial. Napoleon III was notified, and he was sympathetic. Other translations include: “Laboratories and discoveries are correlative terms. If you suppress laboratories, physical science will become stricken with barrenness and death.” In René Vallery-Radot and Mrs R. L. Devonshire (trans.) The Life of Pasteur (1902), 199.
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Laws, written, if not on stone tables, yet on the azure of infinitude, in the inner heart of God’s creation, certain as life, certain as death, are there, and thou shalt not disobey them.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 232:11.
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Leaves die, but trees do not. They only undress.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 8.
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Let people who have to observe sickness and death look back and try to register in their observation the appearances which have preceded relapse, attack or death, and not assert that there were none, or that there were not the right ones. A want of the habit of observing conditions and an inveterate habit of taking averages are each of them often equally misleading.
Notes on Nursing: What it is, and What it is Not (1860), 67.
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Life consists in the sum of the functions, by which death is resisted.
[Also translated as: Life is the ensemble of functions that resist death.]
Recherches physiologiques sur la vie et la mort (1800), trans. P. Gold, Physiological Researches on Life and Death (1815), 21.
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Life has found ways to flourish in boiling hot springs and on icy mountain tops, to fly, glow in the dark, put forth leaves in a rainless desert, or plumb the ocean, reproducing and adapting, reincarnating itself in new forms in defiance of time and death.
…...
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Life is death on a vacation.
Aphorism in The Philistine (Mar 1905), 20, No. 4, 158.
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Life is death we’re lengthy at, death the hinge to life.
Letter to Louise and Frances Norcross (late May 1863), in Thomas H. Johnson (ed.), Selected Letters (1986), 183.
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Life is order, death is disorder. A fundamental law of Nature states that spontaneous chemical changes in the universe tend toward chaos. But life has, during milliards of years of evolution, seemingly contradicted this law. With the aid of energy derived from the sun it has built up the most complicated systems to be found in the universe—living organisms. Living matter is characterized by a high degree of chemical organisation on all levels, from the organs of large organisms to the smallest constituents of the cell. The beauty we experience when we enjoy the exquisite form of a flower or a bird is a reflection of a microscopic beauty in the architecture of molecules.
The Nobel Prize for Chemistry: Introductory Address'. Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1981-1990 (1992), 69.
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Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 71.
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Life levels all men: death reveals the eminent.
In 'Maxims for Revolutionists: Fame', in Man and Superman (1903), 240.
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Life spirals laboriously upward to higher and even higher levels, paying for every step.
As quoted in Mark Davidson, Uncommon Sense: The Life and Thought of Ludwig Von Bertalanffy (1901-1972), Father of General Systems Theory (1983), 220. Robert G.B. Reid follow this with an explanatory comment—Death was the price of the multicellular condition; pain the price of nervous integration; anxiety the price of consciousness—in Evolutionary Theory: The Unfinished Synthesis (1985), 236. Reid’s comment was not made in quotation marks. However, Bertanffy’s actually quote was concatenated with Reid's comment and attributed only to Bertanffy, in Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion (2008), 93, and subsequently requoted thusly by later authors.
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Life would be unbearable if death were not worse yet.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 274.
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Like other departments of philosophy, medicine began with an age of wonder. The accidents of disease and the features of death aroused surprise and stimulated interest, and a beginning was made when man first asked in astonishment, Why should these things be?
In 'The Evolution of Internal Medicine', Modern Medicine: Its Theory and Practice, (1907), Vol. 1, xvi.
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Like the furtive collectors of stolen art, we [cell biologists] are forced to be lonely admirers of spectacular architecture, exquisite symmetry, dramas of violence and death, mobility, self-sacrifice and, yes, rococo sex.
…...
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Logic does not pretend to teach the surgeon what are the symptoms which indicate a violent death. This he must learn from his own experience and observation, or from that of others, his predecessors in his peculiar science. But logic sits in judgment on the sufficiency of that observation and experience to justify his rules, and on the sufficiency of his rules to justify his conduct. It does not give him proofs, but teaches him what makes them proofs, and how he is to judge of them.
In A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence, and the Methods of Scientific Investigation (1843), Vol. 1, 11.
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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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Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.
Politics of Experience (1967), 110.
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Man chooses either life or death, but he chooses; everything he does, from going to the toilet to mathematical speculation, is an act of religious worship, either of God or of himself.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 15
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Man has an inalienable right to die of something.
Anonymous
'Quack cures for cancer', Cardiff Mail (20 Oct 1923).
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Many more Englishmen die by the lancet at home,
than by the sword abroad.
Attributed.
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Medicine cures the man who is fated not to die.
Chinese proverb.
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Medicine has been defined to be the art or science of amusing a sick man with frivolous speculations about his disorder, and of tampering ingeniously, till nature either kills or cures him.
Anonymous
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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Medicine rests upon four pillars—philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, and ethics. The first pillar is the philosophical knowledge of earth and water; the second, astronomy, supplies its full understanding of that which is of fiery and airy nature; the third is an adequate explanation of the properties of all the four elements—that is to say, of the whole cosmos—and an introduction into the art of their transformations; and finally, the fourth shows the physician those virtues which must stay with him up until his death, and it should support and complete the three other pillars.
Vas Buch Paragranum (c.1529-30), in J. Jacobi (ed.), Paracelsus: Selected Writings (1951), 133-4.
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Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.
From 'Of Truth', Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral (1625). As translated in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 6, 379.
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Men fear Death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.
Essays.
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Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth more than ruin more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
…...
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Men make their own history, but not just as they please. They do not choose the circumstances for themselves, but have to work upon circumstances as they find them, have to fashion the material handed down by the past. The legacy of the dead generations weighs like an alp upon the brains of the living.
Karl Marx
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852).
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Men that looke no further than their outsides thinke health an appertinance unto life, and quarrell with their constitutions for being sick; but I that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that Fabrick hangs, doe wonder what we are not alwayes so; and considering the thousand dores that lead to death doe thanke my God that we can die but once.
Religio Medici (1642), Part I, Section 44. In L. C. Martin (ed.), Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Other Works (1964), 42.
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Modern war, even from the consideration of physical welfare, is not creative. Soldiers and civilians alike are supposed to put on mental khaki. … War means the death of that fertile war which consists of the free, restless conflict of ideas. The war which matters is that of the scientist with nature; of the farmer with the tawny desert; of … philosopher against … mob stupidity. Such war is creative. … Inventions that further life and joy; freedom; new knowledge, whether Luther Burbank’s about the breeding of fruits or Einstein's about relativity; great cathedrals and Beethoven's music: these modern mechanical war can destroy but never produce. At its most inventive height, war creates the Maxim gun, the submarine, disseminable germs of disease, life-blasting gases. Spiritually and intellectually, modern war is not creative.
From ‘The Stagnation of War’, in Allen D. Hole (ed.) The Messenger of Peace (Nov 1924), 49, No. 11, 162-163.
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Moreover, within the hollows of the earth,
When from one quarter the wind builds up, lunges,
Muscles the deep caves with its headstrong power,
The earth leans hard where the force of wind has pressed it;
Then above ground, the higher the house is built,
The nearer it rises to the sky, the worse
Will it lean that way and jut out perilously,
The beams wrenched loose and hanging ready to fall.
And to think, men can't believe that for this world
Some time of death and ruin lies in wait,
Yet they see so great a mass of earth collapse!
And the winds pause for breath—that's lucky, for else
No force could rein things galloping to destruction.
But since they pause for breath, to rally their force,
Come building up and then fall driven back,
More often the earth will threaten ruin than
Perform it. The earth will lean and then sway back,
Its wavering mass restored to the right poise.
That explains why all houses reel, top floor
Most then the middle, and ground floor hardly at all.
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 6, lines 558-77, 216.
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Mr. Hobbes told me that the cause of his Lordship's [Francis Bacon's] death was trying an Experiment: viz. as he was taking the aire in a Coach with Dr. Witherborne (a Scotchman, Physitian to the King) towards High-gate, snow lay on the ground, and it came into my Lord's thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow, as in Salt. They were resolved they would try the Experiment presently. They alighted out of the Coach and went into a poore woman's house at the bottom of Highgate hill, and bought a Hen, and made the woman exenterate it, and then stuffed the body with Snow, and my Lord did help to doe it himselfe. The Snow so chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill, that he could not return to his Lodging.
John Aubrey, Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 16.
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Mr. Hobbes told me that the cause of his Lordship’s [Francis Bacon s] death was trying an experiment: viz., as he was taking the air in a coach with Dr. Witherborne, a Scotchman, physician to the King, towards Highgate, snow lay on the ground, and it came into my Lord’s thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow as in salt. They were resolved they would try the experiment presently. They alighted out of the coach and went into a poor woman s house at the bottom of Highgate Hill and bought a hen and made the woman exenterate it, and then stuffed the body with snow, and my Lord did help to do it himself The snow so chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill that he could not return to his lodgings.
In Brief Lives (late 17th century), as excerpted in The Retrospective Review (1821), 292.
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My picture of the world is drawn in perspective and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are all as small as three-penny bits. I don't really believe in astronomy, except as a complicated description of part of the course of human and possibly animal sensation. I apply my perspective not merely to space but also to time. In time the world will cool and everything will die; but that is a long time off still and its present value at compound discount is almost nothing.
From a paper read to the Apostles, a Cambridge discussion society (1925). In 'The Foundations of Mathematics' (1925), collected in Frank Plumpton Ramsey and D.H. Mellor (ed.), Philosophical Papers (1990), Epilogue, 249. Citation to the paper, in Nils-Eric Sahlin, The Philosophy of F.P. Ramsey (1990), 225.
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Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. … Everything science has taught me—and continues to teach me—strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.
Wehner von Braun article in This Week Magazine (24 Jan 1960), 2. Excerpted in Viola Walden, Sword Scrapbook (1980), 66.
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Nature has no compassion.… [It] accepts no excuses and the only punishment it knows is death.
In Between the Devil and the Dragon: The Best Essays and Aphorisms of Eric Hoffer (1982), 7.
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Nature vibrates with rhythms, climatic and diastrophic, those finding stratigraphic expression ranging in period from the rapid oscillation of surface waters, recorded in ripple-mark, to those long-deferred stirrings of the deep imprisoned titans which have divided earth history into periods and eras. The flight of time is measured by the weaving of composite rhythms- day and night, calm and storm, summer and winter, birth and death such as these are sensed in the brief life of man. But the career of the earth recedes into a remoteness against which these lesser cycles are as unavailing for the measurement of that abyss of time as would be for human history the beating of an insect's wing. We must seek out, then, the nature of those longer rhythms whose very existence was unknown until man by the light of science sought to understand the earth. The larger of these must be measured in terms of the smaller, and the smaller must be measured in terms of years.
'Rhythm and the Measurement of Geologic Time', Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 1917, 28,746.
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Nature! … The spectacle of Nature is always new, for she is always renewing the spectators. Life is her most exquisite invention; and death is her expert contrivance to get plenty of life.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 9.
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Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.
Buddha
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 239
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Never fear big long words.
Big long words name little things.
All big things have little names.
Such as life and death, peace and war.
Or dawn, day, night, hope, love, home.
Learn to use little words in a big way.
It is hard to do,
But they say what you mean.
When you don't know what you mean, use big words.
That often fools little people.
Quoted in Saturday Review (1962), 45, No. 2. It was written (1936) for his son, as advice for young copy writers. - 1995
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No despot ever flung forth his legions to die in foreign conquest, no privilege-ruled nation ever erupted across its borders, to lock in death embrace with another, but behind them loomed the driving power of a population too large for its boundaries and its natural resources.
In 'Woman's Error and Her Debt', The Birth Control Review (Aug 1921), 5, 18.
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No one thinks of concealing the truth from a cardiac patient: there is nothing shameful about a heart attack. Cancer patients are lied to, not just because the disease is (or is thought to be) a death sentence, but because it is felt to be obscene—in the original meaning of that word: ill-omened, abominable, repugnant to the senses.
In Illness as a Metaphor (1978), 8,
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No physician is really good before he has killed one or two patients.
Anonymous
Hindu Proverb. In Colin Jarman, The Book of Poisonous Quotes (1993), 234.
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Nobody can be a good reasoner unless by constant practice he has realised the importance of getting hold of the big ideas and hanging on to them like grim death.
In 'Presidential Address to the London Branch of the Mathematical Association', Mathematical Gazette (Mar 1913), 7, No. 104, 92.
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None but a naturalist can understand the intense excitement I experienced when I at length captured it [a hitherto unknown species of butterfly]. On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat, violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause.
The Malay Archipelago (1890), 257-258.
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Not all living creatures die. An amoeba, for example, need never die; it need not even, like certain generals, fade away. It just divides and becomes two new amoebas.
In talk, 'Origin of Death' (1970).
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Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance is the death of knowledge. [Attributed]
As quoted in a number of sources, but usually without further citation, for example, in Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998), 459. Webmaster so far cannot confirm, so if you know the primary source, please make contact.
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Not marble graven with public records, whereby breath and life return to goodly heroes after death.
Horace
In Ode 8, 'In Praise of Poesy', Horace, The Odes and Epodes (1921), 315.
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Nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus, which he declined to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration; the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write, that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate, that as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is, that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honoured them with signal favours.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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Nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus, which he declined to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration; the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write, that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate, that as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is, that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honoured them with signal favours.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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Now it must be asked if we can comprehend why comets signify the death of magnates and coming wars, for writers of philosophy say so. The reason is not apparent, since vapor no more rises in a land where a pauper lives than where a rich man resides, whether he be king or someone else. Furthermore, it is evident that a comet has a natural cause not dependent on anything else; so it seems that it has no relation to someone’s death or to war. For if it be said that it does relate to war or someone’s death, either it does so as a cause or effect or sign.
De Cometis (On Comets) [before 1280], trans. Lynn Thorndike, from ed. Borgnet, IV, 499-508, quoted in Lynn Thorndike (ed.), Latin Treatises on Comets between 1238 and 1368 A.D. (1950), 75.
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Nowadays there is a pill for everything—to keep your nose from running, to keep you regular, to keep your heart beating, to keep your hair from falling out, to improve your muscle tone ... Why thanks to advances in medical science, every day people are dying who never looked better.
Anonymous
In Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (2003), 174-175.
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Numbers written on restaurant checks [bills] within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the Universe.
This single statement took the scientific world by storm. It completely revolutionized it. So many mathematical conferences got held in such good restaurants that many of the finest minds of a generation died of obesity and heart failure and the science of math was put back by years.
Life, the Universe and Everything (1982, 1995), 49.
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On CBS Radio the news of [Ed Murrow’s] death, reportedly from lung cancer, was followed by a cigarette commercial.
Prime Time: the Life of Edward R. Murrow (1969), 34.
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On the contrary, God was always invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God; you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don't believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time—life and death—stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore, I don't think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out.
Quoted in P. C. W. Davies and Julian Brown (eds.), Superstrings: A Theory of Everything? (1988), 208-9.
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On the day of Cromwell’s death, when Newton was sixteen, a great storm raged all over England. He used to say, in his old age, that on that day he made his first purely scientific experiment. To ascertain the force of the wind, he first jumped with the wind and then against it; and, by comparing these distances with the extent of his own jump on a calm day, he was enabled to compute the force of the storm. When the wind blew thereafter, he used to say it was so many feet strong.
In 'Sir Isaac Newton', People’s Book of Biography: Or, Short Lives of the Most Interesting Persons of All Ages and Countries (1868), 248.
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One cannot help a man to come to accept his impending death if he remains in severe pain, one cannot give spiritual counsel to a woman who is vomiting, or help a wife and children say their goodbyes to a father who is so drugged that he cannot respond.
'The Principles of Symptom Control', in Ina Ajemian, Balfour M. Mount. (eds.) The R.V.H. Manual on Palliative/Hospice Care (1980), 176.
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One death is a tragedy, 100,000 deaths are statistics.
The Crazy Ape (1970), 29.
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One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature—inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe.
John Muir
In My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), 325. Based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the Sierra.
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One more word on “designed laws” and “undesigned results.” - I see a bird which I want for food, take my gun and kill it, I do this designedly.—An innocent and good man stands under a tree and is killed by a flash of lightning. Do you believe (& I really should like to hear) that God designedly killed this man? Many or most persons do believe this; I can’t and don’t.—If you believe so, do you believe that when a swallow snaps up a gnat that God designed that that particular swallow should snap up that particular gnat at that particular instant? I believe that the man and the gnat are in the same predicament. If the death of neither man nor gnat are designed, I see no good reason to believe that their first birth or production should be necessarily designed.
Letter to Asa Gray, 3 July 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 275.
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Only the doctor and the judge have the right to inflict the death penalty without receiving the same.
Philemon
In 'The Sicilian.' Fragment preserved by Stobaeus, Florigelium. In Gustave Jules Witkowski, The Evil that Has Been Said of Doctors (1889), 4-5.
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Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.
In a letter to Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh-Omnes’ widow, February 25,1926.
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Our immediate interests are after all of but small moment. It is what we do for the future, what we add to the sum of man's knowledge, that counts most. As someone has said, 'The individual withers and the world is more and more.' Man dies at 70, 80, or 90, or at some earlier age, but through his power of physical reproduction, and with the means that he has to transmit the results of effort to those who come after him, he may be said to be immortal.
'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 360.
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Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.
In Pensées (1670), Section 23, No. 67. From Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 50. Also seen translated as “…in movement, absolute rest…”. From the French, “Notre nature est dans le mouvement; le repos entier est la mort,” in Pensées de Blaise Pascal (1847), 315.
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Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy, 13 Nov 1789. Quoted in Albert Henry Smyth (ed.) The Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1907), vol. 10, 69.
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Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We scientists who released this immense power have an overwhelming responsibility in this world life-and-death struggle to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind and not for humanity’s destruction. … We need two hundred thousand dollars at once for a nation-wide campaign to let people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels. This appeal is sent to you only after long consideration of the immense crisis we face. … We ask your help at this fateful moment as a sign that we scientists do not stand alone.
In 'Atomic Education Urged by Einstein', New York Times (25 May 1946), 13. Extract from a telegram (24 May 1946) to “several hundred prominent Americans”, signed by Albert Einstein as Chairman, with other members, of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. It was also signed by the Federation of American Scientists.
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People don’t die from the old diseases any more. They die from new ones, but that’s Progress, isn’t it?
Isn’t it?
Jeffty is Five (1977)
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Physicians get neither name nor fame by the pricking of wheals or the picking out thistles, or by laying of plaisters to the scratch of a pin; every old woman can do this. But if they would have a name and a fame, if they will have it quickly, they must do some great and desperate cures. Let them fetch one to life that was dead; let them recover one to his wits that was mad; let them make one that was born blind to see; or let them give ripe wits to a fool: these are notable cures, and he that can do thus, if he doth thus first, he shall have the name and fame he deserves; he may lie abed till noon.
In John Bunyan and Robert Philip (ed.), The Works of John Bunyan (1850), Vol. 1, 75.
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Physicists do, of course, show a healthy respect for High Voltage, Radiation, and Liquid Hydrogen signs. They are not reckless. I can think of only six who have been killed on the job.
In Adventures of a Physicist (1987), 14.
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Poetry creates life; Science dissects death.
Lectures and Addresses on Literary and Social Topics (1859), 123. In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 382:26 .
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Science affects the average man and woman in two ways already. He or she benefits by its application driving a motor-car or omnibus instead of a horse-drawn vehicle, being treated for disease by a doctor or surgeon rather than a witch, and being killed with an automatic pistol or shell in place of a dagger or a battle-axe.
'The Scientific Point of View' In R.C. Prasad (ed.), Modern Essays: Studying Language Through Literature (1987), 26.
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Science says: “We must live,” and seeks the means of prolonging, increasing, facilitating and amplifying life, of making it tolerable and acceptable, wisdom says: “We must die,” and seeks how to make us die well.
'Arbitrary Reflections', Essays and Soliloquies, translated by John Ernest Crawford Flitch (1925), 154. In Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 844:9.
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Science tries to answer the question: ‘How?’ How do cells act in the body? How do you design an airplane that will fly faster than sound? How is a molecule of insulin constructed? Religion, by contrast, tries to answer the question: ‘Why?’ Why was man created? Why ought I to tell the truth? Why must there be sorrow or pain or death? Science attempts to analyze how things and people and animals behave; it has no concern whether this behavior is good or bad, is purposeful or not. But religion is precisely the quest for such answers: whether an act is right or wrong, good or bad, and why.
Science and Imagination, ch. 4, Basic Books (1967).
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Science without conscience is but the death of the soul.
One source cites Essays (1580). Another says written by Rabelais. Webmaster has not, so far, found and verified the primary source.
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Science without conscience is the death of the soul.
Anonymous
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Science would have us believe that such accuracy, leading to certainty, is the only criterion of knowledge, would make the trial of Galileo the paradigm of the two points of view which aspire to truth, would suggest, that is, that the cardinals represent only superstition and repression, while Galileo represents freedom. But there is another criterion which is systematically neglected in this elevation of science. Man does not now—and will not ever—live by the bread of scientific method alone. He must deal with life and death, with love and cruelty and despair, and so must make conjectures of great importance which may or may not be true and which do not lend themselves to experimentation: It is better to give than to receive; Love thy neighbor as thyself; Better to risk slavery through non-violence than to defend freedom with murder. We must deal with such propositions, must decide whether they are true, whether to believe them, whether to act on them—and scientific method is no help for by their nature these matters lie forever beyond the realm of science.
In The End of the Modern Age (1973), 89.
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Scientists should not be allowed to torture animals to death; let doctors experiment on journalists and politicians.
In Dounia B. Christiani (trans., ed.), The Wild Duck (1968), 83. Also seen translated as: “It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians.”
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Seldom has there occurred a more pitifully tragic disaster than the sudden fall of the Wright aeroplane, involving the death of that promising young officer Lieut. Thomas Selfridge, and inflicting shocking injuries on the talented inventor, Orville Wright. But although the accident is deplorable, it should not be allowed to discredit the art of aeroplane navigation. If it emphasizes the risks, there is nothing in the mishap to shake our faith in the principles upon which the Wright brothers built their machine, and achieved such brilliant success.
Magazine
In Scientific American (Sep 1908). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Sep 2008), 299, No. 3, 14.
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Since the Creator had made the facts of the after-life inaccessible to man, He must not have required that man understand death in order to live fruitfully.
In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (1948, 1993), 262.
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Since we all must die, what better can we ask for than a quick and sudden death?
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 143.
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So far as I can see the atomic bomb has deadened the finest feeling that has sustained mankind for ages.
(1946). In William Borman, Gandhi and Non-Violence (1986), 170.
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Society heaps honors on the unique, creative personality, but not until he has been dead for fifty years.
In Dr. N Sreedharan, Quotations of Wit and Wisdom (2007), 35.
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Some few, & I am one, even wish to God, though at the loss of millions of lives, that the North would proclaim a crusade against Slavery. In the long run, a million horrid deaths would be amply repaid in the cause of humanity. ... Great God how I shd like to see that greatest curse on Earth Slavery abolished.
Letter to Asa Gray (5 Jun 1861). In Charles Darwin, Frederick Burkhardt, Sydney Smith, The Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Vol. 9, 1861 (1994), xx. An attack by Confederate forces at Fort Sumter on 12 Apr 1861 marked the beginning of the American Civil war. In Sep 1862, President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a goal of the war. (Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day.)
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Statisticians tell us that for many years the death-rate from cancer has been slowly but steadily rising: and not unnaturally, many people conclude from this that for some reason or other we are becoming more susceptible to cancer. Actually, that conclusion does not follow at all. The rise in the cancer death-rate is probably due entirely to the fact that other causes of death have been reduced. Numbers of people who, if they had been born a century earlier, would have died in their twenties of typhoid or smallpox, say, are now living on into their seventies and dying of cancer.
From 'Figures Can Lie', Science Digest (Sep 1951), 30, No. 3, 53. (As condensed from The Listener). Excerpted in Meta Riley Emberger and Marian Ross Hall, Scientific Writing (1955), 407.
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Statistics are the triumph of the quantitative method, and the quantitative method is the victory of sterility and death.
'On Statistics'. In On the Silence of the Sea and Other Essays (1941),199-200.
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Statistics has been the handmaid of science, and has poured a flood of light upon the dark questions of famine and pestilence, ignorance and crime, disease and death.
Speech (16 Dec 1867) given while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, introducing resolution for the appointment of a committee to examine the necessities for legislation upon the subject of the ninth census to be taken the following year. Quoted in John Clark Ridpath, The Life and Work of James A. Garfield (1881), 216.
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Strictly speaking, the observed death rate for the human condition is something like 93%—that is, around 93% of all humans have died. This means the death rate among humans who were not members of The Beatles is significantly higher than the 50% death rate among humans who were.
On website what-if.xkcd.com
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The actuality of us being cognizant and accepting of the fact we are but a speck of sand in a universe sized desert, whose existence is irrelevant to any facet of universal function is a hard pill to swallow. Knowing the world will go on for another billion years after death and you will have no recollection of anything, just as you have no recollection of the billion years before your birth is a mind-boggling intuition.
…...
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The analysis of Nature into its individual parts, the grouping of the different natural processes and natural objects in definite classes, the study of the internal anatomy of organic bodies in their manifold forms—these were the fundamental conditions of the gigantic strides in our knowledge of Nature which have been made during the last four hundred years. But this method of investigation has also left us as a legacy the habit of observing natural objects and natural processes in their isolation, detached from the whole vast interconnection of things; and therefore not in their motion, but in their repose; not as essentially changing, but fixed constants; not in their life, but in their death.
Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (Anti-Dühring), First Publication (1878). Trans. Emile Burns and ed. C.P. Dutt (1935), 27-8.
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The autopsy of a person who had died from phosphorus poisoning would reveal inflammation and haemorrhage in the stomach and bowel, the liver would show fatty changes and both it, and the kidneys would be enlarged, greasy and of a yellow colour. But the most convincing proof of death due to phosphorus exposure would be to turn off all the lights in the mortuary and see its tell-tale glow...
The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire and Phosphorus (U.S., 2000), 191. Also published in Great Britain as The Shocking History of Phosphorus (2000).
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The birth of science was the death of superstition.
Widely quoted, but without citation, for example collected in Maturin Murray Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886, 1899), 440. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster, who has not yet found it.
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The Chinese, who aspire to be thought an enlightened nation, to this day are ignorant of the circulation of the blood; and even in England the man who made that noble discovery lost all his practice in the consequence of his ingenuity; and Hume informs us that no physician in the United Kingdom who had attained the age of forty ever submitted to become a convert to Harvey’s theory, but went on preferring numpsimus to sumpsimus to the day of his death.
Reflection 352, in Lacon: or Many things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think (1820), 164-165.
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The city of Hiroshima stands as more than a monument to massive death and destruction. It stands as a living testament to the necessity for progress toward nuclear disarmament.
Speech (11 Jan 1978)). In Bill Adler (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy (2011).
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