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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Disclose Quotes (18 quotes)

About eight days ago I discovered that sulfur in burning, far from losing weight, on the contrary, gains it; it is the same with phosphorus; this increase of weight arises from a prodigious quantity of air that is fixed during combustion and combines with the vapors. This discovery, which I have established by experiments, that I regard as decisive, has led me to think that what is observed in the combustion of sulfur and phosphorus may well take place in the case of all substances that gain in weight by combustion and calcination; and I am persuaded that the increase in weight of metallic calxes is due to the same cause... This discovery seems to me one of the most interesting that has been made since Stahl and since it is difficult not to disclose something inadvertently in conversation with friends that could lead to the truth I have thought it necessary to make the present deposit to the Secretary of the Academy to await the time I make my experiments public.
Sealed note deposited with the Secretary of the French Academy 1 Nov 1772. Oeuvres de Lavoisier, Correspondance, Fasc. II. 1770-75 (1957), 389-90. Adapted from translation by A. N. Meldrum, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Science (1930), 3.
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Although it be a known thing subscribed by all, that the foetus assumes its origin and birth from the male and female, and consequently that the egge is produced by the cock and henne, and the chicken out of the egge, yet neither the schools of physicians nor Aristotle’s discerning brain have disclosed the manner how the cock and its seed doth mint and coin the chicken out of the egge.
As quoted in John Arthur Thomson, The Science of Life: An Outline of the History of Biology and Its Recent Advances (1899), 126.
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Blessings on Science! When the earth seem’d old,
When Faith grew doting, and the Reason cold,
Twas she discover’d that the world was young,
And taught a language to its lisping tongue:
’Twas she disclosed a future to its view,
And made old knowledge pale before the new.
From poem, 'Railways' (1846), collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 214.
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EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
The Cynic's Word Book (1906), 86. Also published later as The Devil's Dictionary.
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In an age of egoism, it is so difficult to persuade man that of all studies, the most important is that of himself. This is because egoism, like all passions, is blind. The attention of the egoist is directed to the immediate needs of which his senses give notice, and cannot be raised to those reflective needs that reason discloses to us; his aim is satisfaction, not perfection. He considers only his individual self; his species is nothing to him. Perhaps he fears that in penetrating the mysteries of his being he will ensure his own abasement, blush at his discoveries, and meet his conscience. True philosophy, always at one with moral science, tells a different tale. The source of useful illumination, we are told, is that of lasting content, is in ourselves. Our insight depends above all on the state of our faculties; but how can we bring our faculties to perfection if we do not know their nature and their laws! The elements of happiness are the moral sentiments; but how can we develop these sentiments without considering the principle of our affections, and the means of directing them? We become better by studying ourselves; the man who thoroughly knows himself is the wise man. Such reflection on the nature of his being brings a man to a better awareness of all the bonds that unite us to our fellows, to the re-discovery at the inner root of his existence of that identity of common life actuating us all, to feeling the full force of that fine maxim of the ancients: 'I am a man, and nothing human is alien to me.'
Considerations sur les diverses méthodes à suivre dans l'observation des peuples sauvages (1800) The Observation of Savage Peoples, trans. F. C. T. Moore (1969), 61.
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Mathematics … engages, it fructifies, it quickens, compels attention, is as circumspect as inventive, induces courage and self-confidence as well as modesty and submission to truth. It yields the essence and kernel of all things, is brief in form and overflows with its wealth of content. It discloses the depth and breadth of the law and spiritual element behind the surface of phenomena; it impels from point to point and carries within itself the incentive toward progress; it stimulates the artistic perception, good taste in judgment and execution, as well as the scientific comprehension of things.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 40. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 49.
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No part of Mathematics suffers more from the triviality of its initial presentation to beginners than the great subject of series. Two minor examples of series, namely arithmetic and geometric series, are considered; these examples are important because they are the simplest examples of an important general theory. But the general ideas are never disclosed; and thus the examples, which exemplify nothing, are reduced to silly trivialities.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 194.
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Only for you, children of doctrine and learning, have we written this work. Examine this book, ponder the meaning we have dispersed in various places and gathered again; what we have concealed in one place we have disclosed in another, that it may be understood by your wisdom.
In De Occulta Philosophia (1531), Vol. 3, 65. As quoted and cited in epigraph, Umberto Eco and William Weaver (trans.), Foucault’s Pendulum (2007), Front matter before title page.
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Science corrects the old creeds, sweeps away, with every new perception, our infantile catechisms, and necessitates a faith commensurate with the grander orbits and universal laws which it discloses yet it does not surprise the moral sentiment that was older and awaited expectant these larger insights.
Hialmer Day Gould and Edward Louis Hessenmueller, Best Thoughts of Best Thinkers (1904), 330.
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The analysis of man discloses three chemical elements - a job, a meal and a woman.
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The law of gravitation is indisputably and incomparably the greatest scientific discovery ever made, whether we look at the advance which it involved, the extent of truth disclosed, or the fundamental and satisfactory nature of this truth.
In History of the Inductive Sciences, Bk. 7, chap. 8, sect. 6.
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The motive for the study of mathematics is insight into the nature of the universe. Stars and strata, heat and electricity, the laws and processes of becoming and being, incorporate mathematical truths. If language imitates the voice of the Creator, revealing His heart, mathematics discloses His intellect, repeating the story of how things came into being. And Value of Mathematics, appealing as it does to our energy and to our honor, to our desire to know the truth and thereby to live as of right in the household of God, is that it establishes us in larger and larger certainties. As literature develops emotion, understanding, and sympathy, so mathematics develops observation, imagination, and reason.
In A Theory of Motives, Ideals and Values in Education (1907), 406.
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The object of geometry in all its measuring and computing, is to ascertain with exactness the plan of the great Geometer, to penetrate the veil of material forms, and disclose the thoughts which lie beneath them? When our researches are successful, and when a generous and heaven-eyed inspiration has elevated us above humanity, and raised us triumphantly into the very presence, as it were, of the divine intellect, how instantly and entirely are human pride and vanity repressed, and, by a single glance at the glories of the infinite mind, are we humbled to the dust.
From 'Mathematical Investigation of the Fractions Which Occur in Phyllotaxis', Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1850), 2, 447, as quoted by R. C. Archibald in 'Benjamin Peirce: V. Biographical Sketch', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jan 1925), 32, No. 1, 12.
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The objects which astronomy discloses afford subjects of sublime contemplation, and tend to elevate the soul above vicious passions and groveling pursuits.
In Elijah H. Burritt, 'Introduction', The Geography of the Heavens (1844), 16.
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The prominent reason why a mathematician can be judged by none but mathematicians, is that he uses a peculiar language. The language of mathesis is special and untranslatable. In its simplest forms it can be translated, as, for instance, we say a right angle to mean a square corner. But you go a little higher in the science of mathematics, and it is impossible to dispense with a peculiar language. It would defy all the power of Mercury himself to explain to a person ignorant of the science what is meant by the single phrase “functional exponent.” How much more impossible, if we may say so, would it be to explain a whole treatise like Hamilton’s Quaternions, in such a wise as to make it possible to judge of its value! But to one who has learned this language, it is the most precise and clear of all modes of expression. It discloses the thought exactly as conceived by the writer, with more or less beauty of form, but never with obscurity. It may be prolix, as it often is among French writers; may delight in mere verbal metamorphoses, as in the Cambridge University of England; or adopt the briefest and clearest forms, as under the pens of the geometers of our Cambridge; but it always reveals to us precisely the writer’s thought.
In North American Review (Jul 1857), 85, 224-225.
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The world of ideas which it [mathematics] discloses or illuminates, the contemplation of divine beauty and order which it induces, the harmonious connexion of its parts, the infinite hierarchy and absolute evidence of the truths with which it is concerned, these, and such like, are the surest grounds of the title of mathematics to human regard, and would remain unimpeached and unimpaired were the plan of the universe unrolled like a map at our feet, and the mind of man qualified to take in the whole scheme of creation at a glance.
In Presidential Address to British Association (19 Aug 1869), 'A Plea for the Mathematician', published in Nature (6 Jan 1870), 1, 262. Collected in Collected Mathematical Papers (1908), Vol. 2, 659.
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Who of us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden; to cast a glance at the next advances of our science and at the secrets of its development during future centuries? What particular goals will there be toward which the leading mathematical spirits of coming generations will strive? What new methods and new facts in the wide and rich field of mathematical thought will the new centuries disclose?
Opening of Lecture (1900), 'Mathematische Probleme' (Mathematical Problems), to the International Congress of Mathematicians, Paris. From the original German reprinted in David Hilbert: Gesammelte Abhandlungen (Collected Treatises, 1970), Vol. 3. For full citation, see the quote that begins, “This conviction of the solvability…”, on the David Hilbert Quotes page on this website.
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[In the beginning, before creation] There was neither Aught nor Naught, no air nor sky beyond. …
[There was only]
A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.
Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
No gods had yet been born—who then can e’er the truth disclose?
Rigveda
In Rigveda. In John Robson, Hinduism and Its Relations to Christianity (1893), 17.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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