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Who said: “God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.”
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Discoverer Quotes (42 quotes)

Dass die bis jetzt unzerlegten chemischen Elemente absolut unzerlegbare Stoffe seien, ist gegenwärtig mindestens sehr unwahrscheinlich. Vielmehr scheint es, dass die Atome der Elemente nicht die letzten, sondern nur die näheren Bestandtheile der Molekeln sowohl der Elemente wie der Verbindungen bilden, die Molekeln oder Molecule als Massentheile erster, die Atome als solche zweiter Ordnung anzusehen sind, die ihrerseits wiederum aus Massentheilchen einer dritten höheren Ordnung bestehen werden.
That the as yet undivided chemical elements are absolutely irreducible substances, is currently at least very unlikely. Rather it seems, that the atoms of elements are not the final, but only the immediate constituents of the molecules of both the elements and the compounds—the Molekeln or molecule as foremost division of matter, the atoms being considered as second order, in turn consisting of matter particles of a third higher order.
[Speculating in 1870, on the existence of subatomic particles, in opening remark of the paper by which he became established as co-discoverer of the Periodic Law.]
'Die Natur der chemischen Elemente als Function ihrer Atomgewichte' ('The Nature of the Chemical Elements as a Function of their Atomic Weight'), Annalen der Chemie (1870), supp. b, 354. Original German paper reprinted in Lothar Meyer and Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev, Das natürliche System der chemischen Elemente: Abhandlungen (1895), 9. Translation by Webmaster, with punctuation faithful to the original, except a comma was changed to a dash to improve readability.
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Mathematical truth has validity independent of place, personality, or human authority. Mathematical relations are not established, nor can they be abrogated, by edict. The multiplication table is international and permanent, not a matter of convention nor of relying upon authority of state or church. The value of π is not amenable to human caprice. The finding of a mathematical theorem may have been a highly romantic episode in the personal life of the discoverer, but it cannot be expected of itself to reveal the race, sex, or temperament of this discoverer. With modern means of widespread communication even mathematical notation tends to be international despite all nationalistic tendencies in the use of words or of type.
Anonymous
In 'Light Thrown on the Nature of Mathematics by Certain Aspects of Its Development', Mathematics in General Education (1940), 256. This is the Report of the Committee on the Function of Mathematics in General Education of the Commission on Secondary School Curriculum, which was established by the Executive Board of the Progressive Education Association in 1932.
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A moment's consideration of this case shows what a really great advance in the theory and practise of breeding has been obtained through the discovery of Mendel's law. What a puzzle this case would have presented to the biologist ten years ago! Agouti crossed with chocolate gives in the second filial generation (not in the first) four varieties, viz., agouti, chocolate, black and cinnamon. We could only have shaken our heads and looked wise (or skeptical).
Then we had no explanation to offer for such occurrences other than the 'instability of color characters under domestication,' the 'effects of inbreeding,' 'maternal impressions.' Serious consideration would have been given to the proximity of cages containing both black and cinnamon-agouti mice.
Now we have a simple, rational explanation, which anyone can put to the test. We are able to predict the production of new varieties, and to produce them.
We must not, of course, in our exuberance, conclude that the powers of the hybridizer know no limits. The result under consideration consists, after all, only in the making of new combinations of unit characters, but it is much to know that these units exist and that all conceivable combinations of them are ordinarily capable of production. This valuable knowledge we owe to the discoverer and to the rediscoverers of Mendel's law.
'New Colour Variety of the Guinea Pig', Science, 1908, 28, 250-252.
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A story about the Jack Spratts of medicine [was] told recently by Dr. Charles H. Best, co-discoverer of insulin. He had been invited to a conference of heart specialists in North America. On the eve of the meeting, out of respect for the fat-clogs-the-arteries theory, the delegates sat down to a special banquet served without fats. It was unpalatable but they all ate it as a duty. Next morning Best looked round the breakfast room and saw these same specialists—all in the 40-60 year old, coronary age group—happily tucking into eggs, bacon, buttered toast and coffee with cream.
'Objections To High-Fat Diets', Eat Fat And Grow Slim (1958), Ch. 3.
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As there are six kinds of metals, so I have also shown with reliable experiments… that there are also six kinds of half-metals. I through my experiments, had the good fortune … to be the discoverer of a new half-metal, namely cobalt regulus, which had formerly been confused with bismuth.
The six metals were gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, tin. The semimetals, in addition to cobalt, were mercury, bismuth, zinc, and the reguluses of antimony and arsenic. Cited as “According to Zenzén, Brandt stated in his diary for 1741,” in Mary Elvira Weeks and Henry M. Leicester (ed.), Discovery of the Elements (6th edition, revised and enlarged 1960). Brandt presented his work to the Royal Academy of Sciences, Upsala, as printed in 'Dissertatio de semimetallis' (Dissertation on semi-metals) in Acta Literaria et Scientiarum Sveciae (Journal of Swedish literature and sciences) (1735), 4 1-10.
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Before any great scientific principle receives distinct enunciation by individuals, it dwells more or less clearly in the general scientific mind. The intellectual plateau is already high, and our discoverers are those who, like peaks above the plateau, rise a little above the general level of thought at the time.
In 'Faraday as a Discoverer', The American Journal of Science (Jul 1868), 2nd series, 46, No. 136, 194.
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Discovery begins by finding the discoverer.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 169.
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Every discoverer of a new truth, or inventor of the method which evolves it, makes a dozen, perhaps fifty, useless combinations, experiments, or trials for one successful one. In the realm of electricity or of mechanics there is no objection to this. But when such rejected failures involve a torture of animals, sometimes fearful in its character, there is a distinct objection to it.
From 'Vivisection', an original paper in Surgical Anaesthesia: Addresses, and Other Papers (1894, 1900), 369-370.
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Freud becomes one of the dramatis personae, in fact, as discoverer of the great and beautiful modern myth of psychoanalysis. By myth, I mean a poetic, dramatic expression of a hidden truth; and in placing this emphasis, I do not intend to put into question the scientific validity of psychoanalysis.
The White Hotel (1981,1993), vii.
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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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I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make me pre-eminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature… the belief has been forced upon me…
Firstly: Owing to some peculiarity in my nervous system, I have perceptions of some things, which no one else has… and intuitive perception of… things hidden from eyes, ears, & ordinary senses…
Secondly: my sense reasoning faculties;
Thirdly: my concentration faculty, by which I mean the power not only of throwing my whole energy & existence into whatever I choose, but also of bringing to bear on anyone subject or idea, a vast apparatus from all sorts of apparently irrelevant & extraneous sources…
Well, here I have written what most people would call a remarkably mad letter; & yet certainly one of the most logical, sober-minded, cool, pieces of composition, (I believe), that I ever framed.
Lovelace Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, 42, folio 12 (6 Feb 1841). As quoted and cited in Dorothy Stein (ed.), 'This First Child of Mine', Ada: A Life and a Legacy (1985), 86.
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I have been speculating last night what makes a man a discoverer of undiscovered things; and a most perplexing problem it is. Many men who are very clever - much cleverer than the discoverers - never originate anything.
A Century of Family Letters, 1792-1896
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I must consider the organizer as more important than the discoverer.
Lebenslinien, Part 3 (1927), 435.
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If you want to find out anything from the theoretical physicists about the methods they use, I advise you to stick closely to one principle: don't listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds. To him who is a discoverer in this field the products of his imagination appear so necessary and natural that he regards them, and would like to have them regarded by others, not as creations of thought but as given realities.
From 'On the Method of Theoretical Physics', in Essays in Science (1934, 2004), 12.
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If you wish to learn from the theoretical physicist anything about the methods which he uses, I would give you the following piece of advice: Don’t listen to his words, examine his achievements. For to the discoverer in that field, the constructions of his imagination appear so necessary and so natural that he is apt to treat them not as the creations of his thoughts but as given realities.
In Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford (10 Jun 1933), 'On the Methods of Theoretical Physics'. Printed inPhilosophy of Science (Apr 1934), 1, No. 2, 163.
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In science, address the few; in literature, the many. In science, the few must dictate opinion to the many; in literature, the many, sooner or later, force their judgement on the few. But the few and the many are not necessarily the few and the many of the passing time: for discoverers in science have not un-often, in their own day, had the few against them; and writers the most permanently popular not unfrequently found, in their own day, a frigid reception from the many. By the few, I mean those who must ever remain the few, from whose dieta we, the multitude, take fame upon trust; by the many, I mean those who constitute the multitude in the long-run. We take the fame of a Harvey or a Newton upon trust, from the verdict of the few in successive generations; but the few could never persuade us to take poets and novelists on trust. We, the many, judge for ourselves of Shakespeare and Cervantes.
Caxtoniana: A Series of Essays on Life, Literature, and Manners (1863), Vol. 2, 329- 30.
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In Science, it is when we take some interest in the great discoverers and their lives that it becomes endurable, and only when we begin to trace the development of ideas that it becomes fascinating.
Quoted in Robert J. Scully, The Demon and the Quantum (2007), 5.
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In scientific matters ... the greatest discoverer differs from the most arduous imitator and apprentice only in degree, whereas he differs in kind from someone whom nature has endowed for fine art. But saying this does not disparage those great men to whom the human race owes so much in contrast to those whom nature has endowed for fine art. For the scientists' talent lies in continuing to increase the perfection of our cognitions and on all the dependent benefits, as well as in imparting that same knowledge to others; and in these respects they are far superior to those who merit the honour of being called geniuses. For the latter's art stops at some point, because a boundary is set for it beyond which it cannot go and which has probably long since been reached and cannot be extended further.
The Critique of Judgement (1790), trans. J. C. Meredith (1991), 72.
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In the history of scientific development the personal aspects of the process are usually omitted or played down to emphasize that the thing discovered is independent of the discoverer and that the result can be checked. But, as Einstein has pointed out, scientific concepts are 'created in the minds of men,' and in some way the nonprofessional aspects of life and mind are inevitably related to the professional.
American Institute of Physics, Center for History of Physics Newsletter (Fall 2004).
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In the vestibule of the Manchester Town Hall are placed two life-sized marble statues facing each other. One of these is that of John Dalton … the other that of James Prescott Joule. … Thus honour is done to Manchester’s two greatest sons—to Dalton, the founder of modern Chemistry and of the Atomic Theory, and the laws of chemical-combining proportions; to Joule, the founder of modern Physics and the discoverer of the Law of Conservation of Energy. The one gave to the world the final and satisfactory proof … that in every kind of chemical change no loss of matter occurs; the other proved that in all the varied modes of physical change, no loss of energy takes place.
In John Dalton and the Rise of Modern Chemistry (1895), 7.
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Infidels are intellectual discoverers. They sail the unknown seas and find new isles and continents in the infinite realms of thought. An Infidel is one who has found a new fact, who has an idea of his own, and who in the mental sky has seen another star. He is an intellectual capitalist, and for that reason excites the envy and hatred of the theological pauper.
In 'The Great Infidels', The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll (1902), Vol. 3, 309.
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It is not merely as an investigator and discoverer, but as a high-principled and unassuming man, that Scheele merits our warmest admiration. His aim and object was the discovery of truth. The letters of the man reveal to us in the most pleasant way his high scientific ideal, his genuinely philosophic temper, and his simple mode of thought. “It is the truth alone that we desire to know, and what joy there is in discovering it!” With these words he himself characterizes his own efforts.
From History of Chemistry (1899). As quoted in Victor Robinson, Pathfinders in Medicine (1912), 121.
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Man carries the world in his head, the whole astronomy and chemistry suspended in a thought. Because the history of nature is charactered in his brain, therefore he is the prophet and discoverer of her secrets. Every known fact in natural science was divined by the presentiment of somebody, before it was actually verified.
Essay, 'Nature', in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alfred Riggs Ferguson (ed.) and Jean Ferguson Carr (ed.), The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume III, Essays: Second Series (1984), 106-107.
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Man is the highest product of his own history. The discoverer finds nothing so grand or tall as himself, nothing so valuable to him. The greatest star is at the small end of the telescope, the star that is looking, not looked after nor looked at.
In Theodore Parker and Rufus Leighton (ed.), Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Man: Selected from Notes of Unpublished Sermons (1865), 70.
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Mathematics is not the discoverer of laws, for it is not induction; neither is it the framer of theories, for it is not hypothesis; but it is the judge over both, and it is the arbiter to which each must refer its claims; and neither law can rule nor theory explain without the sanction of mathematics.
In 'Linear Associative Algebra', American Journal of Mathematics (1881), 4, 97.
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Most of the crackpot papers which are submitted to The Physical Review are rejected, not because it is impossible to understand them, but because it is possible. Those which are impossible to understand are usually published. When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer himself it will be only half-understood; to everybody else it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope.
In 'Innovation in Physics', Scientific American (Sep 1958), 199. Collected in From Eros to Gaia (1993).
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Most of the knowledge and much of the genius of the research worker lie behind his selection of what is worth observing. It is a crucial choice, often determining the success or failure of months of work, often differentiating the brilliant discoverer from an otherwise admirable but entirely unproductive plodder.
The Furtherance of Medical Research (1941), 8.
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My two Jamaican cousins ... were studying engineering. 'That's where the money is,' Mom advised. ... I was to be an engineering major, despite my allergy to science and math. ... Those who preceded me at CCNY include the polio vaccine discoverer, Dr. Jonas Salk ... and eight Nobel Prize winners. ... In class, I stumbled through math, fumbled through physics, and did reasonably well in, and even enjoyed, geology. All I ever looked forward to was ROTC.
Autobiographical comments on his original reason for going to the City College of New York, where he shortly turned to his military career.
My American Journey (1996), 23-26. ROTC is the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) school-based program of the U.S. military. From there, the self-described 'C-average student out of middling Morris High School' went on to become a four-star general.
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No one believes an hypothesis except its originator but everyone believes an experiment except the experimenter. Most people are ready to believe something based on experiment but the experimenter knows the many little things that could have gone wrong in the experiment. For this reason the discoverer of a new fact seldom feels quite so confident of it as others do. On the other hand other people are usually critical of an hypothesis, whereas the originator identifies himself with it and is liable to become devoted to it.
The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950), 47.
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One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulas have an independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser that we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them.
Quoted, without citation, in Men of Mathematics (1937), Vol. 2, 16.
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Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the inquiring constructive mind.
(Sep 1937). In Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman (ed.), Albert Einstein, the Human Side by (1979).
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The discoverer and the poet are inventors; and they are so because their mental vision detects the unapparent, unsuspected facts, almost as vividly as ocular vision rests on the apparent and familiar.
From 'The Principles of Success in Literature', The Fortnightly (1865), 1, 574.
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The discoveries of science, the works of art are explorations—more, are explosions, of a hidden likeness. The discoverer or artist presents in them two aspects of nature and fuses them into one. This is the act of creation, in which an original thought is born, and it is the same act in original science and original art.
From Science and Human Values (1956), 30.
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The second law of thermodynamics is, without a doubt, one of the most perfect laws in physics. Any reproducible violation of it, however small, would bring the discoverer great riches as well as a trip to Stockholm. The world’s energy problems would be solved at one stroke… . Not even Maxwell’s laws of electricity or Newton’s law of gravitation are so sacrosanct, for each has measurable corrections coming from quantum effects or general relativity. The law has caught the attention of poets and philosophers and has been called the greatest scientific achievement of the nineteenth century.
In Thermodynamics (1964). As cited in The Mathematics Devotional: Celebrating the Wisdom and Beauty of Physics (2015), 82.
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These creators, makers of the new, can never become obsolete, for in the arts there is no correct answer. The story of discoverers could be told in simple chronological order, since the latest science replaces what went before. But the arts are another story—a story of infinite addition. We must find order in the random flexings of the imagination.
In The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination (1992), xv.
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They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.
The Advancement of Learning (1605) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 3, 355.
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This [the fact that the pursuit of mathematics brings into harmonious action all the faculties of the human mind] accounts for the extraordinary longevity of all the greatest masters of the Analytic art, the Dii Majores of the mathematical Pantheon. Leibnitz lived to the age of 70; Euler to 76; Lagrange to 77; Laplace to 78; Gauss to 78; Plato, the supposed inventor of the conic sections, who made mathematics his study and delight, who called them the handles or aids to philosophy, the medicine of the soul, and is said never to have let a day go by without inventing some new theorems, lived to 82; Newton, the crown and glory of his race, to 85; Archimedes, the nearest akin, probably, to Newton in genius, was 75, and might have lived on to be 100, for aught we can guess to the contrary, when he was slain by the impatient and ill mannered sergeant, sent to bring him before the Roman general, in the full vigour of his faculties, and in the very act of working out a problem; Pythagoras, in whose school, I believe, the word mathematician (used, however, in a somewhat wider than its present sense) originated, the second founder of geometry, the inventor of the matchless theorem which goes by his name, the pre-cognizer of the undoubtedly mis-called Copernican theory, the discoverer of the regular solids and the musical canon who stands at the very apex of this pyramid of fame, (if we may credit the tradition) after spending 22 years studying in Egypt, and 12 in Babylon, opened school when 56 or 57 years old in Magna Græcia, married a young wife when past 60, and died, carrying on his work with energy unspent to the last, at the age of 99. The mathematician lives long and lives young; the wings of his soul do not early drop off, nor do its pores become clogged with the earthy particles blown from the dusty highways of vulgar life.
In Presidential Address to the British Association, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2 (1908), 658.
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To have a railroad, there must have been first the discoverers, who found out the properties of wood and iron, fire and water, and their latent power to carry men over the earth; next the organizers, who put these elements together, surveyed the route, planned the structure, set men to grade the hill, to fill the valley, and pave the road with iron bars; and then the administrators, who after all that is done, procure the engines, engineers, conductors, ticket-distributors, and the rest of the “hands;” they buy the coal and see it is not wasted, fix the rates of fare, calculate the savings, and distribute the dividends. The discoverers and organizers often fare hard in the world, lean men, ill-clad and suspected, often laughed at, while the administrator is thought the greater man, because he rides over their graves and pays the dividends, where the organizer only called for the assessments, and the discoverer told what men called a dream. What happens in a railroad happens also in a Church, or a State.
Address at the Melodeon, Boston (5 Mar 1848), 'A Discourse occasioned by the Death of John Quincy Adams'. Collected in Discourses of Politics: The Collected Works of Theodore Parker: Part 4 (1863), 139. Note: Ralph Waldo Emerson earlier used the phrase “pave the road with iron bars,” in Nature (1836), 17.
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Travelers are always discoverers, especially those who travel by air.
In North to the Orient (1935, 1963), 7.
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Truth travels down from the heights of philosophy to the humblest walks of life, and up from the simplest perceptions of an awakened intellect to the discoveries which almost change the face of the world. At every stage of its progress it is genial, luminous, creative. When first struck out by some distinguished and fortunate genius, it may address itself only to a few minds of kindred power. It exists then only in the highest forms of science; it corrects former systems, and authorizes new generalizations. Discussion, controversy begins; more truth is elicited, more errors exploded, more doubts cleared up, more phenomena drawn into the circle, unexpected connexions of kindred sciences are traced, and in each step of the progress, the number rapidly grows of those who are prepared to comprehend and carry on some branches of the investigation,— till, in the lapse of time, every order of intellect has been kindled, from that of the sublime discoverer to the practical machinist; and every department of knowledge been enlarged, from the most abstruse and transcendental theory to the daily arts of life.
In An Address Delivered Before the Literary Societies of Amherst College (25 Aug 1835), 16-17.
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Under the Providence of God, our means of education are the grand machinery by which the 'raw material' of human nature can be worked up into inventors and discoverers, into skilled artisans and scientific farmers, into scholars and jurists, into the founders of benevolent institutions, and the great expounders of ethical and theological science.
Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Board of Education of Massachusetts for the years 1845-1848, Life and Works of Horace Mann (1891), Vol. 4, 228.
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We have all heard of the puzzle given to Archimedes…. His finding that the crown was of gold was a discovery; but he invented the method of determining the density of solids. Indeed, discoverers must generally be inventors; though inventors are not necessarily discoverers.
From 'How Discoveries Are Made', Cassell's Magazine, Illustrated (May 1908), 629.
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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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