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Who said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Distinction

Distinction Quotes (44 quotes)

A desire to take medicine is, perhaps, the great feature which distinguishes man from other animals.
'Recent Advances in Medicine', Science (1891), 17, 170.
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A lot of scientific papers do deal with matters of atheoretical fact ... for example, whenever somebody finds a new “world's largest dinosaur,” which has only slightly more scientific relevance than shooting the record moose. In short, not everything that gets published in scientific journals bears the distinctive hallmarks of science.
In 'Paleoanthropology: Science or Mythical Charter?', Journal of Anthropological Research (Summer 2002), 58, No. 2, 186.
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Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.
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As in the experimental sciences, truth cannot be distinguished from error as long as firm principles have not been established through the rigorous observation of facts.
Ésur la maladie des vers ásoie (1870), 39.
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Because intelligence is our own most distinctive feature, we may incline to ascribe superior intelligence to the basic primate plan, or to the basic plan of the mammals in general, but this point requires some careful consideration. There is no question at all that most mammals of today are more intelligent than most reptiles of today. I am not going to try to define intelligence or to argue with those who deny thought or consciousness to any animal except man. It seems both common and scientific sense to admit that ability to learn, modification of action according to the situation, and other observable elements of behavior in animals reflect their degrees of intelligence and permit us, if only roughly, to compare these degrees. In spite of all difficulties and all the qualifications with which the expert (quite properly) hedges his conclusions, it also seems sensible to conclude that by and large an animal is likely to be more intelligent if it has a larger brain at a given body size and especially if its brain shows greater development of those areas and structures best developed in our own brains. After all, we know we are intelligent, even though we wish we were more so.
In The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 78.
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Being the inventor of sex would seem to be a sufficient distinction for a creature just barely large enough to be seen by the naked eye.
[Comment about Volvox, a freshwater green algae, which appears indetermimately plantlike and animal-like during its reproductive cycle.]
The Great Chain of Life (1957), 28.
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Louis Pasteur quote: Every chemical substance, whether natural or artificial, falls into one of two major categories, according
Every chemical substance, whether natural or artificial, falls into one of two major categories, according to the spatial characteristic of its form. The distinction is between those substances that have a plane of symmetry and those that do not. The former belong to the mineral, the latter to the living world.
Pasteur Vallery-Radot (ed.), Oeuvres de Pasteur (1922-1939), Vol. I, 331. Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 261.
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Evolution is a theory of organic change, but it does not imply, as many people assume, that ceaseless flux is the irreducible state of nature and that structure is but a temporary incarnation of the moment. Change is more often a rapid transition between stable states than a continuous transformation at slow and steady rates. We live in a world of structure and legitimate distinction. Species are the units of nature’s morphology.
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Hereafter we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is, that the latter are known, or believed to be connected at the present day by intermediate gradations whereas species were formerly thus connected.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 421.
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If we survey the mathematical works of Sylvester, we recognize indeed a considerable abundance, but in contradistinction to Cayley—not a versatility toward separate fields, but, with few exceptions—a confinement to arithmetic-algebraic branches. …
The concept of Function of a continuous variable, the fundamental concept of modern mathematics, plays no role, is indeed scarcely mentioned in the entire work of Sylvester—Sylvester was combinatorist [combinatoriker].
In Mathematische Annalen (1898), Bd.50, 134-135. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 173.
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It is admitted by all that a finished or even a competent reasoner is not the work of nature alone; the experience of every day makes it evident that education develops faculties which would otherwise never have manifested their existence. It is, therefore, as necessary to learn to reason before we can expect to be able to reason, as it is to learn to swim or fence, in order to attain either of those arts. Now, something must be reasoned upon, it matters not much what it is, provided it can be reasoned upon with certainty. The properties of mind or matter, or the study of languages, mathematics, or natural history, may be chosen for this purpose. Now of all these, it is desirable to choose the one which admits of the reasoning being verified, that is, in which we can find out by other means, such as measurement and ocular demonstration of all sorts, whether the results are true or not. When the guiding property of the loadstone was first ascertained, and it was necessary to learn how to use this new discovery, and to find out how far it might be relied on, it would have been thought advisable to make many passages between ports that were well known before attempting a voyage of discovery. So it is with our reasoning faculties: it is desirable that their powers should be exerted upon objects of such a nature, that we can tell by other means whether the results which we obtain are true or false, and this before it is safe to trust entirely to reason. Now the mathematics are peculiarly well adapted for this purpose, on the following grounds:
1. Every term is distinctly explained, and has but one meaning, and it is rarely that two words are employed to mean the same thing.
2. The first principles are self-evident, and, though derived from observation, do not require more of it than has been made by children in general.
3. The demonstration is strictly logical, taking nothing for granted except self-evident first principles, resting nothing upon probability, and entirely independent of authority and opinion.
4. When the conclusion is obtained by reasoning, its truth or falsehood can be ascertained, in geometry by actual measurement, in algebra by common arithmetical calculation. This gives confidence, and is absolutely necessary, if, as was said before, reason is not to be the instructor, but the pupil.
5. There are no words whose meanings are so much alike that the ideas which they stand for may be confounded. Between the meaning of terms there is no distinction, except a total distinction, and all adjectives and adverbs expressing difference of degrees are avoided.
In On the Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1898), chap. 1.
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It is not surprising, in view of the polydynamic constitution of the genuinely mathematical mind, that many of the major heros of the science, men like Desargues and Pascal, Descartes and Leibnitz, Newton, Gauss and Bolzano, Helmholtz and Clifford, Riemann and Salmon and Plücker and Poincaré, have attained to high distinction in other fields not only of science but of philosophy and letters too. And when we reflect that the very greatest mathematical achievements have been due, not alone to the peering, microscopic, histologic vision of men like Weierstrass, illuminating the hidden recesses, the minute and intimate structure of logical reality, but to the larger vision also of men like Klein who survey the kingdoms of geometry and analysis for the endless variety of things that flourish there, as the eye of Darwin ranged over the flora and fauna of the world, or as a commercial monarch contemplates its industry, or as a statesman beholds an empire; when we reflect not only that the Calculus of Probability is a creation of mathematics but that the master mathematician is constantly required to exercise judgment—judgment, that is, in matters not admitting of certainty—balancing probabilities not yet reduced nor even reducible perhaps to calculation; when we reflect that he is called upon to exercise a function analogous to that of the comparative anatomist like Cuvier, comparing theories and doctrines of every degree of similarity and dissimilarity of structure; when, finally, we reflect that he seldom deals with a single idea at a tune, but is for the most part engaged in wielding organized hosts of them, as a general wields at once the division of an army or as a great civil administrator directs from his central office diverse and scattered but related groups of interests and operations; then, I say, the current opinion that devotion to mathematics unfits the devotee for practical affairs should be known for false on a priori grounds. And one should be thus prepared to find that as a fact Gaspard Monge, creator of descriptive geometry, author of the classic Applications de l’analyse à la géométrie; Lazare Carnot, author of the celebrated works, Géométrie de position, and Réflections sur la Métaphysique du Calcul infinitesimal; Fourier, immortal creator of the Théorie analytique de la chaleur; Arago, rightful inheritor of Monge’s chair of geometry; Poncelet, creator of pure projective geometry; one should not be surprised, I say, to find that these and other mathematicians in a land sagacious enough to invoke their aid, rendered, alike in peace and in war, eminent public service.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 32-33.
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It’s misleading to suppose there’s any basic difference between education & entertainment. This distinction merely relieves people of the responsibility of looking into the matter.
In 'Classroom Without Walls', Explorations (May 1957), No. 7. Collected in Edmund Carpenter and Marshall McLuhan (eds.), Explorations in Communication, an Anthology (1960), 3.
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Know thyself! This is the source of all wisdom, said the great thinkers of the past, and the sentence was written in golden letters on the temple of the gods. To know himself, Linnæus declared to be the essential indisputable distinction of man above all other creatures. I know, indeed, in study nothing more worthy of free and thoughtful man than the study of himself. For if we look for the purpose of our existence, we cannot possibly find it outside ourselves. We are here for our own sake.
As translated and quoted in Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.) as epigraph for Chap. 9, The History of Creation (1886), Vol. 1, 244.
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Only to often on meeting scientific men, even those of genuine distiction, one finds that they are dull fellows and very stupid. They know one thing to excess; they know nothing else. Pursuing facts too doggedly and unimaginatively, they miss all the charming things that are not facts. ... Too much learning, like too little learning, is an unpleasant and dangerous thing.
A Second Mencken Chrestomathy: A New Selection from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (2006), 157.
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Physical science enjoys the distinction of being the most fundamental of the experimental sciences, and its laws are obeyed universally, so far as is known, not merely by inanimate things, but also by living organisms, in their minutest parts, as single individuals, and also as whole communities. It results from this that, however complicated a series of phenomena may be and however many other sciences may enter into its complete presentation, the purely physical aspect, or the application of the known laws of matter and energy, can always be legitimately separated from the other aspects.
In Matter and Energy (1912), 9-10.
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Religion considers the Universe deterministic and science considers it probabilistic—an important distinction.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 221.
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Science is feasible when the variables are few and can be enumerated; when their combinations are distinct and clear. We are tending toward the condition of science and aspiring to do it. The artist works out his own formulas; the interest of science lies in the art of making science.
In Moralités (1932). Reprinted in J. Matthews (ed.), Collected Works (1970). As cited in Robert Andrews (ed.), The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 810.
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Siphonophores do not convey the message–a favorite theme of unthinking romanticism–that nature is but one gigantic whole, all its parts intimately connected and interacting in some higher, ineffable harmony. Nature revels in boundaries and distinctions; we inhabit a universe of structure. But since our universe of structure has evolved historically, it must present us with fuzzy boundaries, where one kind of thing grades into another.
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So many people today–and even professional scientists–seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest . A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is–in my opinion–the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.
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Somebody is always reflectively monkeying with some of the parts of an infinite universe – monkeying as distinct from aping.
[About natural curiosity.]
In 'What Curiosity Can Do For You', Boys Life (Jun 1942), 29
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The combination of such characters, some, as the sacral ones, altogether peculiar among Reptiles, others borrowed, as it were, from groups now distinct from each other, and all manifested by creatures far surpassing in size the largest of existing reptiles, will, it is presumed, be deemed sufficient ground for establishing a distinct tribe or sub-order of Saurian Reptiles, for which I would propose the name of Dinosauria.
'Report on British Fossil Reptiles', Report of the Eleventh Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1842), 103.
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The concept of number is the obvious distinction between the beast and man. Thanks to number, the cry becomes a song, noise acquires rhythm, the spring is transformed into a dance, force becomes dynamic, and outlines figures.
Epigraph, without citation, in Corrective and Social Psychiatry and Journal of Behavior Technology Methods and Therapy (1966), Vol. 12, 409.
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The critical mathematician has abandoned the search for truth. He no longer flatters himself that his propositions are or can be known to him or to any other human being to be true; and he contents himself with aiming at the correct, or the consistent. The distinction is not annulled nor even blurred by the reflection that consistency contains immanently a kind of truth. He is not absolutely certain, but he believes profoundly that it is possible to find various sets of a few propositions each such that the propositions of each set are compatible, that the propositions of each such set imply other propositions, and that the latter can be deduced from the former with certainty. That is to say, he believes that there are systems of coherent or consistent propositions, and he regards it his business to discover such systems. Any such system is a branch of mathematics.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 94. Also in Science (1912), New Series, 35, 107.
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The dexterous management of terms and being able to fend and prove with them, I know has and does pass in the world for a great part of learning; but it is learning distinct from knowledge, for knowledge consists only in perceiving the habitudes and relations of ideas one to another, which is done without words; the intervention of sounds helps nothing to it. And hence we see that there is least use of distinction where there is most knowledge: I mean in mathematics, where men have determined ideas with known names to them; and so, there being no room for equivocations, there is no need of distinctions.
In Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 31.
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The distinction is, that the science or knowledge of the particular subject-matter furnishes the evidence, while logic furnishes the principles and rules of the estimation of evidence.
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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The most important distinction between the two qualities [talent and genius] is this: one, in conception, follows mechanical processes; the other, vital. Talent feebly conceives objects with the senses and understanding; genius, fusing all its powers together in the alembic of an impassioned imagination, clutches every thing in the concrete, conceives objects as living realities, gives body to spiritual abstractions, and spirit to bodily appearances, and like
“A gate of steel
Fronting the sun, receives and renders back
His figure and his heat!”
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203. The quotation at the end is from Wiliam Shakespeare, Tr. & Cress. iii, 3.
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The [Ascension] island is entirely destitute of trees, in which, and in every other respect, it is very far inferior to St. Helena. Mr. Dring tells me, that the witty people of the latter place say, “we know we live on a rock, but the poor people of Ascension live on a cinder:” the distinction in truth is very just.
In Journal of Researches Into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by H.M.S. Beagle Under the Command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N. From 1832 to 1836 (1840), 587.
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There are no better terms available to describe the difference between the approach of the natural and the social sciences than to call the former ‘objective’ and the latter ‘subjective.’ ... While for the natural scientist the contrast between objective facts and subjective opinions is a simple one, the distinction cannot as readily be applied to the object of the social sciences. The reason for this is that the object, the ‘facts’ of the social sciences are also opinions—not opinions of the student of the social phenomena, of course, but opinions of those whose actions produce the object of the social scientist.
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There is only one law of Nature—the second law of thermodynamics—which recognises a distinction between past and future more profound than the difference of plus and minus. It stands aloof from all the rest. … It opens up a new province of knowledge, namely, the study of organisation; and it is in connection with organisation that a direction of time-flow and a distinction between doing and undoing appears for the first time.
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), 67-68.
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This quality of genius is, sometimes, difficult to be distinguished from talent, because high genius includes talent. It is talent, and something more. The usual distinction between genius and talent is, that one represents creative thought, the other practical skill: one invents, the other applies. But the truth is, that high genius applies its own inventions better than talent alone can do. A man who has mastered the higher mathematics, does not, on that account, lose his knowledge of arithmetic. Hannibal, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Newton, Scott, Burke, Arkwright, were they not men of talent as well as men of genius?
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Time’s arrow of ‘just history’ marks each moment of time with a distinctive brand. But we cannot, in our quest to understand history, be satisfied only with a mark to recognize each moment and a guide to order events in temporal sequence. Uniqueness is the essence of history, but we also crave some underlying generality, some principles of order transcending the distinction of moments–lest we be driven mad by Borges’s vision of a new picture every two thousand pages in a book without end. We also need, in short, the immanence of time’s cycle.
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To generalize is to be an idiot. To particularize is the alone distinction of merit. General knowledges are those knowledges that idiots possess.
Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds, 'Discourse II', Discourses (c.1808), as given in Geoffrey Keynes, Complete Writings (1957).
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To my mind, the distinction between a nuclear weapon and a conventional weapon is the distinction between an effective weapon and an outmoded weapon.
In 'The Nature of Nuclear Warfare,' Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1957), 13, No. 5, 162. (Reprinted from Air Force Magazine.)
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We are … led to a somewhat vague distinction between what we may call “hard” data and “soft” data. This distinction is a matter of degree, and must not be pressed; but if not taken too seriously it may help to make the situation clear. I mean by “hard” data those which resist the solvent influence of critical reflection, and by “soft” data those which, under the operation of this process, become to our minds more or less doubtful.
Our Knowledge of the External World (1925), 75.
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We do not ask what hope of gain makes a little bird warble, since we know that it takes delight in singing because it is for that very singing that the bird was made, so there is no need to ask why the human mind undertakes such toil in seeking out these secrets of the heavens. ... And just as other animals, and the human body, are sustained by food and drink, so the very spirit of Man, which is something distinct from Man, is nourished, is increased, and in a sense grows up on this diet of knowledge, and is more like the dead than the living if it is touched by no desire for these things.
Mysterium Cosmographicum. Translated by A. M. Duncan in The Secret of the Universe (1981), 55.
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We inhabit a complex world. Some boundaries are sharp and permit clean and definite distinctions. But nature also includes continua that cannot be neatly parceled into two piles of unambiguous yeses and noes. Biologists have rejected, as fatally flawed in principle, all attempts by antiabortionists to define an unambiguous ‘beginning of life,’ because we know so well that the sequence from ovulation or spermatogenesis to birth is an unbreakable continuum–and surely no one will define masturbation as murder.
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We live in a world where unfortunately the distinction between true and false appears to become increasingly blurred by manipulation of facts, by exploitation of uncritical minds, and by the pollution of the language.
As attributed in prepared statement by David I. Haberman to Tiselius (1970 Nobel Prize Ceremony) in United States Congress, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations, Multinational Corporations and United States Foreign Policy (1974), 41.
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We must protect each other against the attacks of those self-appointed watchdogs of patriotism now abroad in the land who irresponsibly pin red labels on anyone whom they wish to destroy. ... [Academic professionals are the only person competant to differentiate between honest independents and the Communists.] This is our responsibility. It is not a pleasant task. But if it is left to outsiders, the distinction is not likely to be made and those independent critics of social institutions among us who are one of the glories of a true university could be silenced.
As quoted by William L. Laurence in 'Professors Urged to Guard Freedom', New York Times (19 Sep 1952), 17.
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We profess to teach the principles and practice of medicine, or, in other words, the science and art of medicine. Science is knowledge reduced to principles; art is knowledge reduced to practice. The knowing and doing, however, are distinct. ... Your knowledge, therefore, is useless unless you cultivate the art of healing. Unfortunately, the scientific man very often has the least amount of art, and he is totally unsuccessful in practice; and, on the other hand, there may be much art based on an infinitesimal amount of knowledge, and yet it is sufficient to make its cultivator eminent.
From H.G. Sutton, Abstract of Lecture delivered at Guy's Hospital by Samuel Wilks, 'Introductory to Part of a Course on the Theory and Practice of Medicine', The Lancet (24 Mar 1866), 1, 308
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You may perceive something of the distinction which I think necessary to keep in view between art and science, between the artist and the man of knowledge, or the philosopher. The man of knowledge, the philosopher, is he who studies and acquires knowledge in order to improve his own mind; and with a desire of extending the department of knowledge to which he turns his attention, or to render it useful to the world, by discoveries, or by inventions, which may be the foundation of new arts, or of improvements in those already established. Excited by one or more of these motives, the philosopher employs himself in acquiring knowledge and in communicating it. The artist only executes and practises what the philosopher or man of invention has discovered or contrived, while the business of the trader is to retail the productions of the artist, exchange some of them for others, and transport them to distant places for that purpose.
From the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 3.
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[Edison] definitely ended the distinction between the theoretical man of science and the practical man of science, so that today we think of scientific discoveries in connection with their possible present or future application to the needs of man. He took the old rule-of-thumb methods out of industry and substituted exact scientific knowledge, while, on the other hand, he directed scientific research into useful channels.
In My Friend Mr. Edison (1930). Quoted in Dyson Carter, If You Want to Invent (1939), 110.
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[From uranium] there are present at least two distinct types of radiation one that is very readily absorbed, which will be termed for convenience the α radiation, and the other of a more penetrative character, which will be termed the β radiation.
Originating the names for these two types of radiation. In 'Uranium Radiation and the Electrical Conduction Produced by It', Philosophical Magazine (1899), 47, 116.
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[My] numberless observations... made on the Strata... [have] made me confident of their uniformity throughout this Country & [have] led me to conclude that the same regularity... will be found to extend to every part of the Globe for Nature has done nothing by piecemeal. [T]here is no inconsistency in her productions. [T]he Horse never becomes an Ass nor the Crab an Apple by any intermixture or artificial combination whatever[. N]or will the Oak ever degenerate into an Ash or an Ash into an Elm. [H]owever varied by Soil or Climate the species will still be distinct on this ground. [T]hen I argue that what is found here may be found elsewhere[.] When proper allowances are made for such irregularities as often occur and the proper situation and natural agreement is well understood I am satisfied there will be no more difficulty in ascertaining the true quality of the Strata and the place of its possition [sic] than there is now in finding the true Class and Character of Plants by the Linean [sic] System.
Natural Order of the Strata in England and Wales Accurately Delineated and Described, unpublished manuscript, Department of Geology, University of Oxford, 1801, f. 7v.
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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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