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Element Quotes (162 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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Die Welt der chemischen Vorgänge gleicht einer Bühne, auf welcher sich in unablässiger Aufeinanderfolge Scene um Scene abspielt. Die handelnden Personen auf ihr sind die Elemente.
The world of chemical reactions is like a stage, on which scene after scene is ceaselessly played. The actors on it are the elements.
Original German quote in Mary Elvira Weeks, The Discovery of the Elements (1934), 2, citing Winkler, 'Ueber die Entdeckung neuer Elemente im Verlaufe der letzten fünfundzwanzig Jahre," Ber. (Jan 1897), 30, 13. Translation in Mary Elvira Weeks and Henry M. Leicester (ed.)The Discovery of the Elements (6th ed. 1956), 3.
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Il est impossible de contempler le spectacle de l’univers étoilé sans se demander comment il s’est formé: nous devions peut-être attendre pour chercher une solution que nous ayons patiemment rassemblé les éléments …mais si nous étions si raisonnables, si nous étions curieux sans impatience, il est probable que nous n’avions jamais créé la Science et que nous nous serions toujours contentés de vivre notre petite vie. Notre esprit a donc reclamé impérieusement cette solution bien avant qu’elle fut mûre, et alors qu’il ne possédait que de vagues lueurs, lui permettant de la deviner plutôt que de l’attendre.
It is impossible to contemplate the spectacle of the starry universe without wondering how it was formed: perhaps we ought to wait, and not look for a solution until have patiently assembled the elements … but if we were so reasonable, if we were curious without impatience, it is probable we would never have created Science and we would always have been content with a trivial existence. Thus the mind has imperiously laid claim to this solution long before it was ripe, even while perceived in only faint glimmers—allowing us to guess a solution rather than wait for it.
From Leçons sur les Hypothèses Consmogoniques (1913) as cited in D. Ter Haar and A.G.W. Cameron, 'Historical Review of Theories of the Origin of the Solar System', collected in Robert Jastrow and A. G. W. Cameron (eds.), Origin of the Solar System: Proceedings of a Conference Held at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, January 23-24, 1962, (1963), 3. 'Cosmogonical Hypotheses' (1913), collected in Harlow Shapley, Source Book in Astronomy, 1900-1950 (1960), 347.
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Wenn sich für ein neues Fossil kein, auf eigenthümliche Eigenschaften desselben hinweisender, Name auffinden lassen Will; als in welchem Falle ich mich bei dem gegenwärtigen zu befinden gestehe; so halte ich es für besser, eine solche Benennung auszuwählen, die an sich gar nichts sagt, und folglich auch zu keinen unrichtigen Begriffen Anlass geben kann. Diesem zufolge will ich den Namen für die gegenwärtige metallische Substanz, gleichergestalt wie bei dem Uranium geschehen, aus der Mythologie, und zwar von den Ursöhnen der Erde, den Titanen, entlehnen, und benenne also dieses neue Metallgeschlecht: Titanium.
Wherefore no name can be found for a new fossil [element] which indicates its peculiar and characteristic properties (in which position I find myself at present), I think it is best to choose such a denomination as means nothing of itself and thus can give no rise to any erroneous ideas. In consequence of this, as I did in the case of Uranium, I shall borrow the name for this metallic substance from mythology, and in particular from the Titans, the first sons of the earth. I therefore call this metallic genus TITANIUM.
Martin Heinrich Klaproth. Original German edition, Beiträge Zur Chemischen Kenntniss Der Mineralkörper (1795), Vol. 1 , 244. English edition, translator not named, Analytical Essays Towards Promoting the Chemical Knowledge of Mineral Substances (1801), Vol. 1, 210. Klaproth's use of the term fossil associates his knowledge of the metal as from ore samples dug out of a mine.
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[On the propulsive force of rockets] One part of fire takes up as much space as ten parts of air, and one part of air takes up the space of ten parts of water, and one part of water as much as ten parts of earth. Now powder is earth, consisting of the four elementary principles, and when the sulfur conducts the fire into the dryest part of the powder, fire, and air increase … the other elements also gird themselves for battle with each other and the rage of battle is changed by their heat and moisture into a strong wind.
In De La Pirotechnia (1540). From the 1943 English translation, as given in Willy Ley, Rockets: The Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere (1944), 64. Though Birinuccio provided the first insight into what propels a rocket, the “strong wind” blowing downward, he did not explain why that should cause the rocket to rise upward, as Issac Newton would do with his Third Law of Motion, nearly a century and a half later.
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[Pechblende] einer eigenthümlichen, selbstständigen metallischen Substanz bestehe. Es fallen folglich auch deren bisherige Benennungen, als: Ресhblende Eisenpecherz, hinweg, welche nun durch einen neuen ausschliessend bezeichnenden Namen zu ersetzen sind. Ich habe dazu den Namen: Uranerz (Uranium) erwählt; zu einigem Andenken, dass die chemische Ausfindung dieses neuen Metallkörpers in die Epoche der astronomischen. Entdeckung des Planeten Uranus gefallen sei.
[Pitchblende] consists of a peculiar, distinct, metallic substance. Therefore its former denominations, pitch-blende, pitch-iron-ore, &c. are no longer applicable, and must be supplied by another more appropriate name.—I have chosen that of uranite, (Uranium), as a kind of memorial, that the chemical discovery of this new metal happened in the period of the astronomical discovery of the new planet Uranus.
In original German edition, Beiträge Zur Chemischen Kenntniss Der Mineralkörper (1797), Vol. 2, 215. English edition, translator not named, Analytical Essays Towards Promoting the Chemical Knowledge of Mineral Substances (1801), 491. The new planet was discovered on 13 Mar 1781 by William Herschel, who originally named it Georgium Sidus (George's Star) to honour King George III.
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“Pieces” almost always appear 'as parts' in whole processes. ... To sever a “'part” from the organized whole in which it occurs—whether it itself be a subsidiary whole or an “element”—is a very real process usually involving alterations in that “part”. Modifications of a part frequently involve changes elsewhere in the whole itself. Nor is the nature of these alterations arbitrary, for they too are determined by whole-conditions.
From 'Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt, I', Psychol. Forsch. (1922), 1, 47-58. As translated in 'The General Theoretical Situation' (1922), collected in W. D. Ellis (ed.), A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology (1938, 1967), Vol. 2, 14.
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SIR TOBY: Does not our lives consist of the four elements?
SIR ANDREW: Faith, so they say; but I think it rather consists of eating and drinking.
SIR TOBY: Thou'rt a scholar; let us therefore eat and drink.
Twelfth Night (1601), II, iii.
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A discovery in science, or a new theory, even when it appears most unitary and most all-embracing, deals with some immediate element of novelty or paradox within the framework of far vaster, unanalysed, unarticulated reserves of knowledge, experience, faith, and presupposition. Our progress is narrow; it takes a vast world unchallenged and for granted. This is one reason why, however great the novelty or scope of new discovery, we neither can, nor need, rebuild the house of the mind very rapidly. This is one reason why science, for all its revolutions, is conservative. This is why we will have to accept the fact that no one of us really will ever know very much. This is why we shall have to find comfort in the fact that, taken together, we know more and more.
Science and the Common Understanding (1954), 53-4.
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A knowledge of the specific element in disease is the key to medicine.
In Armand Trousseau, as translated by P. Victor and John Rose Cormack, Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1873), Vol. 1, 452.
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A little science is something that they must have. I should like my nephews to know what air is, and water; why we breathe, and why wood burns; the nutritive elements essential to plant life, and the constituents of the soil. And it is no vague and imperfect knowledge from hearsay I would have them gain of these fundamental truths, on which depend agriculture and the industrial arts and our health itself; I would have them know these things thoroughly from their own observation and experience. Books here are insufficient, and can serve merely as aids to scientific experiment.
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A modern branch of mathematics, having achieved the art of dealing with the infinitely small, can now yield solutions in other more complex problems of motion, which used to appear insoluble. This modern branch of mathematics, unknown to the ancients, when dealing with problems of motion, admits the conception of the infinitely small, and so conforms to the chief condition of motion (absolute continuity) and thereby corrects the inevitable error which the human mind cannot avoid when dealing with separate elements of motion instead of examining continuous motion. In seeking the laws of historical movement just the same thing happens. The movement of humanity, arising as it does from innumerable human wills, is continuous. To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history. … Only by taking an infinitesimally small unit for observation (the differential of history, that is, the individual tendencies of man) and attaining to the art of integrating them (that is, finding the sum of these infinitesimals) can we hope to arrive at the laws of history.
War and Peace (1869), Book 11, Chap. 1.
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All that can be said upon the number and nature of elements is, in my opinion, confined to discussions entirely of a metaphysical nature. The subject only furnishes us with indefinite problems, which may be solved in a thousand different ways, not one of which, in all probability, is consistent with nature. I shall therefore only add upon this subject, that if, by the term elements, we mean to express those simple and indivisible atoms of which matter is composed, it is extremely probable we know nothing at all about them; but, if we apply the term elements, or principles of bodies, to express our idea of the last point which analysis is capable of reaching, we must admit, as elements, all the substances into which we are capable, by any means, to reduce bodies by decomposition.
Elements of Chemistry (1790), trans. R. Kerr, Preface, xxiv.
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And, to prevent mistakes, I must advertize you, that I now mean by elements, as those chymists that speak plainest do by their principles, certain primitive or simple, or perfectly unmingled bodies; which not being made of any other bodies, or of one another, are the ingredients of which all those called perfectly mixt bodies are immediately compounded, and into which they are ultimately resolved: now whether there be any such body to be constantly met with in all, and each, of those that are said to be elemented bodies, is the thing I now question.
The Sceptical Chemist (2nd ed., 1661), Appendix, 354. As given in Henry M. Leicester and Herbert S. Klickstein, A Source Book in Chemistry 1400-1900 (1952), 42.
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Any conception which is definitely and completely determined by means of a finite number of specifications, say by assigning a finite number of elements, is a mathematical conception. Mathematics has for its function to develop the consequences involved in the definition of a group of mathematical conceptions. Interdependence and mutual logical consistency among the members of the group are postulated, otherwise the group would either have to be treated as several distinct groups, or would lie beyond the sphere of mathematics.
In 'Mathematics', Encyclopedia Britannica (9th ed.).
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As a second year high school chemistry student, I still have a vivid memory of my excitement when I first saw a chart of the periodic table of elements. The order in the universe seemed miraculous, and I wanted to study and learn as much as possible about the natural sciences.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 555.
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As I show you this liquid, I too could tell you, 'I took my drop of water from the immensity of creation, and I took it filled with that fecund jelly, that is, to use the language of science, full of the elements needed for the development of lower creatures. And then I waited, and I observed, and I asked questions of it, and I asked it to repeat the original act of creation for me; what a sight it would be! But it is silent! It has been silent for several years, ever since I began these experiments. Yes! And it is because I have kept away from it, and am keeping away from it to this moment, the only thing that it has not been given to man to produce, I have kept away from it the germs that are floating in the air, I have kept away from it life, for life is the germ, and the germ is life.'
Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 169.
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As the brain of man is the speck of dust in the universe that thinks, so the leaves—the fern and the needled pine and the latticed frond and the seaweed ribbon—perceive the light in a fundamental and constructive sense. … Their leaves see the light, as my eyes can never do. … They impound its stellar energy, and with that force they make life out of the elements.
In Flowering Earth (1939), 4.
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Astronomy was thus the cradle of the natural sciences and the starting point of geometrical theories. The stars themselves gave rise to the concept of a ‘point’; triangles, quadrangles and other geometrical figures appeared in the constellations; the circle was realized by the disc of the sun and the moon. Thus in an essentially intuitive fashion the elements of geometrical thinking came into existence.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 72.
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At present we begin to feel impatient, and to wish for a new state of chemical elements. For a time the desire was to add to the metals, now we wish to diminish their number. They increase upon us continually, and threaten to enclose within their ranks the bounds of our fair fields of chemical science. The rocks of the mountain and the soil of the plain, the sands of the sea and the salts that are in it, have given way to the powers we have been able to apply to them, but only to be replaced by metals.
In his 16th Lecture of 1818, in Bence Jones, The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 1, 256-257.
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Before the promulgation of the periodic law the chemical elements were mere fragmentary incidental facts in nature; there was no special reason to expect the discovery of new elements, and the new ones which were discovered from time to time appeared to be possessed of quite novel properties. The law of periodicity first enabled us to perceive undiscovered elements at a distance which formerly were inaccessible to chemical vision, and long ere they were discovered new elements appeared before our eyes possessed of a number of well-defined properties.
In Faraday Lecture, delivered before the Fellows of the Chemical Society in the Theatre of the Royal Institution (4 Jun 1889), printed in Professor Mendeléeff, 'The Periodic Law of the Chemical Elements', Transactions of the Chemical Society (1889), 55, 648.
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Before the seas and lands had been created, before the sky that covers everything, Nature displayed a single aspect only throughout the cosmos; Chaos was its name, a shapeless, unwrought mass of inert bulk and nothing more, with the discordant seeds of disconnected elements all heaped together in anarchic disarray.
Describing the creation of the universe from chaos, at the beginning of Book I of Metamorphoses, lines 5-9. As translated in Charles Martin (trans.), Metamorphoses (2004), 15.
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Besides accustoming the student to demand, complete proof, and to know when he has not obtained it, mathematical studies are of immense benefit to his education by habituating him to precision. It is one of the peculiar excellencies of mathematical discipline, that the mathematician is never satisfied with à peu près. He requires the exact truth. Hardly any of the non-mathematical sciences, except chemistry, has this advantage. One of the commonest modes of loose thought, and sources of error both in opinion and in practice, is to overlook the importance of quantities. Mathematicians and chemists are taught by the whole course of their studies, that the most fundamental difference of quality depends on some very slight difference in proportional quantity; and that from the qualities of the influencing elements, without careful attention to their quantities, false expectation would constantly be formed as to the very nature and essential character of the result produced.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611. [The French phrase, à peu près means “approximately”. —Webmaster]
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Both social and biosocial factors are necessary to interpret crosscultural studies, with the general proviso that one’s research interest determines which elements, in what combinations, are significant for the provision of understanding.
…...
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Certain elements have the property of producing the same crystal form when in combination with an equal number of atoms of one or more common elements, and the elements, from his point of view, can be arranged in certain groups. For convenience I have called the elements belonging to the same group … isomorphous.
Originally published in 'Om Förhållandet emellan chemiska sammansättningen och krystallformen hos Arseniksyrade och Phosphorsyrade Salter', (On the Relation between the Chemical Composition and Crystal Form of Salts of Arsenic and Phosphoric Acids), Kungliga Svenska vetenskapsakademiens handlingar (1821), 4. In F. Szabadváry article on 'Eilhard Mitscherlich' in Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 424; perhaps from J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4 (1964), 210.
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Jöns Jacob Berzelius quote Jons Berzelius quote on chemical symbols - with background of bottles of chemicals
Laboratory chemicals shelf at Miami University (1911) (source)
Chemical signs ought to be letters, for the greater facility of writing, and not to disfigure a printed book ... I shall take therefore for the chemical sign, the initial letter of the Latin name of each elementary substance: but as several have the same initial letter, I shall distinguish them in the following manner:— 1. In the class which I shall call metalloids, I shall employ the initial letter only, even when this letter is common to the metalloid and to some metal. 2. In the class of metals, I shall distinguish those that have the same initials with another metal, or a metalloid, by writing the first two letters of the word. 3. If the first two letters be common to two metals, I shall, in that case, add to the initial letter the first consonant which they have not in common: for example, S = sulphur, Si = silicium, St = stibium (antimony), Sn = stannum (tin), C = carbonicum, Co = colbaltum (colbalt), Cu = cuprum (copper), O = oxygen, Os = osmium, &c.
'Essay on the Cause of Chemical Proportions, and on some circumstances relating to them: together with a short and easy method of expressing them', Annals of Philosophy, 1814, 3,51-2.
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Chemistry is one of those branches of human knowledge which has built itself upon methods and instruments by which truth can presumably be determined. It has survived and grown because all its precepts and principles can be re-tested at any time and anywhere. So long as it remained the mysterious alchemy by which a few devotees, by devious and dubious means, presumed to change baser metals into gold, it did not flourish, but when it dealt with the fact that 56 g. of fine iron, when heated with 32 g. of flowers of sulfur, generated extra heat and gave exactly 88 g. of an entirely new substance, then additional steps could be taken by anyone. Scientific research in chemistry, since the birth of the balance and the thermometer, has been a steady growth of test and observation. It has disclosed a finite number of elementary reagents composing an infinite universe, and it is devoted to their inter-reaction for the benefit of mankind.
Address upon receiving the Perkin Medal Award, 'The Big Things in Chemistry', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (Feb 1921), 13, No. 2, 163.
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Chemists have made of phlogiston a vague principle which is not at all rigorously defined, and which, in consequence, adapts itself to all explanations in which it is wished it shall enter; sometimes it is free fire, sometimes it is fire combined with the earthy element; sometimes it passes through the pores of vessels, sometimes they are impenetrable to it; it explains both the causticity and non-causticity, transparency and opacity, colours and absence of colours. It is a veritable Proteus which changes its form every instant. It is time to conduct chemistry to a more rigorous mode of reasoning ... to distinguish fact and observation from what is systematic and hypothetical.
'Réflexions sur le phlogistique', Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, 1783, 505-38. Reprinted in Oeuvres de Lavoisier (1864), Vol. 2, 640, trans. M. P. Crosland.
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Chemists show us that strange property, catalysis, which enables a substance while unaffected itself to incite to union elements around it. So a host, or hostess, who may know but little of those concerned, may, as a social switchboard, bring together the halves of pairs of scissors, men who become life-long friends, men and women who marry and are happy husbands and wives.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 179.
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Einstein never accepted quantum mechanics because of this element of chance and uncertainty. He said: God does not play dice. It seems that Einstein was doubly wrong. The quantum effects of black holes suggests that not only does God play dice, He sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.
…...
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Either one or the other [analysis or synthesis] may be direct or indirect. The direct procedure is when the point of departure is known-direct synthesis in the elements of geometry. By combining at random simple truths with each other, more complicated ones are deduced from them. This is the method of discovery, the special method of inventions, contrary to popular opinion.
Ampère gives this example drawn from geometry to illustrate his meaning for “direct synthesis” when deductions following from more simple, already-known theorems leads to a new discovery. In James R. Hofmann, André-Marie Ampère (1996), 159. Cites Académie des Sciences Ampère Archives, box 261.
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Entropy theory is indeed a first attempt to deal with global form; but it has not been dealing with structure. All it says is that a large sum of elements may have properties not found in a smaller sample of them.
In Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order (1974), 21.
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Ere land and sea and the all-covering sky
Were made, in the whole world the countenance
Of nature was the same, all one, well named
Chaos, a raw and undivided mass,
Naught but a lifeless bulk, with warring seeds
Of ill-joined elements compressed together.
Ovid’s description of the Creation of the universe at the beginning of Metamorphoses, Book I, lines 5-9, as translated in A.D. Melville (trans.), Ovid: Metamorphoses (1987), 1.
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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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For example, there are numbers of chemists who occupy themselves exclusively with the study of dyestuffs. They discover facts that are useful to scientific chemistry; but they do not rank as genuine scientific men. The genuine scientific chemist cares just as much to learn about erbium—the extreme rarity of which renders it commercially unimportant—as he does about iron. He is more eager to learn about erbium if the knowledge of it would do more to complete his conception of the Periodic Law, which expresses the mutual relations of the elements.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 20.
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For me too, the periodic table was a passion. ... As a boy, I stood in front of the display for hours, thinking how wonderful it was that each of those metal foils and jars of gas had its own distinct personality.
[Referring to the periodic table display in the Science Museum, London, with element samples in bottles]
Letter to Oliver Sacks. Quoted in Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001), footnote, 203.
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For, as the element of water lies in the middle of the globe, so, the branches run out from the root in its circuit on all sides towards the plains and towards the light. From this root very many branches are born. One branch is the Rhine, another the Danube, another the Nile, etc.
'The Philosophy of the Generation of the Elements', Book the Fourth, Text II. In The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Aureolus Philippus Theophrastus Bombast, of Hohenheim, called Paracelsus the Great, trans. A. E. Waite (1894), Vol. 1, 232.
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Four elements, Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, also provide an example of the astonishing togetherness of our universe. They make up the “organic” molecules that constitute living organisms on a planet, and the nuclei of these same elements interact to generate the light of its star. Then the organisms on the planet come to depend wholly on that starlight, as they must if life is to persist. So it is that all life on the Earth runs on sunlight. [Referring to photosynthesis]
In lecture, 'Life and Mind in the Universe', versions of which George Wald delivered throughout the 1980s. On the website of his son, Elijah Wald, who states it was the last of his father's major lectures.
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Geology itself is only chemistry with the element of time added.
In 'Progress of Culture', an address read to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, 18 July 1867. Collected in Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883), 475.
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Geometry, which should only obey Physics, when united with it sometimes commands it. If it happens that the question which we wish to examine is too complicated for all the elements to be able to enter into the analytical comparison which we wish to make, we separate the more inconvenient [elements], we substitute others for them, less troublesome, but also less real, and we are surprised to arrive, notwithstanding a painful labour, only at a result contradicted by nature; as if after having disguised it, cut it short or altered it, a purely mechanical combination could give it back to us.
From Essai d’une nouvelle théorie de la résistance des fluides (1752), translated as an epigram in Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800-1840: From the Calculus and Mechanics to Mathematical Analysis and Mathematical Physics (1990), Vol. 1, 33.
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Given any domain of thought in which the fundamental objective is a knowledge that transcends mere induction or mere empiricism, it seems quite inevitable that its processes should be made to conform closely to the pattern of a system free of ambiguous terms, symbols, operations, deductions; a system whose implications and assumptions are unique and consistent; a system whose logic confounds not the necessary with the sufficient where these are distinct; a system whose materials are abstract elements interpretable as reality or unreality in any forms whatsoever provided only that these forms mirror a thought that is pure. To such a system is universally given the name MATHEMATICS.
In 'Mathematics', National Mathematics Magazine (Nov 1937), 12, No. 2, 62.
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Here is the element or power of conduct, of intellect and knowledge, of beauty, and of social life and manners, and all needful to build up a complete human life. … We have instincts responding to them all, and requiring them all, and we are perfectly civilized only when all these instincts of our nature—all these elements in our civilization have been adequately recognized and satisfied.
Collected in Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors Both Ancient and Modern (1891), 75.
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I do not find that any one has doubted that there are four elements. The highest of these is supposed to be fire, and hence proceed the eyes of so many glittering stars. The next is that spirit, which both the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air. It is by the force of this vital principle, pervading all things and mingling with all, that the earth, together with the fourth element, water, is balanced in the middle of space.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 18.
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I have presented the periodic table as a kind of travel guide to an imaginary country, of which the elements are the various regions. This kingdom has a geography: the elements lie in particular juxtaposition to one another, and they are used to produce goods, much as a prairie produces wheat and a lake produces fish. It also has a history. Indeed, it has three kinds of history: the elements were discovered much as the lands of the world were discovered; the kingdom was mapped, just as the world was mapped, and the relative positions of the elements came to take on a great significance; and the elements have their own cosmic history, which can be traced back to the stars.
In The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), Preface, viii.
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I remember one occasion when I tried to add a little seasoning to a review, but I wasn’t allowed to. The paper was by Dorothy Maharam, and it was a perfectly sound contribution to abstract measure theory. The domains of the underlying measures were not sets but elements of more general Boolean algebras, and their range consisted not of positive numbers but of certain abstract equivalence classes. My proposed first sentence was: “The author discusses valueless measures in pointless spaces.”
In I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography (1985), 120.
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I should rejoice to see... Euclid honourably shelved or buried ‘deeper than did ever plummet sound’ out of the schoolboys’ reach; morphology introduced into the elements of algebra; projection, correlation, and motion accepted as aids to geometry; the mind of the student quickened and elevated and his faith awakened by early initiation into the ruling ideas of polarity, continuity, infinity, and familiarization with the doctrines of the imaginary and inconceivable.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 93.
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I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.
…...
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If all the elements are arranged in the order of their atomic weights, a periodic repetition of properties is obtained. This is expressed by the law of periodicity.
Principles of Chemistry (1905), Vol. 2, 17.
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If one of these elements, heat, becomes predominant in any body whatsoever, it destroys and dissolves all the others with its violence. …Again if too much moisture enters the channels of a body, and thus introduces disproportion, the other elements, adulterated by the liquid, are impaired, and the virtues of the mixture dissolved. This defect, in turn, may arise from the cooling properties of moist winds and breezes blowing upon the body. In the same way, increase or diminution of the proportion of air or of the earthy which is natural to the body may enfeeble the other elements.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 4, Sec. 6. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 18-19.
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If some nuclear properties of the heavy elements had been a little different from what they turned out to be, it might have been impossible to build a bomb.
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 149.
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If time is treated in modern physics as a dimension on a par with the dimensions of space, why should we a priori exclude the possibility that we are pulled as well as pushed along its axis? The future has, after all, as much or as little reality as the past, and there is nothing logically inconceivable in introducing, as a working hypothesis, an element of finality, supplementary to the element of causality, into our equations. It betrays a great lack of imagination to believe that the concept of “purpose” must necessarily be associated with some anthropomorphic deity.
In 'Epilogue', The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959, 1968), 537.
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If we knew all the laws of Nature, we should need only one fact or the description of one actual phenomenon to infer all the particular results at that point. Now we know only a few laws, and our result is vitiated, not, of course, by any confusion or irregularity in Nature, but by our ignorance of essential elements in the calculation. Our notions of law and harmony are commonly confined to those instances which we detect, but the harmony which results from a far greater number of seemingly conflicting, but really concurring, laws which we have not detected, is still more wonderful. The particular laws are as our points of view, as to the traveler, a mountain outline varies with every step, and it has an infinite number of profiles, though absolutely but one form. Even when cleft or bored through, it is not comprehended in its entireness.
…...
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If, as a chemist, I see a flower, I know all that is involved in synthesizing a flower’s elements. And I know that even the fact that it exists is not something that is natural. It is a miracle.
In Pamela Weintraub (ed.), 'Through the Looking Glass', The Omni Interviews (1984), 161.
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In all disciplines in which there is systematic knowledge of things with principles, causes, or elements, it arises from a grasp of those: we think we have knowledge of a thing when we have found its primary causes and principles, and followed it back to its elements. Clearly, then, systematic knowledge of nature must start with an attempt to settle questions about principles.
Aristotle
In Physics Book 1, Chap 1, as translated in J.L. Ackrill, A New Aristotle Reader (1988), 81.
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In defining an element let us not take an external boundary, Let us say, e.g., the smallest ponderable quantity of yttrium is an assemblage of ultimate atoms almost infinitely more like each other than they are to the atoms of any other approximating element. It does not necessarily follow that the atoms shall all be absolutely alike among themselves. The atomic weight which we ascribe to yttrium, therefore, merely represents a mean value around which the actual weights of the individual atoms of the “element” range within certain limits. But if my conjecture is tenable, could we separate atom from atom, we should find them varying within narrow limits on each side of the mean.
Address to Annual General Meeting of the Chemical Society (28 Mar 1888), printed in Journal of the Chemical Society (1888), 491.
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In the case of elements, as in that of individuals, the determination of character is often attended with very great difficulty, a true estimate being only slowly arrived at, and when at last such an estimate is found, it can only be very partially expressed in words.
In The Encyclopaedia Britannica: Ninth Edition (1877), Vol. 5, 714.
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In the last four days I have got the spectrum given by Tantalum. Chromium. Manganese. Iron. Nickel. Cobalt. and Copper and part of the Silver spectrum. The chief result is that all the elements give the same kind of spectrum, the result for any metal being quite easy to guess from the results for the others. This shews that the insides of all the atoms are very much alike, and from these results it will be possible to find out something of what the insides are made up of.
Letter to his mother (2 Nov 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 209.
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Indeed, we need not look back half a century to times which many now living remember well, and see the wonderful advances in the sciences and arts which have been made within that period. Some of these have rendered the elements themselves subservient to the purposes of man, have harnessed them to the yoke of his labors and effected the great blessings of moderating his own, of accomplishing what was beyond his feeble force, and extending the comforts of life to a much enlarged circle, to those who had before known its necessaries only.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia' (Dec 1818), reprinted in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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Is not light grander than fire? It is the same element in the state of purity.
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It cannot, of course, be stated with absolute certainty that no elements can combine with argon; but it appears at least improbable that any compounds will be formed.
[This held true for a century, until in Aug 2000, the first argon compound was formed, argon fluorohydride, HArF, but stable only below 40 K (−233 °C).]
Gases of the Atmosphere (1896), 193. Referenced in William H. Brock, The Chemical Tree: A History of Chemistry (2000), 339 and 671.
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It is a natural inquiry to ask—To what most nearly are these new phenomena [the newly-born science of radioactivity and the spontaneous disintegration of elements] correlated? Is it possible to give, by the help of an analogy to familiar phenomena, any correct idea of the nature of this new phenomenon “Radioactivity”? The answer may surprise those who hold to the adage that there is nothing new under the sun. Frankly, it is not possible, because in these latest developments science has broken fundamentally new ground, and has delved one distinct step further down into the foundations of knowledge.
In The Interpretation of Radium: Being the Substance of Six Free Popular Lectures Delivered at the University of Glasgow (1909, 1912), 2. The original lectures of early 1908, were greatly edited, rearranged and supplemented by the author for the book form.
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It is not Cayley’s way to analyze concepts into their ultimate elements. … But he is master of the empirical utilization of the material: in the way he combines it to form a single abstract concept which he generalizes and then subjects to computative tests, in the way the newly acquired data are made to yield at a single stroke the general comprehensive idea to the subsequent numerical verification of which years of labor are devoted. Cayley is thus the natural philosopher among mathematicians.
In Mathematische Annalen, Bd. 46 (1895), 479. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 146.
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It is not necessary to probe into the nature of things, as was done by those whom the Greeks call physici; nor need we be in alarm lest the Christian should be ignorant of the force and number of the elements—the motion, and order, and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the form of the heavens; the species and the natures of animals, plants, stones, fountains, rivers, mountains; about chronology and distances; the signs of coming storms; and a thousand other things which those philosophers either have found out, or think they have found out. … It is enough for the Christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly … is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God.
In Marcus Dods (ed.), J.F. Shaw (trans.), The Enchiridion of Augustine, Chap. 9, collected in The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo: A new translation (1873), Vol. 9, 180-181. The physici are natural philosophers.
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It is the intact and functioning organism on which natural selection operates. Organisms are therefore the central element of concern to the biologist who aspires to a broad and integrated understanding of biology.
From 'Interspecific comparison as a tool for ecological physiologists', collected in M.E. Feder, A.F. Bennett, W.W. Burggren, and R.B. Huey, (eds.), New Directions in Ecological Physiology (1987), 15.
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It is usually not recognized that for every injurious or parasitic microbe there are dozens of beneficial ones. Without the latter, there would be no bread to eat nor wine to drink, no fertile soils and no potable waters, no clothing and no sanitation. One can visualize no form of higher life without the existence of the microbes. They are the universal scavengers. They keep in constant circulation the chemical elements which are so essential to the continuation of plant and animal life.
In My Life With the Microbes (1954), 4.
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It was his [Leibnitz’s] love of method and order, and the conviction that such order and harmony existed in the real world, and that our success in understanding it depended upon the degree and order which we could attain in our own thoughts, that originally was probably nothing more than a habit which by degrees grew into a formal rule.* This habit was acquired by early occupation with legal and mathematical questions. We have seen how the theory of combinations and arrangements of elements had a special interest for him. We also saw how mathematical calculations served him as a type and model of clear and orderly reasoning, and how he tried to introduce method and system into logical discussions, by reducing to a small number of terms the multitude of compound notions he had to deal with. This tendency increased in strength, and even in those early years he elaborated the idea of a general arithmetic, with a universal language of symbols, or a characteristic which would be applicable to all reasoning processes, and reduce philosophical investigations to that simplicity and certainty which the use of algebraic symbols had introduced into mathematics.
A mental attitude such as this is always highly favorable for mathematical as well as for philosophical investigations. Wherever progress depends upon precision and clearness of thought, and wherever such can be gained by reducing a variety of investigations to a general method, by bringing a multitude of notions under a common term or symbol, it proves inestimable. It necessarily imports the special qualities of number—viz., their continuity, infinity and infinite divisibility—like mathematical quantities—and destroys the notion that irreconcilable contrasts exist in nature, or gaps which cannot be bridged over. Thus, in his letter to Arnaud, Leibnitz expresses it as his opinion that geometry, or the philosophy of space, forms a step to the philosophy of motion—i.e., of corporeal things—and the philosophy of motion a step to the philosophy of mind.
[* This sentence has been reworded for the purpose of this quotation.]
In Leibnitz (1884), 44-45.
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Judging from our experience upon this planet, such a history, that begins with elementary particles, leads perhaps inevitably toward a strange and moving end: a creature that knows, a science-making animal, that turns back upon the process that generated him and attempts to understand it. Without his like, the universe could be, but not be known, and this is a poor thing. Surely this is a great part of our dignity as men, that we can know, and that through us matter can know itself; that beginning with protons and electrons, out of the womb of time and the vastnesses of space, we can begin to understand; that organized as in us, the hydrogen, the carbon, the nitrogen, the oxygen, those 16-21 elements, the water, the sunlight—all having become us, can begin to understand what they are, and how they came to be.
In 'The Origins of Life', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (1964), 52, 609-110.
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Jupiter is the largest of all the solar system’s planets, more than ten times bigger and three hundred times as massive as Earth. Jupiter is so immense it could swallow all the other planets easily. Its Great Red Spot, a storm that has raged for centuries, is itself wider than Earth. And the Spot is merely one feature visible among the innumerable vortexes and streams of Jupiter’s frenetically racing cloud tops. Yet Jupiter is composed mainly of the lightest elements, hydrogen and helium, more like a star than a planet. All that size and mass, yet Jupiter spins on its axis in less than ten hours, so fast that the planet is clearly not spherical: Its poles are noticeably flattened. Jupiter looks like a big, colorfully striped beach ball that’s squashed down as if some invisible child were sitting on it. Spinning that fast, Jupiter’s deep, deep atmosphere is swirled into bands and ribbons of multihued clouds: pale yellow, saffron orange, white, tawny yellow-brown, dark brown, bluish, pink and red. Titanic winds push the clouds across the face of Jupiter at hundreds of kilometers per hour.
Ben Bova
Jupiter
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Knowledge and wonder are the dyad of our worthy lives as intellectual beings. Voyager did wonders for our knowledge, but performed just as mightily in the service of wonder–and the two elements are complementary, not independent or opposed. The thought fills me with awe–a mechanical contraption that could fit in the back of a pickup truck, traveling through space for twelve years, dodging around four giant bodies and their associated moons, and finally sending exquisite photos across more than four light-hours of space from the farthest planet in our solar system.
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Let us draw an arrow arbitrarily. If as we follow the arrow we find more and more of the random element in the state of the world, then the arrow is pointing towards the future; if the random element decreases the arrow points towards the past … I shall use the phrase “time's arrow” to express this one-way property of time which has no analogue in space.
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of The Physical World (1928), 69.
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Magic and all that is ascribed to it is a deep presentiment of the powers of science. The shoes of swiftness, the sword of sharpness, the power of subduing the elements, of using the secret virtues of minerals, of understanding the voices of birds, are the obscure efforts of the mind in a right direction.
From 'History', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 34.
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Mathematics as an expression of the human mind reflects the active will, the contemplative reason, and the desire for aesthetic perfection. Its basic elements are logic and intuition, analysis and construction, generality and individuality. Though different traditions may emphasize different aspects, it is only the interplay of these antithetic forces and the struggle for their synthesis that constitute the life, usefulness, and supreme value of mathematical science.
As co-author with Herbert Robbins, in What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (1941, 1996), x.
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Mathematics because of its nature and structure is peculiarly fitted for high school instruction [Gymnasiallehrfach]. Especially the higher mathematics, even if presented only in its elements, combines within itself all those qualities which are demanded of a secondary subject.
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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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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No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.
Seen, for example, in The Grain and Feed Review (1931), 21, 34.
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Nobody, I suppose, could devote many years to the study of chemical kinetics without being deeply conscious of the fascination of time and change: this is something that goes outside science into poetry; but science, subject to the rigid necessity of always seeking closer approximations to the truth, itself contains many poetical elements.
From Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1956), collected in Nobel Lectures in Chemistry (1999), 474.
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Now do you not see that the eye embraces the beauty of the whole world? It counsels and corrects all the arts of mankind... it is the prince of mathematics, and the sciences founded on it are absolutely certain. It has measured the distances and sizes of the stars it has discovered the elements and their location... it has given birth to architecture and to perspective and to the divine art of painting.
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Of the four elements water is the second in weight and the second in respect of mobility. It is never at rest until it unites with the sea…
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One feature which will probably most impress the mathematician accustomed to the rapidity and directness secured by the generality of modern methods is the deliberation with which Archimedes approaches the solution of any one of his main problems. Yet this very characteristic, with its incidental effects, is calculated to excite the more admiration because the method suggests the tactics of some great strategist who foresees everything, eliminates everything not immediately conducive to the execution of his plan, masters every position in its order, and then suddenly (when the very elaboration of the scheme has almost obscured, in the mind of the spectator, its ultimate object) strikes the final blow. Thus we read in Archimedes proposition after proposition the bearing of which is not immediately obvious but which we find infallibly used later on; and we are led by such easy stages that the difficulties of the original problem, as presented at the outset, are scarcely appreciated. As Plutarch says: “It is not possible to find in geometry more difficult and troublesome questions, or more simple and lucid explanations.” But it is decidedly a rhetorical exaggeration when Plutarch goes on to say that we are deceived by the easiness of the successive steps into the belief that anyone could have discovered them for himself. On the contrary, the studied simplicity and the perfect finish of the treatises involve at the same time an element of mystery. Though each step depends on the preceding ones, we are left in the dark as to how they were suggested to Archimedes. There is, in fact, much truth in a remark by Wallis to the effect that he seems “as it were of set purpose to have covered up the traces of his investigation as if he had grudged posterity the secret of his method of inquiry while he wished to extort from them assent to his results.” Wallis adds with equal reason that not only Archimedes but nearly all the ancients so hid away from posterity their method of Analysis (though it is certain that they had one) that more modern mathematicians found it easier to invent a new Analysis than to seek out the old.
In The Works of Archimedes (1897), Preface, vi.
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One important object of this original spectroscopic investigation of the light of the stars and other celestial bodies, namely to discover whether the same chemical elements as those of our earth are present throughout the universe, was most satisfactorily settled in the affirmative. (1909)
In Publications of Sir William Huggins's Observatory (1909), Vol. 2, 49, footnote added to emphasize the significance of the results shown in this collection’s reprint of William Huggins and Dr. Miller, 'On the Spectra of Some of the Fixed Stars', Philosophical Transactions (1864), 64, 413-435.
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One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
Carl Jung
From The Gifted Child collected in Collected Works (1954, 1971), Vol. 17, 144. Translated from 'Der Begabt', Psychologie und Erziehung (1946).
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One of the great triumphs of 20th Century astrophysics, was tracing the elements of your body, of all the elements around us, to the actions of stars—that crucible in the centers of stars that cooked basic elements into heavier elements, light elements into heavy elements. (I say “cooked”—I mean thermonuclear fusion.) The heat brings them together, gets you bigger atoms, that then do other interesting chemical things, fleshing out the contents of the Periodic Table.
From interview, The Science Studio video series of The Science Network website, episode 'The Moon, the Tides and why Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Colbert’s God' (20 Jan 2011), time 20:53-21:25.
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One of the principal results of civilization is to reduce more and more the limits within which the different elements of society fluctuate. The more intelligence increases the more these limits are reduced, and the nearer we approach the beautiful and the good. The perfectibility of the human species results as a necessary consequence of all our researches. Physical defects and monstrosities are gradually disappearing; the frequency and severity of diseases are resisted more successfully by the progress of modern science; the moral qualities of man are proving themselves not less capable of improvement; and the more we advance, the less we shall have need to fear those great political convulsions and wars and their attendant results, which are the scourges of mankind.
…...
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Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter. ... Transmutation of the elements, unlimited power, ability to investigate the working of living cells by tracer atoms, the secret of photosynthesis about to be uncovered, these and a host of other results, all in about fifteen short years. It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under the and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a life span far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.
Speech at the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Science Writers, New York City (16 Sep 1954), asquoted in 'Abundant Power From Atom Seen', New York Times (17 Sep 1954) 5.
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Our view is that there is a matter of the perceptible bodies, but that this is not separable but is always together with a contrariety, from which the so-called “elements” come to be.
Aristotle
As quoted in Christopher Shields, The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle (2012). 218.
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People are the quintessential element in all technology... Once we recognize the inescapable human nexus of all technology our attitude toward the reliability problem is fundamentally changed.
Skeptic (Jul-Aug 1976).
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Physical investigation, more than anything besides, helps to teach us the actual value and right use of the Imagination—of that wondrous faculty, which, left to ramble uncontrolled, leads us astray into a wilderness of perplexities and errors, a land of mists and shadows; but which, properly controlled by experience and reflection, becomes the noblest attribute of man; the source of poetic genius, the instrument of discovery in Science, without the aid of which Newton would never have invented fluxions, nor Davy have decomposed the earths and alkalies, nor would Columbus have found another Continent.
Presidential Address to Anniversary meeting of the Royal Society (30 Nov 1859), Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1860), 10, 165.
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Physio-philosophy has to show how, and in accordance indeed with what laws, the Material took its origin; and, therefore, how something derived its existence from nothing. It has to portray the first periods of the world's development from nothing; how the elements and heavenly bodies originated; in what method by self-evolution into higher and manifold forms, they separated into minerals, became finally organic, and in Man attained self-consciousness.
In Lorenz Oken, trans. by Alfred Tulk, Elements of Physiophilosophy (1847), 1.
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Poore soule, in this thy flesh what do'st thou know?
Thou know'st thy selfe so little, as thou know'st not.
How thou did'st die, nor how thou wast begot.
Thou neither know'st how thou at first camest in,
Nor how thou took'st the poyson of mans sin.
Nor dost thou, (though thou know'st, that thou art so)
By what way thou art made immortall, know.
Thou art too narrow, wretch, to comprehend
Even thy selfe; yea though thou wouldst but bend
To know thy body. Have not all soules thought
For many ages, that our body'is wrought
Of Ayre, and Fire, and other Elements?
And now they thinke of new ingredients,
And one soule thinkes one, and another way
Another thinkes, and 'tis an even lay.
Knowst thou but how the stone doth enter in
The bladder's Cave, and never breake the skin?
Knowst thou how blood, which to the hart doth flow,
Doth from one ventricle to th'other go?
And for the putrid stuffe, which thou dost spit,
Knowst thou how thy lungs have attracted it?
There are no passages, so that there is
(For aught thou knowst) piercing of substances.
And of those many opinions which men raise
Of Nailes and Haires, dost thou know which to praise?
What hope have we to know our selves, when wee
Know not the least things, which for our use bee?
Of the Progresse of the Soule. The Second Anniversarie, I. 254-280. The Works of John Donne (Wordsworth edition 1994), 196-7.
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Science has gone down into the mines and coal-pits, and before the safety-lamp the Gnomes and Genii of those dark regions have disappeared… Sirens, mermaids, shining cities glittering at the bottom of quiet seas and in deep lakes, exist no longer; but in their place, Science, their destroyer, shows us whole coasts of coral reef constructed by the labours of minute creatures; points to our own chalk cliffs and limestone rocks as made of the dust of myriads of generations of infinitesimal beings that have passed away; reduces the very element of water into its constituent airs, and re-creates it at her pleasure.
Book review of Robert Hunt, Poetry of Science (1848), in the London Examiner (1848). Although uncredited in print, biographers identified his authorship from his original handwritten work. Collected in Charles Dickens and Frederic George Kitton (ed.) Old Lamps for New Ones: And Other Sketches and Essays (1897), 86-87.
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Science is simply the classification of the common knowledge of the common people. It is bringing together the things we all know and putting them together so we can use them. This is creation and finds its analogy in Nature, where the elements are combined in certain ways to give us fruits or flowers or grain.
In Elbert Hubbard (ed. and publ.), The Philistine (Dec 1907), 26, 10.
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Sociology should... be thought of as a science of action—of the ultimate common value element in its relations to the other elements of action.
The Structure of Social Action (1937), Vol. 1, 440.
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Space travel is at the frontier of my profession. It is going to be accomplished and I want to be in on it. There is also an element of simple duty involved. I am convinced that I have something to give this project.
As he wrote in an article for Life (14 Sep 1959), 38.
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Suppose we loosely define a religion as any discipline whose foundations rest on an element of faith, irrespective of any element of reason which may be present. Quantum mechanics for example would be a religion under this definition. But mathematics would hold the unique position of being the only branch of theology possessing a rigorous demonstration of the fact that it should be so classified.
Concluding remark in 'Consistency and Completeness—A Résumé', The American Mathematical Monthly (May 1956), 63, No.5, 305.
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Thales thought that water was the primordial substance of all things. Heraclitus of Ephesus… thought that it was fire. Democritus and his follower Epicurus thought that it was the atoms, termed by our writers “bodies that cannot be cut up” or, by some “indivisibles.” The school of the Pythagoreans added air and the earthy to the water and fire. Hence, although Democritus did not in a strict sense name them, but spoke only of indivisible bodies, yet he seems to have meant these same elements, because when taken by themselves they cannot be harmed, nor are they susceptible of dissolution, nor can they be cut up into parts, but throughout time eternal they forever retain an infinite solidity.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 2, Chap 2, Sec. 1. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 42.
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That all plants immediately and substantially stem from the element water alone I have learnt from the following experiment. I took an earthern vessel in which I placed two hundred pounds of earth dried in an oven, and watered with rain water. I planted in it a willow tree weighing five pounds. Five years later it had developed a tree weighing one hundred and sixty-nine pounds and about three ounces. Nothing but rain (or distilled water) had been added. The large vessel was placed in earth and covered by an iron lid with a tin-surface that was pierced with many holes. I have not weighed the leaves that came off in the four autumn seasons. Finally I dried the earth in the vessel again and found the same two hundred pounds of it diminished by about two ounces. Hence one hundred and sixty-four pounds of wood, bark and roots had come up from water alone. (1648)
A diligent experiment that was quantitatively correct only as far as it goes. He overlooked the essential role of air and photosynthesis in the growth process.
Complex. atque mist. elem. fig., 30, Opp. pp. 104-5; Aufgang, 148. In Walter Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont (2002) , 53.
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That our being should consist of two fundamental elements [physical and psychical] offers I suppose no greater inherent improbability than that it should rest on one only.
The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1947), Foreword to 1947 Edition, xx.
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That radioactive elements created by us are found in nature is an astounding event in the history of the earth. And of the Human race. To fail to consider its importance and its consequences would be a folly for which humanity would have to pay a terrible price. When public opinion has been created in the countries concerned and among all the nations, an opinion informed of the dangers involved in going on with the tests and led by the reason which this information imposes, then the statesmen may reach an agreement to stop the experiments.
In 'Excerpts from Message by Schweitzer', New York Times (24 Apr 1957), 4, translated from a letter issued by Schweitzer through the Nobel Committee, asking that public opinion demand an end to nuclear tests.
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The activity characteristic of professional engineering is the design of structures, machines, circuits, or processes, or of combinations of these elements into systems or plants and the analysis and prediction of their performance and costs under specified working conditions.
1954
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The aim of research is the discovery of the equations which subsist between the elements of phenomena.
In Popular Scientific Lectures (1910), 205.
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The alternative to the Big Bang is not, in my opinion, the steady state; it is instead the more general theory of continuous creation. Continuous creation can occur in bursts and episodes. These mini-bangs can produce all the wonderful element-building that Fred Hoyle discovered and contributed to cosmology. This kind of element and galaxy formation can take place within an unbounded, non-expanding universe. It will also satisfy precisely the Friedmann solutions of general relativity. It can account very well for all the facts the Big Bang explains—and also for those devastating, contradictory observations which the Big Bang must, at all costs, pretend are not there
In 'Letters: Wrangling Over the Bang', Science News (27 Jul 1991), 140, No. 4, 51. Also quoted in Roy C. Martin, Astronomy on Trial: A Devastating and Complete Repudiation of the Big Bang Fiasco (1999), Appendix I, 217.
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The analysis of man discloses three chemical elements - a job, a meal and a woman.
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The belief that mathematics, because it is abstract, because it is static and cold and gray, is detached from life, is a mistaken belief. Mathematics, even in its purest and most abstract estate, is not detached from life. It is just the ideal handling of the problems of life, as sculpture may idealize a human figure or as poetry or painting may idealize a figure or a scene. Mathematics is precisely the ideal handling of the problems of life, and the central ideas of the science, the great concepts about which its stately doctrines have been built up, are precisely the chief ideas with which life must always deal and which, as it tumbles and rolls about them through time and space, give it its interests and problems, and its order and rationality. That such is the case a few indications will suffice to show. The mathematical concepts of constant and variable are represented familiarly in life by the notions of fixedness and change. The concept of equation or that of an equational system, imposing restriction upon variability, is matched in life by the concept of natural and spiritual law, giving order to what were else chaotic change and providing partial freedom in lieu of none at all. What is known in mathematics under the name of limit is everywhere present in life in the guise of some ideal, some excellence high-dwelling among the rocks, an “ever flying perfect” as Emerson calls it, unto which we may approximate nearer and nearer, but which we can never quite attain, save in aspiration. The supreme concept of functionality finds its correlate in life in the all-pervasive sense of interdependence and mutual determination among the elements of the world. What is known in mathematics as transformation—that is, lawful transfer of attention, serving to match in orderly fashion the things of one system with those of another—is conceived in life as a process of transmutation by which, in the flux of the world, the content of the present has come out of the past and in its turn, in ceasing to be, gives birth to its successor, as the boy is father to the man and as things, in general, become what they are not. The mathematical concept of invariance and that of infinitude, especially the imposing doctrines that explain their meanings and bear their names—What are they but mathematicizations of that which has ever been the chief of life’s hopes and dreams, of that which has ever been the object of its deepest passion and of its dominant enterprise, I mean the finding of the worth that abides, the finding of permanence in the midst of change, and the discovery of a presence, in what has seemed to be a finite world, of being that is infinite? It is needless further to multiply examples of a correlation that is so abounding and complete as indeed to suggest a doubt whether it be juster to view mathematics as the abstract idealization of life than to regard life as the concrete realization of mathematics.
In 'The Humanization of Teaching of Mathematics', Science, New Series, 35, 645-46.
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The black holes of nature are the most perfect macroscopic objects there are in the universe: the only elements in their construction are our concepts of space and time.
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The effort of the economist is to see, to picture the interplay of economic elements. The more clearly cut these elements appear in his vision, the better; the more elements he can grasp and hold in his mind at once, the better. The economic world is a misty region. The first explorers used unaided vision. Mathematics is the lantern by which what before was dimly visible now looms up in firm, bold outlines. The old phantasmagoria disappear. We see better. We also see further.
In Mathematical Investigations in the Theory of Value and Prices (1892), 119.
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The eighth element, starting from a given one, is a kind of repetition of the first, like the eighth note of an octave in music.
'Letter to the Editor', Chemical News (1864), 10, 94.
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The elements of the living body have the chemical peculiarity of forming with each other most numerous combinations and very large molecules, consisting of five, six or even seven different elements.
In discourse (10 Dec 1893) to General Meeting, Nassau Association for Natural Science, Wiesbaden, Germany. Printed in 'The Distribution of the Organic Elements', The Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science (1895), 71, No. 1832, 19.
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The establishment of the periodic law may truly be said to mark a line in chemical science, and we anticipate that its application and and extension will be fraught With the most important consequences. It reminds us how important above all things is the correct determination of the fundamental constants of our science—the atomic weights of the elements, about which in many cases great uncertainty prevails; it is much to be desired that this may not long remain the case. It also affords the strongest encouragement to the chemist to persevere in the search for new elements.
In The Encyclopaedia Britannica: Ninth Edition (1877), Vol. 5, 714.
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The general disposition of the land [in the Periodic Kingdom] is one of metals in the west, giving way, as you travel eastward, to a varied landscape of nonmetals, which terminates in largely inert elements at the eastern shoreline. To the south of the mainland, there is an offshore island, which we shall call the Southern Island. It consists entirely of metals of subtly modulated personality. North of the mainland, situated rather like Iceland off the northwestern edge of Europe, lies a single, isolated region-hydrogen. This simple but gifted element is an essential outpost of the kingdom, for despite its simplicity it is rich in chemical personality. It is also the most abundant element in the universe and the fuel of the stars.
In The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), 9.
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The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
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The landed classes neglected technical education, taking refuge in classical studies; as late as 1930, for example, long after Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge had discovered the atomic nucleus and begun transmuting elements, the physics laboratory at Oxford had not been wired for electricity. Intellectual neglect technical education to this day.
[Describing C.P. Snow's observations on the neglect of technical education.]
In Visions of Technology (1999), 23.
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The more efficient causes of progress seem to consist of a good education during youth whilst the brain is impressible, and of a high standard of excellence, inculcated by the ablest and best men, embodied in the laws, customs and traditions of the nation, and enforced by public opinion. It should, however, be borne in mind, that the enforcement of public opinion depends on our appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of others; and this appreciation is founded on our sympathy, which it can hardly be doubted was originally developed through natural selection as one of the most important elements of the social instincts.
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The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions. As instances of such discoveries, which are in most cases due to the increasing order of accuracy made possible by improvements in measuring instruments, may be mentioned: first, the departure of actual gases from the simple laws of the so-called perfect gas, one of the practical results being the liquefaction of air and all known gases; second, the discovery of the velocity of light by astronomical means, depending on the accuracy of telescopes and of astronomical clocks; third, the determination of distances of stars and the orbits of double stars, which depend on measurements of the order of accuracy of one-tenth of a second-an angle which may be represented as that which a pin's head subtends at a distance of a mile. But perhaps the most striking of such instances are the discovery of a new planet or observations of the small irregularities noticed by Leverrier in the motions of the planet Uranus, and the more recent brilliant discovery by Lord Rayleigh of a new element in the atmosphere through the minute but unexplained anomalies found in weighing a given volume of nitrogen. Many other instances might be cited, but these will suffice to justify the statement that “our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.”
In Light Waves and Their Uses (1903), 23-4. Michelson had some years earlier referenced “an eminent physicist” that he did not name who had “remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals,” near the end of his Convocation Address at the Dedication of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, 'Some of the Objects and Methods of Physical Science' (4 Jul 1894), published in University of Chicago Quarterly Calendar (Aug 1894), 3, No.2, 15. Also
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The number of mathematical students … would be much augmented if those who hold the highest rank in science would condescend to give more effective assistance in clearing the elements of the difficulties which they present.
In Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1902), Preface.
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The object of pure mathematics is those relations which may be conceptually established among any conceived elements whatsoever by assuming them contained in some ordered manifold; the law of order of this manifold must be subject to our choice; the latter is the case in both of the only conceivable kinds of manifolds, in the discrete as well as in the continuous.
In Über das System der rein mathematischen Wissenschaften, Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung, Bd. 1, 36. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 3.
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The only difference between elements and compounds consists in the supposed impossibility of proving the so-called elements to be compounds.
'Faraday Lecture: Elements and Compounds', Journal of the Chemical Society (1904), 85, 520.
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The progress of synthesis, or the building up of natural materials from their constituent elements, proceeds apace. Even some of the simpler albuminoids, a class of substances of great importance in the life process, have recently been artificially prepared. ... Innumerable entirely new compounds have been produced in the last century. The artificial dye-stuffs, prepared from materials occurring in coal-tar, make the natural colours blush. Saccharin, which is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, is a purely artificial substance. New explosives, drugs, alloys, photographic substances, essences, scents, solvents, and detergents are being poured out in a continuous stream.
In Matter and Energy (1912), 45-46.
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The same algebraic sum of positive and negative charges in the nucleus, when the arithmetical sum is different, gives what I call “isotopes” or “isotopic elements,” because they occupy the same place in the periodic table. They are chemically identical, and save only as regards the relatively few physical properties which depend upon atomic mass directly, physically identical also. Unit changes of this nuclear charge, so reckoned algebraically, give the successive places in the periodic table. For any one “place” or any one nuclear charge, more than one number of electrons in the outer-ring system may exist, and in such a case the element exhibits variable valency. But such changes of number, or of valency, concern only the ring and its external environment. There is no in- and out-going of electrons between ring and nucleus.
Concluding paragraph of 'Intra-atomic Charge', Nature (1913), 92, 400. Collected in Alfred Romer, Radiochemistry and the Discovery of Isotopes (1970), 251-252.
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The science of the modern school … is in effect … the acquisition of imperfectly analyzed misstatements about entrails, elements, and electricity…
Mankind in the Making (1903), 206.
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The smallest particles of matter were said [by Plato] to be right-angled triangles which, after combining in pairs, ... joined together into the regular bodies of solid geometry; cubes, tetrahedrons, octahedrons and icosahedrons. These four bodies were said to be the building blocks of the four elements, earth, fire, air and water ... [The] whole thing seemed to be wild speculation. ... Even so, I was enthralled by the idea that the smallest particles of matter must reduce to some mathematical form ... The most important result of it all, perhaps, was the conviction that, in order to interpret the material world we need to know something about its smallest parts.
[Recalling how as a teenager at school, he found Plato's Timaeus to be a memorable poetic and beautiful view of atoms.]
In Werner Heisenberg and A.J. Pomerans (trans.) The Physicist's Conception of Nature (1958), 58-59. Quoted in Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory (2001), Vol. 2, 12. Cited in Mauro Dardo, Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics (2004), 178.
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The sun has lost no beams, the earth no elements ; gravity is as adhesive, heat as expansive, light as joyful, air as virtuous, water as medicinal as on the first day. There is no loss, only transference. When the heat is less here it is not lost, but more heat is there.
In 'Perpetual Forces', North American Review (1877), No. 125. Collected in Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Elliot Cabot (ed.), Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883), 61.
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The supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
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The term element is applied in chemistry to those forms of matter which have hitherto resisted all attempts to decompose them. Nothing is ever meant to be affirmed concerning their real nature; they are simply elements to us at the present time; hereafter, by new methods of research, or by new combinations of those already possessed by science, many of the substances which now figure as elements may possibly be shown to be compounds; this has already happened, and may again take place.
In Elementary Chemistry, Theoretical and Practical (1854), 103. There follows on this page, 62 listed elements, some indicated as “of recent discovery and yet imperfectly known”. Two of the later names were Norium and Pelopium.
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The union of philosophical and mathematical productivity, which besides in Plato we find only in Pythagoras, Descartes and Leibnitz, has always yielded the choicest fruits to mathematics; To the first we owe scientific mathematics in general, Plato discovered the analytic method, by means of which mathematics was elevated above the view-point of the elements, Descartes created the analytical geometry, our own illustrious countryman discovered the infinitesimal calculus—and just these are the four greatest steps in the development of mathematics.
In Geschichte der Mathematik im Altertum und im Mittelalter (1874), 149-150. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 210. From the original German, “Die Verbindung philosophischer und mathematischer Productivität, wie wir sie ausser in Platon wohl nur noch in Pythagoras, Descartes, Leibnitz vorfinden, hat der Mathematik immer die schönsten Früchte gebracht: Ersterem verdanken wir die wissenschaftliche Mathematik überhaupt, Platon erfand die analytische Methode, durch welche sich die Mathematik über den Standpunct der Elemente erhob, Descartes schuf die analytische Geometrie, unser berühmter Landsmann den Infinitesimalcalcül—und eben daß sind die vier grössten Stufen in der Entwickelung der Mathematik.”
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The various elements had different places before they were arranged so as to form the universe. At first, they were all without reason and measure. But when the world began to get into order, fire and water and earth and air had only certain faint traces of themselves, and were altogether such as everything might be expected in the absence of God; this, I say, was their nature at that time, and God fashioned them by form and number.
Plato
In Plato and B. Jowett (trans.), The Dialogues of Plato: Republic (3rd ed., 1892), Vol. 3, 473.
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The various reasons which we have enumerated lead us to believe that the new radio-active substance contains a new element which we propose to give the name of radium.
Marie Curie, Pierre Curie and Gustave Bémont, 'Sur une Nouvelle Substance Fortement Radio-Active, Contenue dans las Pechblende', (On a new, strongly radio-active substance, contained in pitchblende), Comptes Rendus (1898). 127, 1217. In Joseph E. Harmon and Alan G. Gross (editors), The Scientific Literature (2007), 151.
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The whole subject of the X rays is opening out wonderfully, Bragg has of course got in ahead of us, and so the credit all belongs to him, but that does not make it less interesting. We find that an X ray bulb with a platinum target gives out a sharp line spectrum of five wavelengths which the crystal separates out as if it were a diffraction grating. In this way one can get pure monochromatic X rays. Tomorrow we search for the spectra of other elements. There is here a whole new branch of spectroscopy, which is sure to tell one much about the nature of an atom.
Letter to his mother (18 May 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 205.
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The words are strung together, with their own special grammar—the laws of quantum theory—to form sentences, which are molecules. Soon we have books, entire libraries, made out of molecular “sentences.” The universe is like a library in which the words are atoms. Just look at what has been written with these hundred words! Our own bodies are books in that library, specified by the organization of molecules—but the universe and literature are organizations of identical, interchangeable objects; they are information systems.
In The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature (1983), 255.
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There has never been an age so full of humbug. Humbug everywhere, even in science. For years now the scientists have been promising us every morning a new miracle, a new element, a new metal, guaranteeing to warm us with copper discs immersed in water, to feed us with nothing, to kill us at no expense whatever on a grand scale, to keep us alive indefinitely, to make iron out of heaven knows what. And all this fantastic, scientific humbugging leads to membership of the Institut, to decorations, to influence, to stipends, to the respect of serious people. In the meantime the cost of living rises, doubles, trebles; there is a shortage of raw materials; even death makes no progress—as we saw at Sebastopol, where men cut each other to ribbons—and the cheapest goods are still the worst goods in the world.
With co-author Jules de Goncourt (French writer, 1830-70)
Diary entry, 7 Jan 1857. In R. Baldick (ed. & trans.), Pages from the Goncourt Journal (1978), 24.
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There is an occasional glimmer of fertility [as compounds], the chemical equivalent of a blade of grass [in a desert]. So, gone … is the justification for “inert.” [Group 0 elements] are now known collectively as the noble gases, a name intended to imply a kind of chemical aloofness rather than a rigorous chastity.
In The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), 9.
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There is no area in our minds reserved for superstition, such as the Greeks had in their mythology; and superstition, under cover of an abstract vocabulary, has revenged itself by invading the entire realm of thought. Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought. In every sphere, we seem to have lost the very elements of intelligence: the ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends. To keep to the social level, our political universe is peopled exclusively by myths and monsters; all it contains is absolutes and abstract entities. This is illustrated by all the words of our political and social vocabulary: nation, security, capitalism, communism, fascism, order, authority, property, democracy. We never use them in phrases such as: There is democracy to the extent that... or: There is capitalism in so far as... The use of expressions like “to the extent that” is beyond our intellectual capacity. Each of these words seems to represent for us an absolute reality, unaffected by conditions, or an absolute objective, independent of methods of action, or an absolute evil; and at the same time we make all these words mean, successively or simultaneously, anything whatsoever. Our lives are lived, in actual fact, among changing, varying realities, subject to the casual play of external necessities, and modifying themselves according to specific conditions within specific limits; and yet we act and strive and sacrifice ourselves and others by reference to fixed and isolated abstractions which cannot possibly be related either to one another or to any concrete facts. In this so-called age of technicians, the only battles we know how to fight are battles against windmills. [p.222]
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There must be some bond of union between mass and the chemical elements; and as the mass of a substance is ultimately expressed (although not absolutely, but only relatively) in the atom, a functional dependence should exist and be discoverable between the individual properties of the elements and their atomic weights. But nothing, from mushrooms to a scientific dependence can be discovered without looking and trying. So I began to look about and write down the elements with their atomic weights and typical properties, analogous elements and like atomic weights on separate cards, and soon this convinced me that the properties of the elements are in periodic dependence upon their atomic weights; and although I had my doubts about some obscure points, yet I have never doubted the universality of this law, because it could not possibly be the result of chance.
Principles of Chemistry (1905), Vol. 2, 18.
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There's antimony, arsenic, aluminium, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and
nitrogen and rhenium,
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.
There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium,
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium,
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium and barium.
There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium,
And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium,
And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium,
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium,
And lead, praseodymium and platinum, plutonium,
Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium,
And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium,
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.
There's sulfur, californium and fermium, berkelium,
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium,
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc and rhodium,
And chlorine, cobalt, carbon, copper, tungsten, tin and sodium.
These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discarvard.
[To the tune of I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.]
Song, 'The Elements' (1959). In Tom Lehrer,Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer: With Not Enough Drawings by Ronald Searle (1981), 151.
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They say that Ptolemy once asked him [Euclid] whether there was in geometry no shorter way than that of the elements and he replied, “There is no royal road to geometry”.
Proclus
In (Edition Friedlein, 1873), Prol. II, 39.
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This is the kingdom of the chemical elements, the substances from which everything tangible is made. It is not an extensive country, for it consists of only a hundred or so regions (as we shall often term the elements), yet it accounts for everything material in our actual world. From the hundred elements that are at the center of our story, all planets, rocks, vegetation, and animals are made. These elements are the basis of the air, the oceans, and the Earth itself. We stand on the elements, we eat the elements, we are the elements. Because our brains are made up of elements, even our opinions are, in a sense, properties of the elements and hence inhabitants of the kingdom.
In 'The Terrain', The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), 3.
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Those of us who were familiar with the state of inorganic chemistry in universities twenty to thirty years ago will recall that at that time it was widely regarded as a dull and uninteresting part of the undergraduate course. Usually, it was taught almost entirely in the early years of the course and then chiefly as a collection of largely unconnected facts. On the whole, students concluded that, apart from some relationships dependent upon the Periodic table, there was no system in inorganic chemistry comparable with that to be found in organic chemistry, and none of the rigour and logic which characterised physical chemistry. It was widely believed that the opportunities for research in inorganic chemistry were few, and that in any case the problems were dull and uninspiring; as a result, relatively few people specialized in the subject... So long as inorganic chemistry is regarded as, in years gone by, as consisting simply of the preparations and analysis of elements and compounds, its lack of appeal is only to be expected. The stage is now past and for the purpose of our discussion we shall define inorganic chemistry today as the integrated study of the formation, composition, structure and reactions of the chemical elements and compounds, excepting most of those of carbon.
Inaugural Lecture delivered at University College, London (1 Mar 1956). In The Renaissance of Inorganic Chemistry (1956), 4-5.
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Thus a nerve element, a nerve entity, or ‘neuron’, as I propose to call it, consists‥of the following pieces:—(a) a nerve cell, (b) the nerve process, (c) its collaterals, and (d) the end-branching.
[Coining the word ‘neuron’ in the sense of a nerve cell.]
In original German text by Waldeyer in Berliner Klin. Wochenschr. (13 July 1891), 691:1. As translated in Brain (1891), 14, 569. Note: The word ‘neuron’ was used earlier in difference senses, now obsolete, by B.T. Lowne (1883) for the neural part of the compound eye of athropods, and by B.G. Wilder (1884) for the neuraxis.
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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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To our senses, the elements are four
and have ever been, and will ever be
for they are the elements of life, of poetry, and of perception,
the four Great Ones, the Four Roots, the First Four
of Fire and the Wet, Earth and the wide Air of the World.
To find the other many elements, you must go to the laboratory
and hunt them down.
But the four we have always with us, they are our world.
Or rather, they have us with them.
'The Four', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 593.
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To say that a man is made up of certain chemical elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him as a fertilizer.
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To say that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes, is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have, in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; and those who argue thus should put forth a definite conception of matter, with clearly enunciated properties, and show, that the necessary result of a certain complex arrangement of the elements or atoms of that matter, will be the production of self-consciousness. There is no escape from this dilemma—either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter, and in the latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter. The foregoing considerations lead us to the very important conclusion, that matter is essentially force, and nothing but force; that matter, as popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable. When we touch matter, we only really experience sensations of resistance, implying repulsive force; and no other sense can give us such apparently solid proofs of the reality of matter, as touch does. This conclusion, if kept constantly present in the mind, will be found to have a most important bearing on almost every high scientific and philosophical problem, and especially on such as relate to our own conscious existence.
In 'The Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man', last chapter of Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection (1870), 365-366.
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To suppose that so perfect a system as that of Euclid’s Elements was produced by one man, without any preceding model or materials, would be to suppose that Euclid was more than man. We ascribe to him as much as the weakness of human understanding will permit, if we suppose that the inventions in geometry, which had been made in a tract of preceding ages, were by him not only carried much further, but digested into so admirable a system, that his work obscured all that went before it, and made them be forgot and lost.
In Essay on the Powers of the Human Mind (1812), Vol. 2, 368.
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Today it is no longer questioned that the principles of the analysts are the more far-reaching. Indeed, the synthesists lack two things in order to engage in a general theory of algebraic configurations: these are on the one hand a definition of imaginary elements, on the other an interpretation of general algebraic concepts. Both of these have subsequently been developed in synthetic form, but to do this the essential principle of synthetic geometry had to be set aside. This principle which manifests itself so brilliantly in the theory of linear forms and the forms of the second degree, is the possibility of immediate proof by means of visualized constructions.
In Riemannsche Flächen (1906), Bd. 1, 234.
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Tungsten, X-rays, and Coolidge form a trinity that has left an indelible impression upon our life and times. The key word in this triad is Coolidge, for his work brought the element tungsten from laboratory obscurity to the central role of the industrial stage and gave the X-ray a central role in the progress of medicine throughout the world.
In National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, Vol. 53, 141.
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We have been forced to admit for the first time in history not only the possibility of the fact of the growth and decay of the elements of matter. With radium and with uranium we do not see anything but the decay. And yet, somewhere, somehow, it is almost certain that these elements must be continuously forming. They are probably being put together now in the laboratory of the stars. ... Can we ever learn to control the process. Why not? Only research can tell.
'The Significance of Radium,' an address delivered (in connection with the presentation of a gram of radium to Madame Curie) at the National Museum, Washington, D.C. (25 May 1921). In Science (1921), 54, No. 1383, 1921. In Rodney P. Carlisle, Scientific American Inventions and Discoveries (2004), 375.
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We have now felled forest enough everywhere, in many districts far too much. Let us restore this one element of material life to its normal proportions, and devise means for maintaining the permanence of its relations to the fields, the meadows and the pastures, to the rain and the dews of heaven, to the springs and rivulets with which it waters down the earth.
From Man and Nature (1864), 328-329.
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We may lay it down as an incontestible axiom, that, in all the operations of art and nature, nothing is created; an equal quantity of matter exists both before and after the experiment; the quality and quantity of the elements remain precisely the same; and nothing takes place beyond changes and modifications in the combination of these elements. Upon this principle the whole art of performing chemical experiments depends: We must always suppose an exact equality between the elements of the body examined and those of the products of its analysis.
Elements of Chemistry trans. Robert. Kerr, (1790, 5th Ed. 1802), Vol. 1, 226.
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We say in general that the material of all stone is either some form of Earth or some form of Water. For one or the other of these elements predominates in stones; and even in stones in which some form of Water seems to predominate, something of Earth is also important. Evidence of this is that nearly all kinds of stones sink in water.
From De Mineralibus (c.1261-1263), as translated by Dorothy Wyckoff, Book of Minerals (1967), 12.
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Weight is caused by one element being situated in another; and it moves by the shortest line towards its centre, not by its own choice, not because the centre draws it to itself, but because the other intervening element cannot withstand it.
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We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most critical elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
From The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996), 26.
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What matters in science is the body of findings and generalizations available today: a time-defined cross-section of the process of scientific discovery. I see the advance of science as self-erasing in the sense that only those elements survive that have become part of the active body of knowledge.
In A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube (1985), 123.
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When the elements are arranged in vertical columns according to increasing atomic weight, so that the horizontal lines contain analogous elements again according to increasing atomic weight, an arrangement results from which several general conclusions may be drawn.
'The Relations of the Properties to the Atomic Weights of the Elements', Zeitschrift fur Chemie, 1869.
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Wherefore also these Kinds [elements] occupied different places even before the universe was organised and generated out of them. Before that time, in truth, all these were in a state devoid of reason or measure, but when the work of setting in order this Universe was being undertaken, fire and water and earth and air, although possessing some traces of their known nature, were yet disposed as everything is likely to be in the absence of God; and inasmuch as this was then their natural condition, God began by first marking them out into shapes by means of forms and numbers.
Plato
Timaeus 53ab, trans. R. G. Bury, in Plato: Timaeus, Critias, Cleitophon, Menexenus, Epistles (1929), 125-7.
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While all bodies are composed of the four elements, that is, of heat, moisture, the earthy, and air, yet there are mixtures according to natural temperament which make up the natures of all the different animals of the world, each after its kind.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 4, Sec. 5. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 16.
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While the method of the natural sciences is... analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena... Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake... to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action ... The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results... If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation... people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order... it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions... The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.
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Who shall declare the time allotted to the human race, when the generations of the most insignificant insect also existed for unnumbered ages? Yet man is also to vanish in the ever-changing course of events. The earth is to be burnt up, and the elements are to melt with fervent heat—to be again reduced to chaos—possibly to be renovated and adorned for other races of beings. These stupendous changes may be but cycles in those great laws of the universe, where all is variable but the laws themselves and He who has ordained them.
Physical Geography (1848), Vol. 1, 2-3.
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With thought comprising a non-computational element, computers can never do what we human beings can.
In The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (1989). As quoted in Stan Franklin, Artificial Minds (1997), 99.
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[The Elements] are mutually bound together, the lighter being restrained by the heavier, so that they cannot fly off; while, on the contrary, from the lighter tending upwards, the heavier are so suspended, that they cannot fall down. Thus, by an equal tendency in an opposite direction, each of them remains in its appropriate place, bound together by the never-ceasing revolution of the world.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 19.
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[The unreactivity of the noble gas elements] belongs to the surest of experimental results.
Angewandte Chemie (1924), 37, 421. Trans. In Hilde Hein and George E. Hein, 'The Chemistry of Noble Gases- A Modern Case Study in Experimental Science', Journal of the History of Ideas (1966), 27, 420.
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[The] seminary spirit of minerals hath its proper wombs where it resides, and is like a Prince or Emperour, whose prescripts both Elements and matter must obey; and it is never idle, but always in action, producing and maintaining natural substances, untill they have fulfilled their destiny.
A Discourse of Natural Bathes, and Mineral Waters (1669), 104.
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[This] may prove to be the beginning of some embracing generalization, which will throw light, not only on radioactive processes, but on elements in general and the Periodic Law.... Chemical homogeneity is no longer a guarantee that any supposed element is not a mixture of several of different atomic weights, or that any atomic weight is not merely a mean number.
From Chemical Society's Annual Reports (1910), Vol. 7, 285. As quoted in Francis Aston in Lecture (1936) on 'Forty Years of Atomic Theory', collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.) in Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 100. Cited in Alfred Walter Stewart, Recent Advances in Physical and Inorganic Chemistry (1920), 198.
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[While in school, before university,] I, like almost all chemists I know, was also attracted by the smells and bangs that endowed chemistry with that slight but charismatic element of danger which is now banned from the classroom. I agree with those of us who feel that the wimpish chemistry training that schools are now forced to adopt is one possible reason that chemistry is no longer attracting as many talented and adventurous youngsters as it once did. If the decline in hands-on science education is not redressed, I doubt that we shall survive the 21st century.
Nobel laureate autobiography in Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1996 (1997), 191.
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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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Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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