Epoch Quotes (45 quotes)
All men and women are born, live suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about... We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.
But neither thirty years, nor thirty centuries, affect the clearness, or the charm, of Geometrical truths. Such a theorem as “the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the sides” is as dazzlingly beautiful now as it was in the day when Pythagoras first discovered it, and celebrated its advent, it is said, by sacrificing a hecatomb of oxen—a method of doing honour to Science that has always seemed to me slightly exaggerated and uncalled-for. One can imagine oneself, even in these degenerate days, marking the epoch of some brilliant scientific discovery by inviting a convivial friend or two, to join one in a beefsteak and a bottle of wine. But a hecatomb of oxen! It would produce a quite inconvenient supply of beef.
Cosmology is a science which has only a few observable facts to work with. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation added one—the present radiation temperature of the universe. This, however, was a significant increase in our knowledge since it requires a cosmology with a source for the radiation at an early epoch and is a new probe of that epoch. More sensitive measurements of the background radiation in the future will allow us to discover additional facts about the universe.
Doubtless many can recall certain books which have greatly influenced their lives, and in my own case one stands out especially—a translation of Hofmeister's epoch-making treatise on the comparative morphology of plants. This book, studied while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, was undoubtedly the most important factor in determining the trend of my botanical investigation for many years.
For forty-nine months between 1968 and 1972, two dozen Americans had the great good fortune to briefly visit the Moon. Half of us became the first emissaries from Earth to tread its dusty surface. We who did so were privileged to represent the hopes and dreams of all humanity. For mankind it was a giant leap for a species that evolved from the Stone Age to create sophisticated rockets and spacecraft that made a Moon landing possible. For one crowning moment, we were creatures of the cosmic ocean, an epoch that a thousand years hence may be seen as the signature of our century.
Geology depends on impressions made by floods, earthquakes, volcanoes. The mountains tell the story of their oppressions and rebellions. The outstanding data of this science of Mother Earth are those furnished by the most violent impressions that mark an epoch in evolution
Have the changes which lead us from one geologic state to another been, on a long average uniform in their intensity, or have they consisted of epochs of paroxysmal and catastrophic action, interposed between periods of comparative tranquillity? These two opinions will probably for some time divide the geological world into two sects, which may perhaps be designated as the Uniformitarians and the Catastrophists.
However much we may enlarge our ideas of the time which has elapsed since the Niagara first began to drain the waters of the upper lakes, we have seen that this period was one only of a series, all belonging to the present zoological epoch; or that in which the living testaceous fauna, whether freshwater or marine, had already come into being. If such events can take place while the zoology of the earth remains almost stationary and unaltered, what ages may not be comprehended in those successive tertiary periods during which the Flora and Fauna of the globe have been almost entirely changed. Yet how subordinate a place in the long calendar of geological chronology do the successive tertiary periods themselves occupy! How much more enormous a duration must we assign to many antecedent revolutions of the earth and its inhabitants! No analogy can be found in the natural world to the immense scale of these divisions of past time, unless we contemplate the celestial spaces which have been measured by the astronomer.
I am of opinion, then, ... that, if there is any circumstance thoroughly established in geology, it is, that the crust of our globe has been subjected to a great and sudden revolution, the epoch of which cannot be dated much farther back than five or six thousand years ago; that this revolution had buried all the countries which were before inhabited by men and by the other animals that are now best known; that the same revolution had laid dry the bed of the last ocean, which now forms all the countries at present inhabited; that the small number of individuals of men and other animals that escaped from the effects of that great revolution, have since propagated and spread over the lands then newly laid dry; and consequently, that the human race has only resumed a progressive state of improvement since that epoch, by forming established societies, raising monuments, collecting natural facts, and constructing systems of science and of learning.
I hardly know of a great physical truth whose universal reception has not been preceded by an epoch in which the most estimable persons have maintained that the phenomena investigated were directly dependent on the Divine Will, and that the attempt to investigate them was not only futile but blasphemous. And there is a wonderful tenacity of life about this sort of opposition to physical science. Crushed and maimed in every battle, it yet seems never to be slain; and after a hundred defeats it is at this day as rampant, though happily not so mischievous, as in the time of Galileo.
I will not go so far as to say that to construct a history of thought without profound study of the mathematical ideas of successive epochs is like omitting Hamlet from the play which is named after him. That would be claiming too much. But it is certainly analogous to cutting out the part of Ophelia. This simile is singularly exact. For Ophelia is quite essential to the play, she is very charming-and a little mad. Let us grant that the pursuit of mathematics is a divine madness of the human spirit, a refuge from the goading urgency of contingent happenings.
If and when all the laws governing physical phenomena are finally discovered, and all the empirical constants occurring in these laws are finally expressed through the four independent basic constants, we will be able to say that physical science has reached its end, that no excitement is left in further explorations, and that all that remains to a physicist is either tedious work on minor details or the self-educational study and adoration of the magnificence of the completed system. At that stage physical science will enter from the epoch of Columbus and Magellan into the epoch of the National Geographic Magazine!
In 1906 I indulged my temper by hurling invectives at Neo-Darwinians in the following terms. “I really do not wish to be abusive [to Neo-Darwinians]; but when I think of these poor little dullards, with their precarious hold of just that corner of evolution that a blackbeetle can understand—with their retinue of twopenny-halfpenny Torquemadas wallowing in the infamies of the vivisector’s laboratory, and solemnly offering us as epoch-making discoveries their demonstrations that dogs get weaker and die if you give them no food; that intense pain makes mice sweat; and that if you cut off a dog’s leg the three-legged dog will have a four-legged puppy, I ask myself what spell has fallen on intelligent and humane men that they allow themselves to be imposed on by this rabble of dolts, blackguards, imposters, quacks, liars, and, worst of all, credulous conscientious fools.”
In all times and epochs the greatest happiness for man has been to take part in new discoveries.
In the experimental sciences, the epochs of the most brilliant progress are almost always separated by long intervals of almost absolute repose.
In the history of science and throughout the whole course of its progress we see certain epochs following one another more or less rapidly. Some important view is expressed, it may be original or only revived; sooner or later it receives recognition; fellow-Workers spring up; the outcome of it finds its way into the schools; it is taught and handed down; and we observe, unhappily, that it does not in the least matter whether the view be true or false. In either case its course is the same; in either case it comes in the end to he a mere phrase, a lifeless word stamped on the memory.
In truth, we know causes only by their effects; and in order to learn the nature of the causes which modify the earth, we must study them through all ages of their action, and not select arbitrarily the period in which we live as the standard for all other epochs.
Is it not evident, that if the child is at any epoch of his long period of helplessness inured into any habit or fixed form of activity belonging to a lower stage of development, the tendency will be to arrest growth at that standpoint and make it difficult or next to impossible to continue the growth of the child?
It is good to recall that three centuries ago, around the year 1660, two of the greatest monuments of modern history were erected, one in the West and one in the East; St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Taj Mahal in Agra. Between them, the two symbolize, perhaps better than words can describe, the comparative level of architectural technology, the comparative level of craftsmanship and the comparative level of affluence and sophistication the two cultures had attained at that epoch of history. But about the same time there was also created—and this time only in the West—a third monument, a monument still greater in its eventual import for humanity. This was Newton’s Principia, published in 1687. Newton's work had no counterpart in the India of the Mughuls.
It is interesting to transport one’s self back to the times when Astronomy began; to observe how discoveries were connected together, how errors have got mixed up with truth, have delayed the knowledge of it, and retarded its progress; and, after having followed the various epochs and traversed every climate, finally to contemplate the edifice founded on the labours of successive centuries and of various nations.
Just as, in civil History, one consults title-deeds, one studies coins, one deciphers ancient inscriptions, in order to determine the epochs of human revolutions and to fix the dates of moral [i.e. human] events; so, in Natural History, one must excavate the archives of the world, recover ancient monuments from the depths of the earth, collect their remains, and assemble in one body of proofs all the evidence of physical changes that enable us to reach back to the different ages of Nature. This, then, is the order of the times indicated by facts and monuments: these are six epochs in the succession of the first ages of Nature; six spaces of duration, the limits of which although indeterminate are not less real; for these epochs are not like those of civil History ... that we can count and measure exactly; nevertheless we can compare them with each other and estimate their relative duration.
One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell.
Since [World War I] we have seen the atomic age, the computer age, the space age, and the bio-engineering age, each as epochal as the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. And all these have occurred in one generation. Man has stood on the moon and looked back on the earth, that small planet now reduced to a neighbourhood. But our material achievements have exceeded the managerial capacities of our human minds and institutions.
The application of botanical and zoological evidence to determine the relative age of rocks—this chronometry of the earth's surface which was already present to the lofty mind of Hooke—indicates one of the most glorious epochs of modern geognosy, which has finally, on the Continent at least, been emancipated from the way of Semitic doctrines. Palaeontological investigations have imparted a vivifying breath of grace and diversity to the science of the solid structure of the earth.
The consideration of mathematics is at the base of knowledge of the mind as it is at the base of the natural sciences, and for the same reason: the free and fertile work of thought dates from that epoch when mathematics brought to man the true norm of truth.
The discovery which has been pointed to by theory is always one of profound interest and importance, but it is usually the close and crown of a long and fruitful period, whereas the discovery which comes as a puzzle and surprise usually marks a fresh epoch and opens a new chapter in science.
The epoch of intense cold which preceded the present creation has been only a temporary oscillation of the earth’s temperature, more important than the century-long phases of cooling undergone by the Alpine valleys. It was associated with the disappearance of the animals of the diluvial epoch of the geologists, as still demonstrated by the Siberian mammoths; it preceded the uplifting of the Alps and the appearance of the present-day living organisms, as demonstrated by the moraines and the existence of fishes in our lakes. Consequently, there is complete separation between the present creation and the preceding ones, and if living species are sometimes almost identical to those buried inside the earth, we nevertheless cannot assume that the former are direct descendants of the latter or, in other words, that they represent identical species.
The great upheavals which precede changes of civilisation, such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the founding of the Arabian Empire, for example, seem to have been determined mainly by considerable political transformations, invasions, or the overthrow of dynasties. But … most often, the real cause is … a profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. … The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought. … The present epoch is one of these critical moments in which the thought of mankind is undergoing a process of transformation.
The Greeks made Space the subject-matter of a science of supreme simplicity and certainty. Out of it grew, in the mind of classical antiquity, the idea of pure science. Geometry became one of the most powerful expressions of that sovereignty of the intellect that inspired the thought of those times. At a later epoch, when the intellectual despotism of the Church, which had been maintained through the Middle Ages, had crumbled, and a wave of scepticism threatened to sweep away all that had seemed most fixed, those who believed in Truth clung to Geometry as to a rock, and it was the highest ideal of every scientist to carry on his science “more geometrico.”
The mathematic, then, is an art. As such it has its styles and style periods. It is not, as the layman and the philosopher (who is in this matter a layman too) imagine, substantially unalterable, but subject like every art to unnoticed changes form epoch to epoch. The development of the great arts ought never to be treated without an (assuredly not unprofitable) side-glance at contemporary mathematics.
The meaning of human life and the destiny of man cannot be separable from the meaning and destiny of life in general. 'What is man?' is a special case of 'What is life?' Probably the human species is not intelligent enough to answer either question fully, but even such glimmerings as are within our powers must be precious to us. The extent to which we can hope to understand ourselves and to plan our future depends in some measure on our ability to read the riddles of the past. The present, for all its awesome importance to us who chance to dwell in it, is only a random point in the long flow of time. Terrestrial life is one and continuous in space and time. Any true comprehension of it requires the attempt to view it whole and not in the artificial limits of any one place or epoch. The processes of life can be adequately displayed only in the course of life throughout the long ages of its existence.
The moon landing will, no doubt, be an epoch-making event—a phenomena of awe, unrestrained excitement and sensation. But, the most wondrous event would be if man could relinquish all the stains and defilements of the untamed mind and progress toward achieving the real mental peace and satisfaction when he reaches the moon.
The progress of the individual mind is not only an illustration, but an indirect evidence of that of the general mind. The point of departure of the individual and of the race being the same, the phases of the mind of a man correspond to the epochs of the mind of the race. Now, each of us is aware, if he looks back upon his own history, that he was a theologian in his childhood, a metaphysician in his youth, and a natural philosopher in his manhood. All men who are up to their age can verify this for themselves.
The publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.
There have been only three epoch-making mathematicians, Archimedes, Newton, and Eisenstein.
This investigation has yielded an unanticipated result that reaction of cyanic acid with ammonia gives urea, a noteworthy result in as much as it provides an example of the artificial production of an organic, indeed a so-called animal, substance from inorganic substances.
[The first report of the epoch-making discovery, that an organic compound can be produced from inorganic substances.]
[The first report of the epoch-making discovery, that an organic compound can be produced from inorganic substances.]
To set foot on the soil of the asteroids, to lift by hand a rock from the Moon, to observe Mars from a distance of several tens of kilometers, to land on its satellite or even on its surface, what can be more fantastic? From the moment of using rocket devices a new great era will begin in astronomy: the epoch of the more intensive study of the firmament.
Unconscious, perhaps, of the remote tendency of his own labours, he [Joseph Black] undermined that doctrine of material heat, which he seemed to support. For, by his advocacy of latent heat, he taught that its movements constantly battle, not only some of our senses, but all of them; and that, while our feelings make us believe that heat is lost, our intellect makes us believe that it is not lost. Here, we have apparent destructability, and real indestructibility. To assert that a body received heat without its temperature rising, was to make the understanding correct the touch, and defy its dictates. It was a bold and beautiful paradox, which required courage as well as insight to broach, and the reception of which marks an epoch in the human mind, because it was an immense step towards idealizing matter into force.
Under the... new hypothesis [of Continental Drift] certain geological concepts come to acquire a new significance amounting in a few cases to a complete inversion of principles, and the inquirer will find it necessary to re-orient his ideas. For the first time he will get glimpses... of a pulsating restless earth, all parts of which are in greater or less degree of movement in respect to the axis of rotation, having been so, moreover, throughout geological time. He will have to leave behind him—perhaps reluctantly—the dumbfounding spectacle of the present continental masses, firmly anchored to a plastic foundation yet remaining fixed in space; set thousands of kilometres apart, it may be, yet behaving in almost identical fashion from epoch to epoch and stage to stage like soldiers, at drill; widely stretched in some quarters at various times and astoundingly compressed in others, yet retaining their general shapes, positions and orientations; remote from one another through history, yet showing in their fossil remains common or allied forms of terrestrial life; possessed during certain epochs of climates that may have ranged from glacial to torrid or pluvial to arid, though contrary to meteorological principles when their existing geographical positions are considered -to mention but a few such paradoxes!
Volcanic eruptions are very local phenomena. At any given epoch they are confined to a few localities of very small relative extent.
We should be most careful about retreating from the specific challenge of our age. We should be reluctant to turn our back upon the frontier of this epoch… We cannot be indifferent to space, because the grand slow march of our intelligence has brought us, in our generation, to a point from which we can explore and understand and utilize it. To turn back now would be to deny our history, our capabilities.
When you are criticizing the philosophy of an epoch do not chiefly direct your attention to these intellectual positions which its exponents feel it necessary to defend. There will be some fundamental assumption which adherents of all the various systems of the epoch unconsciously presuppose.
Why has not anyone seen that fossils alone gave birth to a theory about the formation of the earth, that without them, no one would have ever dreamed that there were successive epochs in the formation of the globe.
Yes, gentlemen, give me the map of any country, its configuration, its climate, its waters, its winds, and the whole of its physical geography; give me its natural productions, its flora, its zoology, &c., and I pledge myself to tell you, a priori, what will be the quality of man in history:—not accidentally, but necessarily; not at any particular epoch, but in all; in short, —what idea he is called to represent.
…The present revolution of scientific thought follows in natural sequence on the great revolutions at earlier epochs in the history of science. Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which explains the indeterminateness of the frame of space and time, crowns the work of Copernicus who first led us to give up our insistence on a geocentric outlook on nature; Einstein's general theory of relativity, which reveals the curvature or non-Euclidean geometry of space and time, carries forward the rudimentary thought of those earlier astronomers who first contemplated the possibility that their existence lay on something which was not flat. These earlier revolutions are still a source of perplexity in childhood, which we soon outgrow; and a time will come when Einstein’s amazing revelations have likewise sunk into the commonplaces of educated thought.