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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index E > Category: Ethics

Ethics Quotes (50 quotes)


Dilbert: Wow! According to my computer simulation, it should be possible to create new life forms from common household chemicals
Dogbert: This raises some thorny issues.
Dilbert: You mean legal, ethical and religious issues?
Dogbert: I was thinking about parking spaces.
Dilbert comic strip (31 May 1989).
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All attempts to adapt our ethical code to our situation in the technological age have failed.
Max Born
My Life & My Views (1968), 52.
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As soon as questions of will or decision or reason or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss.
From a British television interview (30 Mar 1978) quoted in The Listener (6 Apr 1978). In Alfred J. Kolatch, Great Jewish Quotations (1996), 87.
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Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the esthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture. That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten.
A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There (1949), viii-ix.
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During my eighty-seven years I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.
From My Own Story (1957), 320.
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Ethics and Science need to shake hands.
…...
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Edwin Grant Conklin quote: Ethics … has been well called “the religion of science.”
Ethics … has been well called “the religion of science.”
From Address as retiring president before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Indianapolis (27 Dec 1937). Published in 'Science and Ethics', Science (31 Dec 1937), 86, No. 2244, 596.
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Geology is intimately related to almost all the physical sciences, as is history to the moral. An historian should, if possible, be at once profoundly acquainted with ethics, politics, jurisprudence, the military art, theology; in a word, with all branches of knowledge, whereby any insight into human affairs, or into the moral and intellectual nature of man, can be obtained. It would be no less desirable that a geologist should be well versed in chemistry, natural philosophy, mineralogy, zoology, comparative anatomy, botany; in short, in every science relating to organic and inorganic nature. With these accomplishments the historian and geologist would rarely fail to draw correct and philosophical conclusions from the various monuments transmitted to them of former occurrences.
Principles of Geology (1830-3), Vol. 1, 2-3.
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I do not believe that a moral philosophy can ever be founded on a scientific basis. … The valuation of life and all its nobler expressions can only come out of the soul’s yearning toward its own destiny. Every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formulas must fail. Of that I am perfectly convinced.
In 'Science and God: A Dialogue', Forum and Century (June 1930), 83, 374. Einstein’s dialogue was with James Murphy and J.W.N. Sullivan. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 230. The book introduces this quote as Einstein’s reply when Murphy asked, in the authors’ words, “how far he thought modern science might be able to go toward establishing practical ideals of life on the ruins of religious ideals.”
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I think it’s time we recognized the Dark Ages are over. Galileo and Copernicus have been proven right. The world is in fact round; the Earth does revolve around the sun. I believe God gave us intellect to differentiate between imprisoning dogma and sound ethical science, which is what we must do here today.
Debating federal funding for stem cell research as Republican Representative (CT).
In Eve Herold, George Daley, Stem Cell Wars (2007), 57.
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I would teach the world that science is the best way to understand the world, and that for any set of observations, there is only one correct explanation. Also, science is value-free, as it explains the world as it is. Ethical issues arise only when science is applied to technology – from medicine to industry.
Response to question “What is the one thing everyone should learn about science?” in 'Life Lessons' The Guardian (7 Apr 2005).
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If we ought not to fear mortal truth, still less should we dread scientific truth. In the first place it can not conflict with ethics? But if science is feared, it is above all because it can give no happiness? Man, then, can not be happy through science but today he can much less be happy without it.
Henri Poincaré and George Bruce Halsted (trans.), The Value of Science (1907), 12.
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In an objective system … any mingling of knowledge with values is unlawful, forbidden. But [the] … “first commandment” which ensures the foundation of objective knowledge, is not itself objective. It cannot be objective: it is an ethical guideline, a rule for conduct. True knowledge is ignorant of values, but it cannot be grounded elsewhere than upon a value judgment…
In Chance and Necessity (1970), 176.
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In the social equation, the value of a single life is nil; in the cosmic equation, it is infinite… Not only communism, but any political movement which implicitly relies on purely utilitarian ethics, must become a victim to the same fatal error. It is a fallacy as naïve as a mathematical teaser, and yet its consequences lead straight to Goya’s Disasters, to the reign of the guillotine, the torture chambers of the Inquisition, or the cellars of the Lubianka.
In 'The Invisible Writing', Arrow in the Blue: An Autobiography (1952), Vol. 2, 357.
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Individual dolphins and whales are to be given the legal rights of human individuals. … Research into communication with cetaceans is no longer simply a scientific pursuit…. We must learn their needs, their ethics, their philosophy, to find out who we are on this planet, in this galaxy.
In The Rights of Cetaceans under Human Laws (1978), 138. This shows Lilly’s enthusiasm, but is definitely an over-reach. Edward O. Wilson bluntly rejects it. See the quote beginning “Lilly's writing differs…” on the Edward Wilson Quotation page on this website.
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It is not clear to anyone, least of all the practitioners, how science and technology in their headlong course do or should influence ethics and law, education and government, art and social philosophy, religion and the life of the affections. Yet science is an all-pervasive energy, for it is at once a mode of thought, a source of strong emotion, and a faith as fanatical as any in history.
Science: The Glorious Entertainment (1964), 3.
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It is not logic that makes men reasonable, nor the science of ethics that makes men good.
In Epigrams of Oscar Wilde (2007), 215.
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It is time that science, having destroyed the religious basis for morality, accepted the obligation to provide a new and rational basis for human behavior—a code of ethics concerned with man’s needs on earth, not his rewards in heaven.
In 'Toward a New Morality,' IEEE Spectrum, 1972.
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It is unreasonable to expect science to produce a system of ethics—ethics are a kind of highway code for traffic among mankind—and the fact that in physics atoms which were yesterday assumed to be square are now assumed to be round is exploited with unjustified tendentiousness by all who are hungry for faith; so long as physics extends our dominion over nature, these changes ought to be a matter of complete indifference to you.
Letter to Oskar Pfister, 24 Feb 1928. Quoted in H. Meng and E. Freud (eds.), Psycho-Analysis and Faith: The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Oscar Pfister (1963), 123.
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It [an ethical problem with in vitro fertilization] depends on whether you're talking ethics from the standpoint of some religious denomination or from just truly religious people. The Jewish or Catholic faiths, for example, have their own rules. But just religious people, who will make very devoted parents, have no problem with in vitro fertilization.
From address to the annual meeeting of the American Fertility Society in San Francisco (5 Feb 1979), as quoted in a UPI news article, reprinted in, for example, 'Steptoe Discusses Test Tube Ethics', The Milwaukee Journal (6 Feb 1979), 5. As reported, each sentence was separated in its own quote marks, separated by “Dr. Patrick Steptoe said” and “he said,” so the quote may not have been delivered as a single statement.
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Knowing what we now know about living systems—how they replicate and how they mutate—we are beginning to know how to control their evolutionary futures. To a considerable extent we now do that with the plants we cultivate and the animals we domesticate. This is, in fact, a standard application of genetics today. We could even go further, for there is no reason why we cannot in the same way direct our own evolutionary futures. I wish to emphasize, however—and emphatically—that whether we should do this and, if so, how, are not questions science alone can answer. They are for society as a whole to think about. Scientists can say what the consequences might be, but they are not justified in going further except as responsible members of society.
The Place of Genetics in Modern Biology (1959), 20.
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Man is an animal with primary instincts of survival. Consequently his ingenuity has developed first and his soul afterwards. The progress of science is far ahead of man's ethical behavior.
My Autobiography (1964), 471.
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Mathematics is distinguished from all other sciences except only ethics, in standing in no need of ethics. Every other science, even logic—logic, especially—is in its early stages in danger of evaporating into airy nothingness, degenerating, as the Germans say, into an anachrioid [?] film, spun from the stuff that dreams are made of. There is no such danger for pure mathematics; for that is precisely what mathematics ought to be.
In Charles S. Peirce, ‎Charles Hartshorne (ed.), ‎Paul Weiss (ed.), Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (1931), Vol. 4, 200.
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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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Not only are there meaningless questions, but many of the problems with which the human intellect has tortured itself turn out to be only 'pseudo problems,' because they can be formulated only in terms of questions which are meaningless. Many of the traditional problems of philosophy, of religion, or of ethics, are of this character. Consider, for example, the problem of the freedom of the will. You maintain that you are free to take either the right- or the left-hand fork in the road. I defy you to set up a single objective criterion by which you can prove after you have made the turn that you might have made the other. The problem has no meaning in the sphere of objective activity; it only relates to my personal subjective feelings while making the decision.
The Nature of Physical Theory (1936), 12.
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Nothing that you do in science is guaranteed to result in benefits for mankind. Any discovery, I believe, is morally neutral and it can be turned either to constructive ends or destructive ends. That’s not the fault of science.
Quoted by Jeremy Pearce in 'Arthur Galston, Agent Orange Researcher, Is Dead at 88', New York Times (23 Jun 2008), B6.
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Only one rule in medical ethics need concern you - that action on your part which best conserves the interests of your patient.
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Our moral theorists seem never content with the normal. Why must it always be a contest between fornication, obesity and laziness, and celibacy, fasting and hard labor?
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People ask, “Is the science going to run ahead of the ethics?” I don't think that’s always the problem. I think it’s that the science runs ahead of the politics. Bioethics can alert people to something coming down the road, but it doesn't mean policy and politicians are going to pay attention. They tend to respond when there’s an immediate crisis. The job of the ethicist, in some ways, is to warn or be prophetic. You can yell loudly, but you can’t necessarily get everybody to leave the cinema, so to speak.
Interview by Karen Pallarito in The Scientist (Jan 2008), supplement, 74.
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Relativity applies to physics, not ethics.
…...
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Science cannot stop while ethics catches up ... and nobody should expect scientists to do all the thinking for the country.
To the 116th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York City (26-31 Dec 1949), as quoted in Life magazine (9 Jan 1950), 28, No. 2, 17.
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Science has taught us how to put the atom to work. But to make it work for good instead of for evil lies in the domain dealing with the principles of human duty. We are now facing a problem more of ethics than physics.
Speech to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (14 Jun 1946). In Alfred J. Kolatch, Great Jewish Quotations (1996), 39.
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Science, as long as it limits itself to the descriptive study of the laws of nature, has no moral or ethical quality and this applies to the physical as well as the biological sciences.
'Social Responsibility and the Scientist', New Scientist, 22 October 1970, 166.
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Since science's competence extends to observable and measurable phenomena, not to the inner being of things, and to the means, not to the ends of human life, it would be nonsense to expect that the progress of science will provide men with a new type of metaphysics, ethics, or religion.
'Science and Ontology', Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (1949), 5, 200.
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The continued destruction of mangrove swamps in poor countries to provide shrimp for people living in rich countries is simply the market operating in a vacuum untroubled by ethics.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat (2008), 300.
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Edwin Grant Conklin quote: The ethics of science regards the search for truth as one of the highest duties of man.
The ethics of science regards the search for truth as one of the highest duties of man; it regards noble human character as the finest product of evolution; it considers the service of all mankind as the universal good; it teaches that human nature and humane nurture may be improved, that reason may replace unreason, cooperation supplement competition, and the progress of the human race through future ages be promoted by intelligence and goodwill.
From Address as retiring president before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Indianapolis (27 Dec 1937). Published in 'Science and Ethics', Science (31 Dec 1937), 86, No. 2244, 602.
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The focal points of our different reflections have been called “science”’ or “art” according to the nature of their “formal” objects, to use the language of logic. If the object leads to action, we give the name of “art” to the compendium of rules governing its use and to their technical order. If the object is merely contemplated under different aspects, the compendium and technical order of the observations concerning this object are called “science.” Thus metaphysics is a science and ethics is an art. The same is true of theology and pyrotechnics.
Definition of 'Art', Encyclopédie (1751). Translated by Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer (1965), 4.
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The meaning that we are seeking in evolution is its meaning to us, to man. The ethics of evolution must be human ethics. It is one of the many unique qualities of man, the new sort of animal, that he is the only ethical animal. The ethical need and its fulfillment are also products of evolution, but they have been produced in man alone.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 309.
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The moral principle inherent in evolution, that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort; the ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has the right to survive; the spiritual principle in evolution is the evidence of beauty, of order, and of design in the daily myriad of miracles to which we owe our existence.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91.
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The next decade will perhaps raise us a step above despair to a cleaner, clearer wisdom and biology cannot fail to help in this. As we become increasingly aware of the ethical problems raised by science and technology, the frontiers between the biological and social sciences are clearly of critical importance—in population density and problems of hunger, psychological stress, pollution of the air and water and exhaustion of irreplaceable resources.
As quoted in 'H. Bentley Glass', New York Times (12 Jan 1970), 96.
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The practice of that which is ethically best—what we call goodness or virtue—involves a course of conduct which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless self-assertion it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside, or treading down, all competitors, it requires that the individual shall not merely respect, but shall help his fellows… It repudiates the gladiatorial theory of existence… Laws and moral precepts are directed to the end of curbing the cosmic process.
'Evolution and Ethics' (1893). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 81-2.
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The refuge of the morally, intellectually, artistically and economically bankrupt is war.
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The scientific doctrine of progress is destined to replace not only the myth of progress, but all other myths of human earthly destiny. It will inevitably become one of the cornerstones of man's theology, or whatever may be the future substitute for theology, and the most important external support for human ethics.
New Bottles for New Wine (1957), 21.
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The study of geometry is a petty and idle exercise of the mind, if it is applied to no larger system than the starry one. Mathematics should be mixed not only with physics but with ethics; that is mixed mathematics.
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1862), 381-382.
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There are problems to whose solution I would attach an infinitely greater importance than to those of mathematics, for example touching ethics, or our relation to God, or concerning our destiny and our future; but their solution lies wholly beyond us and completely outside the province of science.
Quoted in J.R. Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), 314.
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There can be no final truth in ethics any more than in physics, until the last man has had his experience and his say.
In 'The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,' The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1910).
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This relation logical implication is probably the most rigorous and powerful of all the intellectual enterprises of man. From a properly selected set of the vast number of prepositional functions a set can be selected from which an infinitude of prepositional functions can be implied. In this sense all postulational thinking is mathematics. It can be shown that doctrines in the sciences, natural and social, in history, in jurisprudence and in ethics are constructed on the postulational thinking scheme and to that extent are mathematical. Together the proper enterprise of Science and the enterprise of Mathematics embrace the whole knowledge-seeking activity of mankind, whereby “knowledge” is meant the kind of knowledge that admits of being made articulate in the form of propositions.
In Mathematics as a Culture Clue: And Other Essays (1947), 127.
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We are at that very point in time when a four-hundred-year-old age is rattling in its deathbed and another is struggling to be born. A shifting of culture, science, society and institutions enormously greater and swifter than the world has ever experienced. Ahead, lies the possibility of regeneration of individuality, liberty, community and ethics such as the world has never known, and a harmony with nature, with one another and with the divine intelligence such as the world has always dreamed.
Birth of the Chaordic Age (1999), 310-311.
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Without ethics, everything happens as if we were all five billion passengers on a big machinery and nobody is driving the machinery. And it’s going faster and faster, but we don’t know where.
From CNN interview (24 Feb 1989). As quoted and cited in Murtezan Ismaili, 'Perceptions of Ethics at Education in University Level', Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences (2011), 15, 1125.
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You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.
In 'A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace' (8 Feb 1996). Published on Electronic Frontier Foundation website. Reproduced in Lawrence Lessig, Code: Version 2.0) (2008), 302.
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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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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
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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