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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Forget Quotes (115 quotes)

... I left Caen, where I was living, to go on a geologic excursion under the auspices of the School of Mines. The incidents of the travel made me forget my mathematical work. Having reached Coutances, we entered an omnibus to go to some place or other. At the moment when I put my foot on the step, the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, that the transformations I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Eudidean geometry. I did not verify the idea; I should not have had time, as upon taking my seat in the omnibus, I went on with a conversation already commenced, but I felt a perfect certainty. On my return to Caen, for convenience sake, I verified the result at my leisure.
Quoted in Sir Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (1990), 541. Science and Method (1908) 51-52, 392.
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Indiana Jones: Archaeology is the search for fact… not truth. If it’s truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. … So forget any ideas you've got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.
Spoken by actor Harrison Ford as character Indiana Jones in movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
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N’oublions pas non plus qu’il ne saurait exister pour la science des vérités acquises.
Nor must we forget that in science there are no final truths.
Original French in Mythologiques, Vol. 1, Le Cru et le Cuit (1964), 15. As translated by John and Doreen Weightman, The Raw and the Cooked (1969, 1990), 7.
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A science which hesitates to forget its founders is lost.
Address to the British Association, Newcastle. 'The Organisation of Thought,' printed in Nature (28 Sep 1916), 98, 80. Also collected in The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 162.
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Abstruse mathematical researches … are … often abused for having no obvious physical application. The fact is that the most useful parts of science have been investigated for the sake of truth, and not for their usefulness. A new branch of mathematics, which has sprung up in the last twenty years, was denounced by the Astronomer Royal before the University of Cambridge as doomed to be forgotten, on account of its uselessness. Now it turns out that the reason why we cannot go further in our investigations of molecular action is that we do not know enough of this branch of mathematics.
In 'Conditions of Mental Development', Lectures and Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 115.
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After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, “I refute it thus.”
In Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1820), Vol. 1, 218.
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Although as a boy I had dreamed about going into space, I had completely forgotten about that until one day I received a call from an astronaut, who suggested that I should join the program.
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Alvarez seemed to care less about the way the picture in the puzzle would look, when everything fit together, than about the fun of looking for pieces that fit. He loved nothing more than doing something that everybody else thought impossible. His designs were clever, and usually exploited some little-known principle that everyone else had forgotten.
As quoted in Walter Sullivan, 'Luis W. Alvarez, Nobel Physicist Who Explored Atom, Dies at 77: Obituary', New York Times (2 Sep 1988).
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An insane man is a sick man. Please don’t forget that, gentlemen.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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And don’t forget one in the command module.... And thanks for putting me on relay, Houston. I was missing all the action.
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Anthropologists are a connecting link between poets and scientists though their fieldwork among primitive peoples has often made them forget the language of science.
From Arthur D. Little Lecture (6 Dec 1963) at the London School of Economics, in Saturday Review (1963), 46, No. 4, 83.
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Art creates an incomparable and unique effect, and, having done so, passes on to other things. Nature, upon the other hand, forgetting that imitation can be made the sincerest form of insult, keeps on repeating the effect until we all become absolutely wearied of it.
In 'Decay of Lying', The Writings of Oscar Wilde: Epigrams, Phrases and Philosophies For the Use of the Young (1907), 8.
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As a scientist, I am not sure anymore that life can be reduced to a class struggle, to dialectical materialism, or any set of formulas. Life is spontaneous and it is unpredictable, it is magical. I think that we have struggled so hard with the tangible that we have forgotten the intangible.
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As one penetrates from seam to seam, from stratum to stratum and discovers, under the quarries of Montmartre or in the schists of the Urals, those animals whose fossilized remains belong to antediluvian civilizations, the mind is startled to catch a vista of the milliards of years and the millions of peoples which the feeble memory of man and an indestructible divine tradition have forgotten and whose ashes heaped on the surface of our globe, form the two feet of earth which furnish us with bread and flowers.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as The Wild Ass’s Skin (1906) trans. Herbert J. Hunt, The Wild Ass's Skin (1977), 40-1.
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As they discover, from strata to strata and from layer to layer, deep in the quarries of Montmartre or the schists of the Urals, these creatures whose fossilized remains belong to antediluvian civilizations, it will strike terror into your soul to see many millions of years, many thousands of races forgotten by the feeble memory of mankind and by the indestructible divine tradition, and whose piles of ashes on the surface of our globe form the two feet of soil which gives us our bread and our flowers.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
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Both died, ignored by most; they neither sought nor found public favour, for high roads never lead there. Laurent and Gerhardt never left such roads, were never tempted to peruse those easy successes which, for strongly marked characters, offer neither allure nor gain. Their passion was for the search for truth; and, preferring their independence to their advancement, their convictions to their interests, they placed their love for science above that of their worldly goods; indeed above that for life itself, for death was the reward for their pains. Rare example of abnegation, sublime poverty that deserves the name nobility, glorious death that France must not forget!
'Éloge de Laurent et Gerhardt', Moniteur Scientifique (1862), 4, 473-83, trans. Alan J. Rocke.
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But I should be very sorry if an interpretation founded on a most conjectural scientific hypothesis were to get fastened to the text in Genesis... The rate of change of scientific hypothesis is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretations, so that if an interpretation is founded on such an hypothesis, it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten.
Letter to Rev. C. J. Ellicott, Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol (22 Nov 1876). Quoted in Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1882), 394.
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But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Bible
2 Peter 3:8
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By death the moon was gathered in Long ago, ah long ago;
Yet still the silver corpse must spin
And with another's light must glow.
Her frozen mountains must forget
Their primal hot volcanic breath,
Doomed to revolve for ages yet,
Void amphitheatres of death.
And all about the cosmic sky,
The black that lies beyond our blue,
Dead stars innumerable lie,
And stars of red and angry hue
Not dead but doomed to die.
'Cosmic Death' (1923), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 30.
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Concepts that have proven useful in ordering thi ngs easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens.
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Creation science has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage—good teaching—than a bill forcing our honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?.
In 'The Verdict on Creationism' The Sketical Inquirer (Winter 1987/88), 12, 186.
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Despite the vision and the far-seeing wisdom of our wartime heads of state, the physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons. Nor can we forget that these weapons, as they were in fact used, dramatized so mercilessly the inhumanity and evil of modern war. In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
In Arthur Dehon Little Memorial Lecture (25 Nov 1947) to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'Physics in the Contemporary World'. Collected in J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Open Mind (1955), 88.
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Don’t forget that the bacteria watch us from the other end of the microscope.
More Unkempt Thoughts (1969), 1.
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Don’t forget that the flavors of wine and cheese depend upon the types of infecting microorganisms.
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Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
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Elaborate apparatus plays an important part in the science of to-day, but I sometimes wonder if we are not inclined to forget that the most important instrument in research must always be the mind of man.
The Art of Scientific Investigation (1951), ix.
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Flowers are the sweetest things that God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887),8.
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For the most part we humans live with the false impression of security and a feeling of being at home in a seemingly trustworthy physical and human environment. But when the expected course of everyday life is interrupted, we are like shipwrecked people on a miserable plank in the open sea, having forgotten where they came from and not knowing whither they are drifting. But once we fully accept this, life becomes easier and there is no longer any disappointment.
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God and the Doctor we alike adore
But only when in danger, not before;
The danger o’er, both are alike requited,
God is forgotten, and the Doctor slighted.
…...
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God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
'The Fly' (1942), Good Intentions (1943), 220.
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Historical theories are, after all, intellectual apple carts. They are quite likely to be upset. Nor should it be forgotten that they tend to attract, when they gain ascendancy, a fair number of apple-polishers
'Books of the Times'. New York Times (9 Dec 1965), 45.
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I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of the earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas: I wish, however, that the instrument might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent, like the things which they denote.
'Preface', A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Vol. 1.
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I believe … that we can still have a genre of scientific books suitable for and accessible alike to professionals and interested laypeople. The concepts of science, in all their richness and ambiguity, can be presented without any compromise, without any simplification counting as distortion, in language accessible to all intelligent people … I hope that this book can be read with profit both in seminars for graduate students and–if the movie stinks and you forgot your sleeping pills–on the businessman’s special to Tokyo.
In Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1990), Preface, 16.
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I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.
In 'The Science Of Deduction', A Study In Scarlet (1887, 1904), 15-16.
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I consider the study of medicine to have been that training which preached more impressively and more convincingly than any other could have done, the everlasting principles of all scientific work; principles which are so simple and yet are ever forgotten again, so clear and yet always hidden by a deceptive veil.
In Lecture (2 Aug 1877) delivered on the anniversary of the foundation of the Institute for the Education of Army Surgeons, 'On Thought in Medicine', collected in 'Popular Scientific Lectures', The Humboldt Library of Popular Science Literature (1 Jul 1881), 1, No. 24, 18, (renumbered as p.748 in reprint volume of Nos. 1-24).
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I do not forget that Medicine and Veterinary practice are foreign to me. I desire judgment and criticism upon all my contributions. Little tolerant of frivolous or prejudiced contradiction, contemptuous of that ignorant criticism which doubts on principle, I welcome with open arms the militant attack which has a method of doubting and whose rule of conduct has the motto “More light.”
In Louis Pasteur and Harold Clarence Ernst (trans), The Germ Theory and Its Application to Medicine and Surgery, Chap. 12. Reprinted in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics: Scientific Papers: Physiology, Medicine, Surgery, Geology (1897, 1910), Vol. 38, 401-402. Cited as read before French Academy of Science (20 Apr 1878), published in Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences, 84, 1037-43.
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I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.
Quoted by Cleveland Moffitt, 'A Talk With Tesla', Atlanta Constitution (7 Jun 1896)
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I forget whether you take in the Times; for the chance of your not doing so, I send the enclosed rich letter. It is, I am sure, by Fitz-Roy. … It is a pity he did not add his theory of the extinction of Mastodon, etc., from the door of the Ark being made too small.
Letter (5 Dec 1859) to Charles Lyell. In Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward (eds.), More Letters of Charles Darwin: A Record of his Work in a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Letters (103), Vol. 1, 129. The referenced letters in the Times were on 1 Dec and 5 Dec 1859, signed under the pseudonym “Senex”, on the topic of “Works of Art in the Drift.”
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I shall never forget my first encounter with gorillas. Sound preceded sight. Odor preceded sound in the form of an overwhelming, musky-barnyard, humanlike scent. The air was suddenly rent by a high-pitched series of screams followed by the rhythmic rondo of sharp pok-pok chestbeats from a great silverbacked male obscured behind what seemed an impenetrable wall of vegetation.
Describing her 1963 trip to Kabara in Gorillas in the Mist (1983), 3. (The screams and chest-beating were of alarm, not ferocity.)
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I shall never forget the sight. The vessel of crystallization was three quarters full of slightly muddy water—that is, dilute water-glass—and from the sandy bottom there strove upwards a grotesque little landscape of variously colored growths: a confused vegetation of blue, green, and brown shoots which reminded one of algae, mushrooms, attached polyps, also moss, then mussels, fruit pods, little trees or twigs from trees, here, and there of limbs. It was the most remarkable sight I ever saw, and remarkable not so much for its profoundly melancholy nature. For when Father Leverkühn asked us what we thought of it and we timidly answered him that they might be plants: “No,” he replied, “they are not, they only act that way. But do not think the less of them. Precisely because they do, because they try as hard as they can, they are worthy of all respect.”
It turned out that these growths were entirely unorganic in their origin; they existed by virtue of chemicals from the apothecary's shop.
Description of a “chemical garden” in Doktor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend, (1947), 19.
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I tell [medical students] that they are the luckiest persons on earth to be in medical school, and to forget all this worry about H.M.O.’s and keep your eye on helping the patient. It’s the best time ever to be a doctor because you can heal and treat conditions that were untreatable even a couple of years ago.
From Cornelia Dean, 'A Conversation with Joseph E. Murray', New York Times (25 Sep 2001), F5.
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I think that the unity we can seek lies really in two things. One is that the knowledge which comes to us at such a terrifyingly, inhumanly rapid rate has some order in it. We are allowed to forget a great deal, as well as to learn. This order is never adequate. The mass of ununderstood things, which cannot be summarized, or wholly ordered, always grows greater; but a great deal does get understood.
The second is simply this: we can have each other to dinner. We ourselves, and with each other by our converse, can create, not an architecture of global scope, but an immense, intricate network of intimacy, illumination, and understanding. Everything cannot be connected with everything in the world we live in. Everything can be connected with anything.
Concluding paragraphs of 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 76.
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I wish they don’t forget to keep those treasures pure which they have in excellence over the west: their artistic building of life, the simplicity a nd modesty in personal need, and the pureness and calmness of Japanese soul.
…...
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If our intention had been merely to bring back a handful of soil and rocks from the lunar gravel pit and then forget the whole thing, we would certainly be history's biggest fools. But that is not our intention now—it never will be. What we are seeking in tomorrow's [Apollo 11] trip is indeed that key to our future on earth. We are expanding the mind of man. We are extending this God-given brain and these God-given hands to their outermost limits and in so doing all mankind will benefit. All mankind will reap the harvest…. What we will have attained when Neil Armstrong steps down upon the moon is a completely new step in the evolution of man.
Banquet speech on the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, Royal Oaks Country Club, Titusville (15 Jul 1969). In "Of a Fire on the Moon", Life (29 Aug 1969), 67, No. 9, 34.
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If you care to be a master or to make a true success of your profession, the smallest detail of your work must be done with thoroughness. To be thorough in medicine means that in the ever alluring present, we do not forget the past.
Opening address to the Medical Department of the University of Michigan, Sep 1914. Quoted by Howard Markel in 'When it Rains it Pours' : Endemic Goiter, Iodized Salt, and David Murray Cowie, M.D. American Journal of Public Health, Feb 1987, vol.77, No.2, page 227.
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If you see a formula in the Physical Review that extends over a quarter of a page, forget it. It’s wrong. Nature isn’t that complicated.
As quoted, without citation in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 166. Need a primary source - can you help?
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In our way of life … with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the seventh generation of children to come. … When we walk upon Mother Earth, we always plant our feet carefully, because we know that the faces of future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.
…...
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In the course of the last century science has become so dizzy with its successes, that it has forgotten to ask the pertinent questions—or refused to ask them under the pretext that they are meaningless, and in any case not the scientists concern.
In The Ghost in the Machine (1967), xi.
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In the Life of Darwin by his son, there is related an incident of how the great naturalist once studied long as to just what a certain spore was. Finally he said, “It is this, for if it isn’t, then what is it?” And all during his life he was never able to forget that he had been guilty of this unscientific attitude, for science is founded on certitude, not assumption.
In Elbert Hubbard (ed. and publ.), The Philistine (May 1908), 26, No. 6, 172.
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It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man's blessings. Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours... in order that the creations of our minds shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.
Address to students of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California (16 Feb 1931). In New York Times (17 Feb 1931), p. 6.
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It is sometimes important for science to know how to forget the things she is surest of.
Pensées d’un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), Chap. 7.
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It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe, yet an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another.
…...
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I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Concluding stanza of poem 'On Turning 70'. The poem is printed in Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, Annual Report 2004 (2005), no page number.
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Knowing Pains
I studied parts
of a flower
to understand
its flowering.
I learned much
about my limits.
I had forgotten
Earth and climate.
Poem, in Starting Points: Poems (1971), 38. As quoted in Arthur Lerner, 'Poetry Therapy', The American Journal of Nursing (Aug 1973), 73, No. 8, 1338.
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Let us award a just, a brilliant homage to those rare men whom nature has endowed with the precious privilege of arranging a thousand isolated facts, of making seductive theories spring from them; but let us not forget to state, that the scythe of the reaper had cut the stalks before one had thought of uniting them into sheaves!
In François Arago, trans. by William Henry Smyth, Baden Powell and Robert Grant, 'Fourier', Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men (1859), Vol. 1, 409.
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Like all things of the mind, science is a brittle thing: it becomes absurd when you look at it too closely. It is designed for few at a time, not as a mass profession. But now we have megascience: an immense apparatus discharging in a minute more bursts of knowledge than humanity is able to assimilate in a lifetime. Each of us has two eyes, two ears, and, I hope, one brain. We cannot even listen to two symphonies at the same time. How do we get out of the horrible cacophony that assails our minds day and night? We have to learn, as others did, that if science is a machine to make more science, a machine to grind out so-called facts of nature, not all facts are equally worth knowing. Students, in other words, will have to learn to forget most of what they have learned. This process of forgetting must begin after each exam, but never before. The Ph.D. is essentially a license to start unlearning.
Voices In the Labyrinth: Nature, Man, and Science (1979), 2.
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Live and learn; die and forget it all.
Anonymous
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Memory is the thing you forget with.
Perspectives (1966). In Memory (1999), 71.
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My eureka moment was in the dead of night, the early hours of the morning, on a cold, cold night, and my feet were so cold, they were aching. But when the result poured out of the charts, you just forget all that. You realize instantly how significant this is—what it is you’ve really landed on—and it’s great!
[About her discovery of the first pulsar radio signals.]
From BBC TV program, Journeys in Time and Space: Invisible Universe (28 Feb 2001).
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Never forget that it is not a pneumonia, but a pneumonic man who is your patient.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xxiii.
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Never forget that tyranny most often springs from a fanatical faith in the absoluteness of one’s beliefs.
In Ashley Montagu (ed.), Science and Creationism (1984), Introduction, 9.
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No idea should be suppressed. … And it applies to ideas that look like nonsense. We must not forget that some of the best ideas seemed like nonsense at first. The truth will prevail in the end. Nonsense will fall of its own weight, by a sort of intellectual law of gravitation. If we bat it about, we shall only keep an error in the air a little longer. And a new truth will go into orbit.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 233.
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No mathematician should ever allow him to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game. … Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty. There have been men who have done great work later; … [but] I do not know of a single instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty. … A mathematician may still be competent enough at sixty, but it is useless to expect him to have original ideas.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1941, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 70-71.
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No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game.
A Mathematician's Apology (1940), 10.
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No one who saw it could forget it, a foul and awesome display.
Recounting his memories of the first atom bomb test on 16 Jul 1945.
'A Foul and Awesome Display,' Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists vol. 32, 5 (May 1975), 46. Quoted in Cynthia C. Kelly, Remembering the Manhattan Project: Perspectives on the Making of the Atomic Bomb and its Legacy (2005), 25 by Cynthia C. Kelly
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No video, no photographs, no verbal descriptions, no lectures can provide the enchantment that a few minutes out-of-doors can: watch a spider construct a web; observe a caterpillar systematically ravaging the edge of a leaf; close your eyes, cup your hands behind your ears, and listen to aspen leaves rustle or a stream muse about its pools and eddies. Nothing can replace plucking a cluster of pine needles and rolling them in your fingers to feel how they’re put together, or discovering that “sedges have edges and grasses are round,” The firsthand, right-and-left-brain experience of being in the out-of-doors involves all the senses including some we’ve forgotten about, like smelling water a mile away. No teacher, no student, can help but sense and absorb the larger ecological rhythms at work here, and the intertwining of intricate, varied and complex strands that characterize a rich, healthy natural world.
Into the Field: A Guide to Locally Focused Teaching
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Nobody ever forgets where he buried the hatchet.
Unverified. Need primary source. Can you help? Widely seem, but without citation, for example, in Jon, Michael and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 203.
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On one occasion, when he was giving a dinner to some friends at the university, he left the table to get them a bottle of wine; but, on his way to the cellar, he fell into reflection, forgot his errand and his company, went to his chamber, put on his surplice, and proceeded to the chapel. Sometimes he would go into the street half dressed, and on discovering his condition, run back in great haste, much abashed. Often, while strolling in his garden, he would suddenly stop, and then run rapidly to his room, and begin to write, standing, on the first piece of paper that presented itself. Intending to dine in the public hall, he would go out in a brown study, take the wrong turn, walk a while, and then return to his room, having totally forgotten the dinner. Once having dismounted from his horse to lead him up a hill, the horse slipped his head out of the bridle; but Newton, oblivious, never discovered it till, on reaching a tollgate at the top of the hill, he turned to remount and perceived that the bridle which he held in his hand had no horse attached to it. His secretary records that his forgetfulness of his dinner was an excellent thing for his old housekeeper, who “sometimes found both dinner and supper scarcely tasted of, which the old woman has very pleasantly and mumpingly gone away with”. On getting out of bed in the morning, he has been discovered to sit on his bedside for hours without dressing himself, utterly absorbed in thought.
In 'Sir Isaac Newton', People’s Book of Biography: Or, Short Lives of the Most Interesting Persons of All Ages and Countries (1868), 257.
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On Tuesday evening at Museum, at a ball in the gardens. The night was chill, I dropped too suddenly from Differential Calculus into ladies’ society, and could not give myself freely to the change. After an hour’s attempt so to do, I returned, cursing the mode of life I was pursuing; next morning I had already shaken hands, however, with Diff. Calculus, and forgot the ladies….
From his diary for 10 Aug 1851, as quoted in J. Helen Gardner and Robin J. Wilson, 'Thomas Archer Hirst—Mathematician Xtravagant II: Student Days in Germany', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jun-Jul 1993), 6, No. 100, 534.
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Once I found out the secret of the universe. I have forgotten what it was, but I know that the Creator does not take Creation seriously, for I remember that He sat in Space with all His work in front of Him and laughed.
In The Hashish Man, collected in E.F. Bleiler (ed.), Gods, Men and Ghosts: The Best Supernatural Fiction of Lord Dunsany (1972), 158.
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One would have to have completely forgotten the history of science so as not to remember that the desire to know nature has had the most constant and the happiest influence on the development of mathematics.
In Henri Poincaré and George Bruce Halsted (trans.), The Value of Science: Essential Writings of Henri Poincare (1907), 79.
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Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means at our disposal. In this way quantum theory reminds us, as Bohr has put it, of the old wisdom that when searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both players and spectators. It is understandable that in our scientific relation to nature our own activity becomes very important when we have to deal with parts of nature into which we can penetrate only by using the most elaborate tools.
The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory (1958). In Steve Adams, Frontiers (2000), 13.
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Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the inquiring constructive mind.
(Sep 1937). In Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman (ed.), Albert Einstein, the Human Side by (1979).
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Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Starving backstage, morning-stars are jaded
The moonshine murmur still shivers alone
Curved slice of sliver, shear breath shadows stone
Suspending twilight shiny and shaded
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Carving solace into silver in June
On horizons’ glow from forgotten gold
The moonshine’s’ shilling delivers alone
Gleaming duels of knights, pierce deathly silence
Steel tines of starlight, clashing swords they hold
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Dimples aware, sparkle sand on the dune
Winking at comets, after tails are told
The moon-sand whispers, sift rivers alone
Sharpness they hone, filing skills onto stone
Starlight dazzles, its own space created
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
From owls’ talon, moonlight shimmers alone
Earth Man
…...
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Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
…...
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Some men who call themselves pessimists because they cannot read good into the operations of nature forget that they cannot read evil. In morals the law of competition no more justifies personal, official, or national selfishness or brutality than the law of gravity justifies the shooting of a bird.
…...
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Television will enormously enlarge the eye's range, and, like radio, will advertise the Elsewhere. Together with the tabs, the mags, and the movies, it will insist that we forget the primary and the near in favor of the secondary and the remote.
In 'Removal' (Jul 1938), collected in One Man's Meat (1942), 3.
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The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me purely factitious, fabricated on the one hand by short-sighted religious people, who confound theology with religion; and on the other by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension.
…...
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The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of meeting the schedule is forgotten.
Anonymous
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The blood, the fountain whence the spirits flow,
The generous stream that waters every part,
And motion, vigour, and warm life conveys
To every Particle that moves or lives;
This vital fluid, thro' unnumber'd tubes
Pour'd by the heart, and to the heart again
Refunded; scourg'd forever round and round;
Enrag'd with heat and toil, at last forgets
Its balmy nature; virulent and thin
It grows; and now, but that a thousand gates
Are open to its flight, it would destroy
The parts it cherish' d and repair'd before.
Besides, the flexible and tender tubes
Melt in the mildest, most nectareous tide
That ripening Nature rolls; as in the stream
Its crumbling banks; but what the vital force
Of plastic fluids hourly batters down,
That very force, those plastic particles
Rebuild: so mutable the state of man.
For this the watchful appetite was given,
Daily with fresh materials to repair
This unavoidable expense of life,
This necessary waste of flesh and blood.
Hence the concoctive powers, with various art,
Subdue the cruder aliments to chyle;
The chyle to blood; the foamy purple tide
To liquors, which through finer arteries
To different parts their winding course pursue;
To try new changes, and new forms put on,
Or for the public, or some private use.
The Art of Preserving Health (1744), book 2, I. 12-23, p.15-16.
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The conception that antibodies, which should protect against disease, are also responsible for the disease, sounds at first absurd. This has as its basis the fact that we are accustomed to see in disease only the harm done to the organism and to see in the antibodies solely antitoxic [protective] substances. One forgets too easily that the disease represents only a stage in the development of immunity, and that the organism often attains the advantage of immunity only by means of disease. ... Serum sickness represents, so to speak, an unnatural (artificial) form of disease.
C. von Pirquet and B. Schick, Die Serumkrankheit (1906), trans B. Schick, Serum Sickness (1951), 119-20.
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The memory, a child once said, is “the thing we forget with”
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 181.
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The original Marxist notion of ideology was conveniently forgotten because it inconveniently did not exempt common sense and empiricism from the charge of ideology.
In Social Amnesia (1975), 6-7.
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The state exists for man, not man for the state. The same may be said of science. These are old phrases, coined by people who saw in human individuality the highest human value. I would hesitate to repeat them, were it not for the ever recurring danger that they may be forgotten, especially in these days of organization and stereotypes.
…...
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The theory of evolution by natural selection is an ecological theory—founded on ecological observation by perhaps the greatest of all ecologists. It has been adopted by and brought up by the science of genetics, and ecologists, being modest people, are apt to forget their distinguished parenthood.
'A Darwinian Approach to Plant Ecology', Journal of Ecology, 1967, 55, 247.
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The vast spread
Of darkness
That speaks of mystery
The darkness that reveals
The beauty that lies beneath
In the form of glittering
Stars, a countless beauty
That seemed to conceal
A million stories
That can make the mankind
Take a new look at life
And the majestic moon
That silently looks at mankind
Wondering how its serenity
Was disturbed by the little steps
Of a man from the beautiful earth
Yet softly smiling back
And let the world sleep
In its magical glow
A glow that soothes
The world’s senses
And forget the pain of reality
…...
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The whole thing is so much bigger than I am, and I can't understand it, so I just trust myself to it; and forget about it.
Reply to a “deeply depressed” friend’s question about his belief in a Creator of the universe. As quoted in Gale E. Christianson, Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae (1996), 183.
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The worst primary school scolding I ever received was for ridiculing a classmate who asked, ‘What’s an atom?’ To my third grader’s mind, the question betrayed a level of ignorance more befitting a preschooler, but the teacher disagreed and banned me from recess for a week. I had forgotten the incident until a few years ago, while sitting in on a quantum mechanics class taught by a Nobel Prizewinning physicist. Midway through a brutally abstract lecture on the hydrogen atom, a plucky sophomore raised his hand and asked the very same question. To the astonishment of all, our speaker fell silent. He stared out the window for what seemed like an eternity before answering, ‘I don’t know.’
'The Secret Life of Atoms'. Discover (Jun 2007), 28:6, 52.
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There are many things which we can afford to forget which it is yet well to learn.
Valedictory Address to the Graduating Class of the Bellevue Hospital College (2 Mar 1871), New York Medical Journal (1871), 422.
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There are three side effects of acid. Enhanced long term memory, decreased short term memory, and I forgot the third.
…...
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This is true of all science. Successes were largely due to forgetting completely about what one ultimately wanted, or whether one wanted anything ultimately; in refusing to investigate things which profit, and in relying solely on guidance by criteria of intellectual elegance. … And I think it extremely instructive to watch the role of science in everyday life, and to note how in this area the principle of laissez faire has led to strange and wonderful results.
Address (Jun 1954) to Princeton Graduate Alumni, 'The Role of Mathematics in the Science and in Society', in Collected Works: Vol. 6: Theory of Games, Astrophysics, Hydrodynamics and Meteorology (1961), Vol. 6, 489. As quoted in Armand Borel, 'On the Place of Mathematics in Culture', in Armand Borel: Œvres: Collected Papers (1983), Vol. 4, 422.
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This work [an essay by Thomson, ‘On the method of analysing sulphate of zinc’] belongs to those few productions from which science will derive no advantage whatever. Much of the experimental part, even of the fundamental experiments, appears to have been made at the writing-desk; and the greatest civility which his contemporaries can show its author, is to forget it was ever published. … love of science makes it imperative to detect quackery, and expose it to the judgement of every one as it merits
In Jahresbericht (1827), 6, 77 and 181. Woehler's translation quoted in 'Attack of Berzelius on Dr. Thomson's Attempt to Establish the First Principles of Chemistry by Experiment', Philosophical Magazine (Dec 1828), 4, No. 24, 451. The latter article comments, “It well becomes Berzelius to expose fallacy in argument, or detect error in analysis; but let him not pass beyond the limits of fair criticism: let him not arraign the character of the individual., who may be actuated by motives and principles as pure as his own. Intemperate attacks, such as this, reflect back upon their author, and indicate a mind inflamed by pique, jealousy, or some unworthy passion.”
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Those who nod sagely and quote the tragedy of the commons in relation to environmental problems from pollution of the atmosphere to poaching of national parks tend to forget that Garrett Hardin revised his conclusions many times…. He recognized, most importantly, that anarchy did not prevail on the common pastures of medieval England in the way he had described…. “A managed commons, though it may have other defects, is not automatically subject to the tragic fate of the unmanaged commons,” wrote Hardin…. At sea, where a common exists in most waters… None of Hardin’s requirements for a successfully managed common is fulfilled by high-seas fishery regimes.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and what We Eat (2004), 153-155.
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Throughout the last four hundred years, during which the growth of science had gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology, in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another. After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against scientific theories of psychology and education. At each stage, they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 6. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 47.
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Thus we work not in the light of public opinion but in the secrecy of the chamber; and perhaps the best of us are apt at times to forget the delicacies and sincerities which under these conditions are essential to harmony and honour.
On Professional Education with Special Reference to Medicine (), 78.
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To remember simplified pictures is better than to forget accurate figures.
In Otto Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology (1973), 220.
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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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True Agnosticism will not forget that existence, motion, and law-abiding operation in nature are more stupendous miracles than any recounted by the mythologies, and that there may be things, not only in the heavens and earth, but beyond the intelligible universe, which “are not dreamt of in our philosophy.” The theological “gnosis” would have us believe that the world is a conjurer’s house; the anti-theological “gnosis” talks as if it were a “dirt-pie,” made by the two blind children, Law and Force. Agnosticism simply says that we know nothing of what may be behind phenomena.
In Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1913), Vol. 3, 98, footnote 3.
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We are too ready to accept others and ourselves as we are and to assume that we are incapable of change. We forget the idea of growth, or we do not take it seriously. There is no good reason why we should not develop and change until the last day we live. Psychoanalysis is one of the most powerful means of helping us to realize this aim.
In 'Dedication', American Journal of Psychoanalysis (1942), 35, 99-100. As quoted and cited in Milton M. Berger, Women Beyond Freud: New Concepts Of Feminine Psychology (2013).
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We forget how strained and paradoxical is the view of nature which modern science imposes on our thoughts.
In Science and the Modern World (1925), 104.
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We have seen that a proton of energy corresponding to 30,000 volts can effect the transformation of lithium into two fast α-particles, which together have an energy equivalent of more than 16 million volts. Considering the individual process, the output of energy in the transmutation is more than 500 times greater than the energy carried by the proton. There is thus a great gain of energy in the single transmutation, but we must not forget that on an average more than 1000 million protons of equal energy must be fired into the lithium before one happens to hit and enter the lithium nucleus. It is clear in this case that on the whole the energy derived from transmutation of the atom is small compared with the energy of the bombarding particles. There thus seems to be little prospect that we can hope to obtain a new source of power by these processes. It has sometimes been suggested, from analogy with ordinary explosives, that the transmutation of one atom might cause the transmutation of a neighbouring nucleus, so that the explosion would spread throughout all the material. If this were true, we should long ago have had a gigantic explosion in our laboratories with no one remaining to tell the tale. The absence of these accidents indicates, as we should expect, that the explosion is confined to the individual nucleus and does not spread to the neighbouring nuclei, which may be regarded as relatively far removed from the centre of the explosion.
The Transmutation of the Atom (1933), 23-4
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We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity.
Lecture at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York (14 May 1921). In Cambridge Editorial Partnership, Speeches that Changed the World, 53.
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We must not forget … that “influence” is not a simple, but on the contrary, a very complex, bilateral relation. We are not influenced by everything we read or learn. In one sense, and perhaps the deepest, we ourselves determine the influences we are submitting to; our intellectual ancestors are by no means given to, but are freely chosen by, us.
In From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (1957) 5-6.
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We often think that when we have completed our study of one we know all about two, because “two” is “one and one.” We forget that we still have to make a study of “and.”
…...
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We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.
Address to the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond (1 Dec 1950). Quoted in James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last (1994, 1997), 48.
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When out fossil hunting, it is very easy to forget that rather than telling you how the creatures lived, the remains you find indicate only where they became fossilized.
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 96.
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When searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both actors and spectators.
Niels Bohr, 'Discussion with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics', in P. A. Schilpp (ed.), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (1949), 236.
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When the fossil bones of animals belonging to civilisations before the Flood are turned up in bed after bed and layer upon layer of the quarries of Montmartre or among the schists of the Ural range, the soul receives with dismay a glimpse of millions of peoples forgotten by feeble human memory and unrecognised by permanent divine tradition, peoples whose ashes cover our globe with two feet of earth that yields bread to us and flowers.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated by Ellen Marriage in The Wild Ass’s Skin (1906), 21.
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Whilst I am writing to a Philosopher and a Friend, I can scarcely forget that I am also writing to the greatest Statesman of the present, or perhaps of any century, who spread the happy contagion of Liberty among his countrymen.
Letter to Benjamin Franklin, 29 May 1787. Quoted In Desmond King-Hele (ed.), The Letters of Erasmus Darwin (1981), 166.
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You know, all is development. The principle is perpetually going on. First, there was nothing, then there was something; then—I forget the next—I think there were shells, then fishes; then we came—let me see—did we come next? Never mind that; we came at last. And at the next change there will be something very superior to us—something with wings. Ah! That's it: we were fishes, and I believe we shall be crows.
Tancred: or, The New Crusade (1847), 124.
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[I was advised] to read Jordan's 'Cours d'analyse'; and I shall never forget the astonishment with which I read that remarkable work, the first inspiration for so many mathematicians of my generation, and learnt for the first time as I read it what mathematics really meant.
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 23.
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[J.J.] Sylvester’s methods! He had none. “Three lectures will be delivered on a New Universal Algebra,” he would say; then, “The course must be extended to twelve.” It did last all the rest of that year. The following year the course was to be Substitutions-Théorie, by Netto. We all got the text. He lectured about three times, following the text closely and stopping sharp at the end of the hour. Then he began to think about matrices again. “I must give one lecture a week on those,” he said. He could not confine himself to the hour, nor to the one lecture a week. Two weeks were passed, and Netto was forgotten entirely and never mentioned again. Statements like the following were not unfrequent in his lectures: “I haven’t proved this, but I am as sure as I can be of anything that it must be so. From this it will follow, etc.” At the next lecture it turned out that what he was so sure of was false. Never mind, he kept on forever guessing and trying, and presently a wonderful discovery followed, then another and another. Afterward he would go back and work it all over again, and surprise us with all sorts of side lights. He then made another leap in the dark, more treasures were discovered, and so on forever.
As quoted by Florian Cajori, in Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890), 265-266.
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[Lockyer]... sometimes forgets he is only the editor and not the author of Nature.
[Lockyer was the first editor of Nature.]
J. W. L. Glaisher (ed.), The Collected Mathematical Papers of Henry John Stephen Smith (1894), Vol. 1, xliv.
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[W]e are prone to forget that the planet may be measured by man, but not according to man.
The Face of the Earth (1904), Vol. 1, 17.
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“But in the binary system,” Dale points out, handing back the squeezable glass, “the alternative to one isn’t minus one, it’s zero. That’s the beauty of it, mechanically.” “O.K. Gotcha. You’re asking me, What’s this minus one? I’ll tell you. It’s a plus one moving backward in time. This is all in the space-time foam, inside the Planck duration, don’t forget. The dust of points gives birth to time, and time gives birth to the dust of points. Elegant, huh? It has to be. It’s blind chance, plus pure math. They’re proving it, every day. Astronomy, particle physics, it’s all coming together. Relax into it, young fella. It feels great. Space-time foam.”
In Roger's Version: A Novel (1986), 304.
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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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