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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index F > Category: Frontier

Frontier Quotes (38 quotes)

Between the frontiers of the three super-states Eurasia, Oceania, and Eastasia, and not permanently in possession of any of them, there lies a rough quadrilateral with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hongkong. These territories contain a bottomless reserve of cheap labour. Whichever power controls equatorial Africa, or the Middle East or Southern India or the Indonesian Archipelago, disposes also of the bodies of hundreds of millions of ill-paid and hardworking coolies, expended by their conquerors like so much coal or oil in the race to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, to control more labour, to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, to control…
Thus George Orwell—in his only reference to the less-developed world.
I wish I could disagree with him. Orwell may have erred in not anticipating the withering of direct colonial controls within the “quadrilateral” he speaks about; he may not quite have gauged the vehemence of urges to political self-assertion. Nor, dare I hope, was he right in the sombre picture of conscious and heartless exploitation he has painted. But he did not err in predicting persisting poverty and hunger and overcrowding in 1984 among the less privileged nations.
I would like to live to regret my words but twenty years from now, I am positive, the less-developed world will be as hungry, as relatively undeveloped, and as desperately poor, as today.
'The Less-Developed World: How Can We be Optimists?' (1964). Reprinted in Ideals and Realities (1984), xv-xvi. Referencing a misquote from George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four (1949), Ch. 9.
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A number of years ago, when I was a freshly-appointed instructor, I met, for the first time, a certain eminent historian of science. At the time I could only regard him with tolerant condescension.
I was sorry of the man who, it seemed to me, was forced to hover about the edges of science. He was compelled to shiver endlessly in the outskirts, getting only feeble warmth from the distant sun of science- in-progress; while I, just beginning my research, was bathed in the heady liquid heat up at the very center of the glow.
In a lifetime of being wrong at many a point, I was never more wrong. It was I, not he, who was wandering in the periphery. It was he, not I, who lived in the blaze.
I had fallen victim to the fallacy of the “growing edge;” the belief that only the very frontier of scientific advance counted; that everything that had been left behind by that advance was faded and dead.
But is that true? Because a tree in spring buds and comes greenly into leaf, are those leaves therefore the tree? If the newborn twigs and their leaves were all that existed, they would form a vague halo of green suspended in mid-air, but surely that is not the tree. The leaves, by themselves, are no more than trivial fluttering decoration. It is the trunk and limbs that give the tree its grandeur and the leaves themselves their meaning.
There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. “If I have seen further than other men,” said Isaac Newton, “it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
Adding A Dimension: Seventeen Essays on the History of Science (1964), Introduction.
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Above all things expand the frontiers of science: without this the rest counts for nothing.
Aphorism 262 in Notebook J (1789-1793), as translated by R. J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 181.
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As we push ever more deeply into the universe, probing its secrets, discovering its way, we must also constantly try to learn to cooperate across the frontiers that really divide earth’s surface.
In 'The President’s News Conference at the LBJ Ranch' (29 Aug 1965). Collected in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson: 1965 (1966), 945.
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By a recent estimate, nearly half the bills before the U.S. Congress have a substantial science-technology component and some two-thirds of the District of Columbia Circuit Court’s case load now involves review of action by federal administrative agencies; and more and more of such cases relate to matters on the frontiers of technology.
If the layman cannot participate in decision making, he will have to turn himself over, essentially blind, to a hermetic elite. … [The fundamental question becomes] are we still capable of self-government and therefore freedom?
Margaret Mead wrote in a 1959 issue of Daedalus about scientists elevated to the status of priests. Now there is a name for this elevation, when you are in the hands of—one hopes—a benevolent elite, when you have no control over your political decisions. From the point of view of John Locke, the name for this is slavery.
Quoted in 'Where is Science Taking Us? Gerald Holton Maps the Possible Routes', The Chronicle of Higher Education (18 May 1981). In Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (1982), 80.
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Conflicts between men are almost always a matter of frontiers. The astronauts now have destroyed what looked like an unsurmountable frontier. They have shown us that we cannot any longer think in limited terms. There are no limitations left. We can think in terms of the universe now.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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Engineering is a living branch of human activity and its frontiers are by no means exhausted.
From 'Igor Sikorsky the Aviation Pioneer Speaks', Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives, sikorskyarchives.com.
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Ever so often in the history of human endeavour, there comes a breakthrough that takes humankind across a frontier into a new era. ... today's announcement is such a breakthrough, a breakthrough that opens the way for massive advancement in the treatment of cancer and hereditary diseases. And that is only the beginning.
From White House Announcement of the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project, broadcast on the day of the publication of the first draft of the human genome. Quoted in transcript on the National Archives, Clinton White House web site, 'Text of Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project' (26 Jun 2000).
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Everything is always in trouble at the frontier. Any science that is not in this kind of trouble is dead.
As quoted in John Noble Wilford, 'Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest', New York Times (12 Mar 1991), C10.
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Far from becoming discouraged, the philosopher should applaud nature, even when she appears miserly of herself or overly mysterious, and should feel pleased that as he lifts one part of her veil, she allows him to glimpse an immense number of other objects, all worthy of investigation. For what we already know should allow us to judge of what we will be able to know; the human mind has no frontiers, it extends proportionately as the universe displays itself; man, then, can and must attempt all, and he needs only time in order to know all. By multiplying his observations, he could even see and foresee all phenomena, all of nature's occurrences, with as much truth and certainty as if he were deducing them directly from causes. And what more excusable or even more noble enthusiasm could there be than that of believing man capable of recognizing all the powers, and discovering through his investigations all the secrets, of nature!
'Des Mulets', Oeuvres Philosophiques, ed. Jean Piveteau (1954), 414. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 458.
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For when I look at the moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.
…...
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From my father I learned to build things, to take them apart, and to fix mechanical and electrical equipment in general. I spent vast hours in a woodworking shop he maintained in the basement of our house, building gadgets, working both with my father and alone, often late into the night. … This play with building, fixing, and designing was my favorite activity throughout my childhood, and was a wonderful preparation for my later career as an experimentalist working on the frontiers of chemistry and physics.
From 'Richard E. Smalley: Biographical', collected in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1996 (1997).
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I do not see how a man can work on the frontiers of physics and write poetry at the same time. They are in opposition. In science you want to say something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry you are bound to say ... something that everyone knows already in words that nobody can understand.
Commenting to him about the poetry J. Robert Oppenheimer wrote.
Quoted in Steven George Krantz, Mathematical Apocrypha Redux: More Stories and Anecdotes of Mathematicians (2005), 169
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I have decided today that the United States should proceed at once with the development of an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier of the 1970s into familiar territory, easily accessible for human endeavor in the 1980s and ’90s. This system will center on a space vehicle that can shuttle repeatedly from Earth to orbit and back. It will revolutionize transportation into near space, by routinizing it. It will take the astronomical costs out of astronautics. In short, it will go a long way toward delivering the rich benefits of practical space utilization and the valuable spin-offs from space efforts into the daily lives of Americans and all people.
Statement by President Nixon (5 Jan 1972).
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I strongly oppose cloning, as do most Americans. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience. And while we must devote enormous energy to conquering disease, it is equally important that we pay attention to the moral concerns raised by the new frontier of human embryo stem cell research. Even the most noble ends do not justify any means.
'Address to the Nation on Stem Cell Research', (9 Aug 2001) in Public Papers Of The Presidents Of The United States, George W. Bush, 2001 (2004), Book 2, 955.
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If the task of scientific methodology is to piece together an account of what scientists actually do, then the testimony of biologists should be heard with specially close attention. Biologists work very close to the frontier between bewilderment and understanding.
Biology is complex, messy and richly various, like real life; it travels faster nowadays than physics or chemistry (which is just as well, since it has so much farther to go), and it travels nearer to the ground. It should therefore give us a specially direct and immediate insight into science in the making.
Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (1969), 1.
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It is in the exploration of this vast deep-sea region that the finest field for submarine discovery yet remains.
In The Natural History of the European Seas (1859), 27.
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Mars is the next frontier, what the Wild West was, what America was 500 years ago. It’s time to strike out anew. Mars is where the action is for the next thousand years. The characteristic of human nature, and perhaps our simian branch of the family, is curiosity and exploration. When we stop doing that, we won’t be humans anymore. I’ve seen far more in my lifetime than I ever dreamed. Many of our problems on Earth can only be solved by space technology. The next step is in space. It’s inevitable.
…...
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Men go into space to see whether it is the kind of place where other men, and their families and their children, can eventually follow them. A disturbingly high proportion of the intelligent young are discontented because they find the life before them intolerably confining. The moon offers a new frontier. It is as simple and splendid as that.
Magazine
Editorial on the moon landing, The Economist (1969).
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New discoveries in science and their flow of new inventions will continue to create a thousand new frontiers for those who still would adventure.
From Commencement Address at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio (11 Jun 1949), 'Give Us Self-Reliance – or Give Us Security', on hoover.archives.gov website.
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New frontiers of the mind are before us, and if they are pioneered with the same vision, boldness, and drive with which we have waged this war we can create a fuller and more fruitful employment and a fuller and more fruitful life.
Letter to Vannevar Bush (17 Nov 1944). As printed in Vannevar Bush, Science, the Endless Frontier: A report to the President (1945), viii.
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Science has explored the microcosmos and the macrocosmos; we have a good sense of the lay of the land. The great unexplored frontier is complexity.
In The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity (1988), 12.
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Science is a field which grows continuously with ever expanding frontiers. Further, it is truly international in scope. … Science is a collaborative effort. The combined results of several people working together is often much more effective than could be that of an individual scientist working alone.
From his second Nobel Prize Banquet speech (10 Dec 1972). In Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1972 (1973).
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Science … cannot exist on the basis of a treaty of strict non-aggression with the rest of society; from either side, there is no defensible frontier.
In Government and Science (1954).
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Space travel is at the frontier of my profession. It is going to be accomplished and I want to be in on it. There is also an element of simple duty involved. I am convinced that I have something to give this project.
As he wrote in an article for Life (14 Sep 1959), 38.
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The frontiers of science are separated now by long years of study, by specialized vocabularies, arts, techniques, and knowledge from the common heritage even of a most civilized society; and anyone working at the frontier of such science is in that sense a very long way from home, a long way too from the practical arts that were its matrix and origin, as indeed they were of what we today call art.
Address at the close of the year-long Bicentennial Celebration of Columbia University (26 Dec 54). Printed in 'Prospects in the Arts and Sciences', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Feb 1955), 52.
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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 oceans are the planet’s last great living wilderness, man’s only remaining frontier on Earth, and perhaps his last chance to prove himself as a rational species.
The Forests of the Sea
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The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.
In The Act of Creation (1964), 402.
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The value of fundamental research does not lie only in the ideas it produces. There is more to it. It affects the whole intellectual life of a nation by determining its way of thinking and the standards by which actions and intellectual production are judged. If science is highly regarded and if the importance of being concerned with the most up-to-date problems of fundamental research is recognized, then a spiritual climate is created which influences the other activities. An atmosphere of creativity is established which penetrates every cultural frontier. Applied sciences and technology are forced to adjust themselves to the highest intellectual standards which are developed in the basic sciences. This influence works in many ways: some fundamental students go into industry; the techniques which are applied to meet the stringent requirements of fundamental research serve to create new technological methods. The style, the scale, and the level of scientific and technical work are determined in pure research; that is what attracts productive people and what brings scientists to those countries where science is at the highest level. Fundamental research sets the standards of modern scientific thought; it creates the intellectual climate in which our modern civilization flourishes. It pumps the lifeblood of idea and inventiveness not only into the technological laboratories and factories, but into every cultural activity of our time. The case for generous support for pure and fundamental science is as simple as that.
In 'Why Pure Science?' in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1965.
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There are three reasons why, quite apart from scientific considerations, mankind needs to travel in space. The first reason is garbage disposal; we need to transfer industrial processes into space so that the earth may remain a green and pleasant place for our grandchildren to live in. The second reason is to escape material impoverishment; the resources of this planet are finite, and we shall not forgo forever the abundance of solar energy and minerals and living space that are spread out all around us. The third reason is our spiritual need for an open frontier. The ultimate purpose of space travel is to bring to humanity, not only scientific discoveries and an occasional spectacular show on television, but a real expansion of our spirit.
In Disturbing the Universe (1979).
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There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.
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There will always be a frontier where there is an open mind and a willing hand.
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We have taken to the Moon the wealth of this nation,
the vision of its political leaders,
the intelligence of its scientists,
the dedication of its engineers,
the careful craftsmanship of its workers,
and the enthusiastic support of its people.
We have brought back rocks, and I think it is a fair trade . . .
Man has always gone where he has been able to go. It’s that simple.
He will continue pushing back his frontier,
no matter how far it may carry him from his homeland.
…...
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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.
At a 1979 U.S. Senate hearing. As quoted in House Congressional Record (21 Jun 1991), 13874. Also quoted in James E. Oberg, Mission to Mars: Plans and Concepts for the First Manned Landing (2017), 174.
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We’ve lost all geographical frontiers on Earth, but new and far larger ones exist at Earth’s doorstep.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 301.
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When it comes to understanding the planet’s blue [ocean] frontier, one of the largest challenges we face can be encapsulated by a simple phrase: Out of sight, out of mind.
huffingtonpost.com/philippe-cousteau/ocean-oases-protecting-ca_b_873016.html
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Whereas history, literature, art, and even religion, all have national characters and local attachments, science alone of man’s major intellectual interests has no frontiers and no national varieties; that science, like peace, is one and indivisible.
From Pilgrim Trust Lecture (22 Oct 1946) delivered at National Academy of Science Washington, DC. Published in 'The Freedom of Science', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (25 Feb 1947), 91, No. 1, 72.
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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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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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