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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: Function

Function Quotes (90 quotes)

Natura non facit saltum or, Nature does not make leaps… If you assume continuity, you can open the well-stocked mathematical toolkit of continuous functions and differential equations, the saws and hammers of engineering and physics for the past two centuries (and the foreseeable future).
From Benoit B. Mandelbrot and Richard Hudson, The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward (2004,2010), 85-86.
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The classification of facts, the recognition of their sequence and relative significance is the function of science, and the habit of forming a judgment upon these facts unbiassed by personal feeling is characteristic of what may be termed the scientific frame of mind.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 8.
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A function to each organ, and each organ to its own function, is the law of all organization.
Social Statics: Or, The Conditions Essential to Human Happiness Specified, and the First of them Developed (1851), 274.
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All living organisms are but leaves on the same tree of life. The various functions of plants and animals and their specialized organs are manifestations of the same living matter. This adapts itself to different jobs and circumstances, but operates on the same basic principles. Muscle contraction is only one of these adaptations. In principle it would not matter whether we studied nerve, kidney or muscle to understand the basic principles of life. In practice, however, it matters a great deal.
'Muscle Research', Scientific American, 1949, 180 (6), 22.
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All schools, all colleges have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal valuable knowledge.
(5 Nov 1908). 'More Maxims of Mark,' Mark Twain Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays, 1891-1910 (1992), 941. In Mark Twain and Brian Collins (ed.), When in Doubt, Tell the Truth: and Other Quotations from Mark Twain (1996), 43.
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Although man is not armed by nature nor is naturally swiftest in flight, yet he has something better by far—reason. For by the possession of this function he exceeds the beasts to such a degree that he subdues. … You see, therefore, how much the gift of reason surpasses mere physical equipment.
As given in Toby E. Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West (2003), 102, citing Tina Stiefel, Science, Reason, and Faith in the Twelfth Century (1976), 3.
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Analogue. A part or organ in one animal which has the same function as another part or organ in a different animal.
'Glossary', Lectures on the Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Invertebrate Animals Delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1843 (1843), 374.
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Bacteria are highly adaptable. They frequently change both morphologically and functionally. Their virulence is also an essentially fluctuating property, that increases or diminishes according to the conditions to which the pathogenic organism is subjected.
In Studies in Immunity (1909), 1.
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Chromosomes … [contain] some kind of code-script the entire pattern of the individual’s future development and of its functioning in the mature state. Every complete set of chromosomes contains the full code.
In What is Life? : The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell (1944), 20.
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Curves that have no tangents are the rule. … Those who hear of curves without tangents, or of functions without derivatives, often think at first that Nature presents no such complications. … The contrary however is true. … Consider, for instance, one of the white flakes that are obtained by salting a solution of soap. At a distance its contour may appear sharply defined, but as we draw nearer its sharpness disappears. The eye can no longer draw a tangent at any point. … The use of a magnifying glass or microscope leaves us just as uncertain, for fresh irregularities appear every time we increase the magnification. … An essential characteristic of our flake … is that we suspect … that any scale involves details that absolutely prohibit the fixing of a tangent.
(1906). As quoted “in free translation” in Benoit B. Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), 7.
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DNA that used to have some function way back in evolution but currently does not (and might possibly be revived if, say, an ancient parasite reappeared), DNA that controls how genes switch their protein manufacturing on and off, DNA that controls those, and so on. Some may actually be genuine junk. And some (so the joke goes) may encode a message like ‘It was me, I’m God, I existed all along, ha ha.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 218.
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Effective science began when it passed from the occasional amateur into the hands of men who made the winning of knowledge their special function or profession.
Address to 48th annual summer convention of the American Institute of Electriccal Engineers, Cleveland (21 Jun 1932), abridged in 'The Rôle of the Engineer', The Electrical Journal (1932), 109, 223.
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Engineers at General Motors have developed a revolutionary new engine whose only function is to lubricate itself.
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 105.
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Every natural scientist who thinks with any degree of consistency at all will, I think, come to the view that all those capacities that we understand by the phrase psychic activities (Seelenthiitigkeiten) are but functions of the brain substance; or, to express myself a bit crudely here, that thoughts stand in the same relation to the brain as gall does to the liver or urine to the kidneys. To assume a soul that makes use of the brain as an instrument with which it can work as it pleases is pure nonsense; we would then be forced to assume a special soul for every function of the body as well.
Carl Vogt
In Physiologische Briefe für Gelbildete aIle Stünde (1845-1847), 3 parts, 206. as translated in Frederick Gregory, Scientific Materialism in Nineteenth Century Germany (1977), 64.
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Experiments may be of two kinds: experiments of simple fact, and experiments of quantity. ...[In the latter] the conditions will ... vary, not in quality, but quantity, and the effect will also vary in quantity, so that the result of quantitative induction is also to arrive at some mathematical expression involving the quantity of each condition, and expressing the quantity of the result. In other words, we wish to know what function the effect is of its conditions. We shall find that it is one thing to obtain the numerical results, and quite another thing to detect the law obeyed by those results, the latter being an operation of an inverse and tentative character.
Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method (1874, 1892), 439.
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Homologue. The same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function.
'Glossary', Lectures on the Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Invertebrate Animals Delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1843 (1843), 379.
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How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.
…...
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However much the pits may be apparent, yet none, as far as can be comprehended by the senses, passes through the septum of the heart from the right ventricle into the left. I have not seen even the most obscure passages by which the septum of the ventricles is pervious, although they are mentioned by professors of anatomy since they are convinced that blood is carried from the right ventricle into the left. As a result—as I shall declare more openly elsewhere—I am in no little doubt regarding the function of the heart in this part.
In De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem [Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body] (revised ed. 1555), 734. Quoted and trans. in Charles Donald O'Malley, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, 1514-1564 (1964), 281.
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Human societies are glued together with conversation and friendship. Conversation is the natural and characteristic activity of human beings. Friendship is the milieu within which we function.
In From Eros to Gaia (1992), 197.
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I am particularly concerned to determine the probability of causes and results, as exhibited in events that occur in large numbers, and to investigate the laws according to which that probability approaches a limit in proportion to the repetition of events. That investigation deserves the attention of mathematicians because of the analysis required. It is primarily there that the approximation of formulas that are functions of large numbers has its most important applications. The investigation will benefit observers in identifying the mean to be chosen among the results of their observations and the probability of the errors still to be apprehended. Lastly, the investigation is one that deserves the attention of philosophers in showing how in the final analysis there is a regularity underlying the very things that seem to us to pertain entirely to chance, and in unveiling the hidden but constant causes on which that regularity depends. It is on the regularity of the main outcomes of events taken in large numbers that various institutions depend, such as annuities, tontines, and insurance policies. Questions about those subjects, as well as about inoculation with vaccine and decisions of electoral assemblies, present no further difficulty in the light of my theory. I limit myself here to resolving the most general of them, but the importance of these concerns in civil life, the moral considerations that complicate them, and the voluminous data that they presuppose require a separate work.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), Introduction.
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I want to put in something about Bernoulli’s numbers, in one of my Notes, as an example of how the implicit function may be worked out by the engine, without having been worked out by human head & hands first. Give me the necessary data & formulae.
Lovelace Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, 42, folio 12 (6 Feb 1841). As quoted and cited in Dorothy Stein (ed.), 'This First Child of Mine', Ada: A Life and a Legacy (1985), 106-107.
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I will try to account for the degree of my aesthetic emotion. That, I conceive, is the function of the critic.
In Art (1913), 169.
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I would clarify that by ‘animal’ I understand a being that has feeling and that is capable of exercising life functions through a principle called soul; that the soul uses the body's organs, which are true machines, by virtue of its being the principal cause of the action of each of the machine's parts; and that although the placement that these parts have with respect to one another does scarcely anything else through the soul's mediation than what it does in pure machines, the entire machine nonetheless needs to be activated and guided by the soul in the same way as an organ, which, although capable of rendering different sounds through the placement of the parts of which it is composed, nonetheless never does so except through the guidance of the organist.
'La Mechanique des Animaux', in Oeuvres Diverses de Physique et de Mechanique (1721), Vol. 1, 329. Quoted in Jacques Roger, Keith R. Benson (ed.), Robert Ellrich (trans.), The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, (1997), 273-4.
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I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
'Jack London Credo' quoted, without citing a source, in Irving Shepard (ed.), Jack London’s Tales of Adventure (1956), Introduction, vii. (Irving Shepard was London's literary executor.) This sentiment, expressed two months before his death, was quoted by journalist Ernest J. Hopkins in the San Francisco Bulletin (2 Dec 1916), Pt. 2, 1. No direct source in London's writings has been found, though he wrote “I would rather be ashes than dust&rdquo. as an inscription in an autograph book. Biographer Clarice Stasz cautions that although Hopkins had visited the ranch just weeks before London's death, the journalist's quote (as was not uncommon in his time) is not necessarily reliable, or may be his own invention. See this comment in 'Apocrypha' appended to Jack London, The Call Of The Wild (eBookEden.com).
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In the dog two conditions were found to produce pathological disturbances by functional interference, namely, an unusually acute clashing of the excitatory and inhibitory processes, and the influence of strong and extraordinary stimuli. In man precisely similar conditions constitute the usual causes of nervous and psychic disturbances. Different conditions productive of extreme excitation, such as intense grief or bitter insults, often lead, when the natural reactions are inhibited by the necessary restraint, to profound and prolonged loss of balance in nervous and psychic activity.
Ivan Pavlov and G. V. Anrep (ed., trans.), Conditioned Reflexes—An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex (1927), 397.
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It is my thesis that the physical functioning of the living individual and the operation of some of the newer communication machines are precisely parallel in their analogous attempts to control entropy through feedback. Both of them have sensory receptors as one stage in their cycle of operation: that is, in both of them there exists a special apparatus for collecting information from the outer world at low energy levels, and for making it available in the operation of the individual or of the machine. In both cases these external messages are not taken neat, but through the internal transforming powers of the apparatus, whether it be alive or dead. The information is then turned into a new form available for the further stages of performance. In both the animal and the machine this performance is made to be effective on the outer world. In both of them, their performed action on the outer world, and not merely their intended aetion, is reported back to the central regulatory apparatus.
In The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1954), 26-27.
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It is the function of notions in science to be useful, to be interesting, to be verifiable and to acquire value from anyone of these qualities. Scientific notions have little to gain as science from being forced into relation with that formidable abstraction, “general truth.”
In paper delivered before the Royal College of Surgeons of England (15 Feb 1932), in 'The Commemoration of Great Men', British Medical Journal (1932), 1, 32. Collected in The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 29.
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It seems reasonable to envision, for a time 10 or 15 years hence, a “thinking center” that will incorporate the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval and ... a network of such centers, connected to one another by wide-band communication lines and to individual users by leased-wire services.
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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It should be the function of medicine to have people die young as late as possible.
…...
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It would seem that more than function itself, simplicity is the deciding factor in the aesthetic equation. One might call the process beauty through function and simplification.
As quoted in Christian Science Monitor (7 May 1952).
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It [analysis] lacks at this point such plan and unity that it is really amazing that it can be studied by so many people. The worst is that it has not at all been treated with rigor. There are only a few propositions in higher analysis that have been demonstrated with complete rigor. Everywhere one finds the unfortunate manner of reasoning from the particular to the general, and it is very unusual that with such a method one finds, in spite of everything, only a few of what many be called paradoxes. It is really very interesting to seek the reason.
In my opinion that arises from the fact that the functions with which analysis has until now been occupied can, for the most part, be expressed by means of powers. As soon as others appear, something that, it is true, does not often happen, this no longer works and from false conclusions there flow a mass of incorrect propositions.
From a letter to his professor Hansteen in Christiania, Oslo in Correspondence (1902), 23 . In Umberto Bottazzini and Warren Van Egmond, The Higher Calculus (1986), 87-88.
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It... [can] be easily shown:
1. That all present mountains did not exist from the beginning of things.
2. That there is no growing of mountains.
3. That the rocks or mountains have nothing in common with the bones of animals except a certain resemblance in hardness, since they agree in neither matter nor manner of production, nor in composition, nor in function, if one may be permitted to affirm aught about a subject otherwise so little known as are the functions of things.
4. That the extension of crests of mountains, or chains, as some prefer to call them, along the lines of certain definite zones of the earth, accords with neither reason nor experience.
5. That mountains can be overthrown, and fields carried over from one side of a high road across to the other; that peaks of mountains can be raised and lowered, that the earth can be opened and closed again, and that other things of this kind occur which those who in their reading of history wish to escape the name of credulous, consider myths.
The Prodromus of Nicolaus Steno's Dissertation Concerning a Solid Body enclosed by Process of Nature within a Solid (1669), trans. J. G. Winter (1916), 232-4.
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Just as mathematics aims to study such entities as numbers, functions, spaces, etc., the subject matter of metamathematics is mathematics itself.
In 'Mathematics: A Non-Technical Exposition', American Scientist (3 Jul 1954), 42, No. 3, 490.
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Man is not only part of a field, but a part and member of his group. When people are together, as when they are at work, then the most unnatural behavior, which only appears in late stages or abnormal cases, would be to behave as separate Egos. Under normal circumstances they work in common, each a meaningfully functioning part of the whole.
Lecture at the Kantgesellschaft (Kant Society), Berlin (17 Dec 1924), 'Über Gestalttheorie', as taken down in shorthand. Translated by N. Nairn-Allison in Social Research (1944), 11, 91.
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Man not only survives and functions in his environment, he shapes it and he is shaped by it.
In Barbara Ward and René Jules Dubos, Only One Earth: the Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet: an unofficial report commissioned by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972), 30. This is similar to the quote, “Man shapes himself through decisions that shape his environment,” which is commonly seen attributed to Dubos, but without citation. If you know the primary source of this wording of that quote, please contact webmaster.
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Man's health and well-being depends upon, among many things, the proper functioning of the myriad proteins that participate in the intricate synergisms of living systems.
Nobel Prize Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1972).
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Matter and mind are not separate, they are aspects of one energy. Look at the mind as a function of matter and you have science; look at matter as the product of the mind and you have religion.
…...
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My own prejudices are exactly the opposite of the functionalists’: “If you want to understand function, study structure.” I was supposed to have said in my molecular biology days. (I believe I was sailing at the time.)
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 150.
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Nature is disordered, powerful and chaotic, and through fear of the chaos we impose system on it. We abhor complexity, and seek to simplify things whenever we can by whatever means we have at hand. We need to have an overall explanation of what the universe is and how it functions. In order to achieve this overall view we develop explanatory theories which will give structure to natural phenomena: we classify nature into a coherent system which appears to do what we say it does.
In Day the Universe Changed (1985), 11.
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No knowledge can be more satisfactory to a man than that of his own frame, its parts, their functions and actions.
Letter (7 Oct 1814) to Thomas Cooper. Collected in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Correspondence (1854), 390.
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No occupation is more worthy of an intelligent and enlightened mind, than the study of Nature and natural objects; and whether we labour to investigate the structure and function of the human system, whether we direct our attention to the classification and habits of the animal kingdom, or prosecute our researches in the more pleasing and varied field of vegetable life, we shall constantly find some new object to attract our attention, some fresh beauties to excite our imagination, and some previously undiscovered source of gratification and delight.
In A Practical Treatise on the Cultivation of the Dahlia (1838), 1-2.
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No physiologist who calmly considers the question in connection with the general truths of his science, can long resist the conviction that different parts of the cerebrum subserve different kinds of mental action. Localization of function is the law of all organization whatever: separateness of duty is universally accompanied with separateness of structure: and it would be marvellous were an exception to exist in the cerebral hemispheres.
The Principles of Psychology (1855), 607.
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Of all the constituents of the human body, bone is the hardest, the driest, the earthiest, and the coldest; and, excepting only the teeth, it is devoid of sensation. God, the great Creator of all things, formed its substance to this specification with good reason, intending it to be like a foundation for the whole body; for in the fabric of the human body bones perform the same function as do walls and beams in houses, poles in tents, and keels and ribs in boats.
Bones Differentiated by Function
Some bones, by reason of their strength, form as it were props for the body; these include the tibia, the femur, the spinal vertebrae, and most of the bony framework. Others are like bastions, defense walls, and ramparts, affording natural protection to other parts; examples are the skull, the spines and transverse processes of the vertebrae, the breast bone, the ribs. Others stand in front of the joints between certain bones, to ensure that the joint does not move too loosely or bend to too acute an angle. This is the function of the tiny bones, likened by the professors of anatomy to the size of a sesame seed, which are attached to the second internode of the thumb, the first internode of the other four fingers and the first internodes of the five toes. The teeth, on the other hand, serve specifically to cut, crush, pound and grind our food, and similarly the two ossicles in the organ of hearing perform a specifically auditory function.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, 1, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in 'Nature of Bone; Function of Bones', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), 1.
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Old mathematicians never die; they just lose some of their functions.
Anonymous
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One most necessary function of the brain is to exert an inhibitory power over the nerve centres that lie below it, just as man exercises a beneficial control over his fellow animals of a lower order of dignity; and the increased irregular activity of the lower centres surely betokens a degeneration: it is like the turbulent, aimless action of a democracy without a head.
The Physiology and Pathology of Mind (1868), 94.
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Organisms ... are directed and limited by their past. They must remain imperfect in their form and function, and to that extent unpredictable since they are not optimal machines. We cannot know their future with certainty, if only because a myriad of quirky functional shifts lie within the capacity of any feature, however well adapted to a present role.
…...
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Post-operatively the transplanted kidney functioned immediately with a dramatic improvement in the patient’s renal and cardiopulmonary status. This spectacular success was a clear demonstration that organ transplantation could be life-saving. In a way, it was spying into the future because we had achieved our long-term goal by bypassing, but not solving, the issue of biological incompatibility.
Referring to the pioneering first kidney transplant. It was well-matched since it was between twins. In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1990). Printed in Tore Frängsmyr and Jan Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1981-1990 (1993).
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Psychogenesis has led to man. Now it effaces itself, relieved or absorbed by another and a higher function—the engendering and subsequent development of the mind, in one word noogenesis. When for the first time in a living creature instinct perceived itself in its own mirror, the whole world took a pace forward.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 181. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Psychology is a part of the science of life or biology. … As the physiologist inquires into the way in which the so-called “functions” of the body are performed, so the psychologist studies the so-called “faculties” of the mind.
In Hume (1879), 50.
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Science has fulfilled her function when she has ascertained and enunciated truth.
From Man’s Place in Nature (1894), 108-109.
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Science is intimately integrated with the whole social structure and cultural tradition. They mutually support one other—only in certain types of society can science flourish, and conversely without a continuous and healthy development and application of science such a society cannot function properly.
The Social System (1951, 1977), Chap. 8, 111. As a functionalist, Parsons argued that social practices had to be studied in terms of their function in maintaining society.
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Science, in the immediate, produces knowledge and, indirectly, means of action. It leads to methodical action if definite goals are set up in advance. For the function of setting up goals and passing statements of value transcends its domain. While it is true that science, to the extent of its grasp of causative connections, may reach important conclusions as to the compatibility and incompatibility of goals and evaluations, the independent and fundamental definitions regarding goals and values remain beyond science’s reach.
…...
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Scientific physiology has the task of determining the functions of the animal body and deriving them as a necessary consequence from its elementary conditions.
Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschens (1852), Vol 1, 1. Trans. Paul F. Cranefield, 'The Organic Physics of 1847 and the Biophysics of Today', Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (1957), 12, 410.
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Scientific practice is above all a story-telling practice. ... Biology is inherently historical, and its form of discourse is inherently narrative. ... Biology as a way of knowing the world is kin to Romantic literature, with its discourse about organic form and function. Biology is the fiction appropriate to objects called organisms; biology fashions the facts “discovered” about organic beings.
Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science(1989), 4-5.
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Sex is a natural function. You can’t make it happen, but you can teach people to let it happen.
NY Times 29 Oct 84
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Since disease originates in the elementary cell, the organization and microscopic functions of which reproduce the general organization exactly and in all its relationships, nothing is more suited to simplifying the work of classification and of systematic division than to take the elementary cell as the basis of division.
As quoted in article, Marc Klein,'François-Vincent Raspail', in Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975). Vol.11, 300-301.
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Some of the worst tyrannies of our day genuinely are ‘vowed’ to the service of mankind, yet can function only by pitting neighbor against neighbor. The all-seeing eye of a totalitarian regime is usually the watchful eye of the next-door neighbor. In a Communist state love of neighbor may be classed as counter-revolutionary.
In 'Brotherhood', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 91.
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Sometime in my early teens, I started feeling an inner urgency, ups and downs of excitement and frustration, caused by such unlikely occupations as reading Granville’s course of calculus ... I found this book in the attic of a friend’s apartment. Among other standard stuff, it contained the notorious epsilon-delta definition of continuous functions. After struggling with this definition for some time (it was the hot Crimean summer, and I was sitting in the shadow of a dusty apple tree), I got so angry that I dug a shallow grave for the book between the roots, buried it there, and left in disdain. Rain started in an hour. I ran back to the tree and exhumed the poor thing. Thus, I discovered that I loved it, regardless.
'Mathematics as Profession and vocation', in V. Arnold et al. (eds.), Mathematics: Frontiers and Perspectives (2000), 153. Reprinted in Mathematics as Metaphor: Selected Essays of Yuri I. Manin (2007), 79.
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Superficially, it might be said that the function of the kidneys is to make urine; but in a more considered view one can say that the kidneys make the stuff of philosophy itself.
'The Evolution of the Kidney', Lectures on the Kidney (1943), 4.
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The chemical differences among various species and genera of animals and plants are certainly as significant for the history of their origins as the differences in form. If we could define clearly the differences in molecular constitution and functions of different kinds of organisms, there would be possible a more illuminating and deeper understanding of question of the evolutionary reactions of organisms than could ever be expected from morphological considerations.
'Uber das Vorkommen von Haemoglobin in den Muskeln der Mollusken und die Verbreitung desselben in den lebenden Organismen', Pflügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere, 1871, 4, 318-9. Trans. Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 270.
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The fact is that up to now the free society has not been good for the intellectual. It has neither accorded him a superior status to sustain his confidence nor made it easy for him to acquire an unquestioned sense of social usefulness. For he derives his sense of usefulness mainly from directing, instructing, and planning-from minding other people’s business-and is bound to feel superfluous and neglected where people believe themselves competent to manage individual and communal affairs, and are impatient of supervision and regulation. A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual’s sense of worth as an automated economy is to the workingman’s sense of worth. Any social order that can function with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.
In 'Concerning Individual Freedom', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 141.
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The function of ignoring, of inattention, is as vital a factor in mental progress as the function of attention itself.
In The Principles of Psychology (1918), Vol. 2, 371.
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The function of mutation is to maintain the stock of genetic variance at a high level.
(1930).
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The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 179
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The function of science fiction is not always to predict the future but sometimes to prevent it.
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The human brain became large by natural selection (who knows why, but presumably for good cause). Yet surely most ‘things’ now done by our brains, and essential both to our cultures and to our very survival, are epiphenomena of the computing power of this machine, not genetically grounded Darwinian entities created specifically by natural selection for their current function.
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The law of the heart is thus the same as the law of muscular tissue generally, that the energy of contraction, however measured, is a function of the length of the muscle fibre.
The Linacre Lecture on the Law of the Heart (1918), 142.
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The laws of Coexistence;—the adaptation of structure to function; and to a certain extent the elucidation of natural affinities may be legitimately founded upon the examination of fully developed species;—But to obtain an insight into the laws of development,—the signification or bedeutung, of the parts of an animal body demands a patient examination of the successive stages of their development, in every group of Animals.
'Lecture Four, 9 May 1837', The Hunterian Lectures in Comparative Anatomy, May-June 1837, ed. Phillip Reid Sloan (1992), 191.
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The soul of man is—objectively considered—essentially similar to that of all other vertebrates; it is the physiological action or function of the brain.
In Wonders of Life (1904), 12.
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The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
The Crack-Up (1936, 1993), 69.
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The university imparts information, but it imparts it imaginatively. At least, this is the function which it should perform for society. A university which fails in this respect has no reason for existence. This atmosphere of excitement, arising from imaginative consideration, transforms knowledge. A fact is no longer a bare fact: it is invested with all its possibilities. It is no longer a bur. den on the memory: it is energising as the poet of our dreams, and as the architect of our purposes.
In The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 93.
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There are those who say that the human kidney was created to keep the blood pure, or more precisely, to keep our internal environment in an ideal balanced state. This I must deny. I grant that the human kidney is a marvelous organ, but I cannot grant that it was purposefully designed to excrete urine or to regulate the composition of the blood or to subserve the physiological welfare of Homo sapiens in any sense. Rather I contend that the human kidney manufactures the kind of urine that it does, and it maintains the blood in the composition which that fluid has, because this kidney has a certain functional architecture; and it owes that architecture not to design or foresight or to any plan, but to the fact that the earth is an unstable sphere with a fragile crust, to the geologic revolutions that for six hundred million years have raised and lowered continents and seas, to the predacious enemies, and heat and cold, and storms and droughts; to the unending succession of vicissitudes that have driven the mutant vertebrates from sea into fresh water, into desiccated swamps, out upon the dry land, from one habitation to another, perpetually in search of the free and independent life, perpetually failing, for one reason or another, to find it.
From Fish to Philosopher (1953), 210-1.
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There is plenty of room left for exact experiment in art, and the gate has been opened for some time. What had been accomplished in music by the end of the eighteenth century has only begun in the fine arts. Mathematics and physics have given us a clue in the form of rules to be strictly observed or departed from, as the case may be. Here salutary discipline is come to grips first of all with the function of forms, and not with form as the final result … in this way we learn how to look beyond the surface and get to the root of things.
Paul Klee
Quoted in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Feb 1959), 59, citing Bauhaus-Zeitschrijt (1928).
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There is thus a possibility that the ancient dream of philosophers to connect all Nature with the properties of whole numbers will some day be realized. To do so physics will have to develop a long way to establish the details of how the correspondence is to be made. One hint for this development seems pretty obvious, namely, the study of whole numbers in modern mathematics is inextricably bound up with the theory of functions of a complex variable, which theory we have already seen has a good chance of forming the basis of the physics of the future. The working out of this idea would lead to a connection between atomic theory and cosmology.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 129.
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They hold that the function of universities is to make learning repellent and thus to prevent its becoming dangerously common. And they discharge this beneficent function all the more efficiently because they do it unconsciously and automatically. The professors think they are advancing healthy intellectual assimilation and digestion when they are in reality little better than cancer on the stomach.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 32.
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This is only one step in a much larger project. I discovered (no, not me: my team) the function of sugar nucleotides in cell metabolism. I want others to understood this, but it is not easy to explain: this is not a very noteworthy deed, and we hardly know even a little.
[replying when asked about the significance of his Nobel prize-winning achievement.]
As quoted in John H. Exto, Crucible of Science: The Story of the Cori Laboratory (2013), 52.
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To discover and to teach are distinct functions; they are also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found united in the same person.
Discourses on the Scope and Nature of University Education. Addressed to the Catholics of Dublin (1852), Preface, xii.
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To say that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes, is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have, in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; and those who argue thus should put forth a definite conception of matter, with clearly enunciated properties, and show, that the necessary result of a certain complex arrangement of the elements or atoms of that matter, will be the production of self-consciousness. There is no escape from this dilemma—either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter, and in the latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter. The foregoing considerations lead us to the very important conclusion, that matter is essentially force, and nothing but force; that matter, as popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable. When we touch matter, we only really experience sensations of resistance, implying repulsive force; and no other sense can give us such apparently solid proofs of the reality of matter, as touch does. This conclusion, if kept constantly present in the mind, will be found to have a most important bearing on almost every high scientific and philosophical problem, and especially on such as relate to our own conscious existence.
In 'The Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man', last chapter of Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection (1870), 365-366.
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To the extent that remaining old-growth Douglas fir ecosystems possess unique structural and functional characteristics distinct from surrounding managed forests, the analogy between forest habitat islands and oceanic islands applies. Forest planning decision variables such as total acreage to be maintained, patch size frequency distribution, spatial distribution of patches, specific locations, and protective measures all need to be addressed.‎
In The Fragmented Forest: Island Biogeography Theory and the Preservation of Biotic Diversity (1984), 6.
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Today the function of the artist is to bring imagination to science and science to imagination, where they meet, in the myth.
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We are once for all adapted to the military status. A millennium of peace would not breed the fighting disposition out of our bone and marrow, and a function so ingrained and vital will never consent to die without resistance, and will always find impassioned apologists and idealizers.
From 'Remarks at The Peace Banquet' (7 Oct 1904), Boston, on the closing day of the World’s Peace Congress. Printed in Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1904), 845-846. Collected in Essays in Religion and Morality (1982), Vol. 9, 121.
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Weeds function as an unseen tax on the crop harvest.
From 'War on Weeds', Science (19 Apr 1946), 103, No. 2677, 465.
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Whatever State of the Human Body doth disorder the Vital, the natural, or even the Animal Functions of the same is call’d a Disease.
Aphorism No. 1 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 1
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When physiologists revealed the existence and functions of hormones they not only gave increased opportunities for the activities of biochemists but in particular gave a new charter to biochemical thought, and with the discovery of vitamins that charter was extended.
'Biological Thought and Chemical Thought: A Plea for Unification', Linacre Lecture, Cambridge (6 May 1938), published in Lancet (1938),2, 1201.
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While playing the part of the detective the investigator follows clues, but having captured his alleged fact, he turns judge and examines the case by means of logically arranged evidence. Both functions are equally essential but they are different.
In The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950, 1957), 92.
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Whoever looks at the insect world, at flies, aphides, gnats and innumerable parasites, and even at the infant mammals, must have remarked the extreme content they take in suction, which constitutes the main business of their life. If we go into a library or newsroom, we see the same function on a higher plane, performed with like ardor, with equal impatience of interruption, indicating the sweetness of the act. In the highest civilization the book is still the highest delight.
In Lecture, second in a series given at Freeman Place Chapel, Boston (Mar 1859), 'Quotation and Originality', in Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1917), 177.
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Why it is that animals, instead of developing in a simple and straightforward way, undergo in the course of their growth a series of complicated changes, during which they often acquire organs which have no function, and which, after remaining visible for a short time, disappear without leaving a trace ... To the Darwinian, the explanation of such facts is obvious. The stage when the tadpole breathes by gills is a repetition of the stage when the ancestors of the frog had not advanced in the scale of development beyond a fish.
In The Works of Francis Maitland Balfour (1885), Vol. 1, 702.
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With reference to … dyspepsia, it is saddening to see the perpetuation of the term “functional” as shorthand for “I don’t know the nature of the problem.”
In Letters, British Medical Journal (9 Feb 2002), 324, No. 7333, 364.
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[Magic] enables man to carry out with confidence his important tasks, to maintain his poise and his mental integrity in fits of anger, in the throes of hate, of unrequited love, of despair and anxiety. The function of magic is to ritualize man's optimism, to enhance his faith in the victory of hope over fear. Magic expresses the greater value for man of confidence over doubt, of steadfastness over vacillation, of optimism over pessimism.
Magic, Science and Religion (1925), 90.
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“Any specialty, if important, is too important to be left to the specialists.” After all, the specialist cannot function unless he concentrates more or less entirely on his specialty and, in doing so, he will ignore the vast universe lying outside and miss important elements that ought to help guide his judgment. He therefore needs the help of the nonspecialist, who, while relying on the specialist for key information, can yet supply the necessary judgment based on everything else… Science, therefore, has become too important to be left to the scientists.
In 'The Fascination of Science', The Roving Mind (1983), 123. Asimov begins by extending a quote by George Clemenceau: “War is too important to be left to the generals.”
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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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