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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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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index G > Category: Greatest

Greatest Quotes (53 quotes)

230(231-1) ... is the greatest perfect number known at present, and probably the greatest that ever will be discovered; for; as they are merely curious without being useful, it is not likely that any person will attempt to find a number beyond it.
In An Elementary Investigation of the Theory of Numbers (1811), 43. The stated number, which evaluates as 2305843008139952128 was discovered by Euler in 1772 as the eighth known perfect number. It has 19 digits. By 2013, the 48th perfect number found had 34850340 digits.
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The Redwoods

Here, sown by the Creator's hand,
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand;
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.

The greatest of Earth's living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung,
Lie buried now—their splendor gone;
But these proud monarchs still live on.

So shall they live, when ends our day,
When our crude citadels decay;
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials' span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal;

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, oh traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.
In The Record: Volumes 60-61 (1938), 39.
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La théorie est l’hypothèse vérifiée, après qu’elle a été soumise au contrôle du raisonnement et de la critique expérimentale. La meilleure théorie est celle qui a été vérifiée par le plus grand nombre de faits. Mais une théorie, pour rester bonne, doit toujours se modifier avec les progrès de la science et demeurer constamment soumise à la vérification et à la critique des faits nouveaux qui apparaissent.
A theory is a verified hypothesis, after it has been submitted to the control of reason and experimental criticism. The soundest theory is one that has been verified by the greatest number of facts. But to remain valid, a theory must be continually altered to keep pace with the progress of science and must be constantly resubmitted to verification and criticism as new facts appear.
Original work in French, Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale (1865), 385. English translation by Henry Copley Green in An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1927, 1957), 220.
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Almost all the greatest discoveries in astronomy have resulted from what we have elsewhere termed Residual Phenomena, of a qualitative or numerical kind, of such portions of the numerical or quantitative results of observation as remain outstanding and unaccounted for, after subducting and allowing for all that would result from the strict application of known principles.
Outlines of Astronomy (1876), 626.
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Confucius once said: “our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do”. Scholars believe he was referring to roller coasters.
Anonymous
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Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the greatest poet, but always his encouragement and support … The sailor and traveller, the anatomist, chemist, astronomer, geologist, phrenologist, spiritualist, mathematician, historian and lexicographer are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets and their construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem.
In Walt Whitman and William Michael Rossetti (ed.), 'Preface to the First Edition of Leaves of Grass', Poems By Walt Whitman (1868), 46.
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He that knows the secrets of nature with Albertus Magnus, or the motions of the heavens with Galileo, or the cosmography of the moon with Hevelius, or the body of man with Galen, or the nature of diseases with Hippocrates, or the harmonies in melody with Orpheus, or of poesy with Homer, or of grammar with Lilly, or of whatever else with the greatest artist; he is nothing if he knows them merely for talk or idle speculation, or transient and external use. But he that knows them for value, and knows them his own, shall profit infinitely.
In Bertram Doben (ed.), Centuries of Meditations (1908), The Third Century, No. 41, 189-190.
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Hubris is the greatest danger that accompanies formal data analysis, including formalized statistical analysis. The feeling of “Give me (or more likely even, give my assistant) the data, and I will tell you what the real answer is!” is one we must all fight against again and again, and yet again.
In 'Sunset Salvo', The American Statistician (Feb 1986), 40, No. 1, 75.
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I had a dislike for [mathematics], and ... was hopelessly short in algebra. ... [One extraordinary teacher of mathematics] got the whole year's course into me in exactly six [after-school] lessons of half an hour each. And how? More accurately, why? Simply because he was an algebra fanatic—because he believed that algebra was not only a science of the utmost importance, but also one of the greatest fascination. ... [H]e convinced me in twenty minutes that ignorance of algebra was as calamitous, socially and intellectually, as ignorance of table manners—That acquiring its elements was as necessary as washing behind the ears. So I fell upon the book and gulped it voraciously. ... To this day I comprehend the binomial theorem.
In Prejudices: third series (1922), 261-262.
For a longer excerpt, see H. L. Mencken's Recollections of School Algebra.
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I remember my first look at the great treatise of Maxwell’s when I was a young man… I saw that it was great, greater and greatest, with prodigious possibilities in its power… I was determined to master the book and set to work. I was very ignorant. I had no knowledge of mathematical analysis (having learned only school algebra and trigonometry which I had largely forgotten) and thus my work was laid out for me. It took me several years before I could understand as much as I possibly could. Then I set Maxwell aside and followed my own course. And I progressed much more quickly… It will be understood that I preach the gospel according to my interpretation of Maxwell.
From translations of a letter (24 Feb 1918), cited in Paul J. Nahin, Oliver Heaviside: The Life, Work, and Times of an Electrical Genius of the Victorian Age (2002), 24. Nahin footnotes that the words are not verbatim, but are the result of two translations. Heaviside's original letter in English was quoted, translated in to French by J. Bethenode, for the obituary he wrote, "Oliver Heaviside", in Annales des Posies Telegraphs (1925), 14, 521-538. The quote was retranslated back to English in Nadin's book. Bethenode footnoted that he made the original translation "as literally as possible in order not to change the meaning." Nadin assures that the retranslation was done likewise. Heaviside studyied Maxwell's two-volume Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.
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I think that the formation of [DNA's] structure by Watson and Crick may turn out to be the greatest developments in the field of molecular genetics in recent years.
‘Discussion des rapports de M Pauling’, Rep. Institut International de Chemie Solvay: Conference on Proteins, 6-14 April 1953 (1953), 113.
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If Melancholy increases so far, that from the great motion of the Liquid of the Brain the Patient be thrown into a wild Fury, it is call’d Madness.… The greatest Remedy for it is to throw the Patient unwarily into the Sea, and to keep him under Water as long as he can possibly bear without being quite stifled.
Aphorism No. 1118 and 1123 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 302-303.
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In all times and epochs the greatest happiness for man has been to take part in new discoveries.
First;Enter;Cosmos;Single-Handed;Unprecedented;Duel;Nature;Dream
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In short, the greatest contribution to real security that science can make is through the extension of the scientific method to the social sciences and a solution of the problem of complete avoidance of war.
In "Science and Security", Science (25 Jun 1948), 107, 665. Written while Director of the U.S. National Bureau of Standards.
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In the year 2000, the solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people: harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.
[The next President, Republican Ronald Reagan, removed the solar panels and gutted renewable energy research budgets. The road was not taken, nationally, in the eight years of his presidency. Several of the panels are, indeed, now in museums. Most were bought as government surplus and put to good use on a college roof.]
Speech, at dedication of solar panels on the White House roof, 'Solar Energy Remarks Announcing Administration Proposals' (20 Jun 1979).
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It is not necessary for all men to be great in action. The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience.
From 'The Efficiency of the Passive Virtues', New Life, Sermons for the New Life (1869), 412.
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It is, I find, in zoology as it is in botany: all nature is so full, that that district produces the greatest variety which is the most examined.
Letter XX to Thomas Pennant (8 Oct 1768), in The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), 55.
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It was not by any accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.
In Where is Science Going? (1932), 168.
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It wasn’t the finches that put the idea [of natural selection] in Darwin’s head, it was the tortoises. The reason he didn’t use the tortoises [in writing On the Origin of Species] was that, when he got back, he found he didn’t have localities on the tortoise specimens. Here the great god, the greatest naturalist we have records of, made a mistake. His fieldwork wasn’t absolutely perfect.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 33.
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Look at those animals and remember the greatest scientists in the world have never discovered how to make grass into milk.
As quoted in Dorothy Caruso, Enrico Caruso: His Life and Death (1963), 41.
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Man is the highest product of his own history. The discoverer finds nothing so grand or tall as himself, nothing so valuable to him. The greatest star is at the small end of the telescope, the star that is looking, not looked after nor looked at.
In Theodore Parker and Rufus Leighton (ed.), Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Man: Selected from Notes of Unpublished Sermons (1865), 70.
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No scientist or student of science, need ever read an original work of the past. As a general rule, he does not think of doing so. Rutherford was one of the greatest experimental physicists, but no nuclear scientist today would study his researches of fifty years ago. Their substance has all been infused into the common agreement, the textbooks, the contemporary papers, the living present.
Attempting to distinguish between science and the humanities in which original works like Shakespeare's must be studied verbatim. 'The Case of Leavis and the Serious Case', (1970), reprinted in Public Affairs (1971), 94.
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One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.
In Physics and Politics (1869, 1916), 163.
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Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that there are paradoxes in mathematics. [Co-author with James R. Newman]
In Edward Kasner and James Newman, Mathematics and the Imagination (1940, 1949), 193.
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Said M. Waldman, “…Chemistry is that branch of natural philosophy in which the greatest improvements have been and may be made; it is on that account that I have made it my peculiar study; but at the same time, I have not neglected the other branches of science. A man would make but a very sorry chemist if he attended to that department of human knowledge alone. If your wish is to become really a man of science and not merely a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branch of natural philosophy, including mathematics.”
In Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus (1823), Vol. 1, 73-74. Webmaster note: In the novel, when the fictional characters meet, M. Waldman, professor of chemistry, sparks Victor Frankenstein’s interest in science. Shelley was age 20 when the first edition of the novel was published anonymously (1818).
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Science is the Differential Calculus of the mind. Art the Integral Calculus; they may be beautiful when apart, but are greatest only when combined.
Quoted in The Complete Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid 1920-76 (1978), Vol. 2, 1360.
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The application of algebra to geometry ... has immortalized the name of Descartes, and constitutes the greatest single step ever made in the progress of the exact sciences.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1865), 531.
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The Europeans and the Americans are not throwing $10 billion down this gigantic tube for nothing. We're exploring the very forefront of physics and cosmology with the Large Hadron Collider because we want to have a window on creation, we want to recreate a tiny piece of Genesis to unlock some of the greatest secrets of the universe.
Quoted by Alexander G. Higgins (AP), in 'Particle Collider: Black Hole or Crucial Machine', The Journal Gazette (7 Aug 2009).
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The greatest achievements in the science of this [twentieth] century are themselves the sources of more puzzlement than human beings have ever experienced. Indeed, it is likely that the twentieth century will be looked back at as the time when science provided the first close glimpse of the profundity of human ignorance. We have not reached solutions; we have only begun to discover how to ask questions.
In 'On Science and Certainty', Discover Magazine (Oct 1980).
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The greatest discoveries of surgery are anaesthesia, asepsis, and roentgenology—and none was made by a surgeon.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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The greatest invention of the nineteenth century was the invention of the method of invention.
In Science and the Modern World (1925, 1997), 96.
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The greatest joy in life is to accomplish. It is the getting, not the having. It is the giving, not the keeping.
From Cameron Prize Lecture (1928), delivered before the University of Edinburgh. As quoted and cited in Editorial Section, 'Sir Frederick Banting', Canadian Public Health Journal (May 1941), 32, No. 5, 266.
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The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge.
From interview, Carol Krucoff, 'The 6 O’Clock Scholar: Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin And His Love Affair With Books', The Washington Post (29 Jan 1984), K8.
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The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
Attributed. The wording as above may be a popularized derivative from this quote: “The greatest enjoyment possible to man was that which this philosophy promises its votaries—the pleasure of being always right, and always reasoning—without ever being bound to look at anything.” In The English Constitution (1867), 296.
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The greatest single achievement of nature to date was surely the invention of the molecule DNA.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1979), 27.
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The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.
In Exploratory Data Analysis (1977), vi. Cited in epigraph, Chandrika Kamath, Scientific Data Mining: A Practical Perspective (2009), 209 .
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The more I think of it, I find this conclusion more impressed upon me—that the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way.
Modern Painters: pt. 4. Of Many Things (1850), 268. books.google.com John Ruskin - 1850
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The overwhelming astonishment, the queerest structure we know about so far in the whole universe, the greatest of all cosmological scientific puzzles, confounding all our efforts to comprehend it, is the earth.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 16.
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The study of mathematics is apt to commence in disappointment. … We are told that by its aid the stars are weighed and the billions of molecules in a drop of water are counted. Yet, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, this greatest science eludes the efforts of our mental weapons to grasp it.
Opening of Chap 1, in An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 7.
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This law [of gravitation] has been called “the greatest generalization achieved by the human mind”. … I am interested not so much in the human mind as in the marvel of a nature which can obey such an elegant and simple law as this law of gravitation. Therefore our main concentration will not be on how clever we are to have found it all out, but on how clever nature is to pay attention to it.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965), 14.
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Those who are fruitful in useful inventions and discoveries, in the practical mechanical arts, are men, not only of the greatest utility, but possess an understanding, which should be most highly estimated.
From 'Artist and Mechanic', The artist & Tradesman’s Guide: embracing some leading facts & principles of science, and a variety of matter adapted to the wants of the artist, mechanic, manufacturer, and mercantile community (1827), 143.
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To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is … the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence.
Report, as chairman of a committee, on the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution (Jan 1836). In Josiah Quincy, Memoir of the life of John Quincy Adams (1858), 265.
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To my knowledge there are no written accounts of Fermi’s contributions to the [first atomic bomb] testing problems, nor would it be easy to reconstruct them in detail. This, however, was one of those occasions in which Fermi’s dominion over all physics, one of his most startling characteristics, came into its own. The problems involved in the Trinity test ranged from hydrodynamics to nuclear physics, from optics to thermodynamics, from geophysics to nuclear chemistry. Often they were closely interrelated, and to solve one’it was necessary to understand all the others. Even though the purpose was grim and terrifying, it was one of the greatest physics experiments of all time. Fermi completely immersed himself in the task. At the time of the test he was one of the very few persons (or perhaps the only one) who understood all the technical ramifications.
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 145
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We cannot see how the evidence afforded by the unquestioned progressive development of organised existence—crowned as it has been by the recent creation of the earth's greatest wonder, MAN, can be set aside, or its seemingly necessary result withheld for a moment. When Mr. Lyell finds, as a witty friend lately reported that there had been found, a silver-spoon in grauwacke, or a locomotive engine in mica-schist, then, but not sooner, shall we enrol ourselves disciples of the Cyclical Theory of Geological formations.
Review of Murchison's Silurian System, Quarterly Review (1839), 64, 112-3.
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We should seek the greatest value of our action.
[Answer to question: So here we are. What should we do?]
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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Were I to make the announcement and to run, the reasons I would run is because I have a great belief in this country [America]. … There’s more natural resources than any nation in the world; the greatest education population in the world; the greatest technology of any country in the world; the greatest capacity for innovation in the world; and the greatest political system in the world.
Answer to “Why do you want to be President,” interview with Roger Mudd, CBS TV documentary (12 Oct 1979). In Jim Lehrer and James Lehrer, Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates (2011), 184.
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When the mathematician says that such and such a proposition is true of one thing, it may be interesting, and it is surely safe. But when he tries to extend his proposition to everything, though it is much more interesting, it is also much more dangerous. In the transition from one to all, from the specific to the general, mathematics has made its greatest progress, and suffered its most serious setbacks, of which the logical paradoxes constitute the most important part. For, if mathematics is to advance securely and confidently, it must first set its affairs in order at home. [Coauthor with James R. Newman]
In Edward Kasner and James Newman, Mathematics and the Imagination (1940, 1949), 219.
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When you believe you have found an important scientific fact, and are feverishly curious to publish it, constrain yourself for days, weeks, years sometimes, fight yourself, try and ruin your own experiments, and only proclaim your discovery after having exhausted all contrary hypotheses. But when, after so many efforts you have at last arrived at a certainty, your joy is one of the greatest which can be felt by a human soul.
From Speech (14 Nov 1888) at the Inauguration of the Pasteur Institute, as translated in René Vallery-Radot and Mrs R.L. Devonshire (trans.), The Life of Pasteur (1915), 443.
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Which do I consider my greatest invention? … I like the phonograph best … because I love music. And then it has brought so much joy into millions of homes all over this country, and, indeed, all over the world.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 86.
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Wonder [admiratio astonishment, marvel] is a kind of desire for knowledge. The situation arises when one sees an effect and does not know its cause, or when the cause of the particular effect is one that exceeds his power of understanding. Hence, wonder is a cause of pleasure insofar as there is annexed the hope of attaining understanding of that which one wants to know. ... For desire is especially aroused by the awareness of ignorance, and consequently a man takes the greatest pleasure in those things which he discovers for himself or learns from the ground up.
From Summa Theologiae Question 32, 'The Causes of Pleasure,' Article 8, 'Is Pleasure Caused by Wondering.'(1a2ae 32.8). As translated in James Vincent Cunningham, Tragic Effect and Tragic Process in Some Plays of Shakespeare (1945). Also in The Collected Essays of J.V. Cunningham (1976), 72-73.
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[Heisenberg's seminal 1925 paper initiating quantum mechanics marked] one of the great jumps—perhaps the greatest—in the development of twentieth century physics.
In Abraham Pais, Niels Bohr's Times: in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity (1991), 276. Cited in Mauro Dardo, Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics (2004), 179.
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[The ancient monuments] were all dwarfs in size and pigmies in spirit beside this mighty Statue of Liberty, and its inspiring thought. Higher than the monument in Trafalgar Square which commemorates the victories of Nelson on the sea; higher than the Column Vendome, which perpetuates the triumphs of Napoleon on the land; higher than the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, which exhibit the latest and greatest results of science, invention, and industrial progress, this structure rises toward the heavens to illustrate an idea ... which inspired the charter in the cabin of the Mayflower and the Declaration of Independence from the Continental Congress.
Speech at unveiling of the Statue of Liberty, New York. In E.S. Werner (ed.), Werner's Readings and Recitations (1908), 107.
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[The] humanization of mathematical teaching, the bringing of the matter and the spirit of mathematics to bear not merely upon certain fragmentary faculties of the mind, but upon the whole mind, that this is the greatest desideratum is. I assume, beyond dispute.
Address (28 Mar 1912), Michigan School Masters' Club, Ann Arbor, 'The Humanization of the Teaching of Mathematics. Printed in Science (26 Apr 1912). Collected in The Human Worth of Rigorous Thinking: Essays and Addresses (1916), 62-63.
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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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