Hasten Quotes (2 quotes)
At the bidding of a Peter the Hermit many millions of men swarmed to the East; the words of an hallucinated person … have created the force necessary to triumph over the Graeco-Roman world; an obscure monk like Luther set Europe ablaze and bathed in blood. The voice of a Galileo or a Newton will never have the least echo among the masses. The inventors of genius transform a civilization. The fanatics and the hallucinated create history.
From Les Premières Civilisations (1889), 171. English in The Psychology of Peoples (1898), Book 1, Chap. 1, 204, tweaked by Webmaster. Original French text: “A la voix d'un Pierre l'Ermite, plusieurs millions d'hommes se sont précipités sur l'Orient; les paroles d'un halluciné … ont créé la force nécessaire pour triompher du vieux monde gréco-romain; un moine obscur, comme Luther, a mis l'Europe à feu et à sang. Ce n’est pas parmi les foules que la voix d’un Galilée ou d’un Newton aura jamais le plus faible écho. Les inventeurs de génie transforment une civilisation. Les fanatiques et les hallucinés créent l’histoire.”
~~[Misattributed ?]~~ Mathematical discoveries, like springtime violets in the woods, have their season which no human can hasten or retard.
Webmaster believes this quote is likely a misattributed paraphrase. The subject quote is as given in Israel Kleiner, 'Thinking the Unthinkable: The Story of Complex Numbers (with a Moral)', Mathematics Teacher
(Oct 1988), 81
, No. 7, 590. In Kleiner’s paper, alongside the quote is a citation, thus: “(Kline 1972)?” Notice the appended question mark. The reference at the end of the paper gives: Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times
(1972), but without page number. Webmaster checked a later edition, Vol. 3 (1990), 861, in which Kline has an epigraph, with different wording about violets, attributed - not to János - but to his father, “Wolfgang Bolyai” (who is also known as Farkas Bolyai). Translator Abe Shenitzer wrote an ambiguous passage in Herbert Meschkowski, NonEuclidean Geometry
(1964), 33. In a discussion posted in the NCTM online Math Forum in 1998, Shenitzer clarified that the proper reading is that the “violet talk” is a simile used in advice given by the father to his son. Note that in the passage, János (Johann/John) reports about that advice in narrative form. Thus, one should also note that even in the original language, perhaps the father’s words are not verbatim. See Farkas Bolyai Quotes
on another page of this website.