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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index L > Category: Labor

Labor Quotes (73 quotes)

A free soul ought not to pursue any study slavishly; for while bodily labors performed under constraint do not harm the body, nothing that is learned under compulsion stays with the mind.
Plato
From The Republic 7 536e, as translated by Paul Shorey (1930).
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A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because some one expended effort on them.
In Philip Dorf, Liberty Hyde Bailey: An Informal Biography: a Pioneer Educator in Horticulture (1956), 83.
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A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.
…...
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All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
In Strength to Love (1963), 71.
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An inventive age
Has wrought, if not with speed of magic, yet
To most strange issues. I have lived to mark
A new and unforeseen creation rise
From out the labours of a peaceful Land:
Wielding her potent enginery to frame
And to produce, with appetite as keen
As that of war, which rests not night or day.
In The Excursion (1814). In The Works of William: Wordsworth (1994), Book 8, 875.
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Archimedes … had stated that given the force, any given weight might be moved, and even boasted, we are told, relying on the strength of demonstration, that if there were another earth, by going into it he could remove this. Hiero being struck with amazement at this, and entreating him to make good this problem by actual experiment, and show some great weight moved by a small engine, he fixed accordingly upon a ship of burden out of the king’s arsenal, which could not be drawn out of the dock without great labor and many men; and, loading her with many passengers and a full freight, sitting himself the while far off with no great endeavor, but only holding the head of the pulley in his hand and drawing the cords by degrees, he drew the ship in a straight line, as smoothly and evenly, as if she had been in the sea. The king, astonished at this, and convinced of the power of the art, prevailed upon Archimedes to make him engines accommodated to all the purposes, offensive and defensive, of a siege. … the apparatus was, in most opportune time, ready at hand for the Syracusans, and with it also the engineer himself.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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As in the domains of practical life so likewise in science there has come about a division of labor. The individual can no longer control the whole field of mathematics: it is only possible for him to master separate parts of it in such a manner as to enable him to extend the boundaries of knowledge by creative research.
In Die reine Mathematik in den Jahren 1884-99, 10. As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 94.
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As to a perfect Science of natural Bodies … we are, I think, so far from being capable of any such thing that I conclude it lost labour to seek after it.
In 'Extent of Human Knowledge', An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (1700), Book 4, 335.
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Before an experiment can be performed, it must be planned—the question to nature must be formulated before being posed. Before the result of a measurement can be used, it must be interpreted—nature's answer must be understood properly. These two tasks are those of the theorist, who finds himself always more and more dependent on the tools of abstract mathematics. Of course, this does not mean that the experimenter does not also engage in theoretical deliberations. The foremost classical example of a major achievement produced by such a division of labor is the creation of spectrum analysis by the joint efforts of Robert Bunsen, the experimenter, and Gustav Kirchoff, the theorist. Since then, spectrum analysis has been continually developing and bearing ever richer fruit.
'The Meaning and Limits of Exact Science', Science (30 Sep 1949), 110, No. 2857, 325. Advance reprinting of chapter from book Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography (1949), 110.
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By the death of Mr. O. Chanute the world has lost one whose labors had to an unusual degree influenced the course of human progress. If he had not lived the entire history of progress in flying would have been other than it has been.
Writing in Aeronautics in Jan 1911 about Chanute's death, collected in Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright: Volume Two 1906-1948 (1953), 1013.
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Endowed with two qualities, which seemed incompatible with each other, a volcanic imagination and a pertinacity of intellect which the most tedious numerical calculations could not daunt, Kepler conjectured that the movements of the celestial bodies must be connected together by simple laws, or, to use his own expression, by harmonic laws. These laws he undertook to discover. A thousand fruitless attempts, errors of calculation inseparable from a colossal undertaking, did not prevent him a single instant from advancing resolutely toward the goal of which he imagined he had obtained a glimpse. Twenty-two years were employed by him in this investigation, and still he was not weary of it! What, in reality, are twenty-two years of labor to him who is about to become the legislator of worlds; who shall inscribe his name in ineffaceable characters upon the frontispiece of an immortal code; who shall be able to exclaim in dithyrambic language, and without incurring the reproach of anyone, “The die is cast; I have written my book; it will be read either in the present age or by posterity, it matters not which; it may well await a reader, since God has waited six thousand years for an interpreter of his words.”
In 'Eulogy on Laplace', in Smithsonian Report for the year 1874 (1875), 131-132.
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Even the taking of medicine serves to make time go on with less heaviness. I have a sort of genius for physic and always had great entertainment in observing the changes of the human body and the effects produced by diet, labor, rest, and physical operations.
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Every man should eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor; it is the gift of God.
Bible
(circa 725 B.C.)
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Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
…...
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Experience hobbles progress and leads to abandonment of difficult problems; it encourages the initiated to walk on the shady side of the street in the direction of experiences that have been pleasant. Youth without experience attacks the unsolved problems which maturer age with experience avoids, and from the labors of youth comes progress. Youth has dreams and visions, and will not be denied.
From speech 'In the Time of Henry Jacob Bigelow', given to the Boston Surgical Society, Medalist Meeting (6 Jun 1921). Printed in Journal of the Medical Association (1921), 77, 599.
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For many centuries chemists labored to change lead into precious gold, and eventually found that precious uranium turned to lead without any human effort at all.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 43.
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Gather, ye nations, gather!
From forge, and mine, and mill!
Come, Science and Invention;
Come, Industry and Skill!…

Gather, ye nations, gather!
Let ancient discord cease,
And Earth, with myriad voices,
Awake the song of Peace!
From poem, 'The Festival of Labour' (1851), collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 539. Written for the opening of the Great Exhibition.
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Genius can never despise labor.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 106.
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Gold is found in our own part of the world; not to mention the gold extracted from the earth in India by the ants, and in Scythia by the Griffins. Among us it is procured in three different ways; the first of which is in the shape of dust, found in running streams. … A second mode of obtaining gold is by sinking shafts or seeking among the debris of mountains …. The third method of obtaining gold surpasses the labors of the giants even: by the aid of galleries driven to a long distance, mountains are excavated by the light of torches, the duration of which forms the set times for work, the workmen never seeing the light of day for many months together.
In Pliny and John Bostock (trans.), The Natural History of Pliny (1857), Vol. 6, 99-101.
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He who appropriates land to himself by his labor, does not lessen but increases the common stock of mankind. For the provisions serving to the support of human life, produced by one acre of inclosed and cultivated land, are … ten times more than those which are yielded by an acre of land, of an equal richness lying waste in common. And therefore he that incloses land and has a greater plenty of the conveniences of life from ten acres than he could have from a hundred left to nature, may truly be said to give ninety acres to mankind.
In John Locke and Thomas Preston Peardon (ed.), The Second Treatise of Civil Government: An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government (Dec 1689, 1952), 22.
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His [Thomas Edison] method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90 per cent of the labor. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor's instinct and practical American sense. In view of this, the truly prodigious amount of his actual accomplishments is little short of a miracle.
As quoted in 'Tesla Says Edison Was an Empiricist', The New York Times (19 Oct 1931), 25. In 1884, Tesla had moved to America to assist Edison in the designing of motors and generators.
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How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people–first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
…...
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I hope that in due time the chemists will justify their proceedings by some large generalisations deduced from the infinity of results which they have collected. For me I am left hopelessly behind and I will acknowledge to you that through my bad memory organic chemistry is to me a sealed book. Some of those here, [August] Hoffman for instance, consider all this however as scaffolding, which will disappear when the structure is built. I hope the structure will be worthy of the labour. I should expect a better and a quicker result from the study of the powers of matter, but then I have a predilection that way and am probably prejudiced in judgment.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (9 Dec 1852), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), 209-210.
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I know no such thing as genius,—genius is nothing but labor and diligence.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 106.
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If he [Thomas Edison] had a needle to find in a haystack, he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be, but would proceed at once with the feverish diligence of a bee, to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. … [J]ust a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety percent of his labor.
As quoted in 'Tesla Says Edison Was an Empiricist', The New York Times (19 Oct 1931), 25. In 1884, Tesla had moved to America to assist Edison in the designing of motors and generators.
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If Russia is to be a great power, it will be, not because of its nuclear potential, faith in God or the president, or Western investment, but thanks to the labor of the nation, faith in knowledge and science and the maintenance and development of scientific potential and education.
Quoted in Darryl J. Leiter, Sharon Leiter, A to Z of physicists (2003), 3.
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If the study of all these sciences which we have enumerated, should ever bring us to their mutual association and relationship, and teach us the nature of the ties which bind them together, I believe that the diligent treatment of them will forward the objects which we have in view, and that the labor, which otherwise would be fruitless, will be well bestowed.
Plato
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If the [Vestiges] be true, the labours of sober induction are in vain; religion is a lie; human law is a mass of folly, and a base injustice; morality is moonshine; our labours for the black people of Africa were works of madmen; and man and woman are only better beasts!
Letter to Charles Lyell (9 Apr 1845). In John Willis Clark and Thomas McKenny Hughes (eds.), The Life and Letters of the Reverend Adam Sedgwick (1890), Vol. 2, 84.
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In our days everything seems pregnant with its contrary. Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labor, we behold starving and overworking it… . At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or his own infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on the dark background of ignorance.
Karl Marx
In Speech (14 Apr 1856) on the 4th Anniversary of the People’s Paper, collected in David McLellan (ed.), Karl Marx: Selected Writings (2000), 368.
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In symbols one observes an advantage in discovery which is greatest when they express the exact nature of a thing briefly and, as it were, picture it; then indeed the labor of thought is wonderfully diminished.
In letter to Tschirnhaus. As quoted in George F. Simmons Calculus Gems (1992), 156, citing Dirk Jan Struik, 281-282.
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Indeed, we need not look back half a century to times which many now living remember well, and see the wonderful advances in the sciences and arts which have been made within that period. Some of these have rendered the elements themselves subservient to the purposes of man, have harnessed them to the yoke of his labors and effected the great blessings of moderating his own, of accomplishing what was beyond his feeble force, and extending the comforts of life to a much enlarged circle, to those who had before known its necessaries only.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia' (Dec 1818), reprinted in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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Intellectual beauty is sufficient unto itself, and only for it rather than for the future good of humanity does the scholar condemn himself to arduous and painful labors.
From Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), 51.
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It is not Cayley’s way to analyze concepts into their ultimate elements. … But he is master of the empirical utilization of the material: in the way he combines it to form a single abstract concept which he generalizes and then subjects to computative tests, in the way the newly acquired data are made to yield at a single stroke the general comprehensive idea to the subsequent numerical verification of which years of labor are devoted. Cayley is thus the natural philosopher among mathematicians.
In Mathematische Annalen, Bd. 46 (1895), 479. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 146.
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It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and more intricate questions or more simple and lucid explanations [than those given by Archimedes]. Some ascribe this to his natural genius; while others think that incredible effort and toil produced these, to all appearance, easy and unlaboured results. No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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It is obvious that man dwells in a splendid universe, a magnificent expanse of earth and sky and heaven, which manifestly is built on a majestic plan, maintains some mighty design, though man himself cannot grasp it. Yet for him it is not a pleasant or satisfying world. In his few moments of respite from labor or from his enemies, he dreams that this very universe might indeed be perfect, its laws operating just as now they seem to do, and yet he and it somehow be in full accord. The very ease with which he can frame this image to himself makes the reality all the more mocking. ... It is only too clear that man is not at home in this universe, and yet he is not good enough to deserve a better.
In The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939, 1954), 7.
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It is only by the influence of individuals who can set an example, whom the masses recognize as their leaders, that they can be induced to submit to the labors and renunciations on which the existence of culture depends.
In The Future of an Illusion (1928), 7.
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It is therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.
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Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.
Confucius
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 14.
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Let the farmer for evermore be honored in his calling, for they who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations (1891), 11.
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Man continues to be the only 150 pound nonlinear servomechanism that can be wholly mass-produced by unskilled labor.
In 'Mechanisms in Anxiety', Journal of Neuropsychiatry (Sep-Oct 1963), 5, 416. Also appears as “Man is the only…reproduced…” for the opening sentence by Ashley Montagu in 'Forward: Origin of the Specious' for Robin Fox, The Passionate Mind: Sources of Destruction and Creativity (2000), xxi.
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More and more of out colleagues fail to understand our work because of the high specialization of research problems. We must not be discouraged if the products of our labor are not read or even known to exist. The joy of research must be found in doing since every other harvest is uncertain.
Letter to Dr. E. B. Krumhaar (11 Oct 1933), in Journal of Bacteriology (Jan 1934), 27, No. 1, 20.
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Once it happened that all the other members of a man mutinied against the stomach, which they accused as the single, idle, uncontributing part in the entire body, while the rest were put to hardships and the expense of much labor to supply and minister to its appetites. However, the stomach merely ridiculed the fatuity of the members, who appeared not to be aware that the stomach certainly does receive the general nourishment, but only to return it again and distribute it amongst the rest.
Fable related by Menenius Agrippa to resolve a grievance of plebeians against the social hierarchy, described in 'Life of Coriolanus', collected in A.H. Clough (ed.), Plutarch’s Lives of Illustrious Men (1859, 1881), 155.
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One-story intellects, two-story intellects, three-story intellects with skylights. All fact-collectors, who have no aim beyond their facts, are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, generalize, using the labors of the fact-collectors as well as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, predict; their best illumination comes from above, through the skylight. There are minds with large ground-floors, that can store an infinite amount of knowledge; some librarians, for instance, who know enough of books to help other people, without being able to make much other use of their knowledge, have intellects of this class. Your great working lawyer has two spacious stories; his mind is clear, because his mental floors are large, and he has room to arrange his thoughts so that lie can get at them,—facts below, principles above, and all in ordered series; poets are often narrow below, incapable of clear statement, and with small power of consecutive reasoning, but full of light, if sometimes rather bare of furniture, in the attics.
The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1883), 50.
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Science has gone a long way toward helping man to free himself from the burden of hard labor; yet, science itself is not a liberator. It creates means, not goals. It is up to men to utilize those means to achieve reasonable goals.
In 'I Am an American' (22 Jun 1940), Einstein Archives 29-092. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 470. The British Library Sound Archive holds a recording of this statement by Einstein. It was during a radio broadcast for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, interviewed by a State Department Official. Einstein spoke following an examination on his application for American citizenship in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war on Japan was still over a year in the future.
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Science is the labor and handicraft of the mind; poetry can only be considered its recreation.
As quoted in Nathaniel Holmes, The Authorship of Shakespeare (1867), 198. Footnoted as Int. Globe, Works (Mont.), XV. 150.
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Science is the labor of mind applied to nature
In Alexander Humboldt and E.C. Otté (trans.), 'Introduction', Cosmos: Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe (1852), Vol. 1, 76. The translator’s preface is dated 1844.
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See that your children be taught, not only the labors of the earth, but the loveliness of it.
In Elbert Hubbard (ed. and publ.), The Philistine (Mar 1908), 26, No. 4, inside front cover, opposite 97.
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Such is always the pursuit of knowledge. The celestial fruits, the golden apples of the Hesperides, are ever guarded by a hundred-headed dragon which never sleeps, so that it is an Herculean labor to pluck them.
In The Writings of Henry David Thoreau: V; Excursions and Poems (1906), 307.
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That the master manufacturer, by dividing the work to be executed into different processes, each requiring different degrees of skill or of force, can purchase precisely the precise quantity of both which is necessary for each process; whereas, if the whole work were executed by one workman, that person must possess sufficient skill to perform the most difficult, and sufficient strength to execute the most laborious, of the operations into which the art is divided.
In 'On the Division of Labour', Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1st ed., 1832), chap. 18, 127.
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The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor–not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.
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The iron labor of conscious logical reasoning demands great perseverance and great caution; it moves on but slowly, and is rarely illuminated by brilliant flashes of genius. It knows little of that facility with which the most varied instances come thronging into the memory of the philologist or historian. Rather is it an essential condition of the methodical progress of mathematical reasoning that the mind should remain concentrated on a single point, undisturbed alike by collateral ideas on the one hand, and by wishes and hopes on the other, and moving on steadily in the direction it has deliberately chosen.
In Ueber das Verhältniss der Naturwissenschaften zur Gesammtheit der Wissenschaft, Vorträge und Reden (1896), Bd. 1, 178.
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The labor of love aspect is important. The most successful scientists are not the most talented. But they are the ones who are impelled by curiosity. They’ve got to know what the answer is.
As quoted in Andrew Grant and Gaia Grant, Who Killed Creativity?: ...And How Do We Get It Back? (2012).
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The land! That is where our roots are. There is the basis of our physical life. The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity. From the land comes everything that supports life, everything we use for the service of physical life. The land has not collapsed or shrunk in either extent or productivity. It is there waiting to honor all the labor we are willing to invest in it, and able to tide us across any dislocation of economic conditions.
Advice during the Great Depression, placed in an advertisement, 'Henry Ford on Self-Help', Literary Digest (29 Jun 1932), 113, No. 12, 29, and various other magazines.
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The majority of mathematical truths now possessed by us presuppose the intellectual toil of many centuries. A mathematician, therefore, who wishes today to acquire a thorough understanding of modern research in this department, must think over again in quickened tempo the mathematical labors of several centuries. This constant dependence of new truths on old ones stamps mathematics as a science of uncommon exclusiveness and renders it generally impossible to lay open to uninitiated readers a speedy path to the apprehension of the higher mathematical truths. For this reason, too, the theories and results of mathematics are rarely adapted for popular presentation … This same inaccessibility of mathematics, although it secures for it a lofty and aristocratic place among the sciences, also renders it odious to those who have never learned it, and who dread the great labor involved in acquiring an understanding of the questions of modern mathematics. Neither in the languages nor in the natural sciences are the investigations and results so closely interdependent as to make it impossible to acquaint the uninitiated student with single branches or with particular results of these sciences, without causing him to go through a long course of preliminary study.
In Mathematical Essays and Recreations (1898), 32.
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The most striking characteristic of the written language of algebra and of the higher forms of the calculus is the sharpness of definition, by which we are enabled to reason upon the symbols by the mere laws of verbal logic, discharging our minds entirely of the meaning of the symbols, until we have reached a stage of the process where we desire to interpret our results. The ability to attend to the symbols, and to perform the verbal, visible changes in the position of them permitted by the logical rules of the science, without allowing the mind to be perplexed with the meaning of the symbols until the result is reached which you wish to interpret, is a fundamental part of what is called analytical power. Many students find themselves perplexed by a perpetual attempt to interpret not only the result, but each step of the process. They thus lose much of the benefit of the labor-saving machinery of the calculus and are, indeed, frequently incapacitated for using it.
In 'Uses of Mathesis', Bibliotheca Sacra (Jul 1875), 32, 505.
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The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. In so far as the labor contract is free what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
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The product of mental labor—science—always stands far below its value, because the labor-time necessary to reproduce it has no relation at all to the labor-time required for its original production.
Karl Marx
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The school of Plato has advanced the interests of the race as much through geometry as through philosophy. The modern engineer, the navigator, the astronomer, built on the truths which those early Greeks discovered in their purely speculative investigations. And if the poetry, statesmanship, oratory, and philosophy of our day owe much to Plato’s divine Dialogues, our commerce, our manufactures, and our science are equally indebted to his Conic Sections. Later instances may be abundantly quoted, to show that the labors of the mathematician have outlasted those of the statesman, and wrought mightier changes in the condition of the world. Not that we would rank the geometer above the patriot, but we claim that he is worthy of equal honor.
In 'Imagination in Mathematics', North American Review, 85, 228.
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There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.[Greatly abbreviated and paraphrased.]
The original 1784 version of this quote begins “A provision of endless apparatus…” (see elsewhere on this page). Over the years, the original 35-word quote has been paraphrased, re-paraphrased and abbreviated to these 18 words. In this form, it was published by B.C. Forbes in 'Why Do So Many Men Never Amount to Anything?',The American Magazine (Jan 1921). The journalist, having visited Thomas Edison’s laboratory, wrote that Edison showed him a placard inscribed with this quote, including the name of Joshua Reynolds, with the intention of having copies placed “all over the plant.” The quote was subsequently repeated by other writers, (describing Edison’s use of the sign), some of whom omitted the name of Joshua Reynolds incorrectly implying attribution to Edison.
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There was, I think, a feeling that the best science was that done in the simplest way. In experimental work, as in mathematics, there was “style” and a result obtained with simple equipment was more elegant than one obtained with complicated apparatus, just as a mathematical proof derived neatly was better than one involving laborious calculations. Rutherford's first disintegration experiment, and Chadwick's discovery of the neutron had a “style” that is different from that of experiments made with giant accelerators.
From 'Physics in a University Laboratory Before and After World War II', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, (1975), 342, 463. As cited in Alan McComas, Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse (2011), 107.
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Those who are unacquainted with the details of scientific investigation have no idea of the amount of labour expended in the determination of those numbers on which important calculations or inferences depend. They have no idea of the patience shown by a Berzelius in determining atomic weights; by a Regnault in determining coefficients of expansion; or by a Joule in determining the mechanical equivalent of heat.
In Sound: A Course of Eight Lectures Delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (1867), 26.
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To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, are the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.
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We may need simple and heroic legends for that peculiar genre of literature known as the textbook. But historians must also labor to rescue human beings from their legends in science–if only so that we may understand the process of scientific thought aright.
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We pass with admiration along the great series of mathematicians, by whom the science of theoretical mechanics has been cultivated, from the time of Newton to our own. There is no group of men of science whose fame is higher or brighter. The great discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, had fixed all eyes on those portions of human knowledge on which their successors employed their labors. The certainty belonging to this line of speculation seemed to elevate mathematicians above the students of other subjects; and the beauty of mathematical relations and the subtlety of intellect which may be shown in dealing with them, were fitted to win unbounded applause. The successors of Newton and the Bernoullis, as Euler, Clairaut, D’Alembert, Lagrange, Laplace, not to introduce living names, have been some of the most remarkable men of talent which the world has seen.
In History of the Inductive Sciences, Vol. 1, Bk. 4, chap. 6, sect. 6.
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We think of Euclid as of fine ice; we admire Newton as we admire the peak of Teneriffe. Even the intensest labors, the most remote triumphs of the abstract intellect, seem to carry us into a region different from our own—to be in a terra incognita of pure reasoning, to cast a chill on human glory.
In Estimates of Some Englishmen and Scotchmen (1856), 411-412
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Western field-work conjures up images of struggle on horseback ... –toughing it out on one canteen a day as you labor up and down mountains. The value of a site is supposedly correlated with the difficulty of getting there. This, of course, is romantic drivel. Ease of access is no measure of importance. The famous La Brea tar pits are right in downtown Los Angeles. To reach the Clarkia lake beds, you turn off the main road at Buzzard’s Roost Trophy Company and drive the remaining fifty yards right up to the site.
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When rich men are thus brought to regard themselves as trustees, and poor men learn to be industrious, economical, temperate, self-denying, and diligent in the acquisition of knowledge, then the deplorable strife between capital and labor, tending to destroy their fundamental, necessary, and irrefragable harmony will cease, and the world will no longer be afflicted with such unnatural industrial conflicts as we have seen during the past century...
Address (31 May 1871) to the 12th annual commencement at the Cooper Union, honoring his 80th birthday, in New York City Mission and Tract Society, Annual report of the New York City Mission and Tract Society (1872), 69.
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When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! This our father did for us.”
From Lectures on 'Architecture and Painting' (Nov 1853), delivered at Edinburgh, collected in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (May 1849, 1887), 172.
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Without seeking, truth cannot be known at all. It can neither be declared from pulpits, nor set down in articles, nor in any wise prepared and sold in packages ready for use. Truth must be ground for every man by itself out of its husk, with such help as he can get, indeed, but not without stern labor of his own.
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Workers must root out the idea that by keeping the results of their labors to themselves a fortune will be assured to them. Patent fees are so much wasted money. The flying machine of the future will not be born fully fledged and capable of a flight for 1,000 miles or so. Like everything else it must be evolved gradually. The first difficulty is to get a thing that will fly at all. When this is made, a full description should be published as an aid to others. Excellence of design and workmanship will always defy competition.
As quoted in Octave Chanute, Progress in Flying Machines (1894), 218.
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You have chosen the most fascinating and dynamic profession there is, a profession with the highest potential for greatness, since the physician’s daily work is wrapped up in the subtle web of history. Your labors are linked with those of your colleagues who preceded you in history, and those who are now working all over the world. It is this spiritual unity with our colleagues of all periods and all countries that has made medicine so universal and eternal. For this reason we must study and try to imitate the lives of the “Great Doctors” of history.
epilogue to A Prelude to Medical History
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[Decimal currency is desirable because] by that means all calculations of interest, exchange, insurance, and the like are rendered much more simple and accurate, and, of course, more within the power of the great mass of people. Whenever such things require much labor, time, and reflection, the greater number who do not know, are made the dupes of the lesser number who do.
Letter to Congress (15 Jan 1782). 'Coinage Scheme Proposed by Robert Morris, Superintendent of Finance', from MS. letters and reports of the Superintendent of Finance, No, 137, Vol. 1, 289-300. Reprinted as Appendix, in Executive Documents, Senate of the U.S., Third Session of the Forty-Fifth Congress, 1878-79 (1879), 430.
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“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.
Sir Joshua Reynolds.”
Sign motto used by Edison in his plant. It is a compacted paraphrase of an original quote by the painter, Joshua Reynolds, (which can been seen on the Reynolds quote page on this site). This form of the quote, was published by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10. Forbes wrote about his visit to the Edison’s office, where he was shown a placard bearing the motto and attribution to Sir Joshua Reynolds, and told by Edison that he intended to have copies “put all over the plant.”
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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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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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