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Laboratory Quotes (100 quotes)

Leon M. Lederman quote: During an intense period of lab work, the outside world vanishes and the obsession is total
Background: Michael Faraday in his laboratory at the Royal Institution. (source)

Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
'Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination'. In the collection. Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), 14.
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Sans laboratoires les savants sont des soldats sans armes
Without laboratories men of science are soldiers without arms.
In French, quoted as “cette phrase mémorable de Pasteur” (this memorable expression by Pasteur) in Bulletin de la Société de Gynécologie et d'Obstétrique de Paris (1923), 205. In French and English, as an epigraph, in The Wellcome Research Institution and the Affiliated Research Laboratories and Museums Founded by Sir Henry Wellcome (1932), 3.
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[When recording electrical impulses from a frog nerve-muscle preparation seemed to show a tiresomely oscillating electrical artefact—but only when the muscle was hanging unsupported.] The explanation suddenly dawned on me ... a muscle hanging under its own weight ought, if you come to think of it, to be sending sensory impulses up the nerves coming from the muscle spindles ... That particular day’s work, I think, had all the elements that one could wish for. The new apparatus seemed to be misbehaving very badly indeed, and I suddenly found it was behaving so well that it was opening up an entire new range of data ... it didn’t involve any particular hard work, or any particular intelligence on my part. It was just one of those things which sometimes happens in a laboratory if you stick apparatus together and see what results you get.
From 'Memorable experiences in research', Diabetes (1954), 3, 17-18. As cited in Alan McComa, Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse (2011), 102-103.
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A first-rate laboratory is one in which mediocre scientists can produce outstanding work.
Quoted by M. G. K. Menon in his commemoration lecture on H. J. Bhabba, Royal Institution 1967.
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A laboratory is only a place where one may better set up and control conditions.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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A laboratory of natural history is a sanctuary where nothing profane should be tolerated. I feel less agony at improprieties in churches than in a scientific laboratory.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147.
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A natural law regulates the advance of science. Where only observation can be made, the growth of knowledge creeps; where laboratory experiments can be carried on, knowledge leaps forward.
[Attributed, probably incorrectly]
Seen in various places, but Webmaster has found none with a source citation, and doubts the authenticity, because none found with attribution to Faraday prior to 1950. The earliest example Webmaster found is in 1929, by Walter Morley Fletcher in his Norman Lockyer Lecture. He refers to it as a “truism,” without mention of Faraday. He says “law of our state of being” rather than “natural law.” See the Walter Morley Fletcher page for more details.
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A neat and orderly laboratory is unlikely. It is, after all, so much a place of false starts and multiple attempts.
[Unverified. Please contact Webmaster if you can identify the primary source.]
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A physician’s subject of study is necessarily the patient, and his first field for observation is the hospital. But if clinical observation teaches him to know the form and course of diseases, it cannot suffice to make him understand their nature; to this end he must penetrate into the body to find which of the internal parts are injured in their functions. That is why dissection of cadavers and microscopic study of diseases were soon added to clinical observation. But to-day these various methods no longer suffice; we must push investigation further and, in analyzing the elementary phenomena of organic bodies, must compare normal with abnormal states. We showed elsewhere how incapable is anatomy alone to take account of vital phenenoma, and we saw that we must add study of all physico-chemical conditions which contribute necessary elements to normal or pathological manifestations of life. This simple suggestion already makes us feel that the laboratory of a physiologist-physician must be the most complicated of all laboratories, because he has to experiment with phenomena of life which are the most complex of all natural phenomena.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 140-141.
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A research laboratory jealous of its reputation has to develop less formal, more intimate ways of forming a corporate judgment of the work its people do. The best laboratories in university departments are well known for their searching, mutual questioning.
In Editorial, 'Is Science Really a Pack of Lies', Nature (1983), 303, 1257. As quoted and cited in Bradley P. Fuhrman, Jerry J. Zimmerman, Pediatric Critical Care (2011).
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A study of Disease—of Pestilences methodically prepared and deliberately launched upon man and beast—is certainly being pursue in the laboratories of more than one great country. Blight to destroy crops, Anthrax to slay horses and cattle, Plague to poison not armies but whole districts—such are the lines along which military science is remorselessly advancing.
'Shall We All Commit Suicide?'. Pall Mall (Sep 1924). Reprinted in Thoughts and Adventures (1932), 250.
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A tidy laboratory means a lazy chemist.
Berzelius to Nils Sefstrom, 8th July 1812. In C. G. Bernard, 'Berzelius as a European Traveller', in E. M. Melhardo and T. Frängsmyr (eds.), Enlightenment Science in the Romantic Era (1992), 225.

According to my views, aiming at quantitative investigations, that is at establishing relations between measurements of phenomena, should take first place in the experimental practice of physics. By measurement to knowledge [door meten tot weten] I should like to write as a motto above the entrance to every physics laboratory.
'The Significance of Quantitative Research in Physics', Inaugural Address at the University of Leiden (1882). In Hendrik Casimir, Haphazard Reality: Half a Century of Science (1983), 160-1.
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All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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All things on the earth are the result of chemical combination. The operation by which the commingling of molecules and the interchange of atoms take place we can imitate in our laboratories; but in nature they proceed by slow degrees, and, in general, in our hands they are distinguished by suddenness of action. In nature chemical power is distributed over a long period of time, and the process of change is scarcely to be observed. By acts we concentrate chemical force, and expend it in producing a change which occupies but a few hours at most.
In chapter 'Chemical Forces', The Poetry of Science: Or, Studies of the Physical Phenomena of Nature (1848), 235-236. Charles Dicken used this quote, with his own sub-head of 'Relative Importance Of Time To Man And Nature', to conclude his review of the book, published in The Examiner (1848).
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As he approached the place where a meeting of doctors was being held, he saw some elegant limousines and remarked, “The surgeons have arrived.” Then he saw some cheaper cars and said, “The physicians are here, too.” ... And when he saw a row of overshoes inside, under the hat rack, he is reported to have remarked, “Ah, I see there are laboratory men here.”
The Way of an Investigator (1945, 1965), 207.
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At my urgent request the Curie laboratory, in which radium was discovered a short time ago, was shown to me. The Curies themselves were away travelling. It was a cross between a stable and a potato-cellar, and, if I had not seen the worktable with the chemical apparatus, I would have thought it a practical joke.
Wilhelm Ostwald on seeing the Curie's laboratory facilities.
In R. Reid, Marie Curie (1974), 95.
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AZT stood up and said, 'Stop your pessimism. Stop your sense of futility. Go back to the lab. Go back to development. Go back to clinical trials. Things will work.'
[On the impact of AZT emerging as the long-sought first significant AIDS drug.]
As quoted in Emily Langer, 'Researcher Jerome P. Horwitz, 93, created AZT, the first approved treatment for HIV/AIDS' Washington Post (19 Sep 2012). The article was excerpted on blogs, sometimes referring to this quote by saying "AZT was more a cure for fatalism than for AIDS."
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But, contrary to the lady’s prejudices about the engineering profession, the fact is that quite some time ago the tables were turned between theory and applications in the physical sciences. Since World War II the discoveries that have changed the world are not made so much in lofty halls of theoretical physics as in the less-noticed labs of engineering and experimental physics. The roles of pure and applied science have been reversed; they are no longer what they were in the golden age of physics, in the age of Einstein, Schrödinger, Fermi and Dirac.
'The Age of Computing: a Personal Memoir', Daedalus (1992), 121, 120.
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Considered from the standpoint of chemistry, living bodies appear to us as laboratories of chemical processes, for they undergo perpetual changes in their material substrate. They draw materials from the outside world and combine them with the mass of their liquid and solid parts.
In 'Allgemeine Betrachtungen der orgauischen Korper', Physiologie des Menschen (1830), Vol. 1, 34. Trans. in Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 7I.
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D'you know how embarrassing it is to mention good and evil in a scientific laboratory? Have you any idea? One of the reasons l became a scientist was not to have to think about that kind of thing.
Spoken by character Dr. Malone in His Dark Materials Omnibus (2012), 370.
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Dick Drew took a bunch of misfits—people who wouldn’t fly in formation—and he put together a lab that created technologies that account for 20 percent of 3M's sales in 2000.
Art Fry
As quoted in W. James McNerney Jr., A Century of Innovation: The 3M Story (2002), 26.
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Direct observation of the testimony of the earth ... is a matter of the laboratory, of the field naturalist, of indefatigable digging among the ancient archives of the earth's history. If Mr. Bryan, with an open heart and mind, would drop all his books and all the disputations among the doctors and study first hand the simple archives of Nature, all his doubts would disappear; he would not lose his religion; he would become an evolutionist.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91. Written in response to an article a few days earlier in which William Jennings Bryan challenged the theory of evolution as lacking proof.
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Don’t despise empiric truth. Lots of things work in practice for which the laboratory has never found proof.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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During an intense period of lab work, the outside world vanishes and the obsession is total. Sleep is when you can curl up on the accelerator floor for an hour.
In Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi, The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question (1993), 14-15.
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Dust consisting of fine fibers of asbestos, which are insoluble and virtually indestructible, may become a public health problem in the near future. At a recent international conference on the biological effects of asbestos sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, participants pointed out on the one hand that workers exposed to asbestos dust are prone in later life to develop lung cancer, and on the other hand that the use of this family of fibrous silicate compounds has expanded enormously during the past few decades. A laboratory curiosity 100 years ago, asbestos today is a major component of building materials.
In Scientific American (Sep 1964). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Dec 2014), 311, No. 6, 98.
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Everybody’s a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We’re all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos.
In David Chronenberg and Chris Rodley (ed.), Chronenberg on Chronenberg (1992), 7. As cited in Carl Royer, B Lee Cooper, The Spectacle of Isolation in Horror Films: Dark Parades (2013), 55.
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Experiments in geology are far more difficult than in physics and chemistry because of the greater size of the objects, commonly outside our laboratories, up to the earth itself, and also because of the fact that the geologic time scale exceeds the human time scale by a million and more times. This difference in time allows only direct observations of the actual geologic processes, the mind having to imagine what could possibly have happened in the past.
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 455-6.
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First they said my [cyclol] structure [of proteins] couldn’t exist. Then when it was found in Nature they said it couldn’t be synthesized in a laboratory. Then when it was synthesized they said it wasn’t important in any way.
Quoted in Maureen M. Julian in G. Kass­Simon and Patricia Farnes (eds.), Women of Science (1990), 368.
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For they are not given to idleness, nor go in a proud habit, or plush and velvet garments, often showing their rings upon their fingers, or wearing swords with silver hilts by their sides, or fine and gay gloves upon their hands, but diligently follow their labours, sweating whole days and nights by their furnaces. They do not spend their time abroad for recreation, but take delight in their laboratory. They wear leather garments with a pouch, and an apron wherewith they wipe their hands. They put their fingers amongst coals, into clay, and filth, not into gold rings. They are sooty and black like smiths and colliers, and do not pride themselves upon clean and beautiful faces.
As translated in Paracelsus and Arthur Edward Waite (ed.), The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus (1894, 1976), Vol. 1, 167.
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From him [Wilard Bennett] I learned how different a working laboratory is from a student laboratory. The answers are not known!
[While an undergraduate, doing experimental measurements in the laboratory of his professor, at Ohio State University.]
From autobiography on Nobel Prize website.
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Graduates engaged in post-graduate work are reminded that their Supervisor is a University Officer and when visiting him officially in that capacity they should dress as they would in visiting any other officers of the University or of their own College (e.g. a tutor). Gowns, however, need not be worn in the chemical laboratory.
Note from Lennard-Jones to his PhD student, Charles Coulson, 14 Jul 1933. Quoted in S. C. Altham and E. J. Bowen, 'Charles Alfred Coulson 1910-1974', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (1974), 20, 78.

I always tried to live up to Leo Szilard's commandment, “don't lie if you don't have to.” I had to. I filled up pages with words and plans I knew I would not follow. When I go home from my laboratory in the late afternoon, I often do not know what I am going to do the next day. I expect to think that up during the night. How could I tell them what I would do a year hence?
In 'Dionysians and Apollonians', Science (2 Jun 1972), 176, 966. Reprinted in Mary Ritchie Key, The Relationship of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication (1980), 318.
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I am sorry that the distinguished leader of the Republican Party in the House states that he is not versed in botany and publicly admits that he does not know anything of these terms or what it is all about; but, Mr. Chairman, it is indeed a sad day for the people of this country when we must close the doors of the laboratories doing research work for the people of the United States.
Speaking (28 Dec 1932) as a member of the 72nd Congress, early in the Great Depression, in opposition to an attempt to eliminate a small amount from the agricultural appropriation bill. As quoted in 'Mayor-Elect La Guardia on Research', Science (1933), New Series, 78, No. 2031, 511.
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I came from Paris in the Spring of 1884, and was brought in intimate contact with him [Thomas Edison]. We experimented day and night, holidays not excepted. His existence was made up of alternate periods of work and sleep in the laboratory. He had no hobby, cared for no sport or amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. There can be no doubt that, if he had not married later a woman of exceptional intelligence, who made it the one object of her life to preserve him, he would have died many years ago from consequences of sheer neglect. So great and uncontrollable was his passion for work.
As quoted in 'Tesla Says Edison Was an Empiricist', The New York Times (19 Oct 1931), 25.
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I feel that, in a sense, the writer knows nothing any longer. He has no moral stance. He offers the reader the contents of his own head, a set of options and imaginative alternatives. His role is that of a scientist, whether on safari or in his laboratory, faced with an unknown terrain or subject. All he can do is to devise various hypotheses and test them against the facts.
Crash (1973, 1995), Introduction. In Barry Atkins, More Than A Game: the Computer Game as a Fictional Form (2003), 144.
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I have no dress except the one I wear every day. If you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory.
[Referring to her wedding dress.]
In Eve Curie, Madame Curie: a biography by Eve Curie (1937, 2007), 136-37.
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I have seen many phases of life; I have moved in imperial circles, I have been a Minister of State; but if I had to live my life again, I would always remain in my laboratory, for the greatest joy of my life has been to accomplish original scientific work, and, next to that, to lecture to a set of intelligent students.
Quoted in R. Desper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 55.
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I noticed affixed to a laboratory door the following words: “Les théories passent. Le Grenouille reste. [The theories pass. The frog remains.] &mdashJean Rostand, Carnets d’un biologiste.” There is a risk that in the less severe discipline of criticism the result may turn out to be different; the theories will remain but the frog may disappear.
In An Appetite for Poetry (1989), 5.
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I ought to say that one of our first joint researches, so far as publication was concerned, had the peculiar effect of freeing me forever from the wiles of college football, and if that is a defect, make the most of it! Dr. Noyes and I conceived an idea on sodium aluminate solutions on the morning of the day of a Princeton-Harvard game (as I recall it) that we had planned to attend. It looked as though a few days' work on freezing-point determinations and electrical conductivities would answer the question. We could not wait, so we gave up the game and stayed in the laboratory. Our experiments were successful. I think that this was the last game I have ever cared about seeing. I mention this as a warning, because this immunity might attack anyone. I find that I still complainingly wonder at the present position of football in American education.
Address upon receiving the Perkin Medal Award, 'The Big Things in Chemistry', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (Feb 1921), 13, No. 2, 162-163.
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I prefer the spagyric chemical physicians, for they do not consort with loafers or go about gorgeous in satins, silks and velvets, gold rings on their fingers, silver daggers hanging at their sides and white gloves on their hands, but they tend their work at the fire patiently day and night. They do not go promenading, but seek their recreation in the laboratory, wear plain learthern dress and aprons of hide upon which to wipe their hands, thrust their fingers amongst the coals, into dirt and rubbish and not into golden rings. They are sooty and dirty like the smiths and charcoal burners, and hence make little show, make not many words and gossip with their patients, do not highly praise their own remedies, for they well know that the work must praise the master, not the master praise his work. They well know that words and chatter do not help the sick nor cure them... Therefore they let such things alone and busy themselves with working with their fires and learning the steps of alchemy. These are distillation, solution, putrefaction, extraction, calcination, reverberation, sublimination, fixation, separation, reduction, coagulation, tinction, etc.
Quoted in R. Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 150. [Spagyric is a form of herbalism based on alchemic procedures of preparation.]
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I want to get out in the water. I want to see fish, real fish, not fish in a laboratory.
Interview (27 Jan 1991), on Academy of Achievement website.
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I was fascinated by fractional distillation as a method while still a school-boy, and built in the cellar of my home, which was my combined workshop and laboratory, distillation columns, packed with coke of graded size, some five feet in height. They were made from coffee tins (obtained from the kitchen), with the bottoms removed and soldered together! Experience with them served me in good stead and by the time I graduated I had a good understanding of the problems of fractional distillation.
Nobel Lectures in Chemistry (1999), Vol. 3, 359-360.
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I was working with these very long-chain … extended-chain polymers, where you had a lot of benzene rings in them. … Transforming a polymer solution from a liquid to a fiber requires a process called spinning. … We spun it and it spun beautifully. It [Kevlar] was very strong and very stiff—unlike anything we had made before. I knew that I had made a discovery. I didn’t shout “Eureka!” but I was very excited, as was the whole laboratory excited, and management was excited, because we were looking for something new. Something different. And this was it.
From transcript for video interview (2007, published Aug 2012), 'Stephanie Kwolek: Curiosity and the Discovery of Kevlar', in the series Women in Chemistry, on Chemical Heritage Foundation website.
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I went to the trash pile at Tuskegee Institute and started my laboratory with bottles, old fruit jars and any other thing I found I could use. ... [The early efforts were] worked out almost wholly on top of my flat topped writing desk and with teacups, glasses, bottles and reagents I made myself.
Manuscript fragment, no date, Box 1, George Washington Carver Papers. Cited in Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol (1982), 130.
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I would like to emphasize strongly my belief that the era of computing chemists, when hundreds if not thousands of chemists will go to the computing machine instead of the laboratory for increasingly many facets of chemical information, is already at hand. There is only one obstacle, namely that someone must pay for the computing time.
'Spectroscopy, Molecular Orbitals, and Chemical Bonding', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1966). In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1963-1970 (1972), 159.
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If a little less time was devoted to the translation of letters by Julius Caesar describing Britain 2000 years ago and a little more time was spent on teaching children how to describe (in simple modern English) the method whereby ethylene was converted into polythene in 1933 in the ICI laboratories at Northwich, and to discussing the enormous social changes which have resulted from this discovery, then I believe that we should be training future leaders in this country to face the world of tomorrow far more effectively than we are at the present time.
Quoted in an Obituary, D. P. Craig, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (1972), 18, 461.
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In a University we are especially bound to recognise not only the unity of science itself, but the communion of the workers in science. We are too apt to suppose that we are congregated here merely to be within reach of certain appliances of study, such as museums and laboratories, libraries and lecturers, so that each of us may study what he prefers. I suppose that when the bees crowd round the flowers it is for the sake of the honey that they do so, never thinking that it is the dust which they are carrying from flower to flower which is to render possible a more splendid array of flowers, and a busier crowd of bees, in the years to come. We cannot, therefore, do better than improve the shining hour in helping forward the cross-fertilization of the sciences.
'The Telephone', Nature, 15, 1878. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 743-4.
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In a word, I consider hospitals only as the entrance to scientific medicine; they are the first field of observation which a physician enters; but the true sanctuary of medical science is a laboratory; only there can he seek explanations of life in the normal and pathological states by means of experimental analysis.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 146.
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In physics, mathematics, and astronautics [elderly] means over thirty; in the other disciplines, senile decay is sometimes postponed to the forties. There are, of course, glorious exceptions; but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory!
Defining 'elderly scientist' as in Clarke's First Law.
'Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination'. In the collection. Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), 14-15.
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In the laboratory there are no fustian ranks, no brummagem aristocracies; the domain of Science is a republic, and all its citizens are brothers and equals, its princes of Monaco and its stonemasons of Cromarty meeting, barren of man-made gauds and meretricious decorations, upon the one majestic level!
'Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes.' In Mark Twain and John Sutton Tuckey (ed.), Which Was the Dream? and Other Symbolic Writings of the Later Years (1966), 446
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It amounts to a truism to say that progress in the practical arts of medicine in any of its branches, whether preventive or curative, only comes from the growth of accurate knowledge as it accumulates in the laboratories and studies of the various sciences.
From Norman Lockyer Lecture delivered before the British Science Guild (19 Nov 1929), 'Medical Research: The Tree and the Fruit', in The British Medical Journal (30 Nov 1929), Vol. 2, No. 3595, 995.
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It is very different to make a practical system and to introduce it. A few experiments in the laboratory would prove the practicability of system long before it could be brought into general use. You can take a pipe and put a little coal in it, close it up, heat it and light the gas that comes out of the stem, but that is not introducing gas lighting. I'll bet that if it were discovered to-morrow in New York that gas could be made out of coal it would be at least five years before the system would be in general use.
From the New York Herald (30 Jan 1879), as cited in Leslie Tomory, 'Building the First Gas Network, 1812-1820', Technology and Culture (Jan 2011), 52, No. 1, 75-102.
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It is well known that theoretical physicists cannot handle experimental equipment; it breaks whenever they touch it. Pauli was such a good theoretical physicist that something usually broke in the lab whenever he merely stepped across the threshold. A mysterious event that did not seem at first to be connected with Pauli's presence once occurred in Professor J. Franck's laboratory in Göttingen. Early one afternoon, without apparent cause, a complicated apparatus for the study of atomic phenomena collapsed. Franck wrote humorously about this to Pauli at his Zürich address and, after some delay, received an answer in an envelope with a Danish stamp. Pauli wrote that he had gone to visit Bohr and at the time of the mishap in Franck's laboratory his train was stopped for a few minutes at the Göttingen railroad station. You may believe this anecdote or not, but there are many other observations concerning the reality of the Pauli Effect!
From Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory (1966), 64. Note the so-called Pauli Effect is merely anecdotal to provide humor about supposed parapsychology phenomena in coincidences involving Pauli; it should not be confused with scientifically significant Pauli Exclusion Principle.
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It must be admitted that science has its castes. The man whose chief apparatus is the differential equation looks down upon one who uses a galvanometer, and he in turn upon those who putter about with sticky and smelly things in test tubes. But all of these, and most biologists too, join together in their contempt for the pariah who, not through a glass darkly, but with keen unaided vision, observes the massing of a thundercloud on the horizon, the petal as it unfolds, or the swarming of a hive of bees. And yet sometimes I think that our laboratories are but little earthworks which men build about themselves, and whose puny tops too often conceal from view the Olympian heights; that we who work in these laboratories are but skilled artisans compared with the man who is able to observe, and to draw accurate deductions from the world about him.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 170- 1.
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It's hard to imagine anything more difficult to study than human sexuality, on every level from the technical to the political. One has only to picture monitoring orgasm in the lab to begin to grasp the challenge of developing testing techniques that are thorough and precise, yet respectful.
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It’s becoming clear that in a sense the cosmos provides the only laboratory where sufficiently extreme conditions are ever achieved to test new ideas on particle physics. The energies in the Big Bang were far higher than we can ever achieve on Earth. So by looking at evidence for the Big Bang, and by studying things like neutron stars, we are in effect learning something about fundamental physics.
From editted transcript of BBC Radio 3 interview, collected in Lewis Wolpert and Alison Richards, A Passion For Science (1988), 33.
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Liebig taught the world two great lessons. The first was that in order to teach chemistry it was necessary that students should be taken into a laboratory. The second lesson was that he who is to apply scientific thought and method to industrial problems must have a thorough knowledge of the sciences. The world learned the first lesson more readily than it learned the second.
Ira Remsen, Address to the Industrial Chemistry Society, Glasgow (1910). Quoted in Frederick Hutton Getman, The Life of Ira Remsen (1980), 121-122.
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Like thousands of other boys, I had a little chemical laboratory in our cellar and think that some of our friends thought me a bit crazy.
Quoted in 'Langmuir Winner Stumped Einstein”, New York Times (23 Aug 1931), N2.
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Live in the serene peace of laboratories and libraries
Advice to young scientists at celebration for Pasteur's 70th birthday, Sorbonne (27 Dec 1892). Nature (1893), 47, 205.
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Live in the serene peace of the laboratories and the libraries.
As quoted in Émile Duclaux, translated by Erwin F. Smith and Florence Hedges, Pasteur: The History of a Mind (1920), xxii.
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Many of the things that have happened in the laboratory have happened in ways it would have been impossible to foresee, but not impossible to plan for in a sense. I do not think Dr. Whitney deliberately plans his serendipity but he is built that way; he has the art—an instinctive way of preparing himself by his curiosity and by his interest in people and in all kinds of things and in nature, so that the things he learns react on one another and thereby accomplish things that would be impossible to foresee and plan.
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 355.
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Microbiology Lab - Staph Only
Thomas F. Shubnell, Greatest Jokes of the Century Book 2 (2008), 90.
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Much as I admired the elegance of physical theories, which at that time geology wholly lacked, I preferred a life in the woods to one in the laboratory.
From J. Tuzo Wilson, 'Early Days in University Geophysics', Ann. Rev. Earth Planet Sci. (1982), 10, 4.
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Our job is to keep everlastingly at research and experiment, to adapt our laboratories to production as soon as practicable, to let no new improvement in flying and flying equipment pass us by.
End of Boeing’s quote, inscribed on his memorial at the Boeing Developmental Center, Tukwila, WA, as given in Mike Lombardi, 'Historical Perspective: 50 years at the Leading Edge', Boeing Frontiers (Aug 2009), 9.
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Remsen never wore his hat inside the door for he had much the same respect for his laboratory that most of us have for a church.
Quoting an unnamed former student of Remsen, speaking of his original laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Dalton Hall on Little Ross Street, Baltimore, Maryland. In F.H. Getman The Life of Ira Remsen (1940), 68.
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Sometimes my courage fails me and I think I ought to stop working, live in the country and devote myself to gardening. But I am held by a thousand bonds, and I don't know when I shall be able to arrange things otherwise. Nor do I know whether, even by writing scientific books, I could live without the laboratory.
Letter to her sister Bronya, September 1927. In Eve Curie, Madame Curie (1938), 388.
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Speaking one day to Monsieur de Buffon, on the present ardor of chemical inquiry, he affected to consider chemistry but as cookery, and to place the toils of the laboratory on the footing with those of the kitchen. I think it, on the contrary, among the most useful of sciences, and big with future discoveries for the utility and safety of the human race.
Letter to Rev. James Madison (Paris, 19 Jul 1788). In Thomas Jefferson and John P. Foley (ed.), The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia (1900), 135. From H.A. Washington, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1853-54). Vol 2, 431.
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Students using astrophysical textbooks remain essentially ignorant of even the existence of plasma concepts, despite the fact that some of them have been known for half a century. The conclusion is that astrophysics is too important to be left in the hands of astrophysicists who have gotten their main knowledge from these textbooks. Earthbound and space telescope data must be treated by scientists who are familiar with laboratory and magnetospheric physics and circuit theory, and of course with modern plasma theory.
[Lamenting the traditional neglect of plasma physics]
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),197.
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The faith of scientists in the power and truth of mathematics is so implicit that their work has gradually become less and less observation, and more and more calculation. The promiscuous collection and tabulation of data have given way to a process of assigning possible meanings, merely supposed real entities, to mathematical terms, working out the logical results, and then staging certain crucial experiments to check the hypothesis against the actual empirical results. But the facts which are accepted by virtue of these tests are not actually observed at all. With the advance of mathematical technique in physics, the tangible results of experiment have become less and less spectacular; on the other hand, their significance has grown in inverse proportion. The men in the laboratory have departed so far from the old forms of experimentation—typified by Galileo's weights and Franklin's kite—that they cannot be said to observe the actual objects of their curiosity at all; instead, they are watching index needles, revolving drums, and sensitive plates. No psychology of 'association' of sense-experiences can relate these data to the objects they signify, for in most cases the objects have never been experienced. Observation has become almost entirely indirect; and readings take the place of genuine witness.
Philosophy in a New Key; A Study in Inverse the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (1942), 19-20.
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The laboratory routine, which involves a great deal of measurement, filing, and tabulation, is either my lifeline or my chief handicap, I hardly know which.
(1949). Epigraph in Susan Elizabeth Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 62.
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The laboratory was an unattractive half basement and low ceilinged room with an inner dark room for the galvanometer and experimental animals. It was dark, crowded with equipment and uninviting. Into it came patients for electrocardiography, dogs for experiments, trays with coffee and buns for lunch. It was hot and dusty in summer and cold in winter. True a large fire burnt brightly in the winter but anyone who found time to warm his backside at it was not beloved by [Sir Thomas] Lewis. It was no good to try and look out of the window for relaxation, for it was glazed with opaque glass. The scientific peaks were our only scenery, and it was our job to try and find the pathways to the top.
'Tribute to Sir Thomas Lewis', University College Hospital Magazine (1955), 40, 71.
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The laboratory work was the province of Dr Searle, an explosive, bearded Nemesis who struck terror into my heart. If one made a blunder one was sent to ‘stand in the corner’ like a naughty child. He had no patience with the women students. He said they disturbed the magnetic equipment, and more than once I heard him shout ‘Go and take off your corsets!’ for most girls wore these garments then, and steel was beginning to replace whalebone as a stiffening agent. For all his eccentricities, he gave us excellent training in all types of precise measurement and in the correct handling of data.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 116.
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The landed classes neglected technical education, taking refuge in classical studies; as late as 1930, for example, long after Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge had discovered the atomic nucleus and begun transmuting elements, the physics laboratory at Oxford had not been wired for electricity. Intellectual neglect technical education to this day.
[Describing C.P. Snow's observations on the neglect of technical education.]
In Visions of Technology (1999), 23.
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The last person who left the lab will be the one held responsible for everything that goes wrong.
Found in The NIH Catalyst (May-June 2003), 11, No. 3, 8, as part of list 'A Scientist’s Dozen,' cited as “culled and adapted…from a variety of sources” by Howard Young.
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The lives of scientists, considered as Lives, almost always make dull reading. For one thing, the careers of the famous and the merely ordinary fall into much the same pattern, give or take an honorary degree or two, or (in European countries) an honorific order. It could be hardly otherwise. Academics can only seldom lead lives that are spacious or exciting in a worldly sense. They need laboratories or libraries and the company of other academics. Their work is in no way made deeper or more cogent by privation, distress or worldly buffetings. Their private lives may be unhappy, strangely mixed up or comic, but not in ways that tell us anything special about the nature or direction of their work. Academics lie outside the devastation area of the literary convention according to which the lives of artists and men of letters are intrinsically interesting, a source of cultural insight in themselves. If a scientist were to cut his ear off, no one would take it as evidence of a heightened sensibility; if a historian were to fail (as Ruskin did) to consummate his marriage, we should not suppose that our understanding of historical scholarship had somehow been enriched.
'J.B.S: A Johnsonian Scientist', New York Review of Books (10 Oct 1968), reprinted in Pluto's Republic (1982), and inThe Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science (1996), 86.
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The mathematics of cooperation of men and tools is interesting. Separated men trying their individual experiments contribute in proportion to their numbers and their work may be called mathematically additive. The effect of a single piece of apparatus given to one man is also additive only, but when a group of men are cooperating, as distinct from merely operating, their work raises with some higher power of the number than the first power. It approaches the square for two men and the cube for three. Two men cooperating with two different pieces of apparatus, say a special furnace and a pyrometer or a hydraulic press and new chemical substances, are more powerful than their arithmetical sum. These facts doubtless assist as assets of a research laboratory.
Quoted from a speech delivered at the fiftieth anniversary of granting of M.I.T's charter, in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 352.
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The Mecca of the biological world.
Describing the Naples Biological Station, one of the world’s leading marine laboratories in the world.
The Biological Stations of Europe (1910), 9.
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The mind is a vagrant thing ... Thinking is not analogous to a person working in a laboratory who invents something on company time.
Answering criticism that the book for which he won a Pulitzer Prize was written in the years he had been employed at the Smithsonian. He specified that did not write on the premises there, but only at home outside of working hours.
Quoted by Barbara Gamarekian in 'Working Profile: Daniel J. Boorstin. Helping the Library of Congress Fulfill Its Mission', New York Times (8 Jul 1983), B6.
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The modern research laboratory can be a large and complicated social organism.
How to Win the Nobel Prize: An Unexpected Life in Science (2004), xii.
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The stars are laboratories in which the evolution of matter proceeds in the direction of large molecules.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 50. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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The stories of Whitney’s love for experimenting are legion. At one time he received a letter asking if insects could live in a vacuum. Whitney took the letter to one of the members of his staff and asked the man if he cared to run an experiment on the subject. The man replied that there was no point in it, since it was well established that life could not exist without a supply of oxygen. Whitney, who was an inveterate student of wild life, replied that on his farm he had seen turtles bury themselves in mud each fall, and, although the mud was covered with ice and snow for months, emerge again in the spring. The man exclaimed, “Oh, you mean hibernation!” Whitney answered, “I don't know what I mean, but I want to know if bugs can live in a vacuum.”
He proceeded down the hall and broached the subject to another member of the staff. Faced with the same lack of enthusiasm for pursuing the matter further, Whitney tried another illustration. “I've been told that you can freeze a goldfish solidly in a cake of ice, where he certainly can't get much oxygen, and can keep him there for a month or two. But if you thaw him out carefully he seems none the worse for his experience.” The second scientist replied, “Oh, you mean suspended animation.” Whitney once again explained that his interest was not in the terms but in finding an answer to the question.
Finally Whitney returned to his own laboratory and set to work. He placed a fly and a cockroach in a bell jar and removed the air. The two insects promptly keeled over. After approximately two hours, however, when he gradually admitted air again, the cockroach waved its feelers and staggered to its feet. Before long, both the cockroach and the fly were back in action.
'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 357-358.
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The true laboratory is the mind, where behind illusions we uncover the laws of truth.
Quoted in India Today (Apr 2008), 33, No 16, as cited on webpage of Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
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There is no short cut from chemical laboratory to clinic, except one that passes too close to the morgue.
American Medical Association (1929) as quoted in Arabella Melville and Colin Johnson , Cured to Death: The Effects of Prescription Drugs (1982).
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There is only one thing worse than coming home from the lab to a sink full of dirty dishes, and that is not going to the lab at all!
Quoted in Giorgio Giacomelli, Maurizio Spurio and Jamal Eddine Derkaoui, Cosmic Radiations: From Astronomy to Particle Physics (2001), 344. by - Science - 2001

This notion that “science” is something that belongs in a separate compartment of its own, apart from everyday life, is one that I should like to challenge. We live in a scientific age; yet we assume that knowledge of science is the prerogative of only a small number of human beings, isolated and priest-like in their laboratories. This is not true. It cannot be true. The materials of science are the materials of life itself. Science is part of the reality of living; it is the what, the how, and the why of everything in our experience. It is impossible to understand man without understanding his environment and the forces that have molded him physically and mentally.
Address upon receiving National Book Award at reception, Hotel Commodore, New York (27 Jan 1952). As cited in Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997), 218-219.
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Time... is an essential requirement for effective research. An investigator may be given a palace to live in, a perfect laboratory to work in, he may be surrounded by all the conveniences money can provide; but if his time is taken from him he will remain sterile.
Quoted in S. Benison, A. C. Barger and E. L. Wolfe, Walter B Cannon: The Life and Times of a Young Scientist (1987), 253.
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To be creative, scientists need libraries and laboratories and the company of other scientists; certainly a quiet and untroubled life is a help. A scientist's work is in no way deepened or made more cogent by privation, anxiety, distress, or emotional harassment. To be sure, the private lives of scientists may be strangely and even comically mixed up, but not in ways that have any special bearing on the nature and quality of their work. If a scientist were to cut off an ear, no one would interpret such an action as evidence of an unhappy torment of creativity; nor will a scientist be excused any bizarrerie, however extravagant, on the grounds that he is a scientist, however brilliant.
In Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), 40.
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To each of us life is an experiment in Nature’s laboratory, and she tests and tries us in a thousand ways, using us and improving us if we serve her turn, ruthlessly dispensing with us if we do not.
In 'The Evolution of the Idea of Experiment in Medicine', Transactions of the Congress of American Physicians and Surgeons. Seventh Triennial Session (1907), 7.
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Tungsten, X-rays, and Coolidge form a trinity that has left an indelible impression upon our life and times. The key word in this triad is Coolidge, for his work brought the element tungsten from laboratory obscurity to the central role of the industrial stage and gave the X-ray a central role in the progress of medicine throughout the world.
In National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, Vol. 53, 141.
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Using material ferried up by rockets, it would be possible to construct a “space station” in ... orbit. The station could be provided with living quarters, laboratories and everything needed for the comfort of its crew, who would be relieved and provisioned by a regular rocket service. (1945)
In 'Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Coverage?', Wireless World (Oct 1945). Quoted and cited in Arthur C. Clarke, Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998, 22. Also quoted in 'Hazards of Communication Satellites', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1961), Vol. 17, No. 5, 181, by John R. Pierce Pierce, who then commented, “Clarke thought in terms of manned space stations; today these seem very remote.”
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We have seen that a proton of energy corresponding to 30,000 volts can effect the transformation of lithium into two fast α-particles, which together have an energy equivalent of more than 16 million volts. Considering the individual process, the output of energy in the transmutation is more than 500 times greater than the energy carried by the proton. There is thus a great gain of energy in the single transmutation, but we must not forget that on an average more than 1000 million protons of equal energy must be fired into the lithium before one happens to hit and enter the lithium nucleus. It is clear in this case that on the whole the energy derived from transmutation of the atom is small compared with the energy of the bombarding particles. There thus seems to be little prospect that we can hope to obtain a new source of power by these processes. It has sometimes been suggested, from analogy with ordinary explosives, that the transmutation of one atom might cause the transmutation of a neighbouring nucleus, so that the explosion would spread throughout all the material. If this were true, we should long ago have had a gigantic explosion in our laboratories with no one remaining to tell the tale. The absence of these accidents indicates, as we should expect, that the explosion is confined to the individual nucleus and does not spread to the neighbouring nuclei, which may be regarded as relatively far removed from the centre of the explosion.
The Transmutation of the Atom (1933), 23-4
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What happens if a big asteroid hits Earth? Judging from realistic simulations involving a sledge hammer and a common laboratory frog, we can assume it will be pretty bad.
In Geoff Tibballs, The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners (2004), 502.
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When chemists have brought their knowledge out of their special laboratories into the laboratory of the world, where chemical combinations are and have been through all time going on in such vast proportions,—when physicists study the laws of moisture, of clouds and storms, in past periods as well as in the present,—when, in short, geologists and zoologists are chemists and physicists, and vice versa,—then we shall learn more of the changes the world has undergone than is possible now that they are separately studied.
Geological Sketches (1866), 73.
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When it was first proposed to establish laboratories at Cambridge, Todhunter, the mathematician, objected that it was unnecessary for students to see experiments performed, since the results could be vouched for by their teachers, all of them of the highest character, and many of them clergymen of the Church of England.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 49.
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Why, only last term we sent a man who had never been in a laboratory in his life as a senior Science Master to one of our leading public schools. He came [to our agency] wanting to do private coaching in music. He’s doing very well, I believe.
In Decline and Fall (1928), 1962 edn., 25.
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You are urgently warned against allowing yourself to be influenced in any way by theories or by other preconceived notions in the observation of phenomena, the performance of analyses and other determinations.
Laboratory Rules at Munich. Quoted by M. Bergmann, 'Fischer', in Bugge's Das Buch der Grosse Chemiker. Trans. Joseph S. Froton, Contrasts in Scientific Style: Research Groups in the Chemical and Biomedical Sciences (1990), 172.
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You know, I am sorry for the poor fellows that haven’t got labs to work in.
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[Chemistry] laboratory work was my first challenge. ... I still carry the scars of my first discovery—that test-tubes are fragile.
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 42.
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[The surplus of basic knowledge of the atomic nucleus was] largely used up [during the war with the atomic bomb as the dividend.] We must, without further delay restore this surplus in preparation for the important peacetime job for the nucleus - power production. ... Many of the proposed applications of atomic power - even for interplanetary rockets - seem to be within the realm of possibility provided the economic factor is ruled out completely, and the doubtful physical and chemical factors are weighted heavily on the optimistic side. ... The development of economic atomic power is not a simple extrapolation of knowledge gained during the bomb work. It is a new and difficult project to reach a satisfactory answer. Needless to say, it is vital that the atomic policy legislation now being considered by the congress recognizes the essential nature of this peacetime job, and that it not only permits but encourages the cooperative research-engineering effort of industrial, government and university laboratories for the task. ... We must learn how to generate the still higher energy particles of the cosmic rays - up to 1,000,000,000 volts, for they will unlock new domains in the nucleus.
Addressing the American Institute of Electrical Engineering, in New York (24 Jan 1946). In Schenectady Gazette (25 Jan 1946),
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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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