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

Leaf Quotes (36 quotes)

A tree nowhere offers a straight line or a regular curve, but who doubts that root, trunk, boughs, and leaves embody geometry?
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-Book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 172.
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Among the older records, we find chapter after chapter of which we can read the characters, and make out their meaning: and as we approach the period of man’s creation, our book becomes more clear, and nature seems to speak to us in language so like our own, that we easily comprehend it. But just as we begin to enter on the history of physical changes going on before our eyes, and in which we ourselves bear a part, our chronicle seems to fail us—a leaf has been torn out from nature's record, and the succession of events is almost hidden from our eyes.
Letter 1 to William Wordsworth. Quoted in the appendix to W. Wordsworth, A Complete Guide to the Lakes, Comprising Minute Direction for the Tourist, with Mr Wordsworth's Description of the Scenery of the County and Three Letters upon the Geology of the Lake District (1842), 14.
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An ignorant or half-informed teacher may present science as an accumulation of unconnected facts. … To teach in that fashion is like going to the tree of science with its glorious fruit in order to pick up a handful of the dry fallen leaves from the ground.
In Inaugural Presidential Address (9 Sep 1885) to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Aberdeen, Scotland, 'Relations of Science to the Public Weal', Report to the Fifty-Fifth Meeting of the British Association (1886), 11.
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As the brain of man is the speck of dust in the universe that thinks, so the leaves—the fern and the needled pine and the latticed frond and the seaweed ribbon—perceive the light in a fundamental and constructive sense. … Their leaves see the light, as my eyes can never do. … They impound its stellar energy, and with that force they make life out of the elements.
In Flowering Earth (1939), 4.
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At the bottom of every leaf-stem is a cradle, and in it is an infant germ; the winds will rock it, the birds will sing to it all summer long, but the next season it will unfold and go alone.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 7.
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Between men of different studies and professions, may be observed a constant reciprocation of reproaches. The collector of shells and stones derides the folly of him who pastes leaves and flowers upon paper, pleases himself with colours that are perceptibly fading, and amasses with care what cannot be preserved. The hunter of insects stands amazed that any man can waste his short time upon lifeless matter, while many tribes of animals yet want their history. Every one is inclined not only to promote his own study, but to exclude all others from regard, and having heated his imagination with some favourite pursuit, wonders that the rest of mankind are not seized with the same passion.
From 'Numb. 83, Tuesday, January 1, 1750', The Rambler (1756), Vol. 2, 150.
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Experiments on ornamental plants undertaken in previous years had proven that, as a rule, hybrids do not represent the form exactly intermediate between the parental strains. Although the intermediate form of some of the more striking traits, such as those relating to shape and size of leaves, pubescence of individual parts, and so forth, is indeed nearly always seen, in other cases one of the two parental traits is so preponderant that it is difficult or quite impossible, to detect the other in the hybrid. The same is true for Pisum hybrids. Each of the seven hybrid traits either resembles so closely one of the two parental traits that the other escapes detection, or is so similar to it that no certain distinction can be made. This is of great importance to the definition and classification of the forms in which the offspring of hybrids appear. In the following discussion those traits that pass into hybrid association entirely or almost entirely unchanged, thus themselves representing the traits of the hybrid, are termed dominating and those that become latent in the association, recessive. The word 'recessive' was chosen because the traits so designated recede or disappear entirely in the hybrids, but reappear unchanged in their progeny, as will be demonstrated later.
'Experiments on Plant Hybrids' (1865). In Curt Stern and Eva R. Sherwood (eds.), The Origin of Genetics: A Mendel Source Book (1966), 9.
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Force, force, everywhere force; we ourselves a mysterious force in the centre of that. “There is not a leaf rotting on the highway but has Force in it: how else could it rot?” [As used in his time, by the word force, Carlyle means energy.]
On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), 11.
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Fractal geometry will make you see everything differently. There is a danger in reading further. You risk the loss of your childhood vision of clouds, forests, flowers, galaxies, leaves, feathers, rocks, mountains, torrents of water, carpet, bricks, and much else besides. Never again will your interpretation of these things be quite the same.
Fractals Everywhere (2000), 1.
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Frost is but slender weeks away,
Tonight the sunset glow will stay,
Swing to the north and burn up higher
And Northern Lights wall earth with fire.
Nothing is lost yet, nothing broken,
And yet the cold blue word is spoken:
Say goodbye to the sun.
The days of love and leaves are done.
Apples by Ocean (1950), 10.
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I claim that many patterns of Nature are so irregular and fragmented, that, compared with Euclid—a term used in this work to denote all of standard geometry—Nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity … The existence of these patterns challenges us to study these forms that Euclid leaves aside as being “formless,” to investigate the morphology of the “amorphous.”
Cited as from Fractals: Form, Chance, and Dimension (1977), by J.W. Cannon, in review of The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1982) in The American Mathematical Monthly (Nov 1984), 91, No. 9, 594.
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I have seen oaks of many species in many kinds of exposure and soil, but those of Kentucky excel in grandeur all I had ever before beheld. They are broad and dense and bright green. In the leafy bowers and caves of their long branches dwell magnificent avenues of shade, and every tree seems to be blessed with a double portion of strong exulting life.
John Muir
Notebook entry, (2 Sep 1867). In A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), xix. This was the first day of Muir's journey, which he had began at Louisville, Kentucky.
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I observed on most collected stones the imprints of innumerable plant fragments which were so different from those which are growing in the Lyonnais, in the nearby provinces, and even in the rest of France, that I felt like collecting plants in a new world... The number of these leaves, the way they separated easily, and the great variety of plants whose imprints I saw, appeared to me just as many volumes of botany representing in the same quarry the oldest library of the world.
'Examen des causes des Impressions des Plantes marquees sur certaines Pierres des environs de Saint-Chaumont dans Ie Lionnais', Memoires de l' Academie Royale des Sciences (1718), 364. Trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi.
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I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Trees and Other Poems (1914), 19.
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I wish they would use English instead of Greek words. When I want to know why a leaf is green, they tell me it is coloured by “chlorophyll,” which at first sounds very instructive; but if they would only say plainly that a leaf is coloured green by a thing which is called “green leaf,” we should see more precisely how far we had got.
[The word “chlorophyll” is formed from the Greek words for “green leaf.”]
In The Queen of the Air: a Study of the Greek Myths of Cloud and Storm (1889), 51
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If we take a survey of our own world … our portion in the immense system of creation, we find every part of it, the earth, the waters, and the air that surround it, filled, and as it were crouded with life, down from the largest animals that we know of to the smallest insects the naked eye can behold, and from thence to others still smaller, and totally invisible without the assistance of the microscope. Every tree, every plant, every leaf, serves not only as an habitation, but as a world to some numerous race, till animal existence becomes so exceedingly refined, that the effluvia of a blade of grass would be food for thousands.
In The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology (27 Jan O.S. 1794), 60. The word “crouded” is as it appears in the original.
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Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.
In The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1893), Vol. 9, 458.
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It's funny how worms can turn leaves into silk.
But funnier far is the cow:
She changes a field of green grass into milk
And not a professor knows how.
In Dorothy Caruso, Enrico Caruso: His Life and Death (1963), 42. Written for Michael Pupin, who made a similar statement in prose: “Look at those animals and remember the greatest scientists in the world have never discovered how to make grass into milk.”
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Just as a tree constitutes a mass arranged in a definite manner, in which, in every single part, in the leaves as in the root, in the trunk as in the blossom, cells are discovered to be the ultimate elements, so is it also with the forms of animal life. Every animal presents itself as a sum of vital unities, every one of which manifests all the characteristics of life. The characteristics and unity of life cannot be limited to anyone particular spot in a highly developed organism (for example, to the brain of man), but are to be found only in the definite, constantly recurring structure, which every individual element displays. Hence it follows that the structural composition of a body of considerable size, a so-called individual, always represents a kind of social arrangement of parts, an arrangement of a social kind, in which a number of individual existences are mutually dependent, but in such a way, that every element has its own special action, and, even though it derive its stimulus to activity from other parts, yet alone effects the actual performance of its duties.
In Lecture I, 'Cells and the Cellular Theory' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Frank Chance (trans.) ,Cellular Pathology (1860), 13-14.
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Leaves die, but trees do not. They only undress.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 8.
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Nature will be reported. Everything in nature is engaged in writing its own history; the planet and the pebble are attended by their shadows, the rolling rock leaves its furrows on the mountain-side, the river its channel in the soil; the animal, its bones in the stratum; the fern and leaf, their modest epitaph in the coal.
In The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1847, 1872), Vol. 2, 141.
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Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
In The Schweitzer Album: A Portrait in Words and Pictures (1965), 39.
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Our atom of carbon enters the leaf, colliding with other innumerable (but here useless) molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light; in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphous, and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life. All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis: dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise we will be sicut Deus [like God], and we will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world.
Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans.), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. In this final section of his book, Levi imagines the life of a carbon atom. He calls this his first “literary dream”. It came to him at Auschwitz.
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Surgery is the red flower that blooms among the leaves and thorns that are the rest of medicine.
In Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), 51.
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The book of Nature is the book of Fate. She turns the gigantic pages, — leaf after leaf, — never re-turning one. One leaf she lays down, a floor of granite; then a thousand ages, and a bed of slate ; a thousand ages, and a measure of coal,; a thousand ages, and a layer of marl and mud : vegetable forms appear; her first misshapen animals, zoophyte, trilobium, fish ; then, saurians, — rude forms, in which she has only blocked her future statue, concealing under these unwieldy monsters the fine type of her coming king. The face of the planet cools and dries, the races meliorate, and man is born. But when a race has lived its term, it comes no more again.
From 'Fate', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume 6: The Conduct of Life (1860), 15.
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The coal on your grate gives out in decomposing to-day exactly the same amount of light and heat which was taken from the sunshine in its formation in the leaves and boughs of the antediluvian tree.
In 'Perpetual Forces', North American Review (1877), No. 125. Collected in Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Elliot Cabot (ed.), Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883), 60.
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The evidence from both approaches, statistical and experimental, does not appear sufficiently significant to me to warrant forsaking the pleasure of smoking. As a matter of fact, if the investigations had been pointed toward some material that I thoroughly dislike, such as parsnips, I still would not feel that evidence of the type presented constituted a reasonable excuse for eliminating the things from my diet. I will still continue to smoke, and if the tobacco companies cease manufacturing their product, I will revert to sweet fern and grape leaves.
Introduction in Eric Northrup, Science Looks at Smoking (1957), 34.
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The mighty steam-engine has its germ in the simple boiler in which the peasant prepares his food. The huge ship is but the expansion of the floating leaf freighted with its cargo of atmospheric dust; and the flying balloon is but the infant's soap-bubble lightly laden and overgrown. But the Telescope, even in its most elementary form, embodies a novel and gigantic idea, without an analogue in nature, and without a prototype in experience
Stories of Inventors and Discoverers in Science and the Useful Arts (1860), 145.
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The narrow sectarian cannot read astronomy with impunity. The creeds of his church shrivel like dried leaves at the door of the observatory.
In 'Progress of Culture', an address read to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, 18 July 1867. Collected in Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883), 474.
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The seed is the fetus, in other words, a true plant with its parts (that is, its leaves, of which there are usually two, its stalk or stem, and its bud) completely fashioned.
'On the Developmental Process', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 2, 845.
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There is no waste in functioning natural ecosystems. All organisms, dead or alive, are potential sources of food for other organisms. A caterpillar eats a leaf; a robin eats the caterpillar; a hawk eats the robin. When the plant, caterpillar, robin, and hawk die, they are in turn consumed by decomposers.
From Resource Conservation and Management (1990), 101.
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There is, I think, no more wonderful and illuminating spectacle than that of an osmotic growth,—a crude lump of brute inanimate matter germinating before our very eyes, putting forth bud and stem and root and branch and leaf and fruit, with no stimulus from germ or seed, without even the presence of organic matter. For these mineral growths are not mere crystallizations as many suppose … They imitate the forms, the colour, the texture, and even the microscopical structure of organic growth so closely as to deceive the very elect.
In the Preface of his translation of Stéphane Leduc, The Mechanism of Life (1911), vii-viii.
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This single Stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that neglected Corner, I once knew in a flourishing State in a Forest: It was full of Sap, full of Leaves, and full of Boughs: But now, in vain does the busy Art of Man pretend to vie with Nature, by tying that withered Bundle of Twigs to its sapless Trunk: It is at best but the Reverse of what it was; a Tree turned upside down, the Branches on the Earth, and the Root in the Air.
'A Meditation Upon a Broom-stick: According to The Style and Manner of the Honorable Robert Boyle's Meditations' (1703), collected in 'Thoughts On Various Subjects', The Works of Jonathan Swift (1746), Vol. 1, 55-56.
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We might expect that as we come close upon living nature the characters of our old records would grow legible and clear; but just when we begin to enter on the history of the physical changes going on before our eyes, and in which we ourselves bear a part, our chronicle seems to fail us: a leaf has been torn out from Nature’s book, and the succession of events is almost hidden from our eyes. [On gaps in the Pleistocene fossil record.]
As quoted by Hugh Miller in Lecture First, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 82-83.
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When air has been freshly and strongly tainted with putrefaction, so as to smell through the water, sprigs of mint have presently died, upon being put into it, their leaves turning black; but if they do not die presently, they thrive in a most surprizing manner. In no other circumstances have I ever seen vegetation so vigorous as in this kind of air, which is immediately fatal to animal life. Though these plants have been crouded in jars filled with this air, every leaf has been full of life; fresh shoots have branched out in various , and have grown much faster than other similiar plants, growing in the same exposure in common air.
This observation led me to conclude that plants, instead of affecting the air in the same manner with animal respiration, reverse the effects of breathing, and tend to keep the atmosphere sweet and wholesome, when it is become noxious, in consequence on animals living and breathing, or dying and putrefying in it.
In order to ascertain this, I took a quantity of air, made thoroughly noxious, by mice breathing and dying in it, and divided it into two parts; one of which I put into a phial immersed in water; and to the other (which was contained in a glass jar, standing in water) I put a sprig of mint. This was about the beginning of August 1771, and after eight or nine days, I found that a mouse lived perfectly well in that part of the air, in which the sprig of mint had grown, but died the moment it was put into the other part of the same original quantity of air; and which I had kept in the very same exposure, but without any plant growing in it.
'Observations on Different Kinds of Air', Philosophical Transactions (1772), 62, 193-4.
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YOUTH AND AGE
Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth.
In McClure's Magazine (Dec 1910), 36, No. 2, 168.
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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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