Literature Quotes (52 quotes)
As an undergraduate who believed himself destined to be a mathematician I happened upon “Man and Superman” and as I read it at a library table I felt like Saul of Tarsus when the light broke. “If literature,” I said to myself, “can be like this then literature is the stuff for me.” And to this day I never see a differential equation written out without breathing a prayer of thanks.
Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change, windows on the world, “lighthouses,” (as a poet said), “erected in the sea of time.”
Deductivism in mathematical literature and inductivism in scientific papers are simply the postures we choose to be seen in when the curtain goes up and the public sees us. The theatrical illusion is shattered if we ask what goes on behind the scenes. In real life discovery and justification are almost always different processes.
Essentially only one thing in life interests us: our psychical constitution, the mechanism of which was and is wrapped in darkness. All human resources, art, religion, literature, philosophy and historical sciences, all of them join in bringing lights in this darkness. But man has still another powerful resource: natural science with its strictly objective methods. This science, as we all know, is making huge progress every day. The facts and considerations which I have placed before you at the end of my lecture are one out of numerous attempts to employ a consistent, purely scientific method of thinking in the study of the mechanism of the highest manifestations of life in the dog, the representative of the animal kingdom that is man's best friend.
Everything is becoming science fiction; From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century
Facts are not science—as the dictionary is not literature.
Greek mathematics is the real thing. The Greeks first spoke a language which modern mathematicians can understand… So Greek mathematics is ‘permanent’, more permanent even than Greek literature.
I am the enfant terrible of literature and science. If I cannot, and I know I cannot, get the literary and scientific bigwigs to give me a shilling, I can, and I know I can, heave bricks into the middle of them.
I do not like to see all the fine boys turning to the study of law, instead of to the study of science or technology. … Japan wants no more lawyers now; and I think the professions of literature and of teaching give small promise. What Japan needs are scientific men; and she will need more and more of them every year.
I feel more confident and more satisfied when I reflect that I have two professions and not one. Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress. When I get tired of one I spend the night with the other. Though it's disorderly it's not so dull, and besides, neither really loses anything, through my infidelity.
I grew up to be indifferent to the distinction between literature and science, which in my teens were simply two languages for experience that I learned together.
I started studying law, but this I could stand just for one semester. I couldn't stand more. Then I studied languages and literature for two years. After two years I passed an examination with the result I have a teaching certificate for Latin and Hungarian for the lower classes of the gymnasium, for kids from 10 to 14. I never made use of this teaching certificate. And then I came to philosophy, physics, and mathematics. In fact, I came to mathematics indirectly. I was really more interested in physics and philosophy and thought about those. It is a little shortened but not quite wrong to say: I thought I am not good enough for physics and I am too good for philosophy. Mathematics is in between.
If I may paraphrase Hobbes's well-known aphorism, I would say that 'books are the money of Literature, but only the counters of Science.'
In 1944 Erwin Schroedinger, stimulated intellectually by Max Delbruck, published a little book called What is life? It was an inspiration to the first of the molecular biologists, and has been, along with Delbruck himself, credited for directing the research during the next decade that solved the mystery of how 'like begat like.' Max was awarded this Prize in 1969, and rejoicing in it, he also lamented that the work for which he was honored before all the peoples of the world was not something which he felt he could share with more than a handful. Samuel Beckett's contributions to literature, being honored at the same time, seemed to Max somehow universally accessible to anyone. But not his. In his lecture here Max imagined his imprisonment in an ivory tower of science.
In fact a favourite problem of [Tyndall] is—Given the molecular forces in a mutton chop, deduce Hamlet or Faust therefrom. He is confident that the Physics of the Future will solve this easily.
In my work I now have the comfortable feeling that I am so to speak on my own ground and territory and almost certainly not competing in an anxious race and that I shall not suddenly read in the literature that someone else had done it all long ago. It is really at this point that the pleasure of research begins, when one is, so to speak, alone with nature and no longer worries about human opinions, views and demands. To put it in a way that is more learned than clear: the philological aspect drops out and only the philosophical remains.
In science, address the few; in literature, the many. In science, the few must dictate opinion to the many; in literature, the many, sooner or later, force their judgement on the few. But the few and the many are not necessarily the few and the many of the passing time: for discoverers in science have not un-often, in their own day, had the few against them; and writers the most permanently popular not unfrequently found, in their own day, a frigid reception from the many. By the few, I mean those who must ever remain the few, from whose dieta we, the multitude, take fame upon trust; by the many, I mean those who constitute the multitude in the long-run. We take the fame of a Harvey or a Newton upon trust, from the verdict of the few in successive generations; but the few could never persuade us to take poets and novelists on trust. We, the many, judge for ourselves of Shakespeare and Cervantes.
In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature, the oldest.
In the 1920s, there was a dinner at which the physicist Robert W. Wood was asked to respond to a toast … “To physics and metaphysics.” Now by metaphysics was meant something like philosophy—truths that you could get to just by thinking about them. Wood took a second, glanced about him, and answered along these lines: The physicist has an idea, he said. The more he thinks it through, the more sense it makes to him. He goes to the scientific literature, and the more he reads, the more promising the idea seems. Thus prepared, he devises an experiment to test the idea. The experiment is painstaking. Many possibilities are eliminated or taken into account; the accuracy of the measurement is refined. At the end of all this work, the experiment is completed and … the idea is shown to be worthless. The physicist then discards the idea, frees his mind (as I was saying a moment ago) from the clutter of error, and moves on to something else. The difference between physics and metaphysics, Wood concluded, is that the metaphysicist has no laboratory.
In the twenties the late Dr. Glenn Frank, an eminent social scientist, developed a new statement of the scientific code, which has been referred to as the “Five Fingers of the Scientific Method.” It may be outlined as follows: find the facts; filter the facts; focus the facts; face the facts; follow the facts. The facts or truths are found by experimentation; the motivation is material. The facts are filtered by research into the literature; the motivation is material. The facts are focused by the publication of results; again the motivation is material. Thus the first three-fifths of the scientific method have a material motivation. It is about time scientists acknowledge that there is more to the scientific convention than the material aspect. Returning to the fourth and fifth fingers of Dr. Frank's conception of the scientific method, the facts should be faced by the proper interpretation of them for society. In other words, a scientist must assume social responsibility for his discoveries, which means that he must have a moral motivation. Finally, in the fifth definition of the scientific method, the facts are to be followed by their proper application to everyday life in society, which means moral motivation through responsibility to society.
It is only by introducing the young to great literature, drama and music, and to the excitement of great science that we open to them the possibilities that lie within the human spirit—enable them to see visions and dream dreams.
It might interest you that when we made the experiments that we did not read the literature well enough—and you know how that happens. On the other hand, one would think that other people would have told us about it. For instance, we had a colloquium at the time in Berlin at which all the important papers were discussed. Nobody discussed Bohr’s paper. Why not? The reason is that fifty years ago one was so convinced that nobody would, with the state of knowledge we had at that time, understand spectral line emission, so that if somebody published a paper about it, one assumed “probably it is not right.” So we did not know it.
Literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.
Literature is, in fact, the fruit of leisure.
Literature stands related to Man as Science stands to Nature; it is his history.
Medicine is essentially a learned profession. Its literature is ancient, and connects it with the most learned periods of antiquity; and its terminology continues to be Greek or Latin. You cannot name a part of the body, and scarcely a disease, without the use of a classical term. Every structure bears upon it the impress of learning, and is a silent appeal to the student to cultivate an acquaintance with the sources from which the nomenclature of his profession is derived.
Now, we propose in the first place to show, that this law of organic progress is the law of all progress. Whether it be in the development of the Earth, in the development in Life upon its surface, in the development of Society, of Government, of Manufactures, of Commerce, of Language, Literature, Science, Art, this same evolution of the simple into the complex, through a process of continuous differentiation, holds throughout. From the earliest traceable cosmical changes down to the latest results of civilization, we shall find that the transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous is that in which Progress essentially consists.
On graduating from school, a studious young man who would withstand the tedium and monotony of his duties has no choice but to lose himself in some branch of science or literature completely irrelevant to his assignment.
One day at Fenner's (the university cricket ground at Cambridge), just before the last war, G. H. Hardy and I were talking about Einstein. Hardy had met him several times, and I had recently returned from visiting him. Hardy was saying that in his lifetime there had only been two men in the world, in all the fields of human achievement, science, literature, politics, anything you like, who qualified for the Bradman class. For those not familiar with cricket, or with Hardy's personal idiom, I ought to mention that “the Bradman class” denoted the highest kind of excellence: it would include Shakespeare, Tolstoi, Newton, Archimedes, and maybe a dozen others. Well, said Hardy, there had only been two additions in his lifetime. One was Lenin and the other Einstein.
People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. … In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written “to be continued in our next.”
Science and engineering students presumably are left to learn about their literature in the same way they learn about sex.
Science and literature are not two things, but two sides of one thing.
Scientific practice is above all a story-telling practice. ... Biology is inherently historical, and its form of discourse is inherently narrative. ... Biology as a way of knowing the world is kin to Romantic literature, with its discourse about organic form and function. Biology is the fiction appropriate to objects called organisms; biology fashions the facts “discovered” about organic beings.
Since my mother is the type that's called schizophrenogenic in the literature—she's the one who makes crazy people, crazy children—I was awfully curious to find out why I didn't go insane.
Some years ago John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in an essay on his efforts at writing a history of economics: ‘As one approaches the present, one is filled with a sense of hopelessness; in a year and possibly even a month, there is now more economic comment in the supposedly serious literature than survives from the whole of the thousand years commonly denominated as the Middle Ages ... anyone who claims to be familiar with it all is a confessing liar.’ I believe that all physicists would subscribe to the same sentiments regarding their own professional literature. I do at any rate.
Take the sum of human achievement in action, in science, in art, in literature—subtract the work of the men above forty, and while we should miss great treasures, even priceless treasures, we would practically be where we are today. … The effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of twenty-five and forty.
The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history or fiction. It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science.
The case I shall find evidence for is that when literature arrives, it expels science.
The discovery of the famous original [Rosetta Stone] enabled Napoleon’s experts to begin the reading of Egypt’s ancient literature. In like manner the seismologists, using the difficult but manageable Greek of modern physics, are beginning the task of making earthquakes tell the nature of the earth’s interior and translating into significant speech the hieroglyphics written by the seismograph.
The function of Latin literature is its expression of Rome. When to England and France your imagination can add Rome in the background, you have laid firm the foundations of culture. The understanding of Rome leads back to the Mediterranean civilisation of which Rome was the last phase, and it automatically exhibits the geography of Europe, and the functions of seas and rivers and mountains and plains. The merit of this study in the education of youth is its concreteness, its inspiration to action, and the uniform greatness of persons, in their characters and their staging. Their aims were great, their virtues were great, and their vices were great. They had the saving merit of sinning with cart ropes.
The literature of science is filled with answers found when the question propounded had an entirely different direction and end.
The literature [Nobel] laureate of this year has said that an author can do anything as long as his readers believe him.
A scientist cannot do anything that is not checked and rechecked by scientists of this network before it is accepted.
A scientist cannot do anything that is not checked and rechecked by scientists of this network before it is accepted.
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court restricting obscenity in books, magazines and movies, requires that we re-examine our own journals for lewd contents. The recent chemical literature provides many examples of words and concepts whose double meaning and thinly veiled overtones are an affront to all clean chemists. What must a layman think of ‘coupling constants’, ‘tickling techniques’, or indeed ‘increased overlap’? The bounds of propriety are surely exceeded when heterocyclic chemists discuss homoenolization.
The sense for style … is an aesthetic sense, based on admiration for the direct attainment of a foreseen end, simply and without waste. Style in art, style in literature, style in science, style in logic, style in practical execution have fundamentally the same aesthetic qualities, namely, attainment and restraint. The love of a subject in itself and for itself, where it is not the sleepy pleasure of pacing a mental quarter-deck, is the love of style as manifested in that study. Here we are brought back to the position from which we started, the utility of education. Style, in its finest sense, is the last acquirement of the educated mind; it is also the most useful. It pervades the whole being. The administrator with a sense for style hates waste; the engineer with a sense for style economises his material; the artisan with a sense for style prefers good work. Style is the ultimate morality of the mind.
The words are strung together, with their own special grammar—the laws of quantum theory—to form sentences, which are molecules. Soon we have books, entire libraries, made out of molecular “sentences.” The universe is like a library in which the words are atoms. Just look at what has been written with these hundred words! Our own bodies are books in that library, specified by the organization of molecules—but the universe and literature are organizations of identical, interchangeable objects; they are information systems.
There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness.
There is only one subject matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. Instead of this single unity, we offer children—Algebra, from which nothing follows; Geometry, from which nothing follows; Science, from which nothing follows; History, from which nothing follows; a Couple of Languages, never mastered; and lastly, most dreary of all, Literature, represented by plays of Shakespeare, with philological notes and short analyses of plot and character to be in substance committed to memory.
Very little of Roman literature will find its way into the kingdom of heaven, when the events of this world will have lost their importance. The languages of heaven will be Chinese, Greek, French, German, Italian, and English, and the blessed Saints will dwell with delight on these golden expressions of eternal life. They will be wearied with the moral fervour of Hebrew literature in its battle with a vanished evil, and with Roman authors who have mistaken the Forum for the footstool of the living God.
When science, art, literature, and philosophy are simply the manifestation of personality, they are on a level where glorious and dazzling achievements are possible, which can make a man’s name live for thousands of years. But above this level, far above, separated by an abyss, is the level where the highest things are achieved. These things are essentially anonymous.
Whether we like it or not, quantification in history is here to stay for reasons which the quantifiers themselves might not actively approve. We are becoming a numerate society: almost instinctively there seems now to be a greater degree of truth in evidence expressed numerically than in any literary evidence, no matter how shaky the statistical evidence, or acute the observing eye.
[Lord of the Rings] is … a piece of literature, … and not real history. … Its economics, science, artefacts, religion, and philosophy are defective, or at least sketchy.
[Before college] I was almost more interested in literature and history than in the exact sciences; I was equally good in all subjects including the classical languages.