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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index L > Category: Living

Living Quotes (44 quotes)

And now, as a germination of planetary dimensions, comes the thinking layer which over its full extent develops and intertwines its fibres, not to confuse and neutralise them but to reinforce them in the living unity of a single tissue.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 244. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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As scientific men we have all, no doubt, felt that our fellow men have become more and more satisfying as fish have taken up their work which has been put often to base uses, which must lead to disaster. But what sin is to the moralist and crime to the jurist so to the scientific man is ignorance. On our plane, knowledge and ignorance are the immemorial adversaries. Scientific men can hardly escape the charge of ignorance with regard to the precise effect of the impact of modern science upon the mode of living of the people and upon their civilisation. For them, such a charge is worse than that of crime.
From Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1922), Nobel Prize in Chemistry, collected in Carl Gustaf Santesson (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1921-1922 (1923).
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Certainlie these things agree,
The Priest, the Lawyer, & Death all three:
Death takes both the weak and the strong.
The lawyer takes from both right and wrong,
And the priest from living and dead has his Fee.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1737).
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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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Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living.
In Notes Toward a Definition of Culture (1948, 2014), 26.
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Does it seem all but incredible to you that intelligence should travel for two thousand miles, along those slender copper lines, far down in the all but fathomless Atlantic; never before penetrated … save when some foundering vessel has plunged with her hapless company to the eternal silence and darkness of the abyss? Does it seem … but a miracle … that the thoughts of living men … should burn over the cold, green bones of men and women, whose hearts, once as warm as ours, burst as the eternal gulfs closed and roared over them centuries ago?
A tribute to the Atlantic telegraph cable by Edward Everett, one of the topics included in his inauguration address at the Washington University of St. Louis (22 Apr 1857). In Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions: Volume 3 (1870), 509-511.
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Engineering is a living branch of human activity and its frontiers are by no means exhausted.
From 'Igor Sikorsky the Aviation Pioneer Speaks', Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives, sikorskyarchives.com.
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Henry Thoreau quote Dews of fresh and living truth
photo credit: Inspired Images CC0 (source)
Even the facts of science may dust the mind by their dryness, unless they are … rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth. Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven.
Essay, first published as 'Life Without Principle', Atlantic Monthly (Oct 1863). Collected in Yankee in Canada, Etc., (1866) 267. Also excerpted in H.G.O. Blake (ed.), Thoreau's Thoughts: Selections From the Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1890, 2005), 102.
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Everything is made of atoms ... Everything that animals do, atoms do. ... There is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics.
In The Feynman Lectures (1963), 8.
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For what are the whales being killed? For a few hundred jobs and products that are not needed, since there are cheap substitutes. If this continues, it will be the end of living and the beginning of survival. The world is being totaled.
Attributed.
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Have you ever observed a humming-bird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers—a living prismatic gem that changes its colour with every change of position— … its exquisite form, its changeful splendour, its swift motions and intervals of aërial suspension, it is a creature of such fairy-like loveliness as to mock all description.
In Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest (1916),
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Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.
From On Liberty (1859), 107.
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I am accustomed, as a professional mathematician, to living in a sort of vacuum, surrounded by people who declare with an odd sort of pride that they are mathematically illiterate.
As quoted, without citation, in Peter G. Casazza 'A Mathematician’s Survival Guide', pdf document linked from his homepage at math.missouri.edu (undated, but 2011 or earlier, indicated by an “accessed on” date elsewhere.) Collected in Peter Casazza, Steven G. Krantz and Randi D. Ruden (eds.) I, Mathematician (2005), 31.
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I finally saw that the blood, forced by the action of the left ventricle into the arteries, was distributed to the body at large, and its several parts, in the same manner as it is sent through the lungs, impelled by the right ventricle into the pulmonary artery, and that it then passed through the veins and along the vena cava, and so round to the left ventricle in the manner already indicated. Which motion we may be allowed to call circular, in the same way as Aristotle says that the air and the rain emulate the circular motion of the superior bodies; for the moist earth, warmed by the sun, evaporates; the vapours drawn upwards are condensed, and descending in the form of rain, moisten the earth again; and by this arrangement are generations of living things produced.
From William Harvey and Robert Willis (trans.), The Works of William Harvey, M.D. (1847), 46.
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I trade both with the living and the dead for the enrichment of our native language.
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If a person sweeps streets for a living, he should sweep them as Michelangelo painted, as Beethoven composed music, as Shakespeare wrote his plays.
As quoted, without citation, in Patricia J. Raskin, Pathfinding: Seven Principles for Positive Living (2002), 102.
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If there is anything that can bind the heavenly mind of man to this dreary exile of our earthly home and can reconcile us with our fate so that one can enjoy living,—then it is verily the enjoyment of the mathematical sciences and astronomy.
In a letter to his son-in-law, Jakob Bartsch. Quoted in Norman Davidson, Sky Phenomena (2004), 131. Also see Johannes Kepler and Carola Baumgardt (ed.), Johannes Kepler: Life and Letters (1951), 190.
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In a certain sense I made a living for five or six years out of that one star [υ Sagittarii] and it is still a fascinating, not understood, star. It’s the first star in which you could clearly demonstrate an enormous difference in chemical composition from the sun. It had almost no hydrogen. It was made largely of helium, and had much too much nitrogen and neon. It’s still a mystery in many ways … But it was the first star ever analysed that had a different composition, and I started that area of spectroscopy in the late thirties.
Oral History Transcript of interview with Dr. Jesse Greenstein by Paul Wright (31 Jul 1974), on website of American Institute of Physics, about his research on strange shell stars. As quoted in J. B. Hearnshaw, The Analysis of Starlight: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Astronomical Spectroscopy (1986, 1990), 362. Hearnshaw footnoted that Berman earlier analysed the peculiar star R CrB (1935).
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In every living being there exists a capacity for endless diversity of form; each possesses the power of adapting its organization to the variations of the external world, and it is this power, called into activity by cosmic changes, which has enabled the simple zoophytes of the primitive world to climb to higher and higher stages of organization, and has brought endless variety into nature.
From Gottfried Reinold Treviranus, Biologie, oder Philosophie der lebenden Natur [Biology, or Philosophy of Animate Nature], quoted in Lecture 1, August Weismann (1904, 2nd German ed.) as translated in August Weismann, Margaret R. Thomson (trans.), The Evolution Theory, Vol 1., 18-19.
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Indeed, we need not look back half a century to times which many now living remember well, and see the wonderful advances in the sciences and arts which have been made within that period. Some of these have rendered the elements themselves subservient to the purposes of man, have harnessed them to the yoke of his labors and effected the great blessings of moderating his own, of accomplishing what was beyond his feeble force, and extending the comforts of life to a much enlarged circle, to those who had before known its necessaries only.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia' (Dec 1818), reprinted in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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It is a substance called Chlorophyll, the most wonderful substance in our world. A world without chlorophyll would be a world without the higher forms of life, and in such a world no life, save perhaps that of the lowest bacteria, could possibly endure. In fact, without this remarkable pigment the living world as at present constituted could not exist.
In Life: A Book for Elementary Students (1925, 2013), 28.
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It is for such inquiries the modern naturalist collects his materials; it is for this that he still wants to add to the apparently boundless treasures of our national museums, and will never rest satisfied as long as the native country, the geographical distribution, and the amount of variation of any living thing remains imperfectly known. He looks upon every species of animal and plant now living as the individual letters which go to make up one of the volumes of our earth’s history; and, as a few lost letters may make a sentence unintelligible, so the extinction of the numerous forms of life which the progress of cultivation invariably entails will necessarily render obscure this invaluable record of the past. It is, therefore, an important object, which governments and scientific institutions should immediately take steps to secure, that in all tropical countries colonised by Europeans the most perfect collections possible in every branch of natural history should be made and deposited in national museums, where they may be available for study and interpretation. If this is not done, future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations. They will charge us with having culpably allowed the destruction of some of those records of Creation which we had it in our power to preserve; and while professing to regard every living thing as the direct handiwork and best evidence of a Creator, yet, with a strange inconsistency, seeing many of them perish irrecoverably from the face of the earth, uncared for and unknown.
In 'On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1863), 33, 234.
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It is very difficult to say nowadays where the suburbs of London come to an end and where the country begins. The railways, instead of enabling Londoners to live in the country have turned the countryside into a city.
In The Three Clerks (1857, 1904), 30-31.
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Most American citizens think that life without the telephone is scarcely worth living. The American public telephone system is therefore enormous. Moreover the system belongs to an organization, the Bell companies, which can both control it and make the equipment needed. There is no surer way of getting efficient functional design than having equipment designed by an organization which is going to have to use it. Humans who would have to live with their own mistakes tend to think twice and to make fewer mistakes.
In 'Musical Acoustics Today', New Scientist (1 Nov 1962), 16 No. 311, 256.
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No! What we need are not prohibitory marriage laws, but a reformed society, an educated public opinion which will teach individual duty in these matters. And it is to the women of the future that I look for the needed reformation. Educate and train women so that they are rendered independent of marriage as a means of gaining a home and a living, and you will bring about natural selection in marriage, which will operate most beneficially upon humanity. When all women are placed in a position that they are independent of marriage, I am inclined to think that large numbers will elect to remain unmarried—in some cases, for life, in others, until they encounter the man of their ideal. I want to see women the selective agents in marriage; as things are, they have practically little choice. The only basis for marriage should be a disinterested love. I believe that the unfit will be gradually eliminated from the race, and human progress secured, by giving to the pure instincts of women the selective power in marriage. You can never have that so long as women are driven to marry for a livelihood.
In 'Heredity and Pre-Natal Influences. An Interview With Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace', Humanitarian (1894), 4, 87.
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Psychogenesis has led to man. Now it effaces itself, relieved or absorbed by another and a higher function—the engendering and subsequent development of the mind, in one word noogenesis. When for the first time in a living creature instinct perceived itself in its own mirror, the whole world took a pace forward.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 181. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Surely the mitochondrion that first entered another cell was not thinking about the future benefits of cooperation and integration; it was merely trying to make its own living in a tough Darwinian world
Wonderful Life: the Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1990), 310.
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Talent gives out what it has taken in ; genius, what has risen from its unsounded wells of living thought.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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The essential character of a species in biology is, that it is a group of living organisms, separated from all other such groups by a set of distinctive characters, having relations to the environment not identical with those of any other group of organisms, and having the power of continuously reproducing its like. Genera are merely assemblages of a number of these species which have a closer resemblance to each other in certain important and often prominent characters than they have to any other species.
In 'The Method of Organic Evolution', Fortnightly Review (1895), 57, 441.
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The instinct of brutes and insects can be the effect of nothing else than the wisdom and skill of a powerful ever-living agent.
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 379.
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The living will envy the dead.
[Speaking of nuclear war.]
Attributed. No verification of any form of this quote has been found in the speeches or writings of Khrushchev. An Associated Press article (4 Aug 1979) about hearings on the Salt II referred to senators quoting Khrshchev in these words. This form of the quote has since been widely circulated, for example, in the Washington Post (20 Mar 1981), A23. Senator Frank Church, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in a hearing (11 July 1979) attributed Khrushchev as saying “the survivors would envy the dead”. The senator repeated this remark at another hearing five days later. (Recorded in The Salt II Treaty, hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 96th Congress (1979), 1st session, Pt. 1, 333, and Pt. 2, 27). The quote about &;dquo;survicors” was also given in Ed Zuckerman, 'Hiding from the Bomb—Again', Harper’s Magazine (Aug 1979), 36. A copy of that issue, in circulation before its cover date, was in the Library of Congress, stamped 12 Jul 1979. In Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), 239.
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The most important distinction between the two qualities [talent and genius] is this: one, in conception, follows mechanical processes; the other, vital. Talent feebly conceives objects with the senses and understanding; genius, fusing all its powers together in the alembic of an impassioned imagination, clutches every thing in the concrete, conceives objects as living realities, gives body to spiritual abstractions, and spirit to bodily appearances, and like
“A gate of steel
Fronting the sun, receives and renders back
His figure and his heat!”
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203. The quotation at the end is from Wiliam Shakespeare, Tr. & Cress. iii, 3.
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The significant chemicals of living tissue are rickety and unstable, which is exactly what is needed for life.
As shown, without citation, in Randy Moore, Writing to Learn Science (1997), 226.
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The special vital forces that distinguish living things from the nonliving are emergent, holistic properties, not properties of their physiochemical components. Nor can they be explained in mechanistic terms.
Interview in 'Vital Holistic Phenomena and Properties of Living', The World & I (1986), 1, No. 5-6, 265.
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Through science or an artform—through creativity—the individual genius seems to live at the exhilarating edge of what it means to have our human mind.
In Fire in the Crucible: Understanding the Process of Creative Genius (2002), Prologue, xiii.
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Throughout all of human history, we have taken, taken, taken, from the natural world. All creatures, however large or small, do this as a way of making a living. Humans, though, have gone way beyond what elephants have done to the planet or what birds or what any fish in the sea is capable of doing.
In interview with Pierce Nahigyan, 'Dr. Sylvia Earle: “We’re Literally Destroying The Systems That Keep Us Alive”', Huffington Post (6 Jan 2016).
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To the Victorian scientist, science was the pursuit of truth about Nature. In imagination, each new truth discovered could be ticked off on a list kept perhaps in a celestial planning office, so reducing by one the total number of truths to be discovered. But the practising scientist now knows that he is dealing with a living, growing thing. His task is never done.
Opening remark in article 'Musical Acoustics Today', New Scientist (1 Nov 1962), 16 No. 311, 256.
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To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types replacing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the living world is constituted by conscious clothes in flesh and bone.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 151. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Undeveloped though the science [of chemistry] is, it already has great power to bring benefits. Those accruing to physical welfare are readily recognized, as in providing cures, improving the materials needed for everyday living, moving to ameliorate the harm which mankind by its sheer numbers does to the environment, to say nothing of that which even today attends industrial development. And as we continue to improve our understanding of the basic science on which applications increasingly depend, material benefits of this and other kinds are secured for the future.
Speech at the Nobel Banquet (10 Dec 1983) for his Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes (1984), 43.
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We are living in an age of awesome agricultural enterprise that needs to be interpreted. We find our simple faith in science dominated by the Religion of PhDeism under the reign of Data; so narrow in people and often so meaningless in context as to be worthless to the scientific farmer.
Letter to Joshua Lederberg (19 Apr 1970), Joshua Lederberg papers, National Library of Medicine (online). Hildebrand was a response to a Lederberg's letter published in the Washington Post (18 Apr 1970) about 'Ecology Has All Requisites of an Authentic Religion.' Note that Sam Murchid claimed this term PhDeism in another context in his diaries (as seen in diaries of 1964 and others).
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We do not ask what hope of gain makes a little bird warble, since we know that it takes delight in singing because it is for that very singing that the bird was made, so there is no need to ask why the human mind undertakes such toil in seeking out these secrets of the heavens. ... And just as other animals, and the human body, are sustained by food and drink, so the very spirit of Man, which is something distinct from Man, is nourished, is increased, and in a sense grows up on this diet of knowledge, and is more like the dead than the living if it is touched by no desire for these things.
Mysterium Cosmographicum. Translated by A. M. Duncan in The Secret of the Universe (1981), 55.
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We live in the sky, not under it.
'Climbing in Search of the Sky', Fortnightly Review, No. 37 (1 Jan 1870), 13.
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[For] men to whom nothing seems great but reason ... nature ... is a cosmos, so admirable, that to penetrate to its ways seems to them the only thing that makes life worth living. These are the men whom we see possessed by a passion to learn ... Those are the natural scientific men; and they are the only men that have any real success in scientific research.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 19.
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[On common water.] Its substance reaches everywhere; it touches the past and prepares the future; it moves under the poles and wanders thinly in the heights of air. It can assume forms of exquisite perfection in a snowflake, or strip the living to a single shining bone cast up by the sea.
From essay 'The Flow of the River', collected in The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature (1957, 1959), 16.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
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Charles Babbage
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Euclid
Ralph Emerson
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- 80 -
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Bible
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- 70 -
Samuel Morse
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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