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

Luck Quotes (28 quotes)

...great difficulties are felt at first and these cannot be overcome except by starting from experiments .. and then be conceiving certain hypotheses ... But even so, very much hard work remains to be done and one needs not only great perspicacity but often a degree of good fortune.
Letter to Tschirnhaus (1687). Quoted in Archana Srinivasan, Great Inventors (2007), 37-38.
Science quotes on:  |  Difficulty (146)  |  Experiment (602)  |  Hypothesis (252)  |  Scientific Method (166)

Dilbert: Maybe I’m unlucky in love because I’m so knowledgeable about science that I intimidate people. Their intimidation becomes low self-esteem, then they reject me to protect their egos.
Dogbert: Occam’s Razor.
Dilbert: What is “Occam's Razor”?
Dogbert: A guy named Occam had a rule about the world. Basically he said that when there are multiple explanations for something the simplest explanation is usually correct. The simplest explanation for your poor love life is that you’re immensely unattractive.
Dilbert: Maybe Occam had another rule that specifically exempted this situation, but his house burned down with all his notes. Then he forgot.
Dogbert: Occam’s Razor.
Dilbert: I’m an idiot.
Dogbert: I don’t think we can rule it out at this point.
Dilbert comic strip (11 Jul 1993).
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A good deal of my research in physics has consisted in not setting out to solve some particular problem, but simply examining mathematical quantities of a kind that physicists use and trying to fit them together in an interesting way, regardless of any application that the work may have. It is simply a search for pretty mathematics. It may turn out later to have an application. Then one has good luck. At age 78.
International Journal of Theoretical Physics (1982), 21, 603. In A. Pais, 'Playing With Equations, the Dirac Way'. Behram N. Kursunoglu (Ed.) and Eugene Paul Wigner (Ed.), Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac: Reminiscences about a Great Physicist (1990), 110.
Science quotes on:  |  Equation (96)  |  Mathematics (1205)  |  Physics (348)  |  Problem (497)  |  Research (590)

A lucky physician is better than a learned one.
In Dwight Edwards Marvin, The Antiquity of Proverbs (1922), 238.
Science quotes on:  |  Better (192)  |  Learning (177)  |  Physician (243)

A visitor to Niels Bohr's country cottage, noticing a horseshoe hanging on the wall, teasing the eminent scientist about this ancient superstition. “Can it be true that you, of all people, believe it will bring you luck?'
'Of course not,' replied Bohr, 'but I understand it brings you luck whether you believe it or not.'”
As described in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 68.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (504)  |  Horseshoe (2)  |  Superstition (57)  |  Understanding (325)

Everything in nature goes by law, and not by luck.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 94:25.
Science quotes on:  |  Law (515)  |  Nature (1223)

Further, the same Arguments which explode the Notion of Luck, may, on the other side, be useful in some Cases to establish a due comparison between Chance and Design: We may imagine Chance and Design to be, as it were, in Competition with each other, for the production of some sorts of Events, and many calculate what Probability there is, that those Events should be rather be owing to the one than to the other.
Doctrine of Chances (1718), Preface, v.
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Good luck is science not yet classified; just as the supernatural is the natural not yet understood.
In Elbert Hubbard (ed. and publ.), The Philistine (Dec 1907), 26, No. 1, 10.
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I am only a physicist with nothing material to show for my labours. I have never even seen the ionosphere, although I have worked on the subject for thirty years. That does show how lucky people can be. If there had been no ionosphere I would not have been standing here this morning.
Response to receiving an honour from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. As quoted in New Scientist (22 Nov 1956), 33.
Science quotes on:  |  Labour (47)  |  Material (156)  |  Nothing (395)  |  Physicist (161)  |  Show (93)

I find I'm luckier when I work harder.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (150)  |  Work (635)

I have been able to solve a few problems of mathematical physics on which the greatest mathematicians since Euler have struggled in vain … But the pride I might have held in my conclusions was perceptibly lessened by the fact that I knew that the solution of these problems had almost always come to me as the gradual generalization of favorable examples, by a series of fortunate conjectures, after many errors. I am fain to compare myself with a wanderer on the mountains who, not knowing the path, climbs slowly and painfully upwards and often has to retrace his steps because he can go no further—then, whether by taking thought or from luck, discovers a new track that leads him on a little till at length when he reaches the summit he finds to his shame that there is a royal road by which he might have ascended, had he only the wits to find the right approach to it. In my works, I naturally said nothing about my mistake to the reader, but only described the made track by which he may now reach the same heights without difficulty.
(1891) As quoted in translation in Leo Koenigsberger and Frances A. Welby (trans.), Hermann von Helmholtz (1906), 180-181.
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I have been trying to point out that in our lives chance may have an astonishing influence and, if I may offer advice to the young laboratory worker, it would be this—never neglect an extraordinary appearance or happening. It may be—usually is, in fact—a false alarm that leads to nothing, but may on the other hand be the clue provided by fate to lead you to some important advance.
Lecture at Harvard University. Quoted in Joseph Sambrook, David W. Russell, Molecular Cloning (2001), Vol. 1, 153.
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (680)  |  Research (590)

I never found it easy. People say I was lucky twice but I resent that. We stuck with [cimetidine] for four years with no progress until we eventually succeeded. It was not luck, it was bloody hard work.
[Rejecting that drug discovery was easier in the past.]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (680)  |  Drug (43)  |  Easy (102)  |  Hard Work (8)  |  Progress (368)  |  Success (250)

I tell [medical students] that they are the luckiest persons on earth to be in medical school, and to forget all this worry about H.M.O.’s and keep your eye on helping the patient. It’s the best time ever to be a doctor because you can heal and treat conditions that were untreatable even a couple of years ago.
From Cornelia Dean, 'A Conversation with Joseph E. Murray', New York Times (25 Sep 2001), F5.
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If my efforts have led to greater success than usual, this is due, I believe, to the fact that during my wanderings in the field of medicine, I have strayed onto paths where the gold was still lying by the wayside. It takes a little luck to be able to distinguish gold from dross, but that is all.
'Robert Koch', Journal of Outdoor Life (1908), 5, 164-9.
Science quotes on:  |  Medicine (344)  |  Success (250)

Medicine in its present state is, it seems to me, by now completely discovered, insofar as it teaches in each instance the particular details and the correct measures. For anyone who has an understanding of medicine in this way depends very little upon good luck, but is able to do good with or without luck. For the whole of medicine has been established, and the excellent principles discovered in it clearly have very little need of good luck.
Places in Man, in Hippocrates, trans. P. Potter (1995), Vol. 8, 93.
Science quotes on:  |  Medicine (344)

One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.
In Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, Statistics and Truth (1997), 31.
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (680)

Organization is simply the means by which the acts of ordinary men can be made to add up to extraordinary results. To this idea of progress that does not wait on some lucky break, some chance discovery, or some rare stroke of genius, but instead is achieved through systematic, cumulative effort, the engineer has contributed brilliantly.
In A Professional Guide for Young Engineers (1949, 1967), 36.
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Scientific research was much like prospecting: you went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and instruments, but in the ened your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work.
The Andromeda Strain (1969)
Science quotes on:  |  Research (590)

Statistically the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you would think the mere fact of existence would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise. We are alive against the stupendous odds of genetics, infinitely outnumbered by all the alternates who might, except for luck, be in our places.
In 'On Probability and Possibility', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 165.
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Success in research needs four Gs: Glück, Geduld, Geschick und Geld. Luck, patience, skill and money.
Quoted in M. Perutz, 'Rita and the Four Gs', Nature, 1988, 332, 791.
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The dice of God are always loaded.
[A fragment from a lost play of Sophocles, “Ever the dice of Zeus fall well.”]
A colloquial translation, presumably ironic, from the original Greek phrase (preceding it), as given in 'Compensation', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 102. The more literal translation of the original Greek is discussed in the added Notes section by Joseph Slater in The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: First Series, Essays (1979), 234. Fragment translation from Paul Shorey, 'The Influence of Classics on American Literature', The Chautauquan (1906), 43, 129.
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The unlucky doctor treats the head of a disease; the lucky doctor its tail.
Chinese proverb.
Science quotes on:  |  Disease (275)  |  Physician (243)

To be a scholar of mathematics you must be born with talent, insight, concentration, taste, luck, drive and the ability to visualize and guess.
In I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography (1985), 400.
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True, no one can absolutely control the direction of his life; but each person can certainly influence it. The armchair explorers who complain that they never got their “one lucky shot” were never really infected by the incurable drive to explore. Those who have the bug—go.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 32.
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What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of having a patient but restless mind, of sacrificing one’s ease or vanity, or uniting a love of detail to foresight, and of passing through hard times bravely [and cheerfully].
In The Wish of His Life (1878), Vol. 1, 25. The ending "and cheerfully" is not part of the original text, though it is seen added in Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors, Both Ancient and Modern (1891), 320. The original text ends “whistling the air of ‘Marlbrough’.”
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[About any invention] (1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal; (2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it; (3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
In News Review section, Sunday Times (29 Aug 1999).
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[To one of his students he saw in a school dramatic production:] I’ve always been proud that Course X leaves little time for outside activities. You have proved me wrong so far and I’m glad you have. But don’t push your luck too far!
As quoted in A Dollar to a Doughnut: The Doc Lewis Story (1953), 49, which was a privately printed collection of anecdotes published by former students upon his retirement. Note that “X” was the actual designation of his chemical engineering course at MIT. The boy was a Course X student who had played the leading “lady” in the previous MIT Tech Show. The anecdote continues: “A word to the wise was sufficient—the leading lady that year was not from Course X.”
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (135)  |  Pride (64)  |  Time (595)

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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