Celebrating 18 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “A change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and takes place along the straight line in which that force is impressed.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index O > Category: Obscure

Obscure Quotes (31 quotes)

A disease which new and obscure to you, Doctor, will be known only after death; and even then not without an autopsy will you examine it with exacting pains. But rare are those among the extremely busy clinicians who are willing or capable of doing this correctly.
In Atrocis, nee Descipti Prius, Morbi Historia as translated in Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (1944), 43, 217.
Science quotes on:  |  Autopsy (2)  |  Busy (28)  |  Capable (49)  |  Clinician (2)  |  Correct (83)  |  Death (302)  |  Disease (275)  |  Doctor (101)  |  Exacting (2)  |  Examine (44)  |  Known (16)  |  New (483)  |  Pain (100)  |  Rare (47)  |  Willing (8)

All things are hidden, obscure and debatable if the cause of the phenomena is unknown, but everything is clear if its cause be known.
In Louis Pasteur and Harold Clarence Ernst (trans), The Germ Theory and Its Application to Medicine and Surgery, Chap. 2. Reprinted in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics: Scientific Papers: Physiology, Medicine, Surgery, Geology (1897, 1910), Vol. 38, 384. Cited as read before French Academy of Science (20 Apr 1878), published in Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences, 84, 1037-43.
Science quotes on:  |  Cause (283)  |  Clear (97)  |  Debate (24)  |  Everything (180)  |  Hide (53)  |  Know (547)  |  Phenomenon (276)  |  Unknown (105)

At the bidding of a Peter the Hermit many millions of men swarmed to the East; the words of an hallucinated person … have created the force necessary to triumph over the Graeco-Roman world; an obscure monk like Luther set Europe ablaze and bathed in blood. The voice of a Galileo or a Newton will never have the least echo among the masses. The inventors of genius transform a civilization. The fanatics and the hallucinated create history.
From Les Premières Civilisations (1889), 171. English in The Psychology of Peoples (1898), Book 1, Chap. 1, 204, tweaked by Webmaster. Original French text: “A la voix d'un Pierre l'Ermite, plusieurs millions d'hommes se sont précipités sur l'Orient; les paroles d'un halluciné … ont créé la force nécessaire pour triompher du vieux monde gréco-romain; un moine obscur, comme Luther, a mis l'Europe à feu et à sang. Ce n’est pas parmi les foules que la voix d’un Galilée ou d’un Newton aura jamais le plus faible écho. Les inventeurs de génie transforment une civilisation. Les fanatiques et les hallucinés créent l’histoire.”
Science quotes on:  |  Bathe (3)  |  Bidding (2)  |  Blood (104)  |  Capable (49)  |  Civilization (174)  |  Create (150)  |  East (18)  |  Echo (9)  |  Enthusiast (6)  |  Europe (42)  |  Fanatic (7)  |  Force (249)  |  Galileo Galilei (121)  |  Genius (243)  |  Greece (8)  |  Hasten (2)  |  History (368)  |  Inventor (55)  |  Martin Luther (9)  |  March (23)  |  Million (111)  |  Monk (5)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (327)  |  Orient (4)  |  Rome (14)  |  Swarm (13)  |  Triumph (45)  |  Voice (50)  |  Word (299)  |  World (892)

But for the persistence of a student of this university in urging upon me his desire to study with me the modern algebra I should never have been led into this investigation; and the new facts and principles which I have discovered in regard to it (important facts, I believe), would, so far as I am concerned, have remained still hidden in the womb of time. In vain I represented to this inquisitive student that he would do better to take up some other subject lying less off the beaten track of study, such as the higher parts of the calculus or elliptic functions, or the theory of substitutions, or I wot not what besides. He stuck with perfect respectfulness, but with invincible pertinacity, to his point. He would have the new algebra (Heaven knows where he had heard about it, for it is almost unknown in this continent), that or nothing. I was obliged to yield, and what was the consequence? In trying to throw light upon an obscure explanation in our text-book, my brain took fire, I plunged with re-quickened zeal into a subject which I had for years abandoned, and found food for thoughts which have engaged my attention for a considerable time past, and will probably occupy all my powers of contemplation advantageously for several months to come.
In Johns Hopkins Commemoration Day Address, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 3, 76.
Science quotes on:  |  Abandon (48)  |  Advantageous (4)  |  Algebra (92)  |  Attention (115)  |  Beaten Track (4)  |  Belief (503)  |  Better (190)  |  Brain (209)  |  Calculus (48)  |  Concern (108)  |  Consequence (110)  |  Considerable (20)  |  Contemplation (51)  |  Continent (52)  |  Desire (140)  |  Discover (196)  |  Ellipse (6)  |  Engage (25)  |  Explanation (177)  |  Fact (725)  |  Far (154)  |  Find (405)  |  Fire (132)  |  Food (152)  |  Function (128)  |  Hear (60)  |  Heaven (151)  |  Hide (53)  |  High (152)  |  Important (202)  |  In Vain (8)  |  Inquisitive (5)  |  Investigation (175)  |  Invincible (5)  |  Know (547)  |  Lead (158)  |  Less (102)  |  Lie (115)  |  Light (345)  |  Mathematicians and Anecdotes (123)  |  Modern (159)  |  Month (31)  |  New (483)  |  Nothing (385)  |  Obliged (6)  |  Occupy (27)  |  Part (220)  |  Past (150)  |  Perfect (83)  |  Persistence (20)  |  Pertinacity (2)  |  Plunge (9)  |  Point (122)  |  Power (358)  |  Principle (285)  |  Probably (47)  |  Quicken (7)  |  Regard (93)  |  Remain (111)  |  Represent (41)  |  Several (31)  |  Stick (24)  |  Student (201)  |  Study (461)  |  Subject (235)  |  Substitution (12)  |  Text-Book (5)  |  Theory (690)  |  Thought (536)  |  Throw (43)  |  Time (594)  |  Try (141)  |  University (80)  |  Unknown (105)  |  Urge (16)  |  Womb (14)  |  Year (299)  |  Yield (35)  |  Zeal (11)

Embryology will often reveal to us the structure, in some degree obscured, of the prototype of each great class.
Science quotes on:  |  Class (83)  |  Degree (81)  |  Embryology (16)  |  Prototype (5)  |  Reveal (50)  |  Structure (221)

Experts always tend to obscure the obvious.
In The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record (1973), 7.
Science quotes on:  |  Expert (50)  |  Obvious (79)

Finally, to the theme of the respiratory chain, it is especially noteworthy that David Kellin's chemically simple view of the respiratory chain appears now to have been right all along–and he deserves great credit for having been so reluctant to become involved when the energy-rich chemical intermediates began to be so fashionable. This reminds me of the aphorism: 'The obscure we see eventually, the completely apparent takes longer'.
'David Kellin's Respiratory Chain Concept and Its Chemiosmotic Consequences', Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1978). In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1971-1980 (1993), 325.
Science quotes on:  |  Aphorism (18)  |  Apparent (39)  |  Chain (50)  |  Energy (214)  |  Fashionable (6)  |  Reluctant (4)  |  Respiration (12)  |  Right (196)

He who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is the benefactor of mankind, but he who obscurely worked to find the laws of such growth is the intellectual superior as well as the greater benefactor of mankind.
Presidential Address (28 Oct 1899) to the Physical Society of America Meeting, New York. Printed in American Journal of Science (Dec 1899). Reprinted in the The Johns Hopkins University Circular (Mar 1900), 19, No. 143, 17. Compare earlier remark by Jonathan Swift, beginning “whoever could make two ears of corn…” on the Jonathan Swift Quotes page of this website.
Science quotes on:  |  Benefactor (4)  |  Blade (9)  |  Find (405)  |  Grass (35)  |  Great (524)  |  Grow (98)  |  Growth (122)  |  Intellectual (120)  |  Law (513)  |  Mankind (241)  |  Superior (40)  |  Work (626)

However much the pits may be apparent, yet none, as far as can be comprehended by the senses, passes through the septum of the heart from the right ventricle into the left. I have not seen even the most obscure passages by which the septum of the ventricles is pervious, although they are mentioned by professors of anatomy since they are convinced that blood is carried from the right ventricle into the left. As a result—as I shall declare more openly elsewhere—I am in no little doubt regarding the function of the heart in this part.
In De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem [Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body] (revised ed. 1555), 734. Quoted and trans. in Charles Donald O'Malley, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, 1514-1564 (1964), 281.
Science quotes on:  |  Anatomy (63)  |  Blood (104)  |  Comprehension (57)  |  Convinced (22)  |  Declare (27)  |  Doubt (159)  |  Function (128)  |  Heart (139)  |  Left (13)  |  Little (184)  |  Mentioned (3)  |  Passage (20)  |  Pit (13)  |  Professor (54)  |  Regarding (4)  |  Result (376)  |  Right (196)  |  Sense (315)  |  Ventricle (5)

I shall never forget my first encounter with gorillas. Sound preceded sight. Odor preceded sound in the form of an overwhelming, musky-barnyard, humanlike scent. The air was suddenly rent by a high-pitched series of screams followed by the rhythmic rondo of sharp pok-pok chestbeats from a great silverbacked male obscured behind what seemed an impenetrable wall of vegetation.
Describing her 1963 trip to Kabara in Gorillas in the Mist (1983), 3. (The screams and chest-beating were of alarm, not ferocity.)
Science quotes on:  |  Barnyard (2)  |  Encounter (22)  |  Gorilla (17)  |  Impenetrable (5)  |  Musk (2)  |  Odor (7)  |  Overwhelming (21)  |  Rhythm (18)  |  Scent (5)  |  Scream (6)  |  Sharp (12)  |  Sight (47)  |  Silverback (2)  |  Sound (88)  |  Vegetation (16)

In the vast cosmical changes, the universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities ... sowing an animalcule here, crumbling a star there, oscillating and winding, ... entangling, from the highest to the lowest, all activities in the obscurity of a dizzying mechanism, hanging the flight of an insect upon the movement of the earth... Enormous gearing, whose first motor is the gnat, and whose last wheel is the zodiac.
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (128)  |  Animalcule (11)  |  Come (4)  |  Cosmos (52)  |  Crumbling (2)  |  Dizzy (4)  |  Earth (635)  |  Enormity (4)  |  Flight (63)  |  Gear (4)  |  Gnat (7)  |  Go (6)  |  Insect (64)  |  Life (1124)  |  Mechanism (52)  |  Motor (11)  |  Movement (82)  |  Oscillation (6)  |  Quantity (64)  |  Sowing (5)  |  Star (336)  |  Universe (683)  |  Unknown (105)  |  Wheel (22)  |  Winding (4)

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.
Science quotes on:  |  Add (40)  |  Age (174)  |  Allowed (3)  |  Amount (30)  |  Animal (356)  |  Apparently (19)  |  Available (25)  |  Back (104)  |  Best (172)  |  Blind (47)  |  Boundless (13)  |  Branch (102)  |  Certainly (31)  |  Charge (34)  |  Collect (16)  |  Collection (44)  |  Consideration (85)  |  Country (144)  |  Creation (239)  |  Creator (52)  |  Cultivation (27)  |  Destruction (85)  |  Direct (82)  |  Distribution (29)  |  Earth (635)  |  Entail (4)  |  European (5)  |  Evidence (181)  |  Extinction (66)  |  Face (108)  |  Form (308)  |  Future (284)  |  Geographical (6)  |  Government (93)  |  Handiwork (6)  |  Higher (36)  |  History (368)  |  Immediately (21)  |  Imperfectly (2)  |  Important (202)  |  Inconsistency (4)  |  Individual (215)  |  Inquiry (40)  |  Institution (39)  |  Interpretation (69)  |  Invaluable (7)  |  Invariably (9)  |  Known (16)  |  Letter (50)  |  Life (1124)  |  Living (56)  |  Long (172)  |  Look (52)  |  Lost (32)  |  Made (14)  |  Material (154)  |  Modern (159)  |  Museum (24)  |  National (25)  |  Native (15)  |  Natural (167)  |  Naturalist (54)  |  Necessarily (30)  |  Numerous (29)  |  Object (169)  |  Past (150)  |  Perfect (83)  |  Perish (29)  |  Person (153)  |  Plant (199)  |  Possible (155)  |  Power (358)  |  Preserve (51)  |  Professing (2)  |  Progress (362)  |  Pursuit (76)  |  Record (67)  |  Regard (93)  |  Remain (111)  |  Render (30)  |  Rest (92)  |  Satisfied (23)  |  Scientific (232)  |  Secure (20)  |  Seeing (47)  |  Sentence (28)  |  Species (220)  |  Step (109)  |  Strange (94)  |  Study (461)  |  Treasure (45)  |  Tropical (8)  |  Unintelligible (9)  |  Unknown (105)  |  Variation (61)  |  Volume (19)  |  Want (175)  |  Wealth (66)

Learning obscures as well as illustrates; it heaps up chaff when there is no more wheat.
In 'On the Interpretation of Scripture', Essays and Reviews (1860), 337.
Science quotes on:  |  Heap (14)  |  Illustrate (9)  |  Learn (281)  |  Wheat (10)

Magic and all that is ascribed to it is a deep presentiment of the powers of science. The shoes of swiftness, the sword of sharpness, the power of subduing the elements, of using the secret virtues of minerals, of understanding the voices of birds, are the obscure efforts of the mind in a right direction.
From 'History', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Bird (119)  |  Deep (121)  |  Direction (74)  |  Effort (143)  |  Element (162)  |  Magic (77)  |  Mind (743)  |  Mineral (41)  |  Power (358)  |  Right (196)  |  Science (2043)  |  Secret (130)  |  Sharpness (6)  |  Shoe (9)  |  Swiftness (4)  |  Sword (15)  |  Understanding (325)  |  Using (6)  |  Virtue (61)  |  Voice (50)

Mathematics is an obscure field, an abstruse science, complicated and exact; yet so many have attained perfection in it that we might conclude almost anyone who seriously applied himself would achieve a measure of success.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 82.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstruse (5)  |  Anyone (35)  |  Attain (42)  |  Complicated (61)  |  Conclude (16)  |  Exact (64)  |  Field (170)  |  Mathematics (1149)  |  Perfection (88)  |  Science (2043)  |  Success (248)

Never leave an unsolved difficulty behind. I mean, don’t go any further in that book till the difficulty is conquered. In this point, Mathematics differs entirely from most other subjects. Suppose you are reading an Italian book, and come to a hopelessly obscure sentence—don’t waste too much time on it, skip it, and go on; you will do very well without it. But if you skip a mathematical difficulty, it is sure to crop up again: you will find some other proof depending on it, and you will only get deeper and deeper into the mud.
From letter to Edith Rix with hints for studying (about Mar 1885), in Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (1898), 241.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (257)  |  Conquer (22)  |  Deep (121)  |  Depend (87)  |  Difference (246)  |  Difficulty (144)  |  Find (405)  |  Hopeless (14)  |  Italian (5)  |  Learning (177)  |  Leave (127)  |  Mathematics (1149)  |  Mud (15)  |  Point (122)  |  Proof (243)  |  Read (144)  |  Sentence (28)  |  Skip (4)  |  Studying (10)  |  Subject (235)  |  Time (594)  |  Unsolved (10)  |  Waste (64)

No other part of science has contributed as much to the liberation of the human spirit as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Yet, at the same time, few other parts of science are held to be so recondite. Mention of the Second Law raises visions of lumbering steam engines, intricate mathematics, and infinitely incomprehensible entropy. Not many would pass C.P. Snow’s test of general literacy, in which not knowing the Second Law is equivalent to not having read a work of Shakespeare.
In The Second Law (1984), Preface, vii.
Science quotes on:  |  Contribution (60)  |  Entropy (42)  |  Human Spirit (12)  |  Incomprehensible (16)  |  Intricate (21)  |  Liberation (10)  |  Literacy (8)  |  Mathematics (1149)  |  Read (144)  |  Science (2043)  |  Second Law Of Thermodynamics (13)  |  William Shakespeare (101)  |  Steam Engine (42)  |  Test (124)

One feature which will probably most impress the mathematician accustomed to the rapidity and directness secured by the generality of modern methods is the deliberation with which Archimedes approaches the solution of any one of his main problems. Yet this very characteristic, with its incidental effects, is calculated to excite the more admiration because the method suggests the tactics of some great strategist who foresees everything, eliminates everything not immediately conducive to the execution of his plan, masters every position in its order, and then suddenly (when the very elaboration of the scheme has almost obscured, in the mind of the spectator, its ultimate object) strikes the final blow. Thus we read in Archimedes proposition after proposition the bearing of which is not immediately obvious but which we find infallibly used later on; and we are led by such easy stages that the difficulties of the original problem, as presented at the outset, are scarcely appreciated. As Plutarch says: “It is not possible to find in geometry more difficult and troublesome questions, or more simple and lucid explanations.” But it is decidedly a rhetorical exaggeration when Plutarch goes on to say that we are deceived by the easiness of the successive steps into the belief that anyone could have discovered them for himself. On the contrary, the studied simplicity and the perfect finish of the treatises involve at the same time an element of mystery. Though each step depends on the preceding ones, we are left in the dark as to how they were suggested to Archimedes. There is, in fact, much truth in a remark by Wallis to the effect that he seems “as it were of set purpose to have covered up the traces of his investigation as if he had grudged posterity the secret of his method of inquiry while he wished to extort from them assent to his results.” Wallis adds with equal reason that not only Archimedes but nearly all the ancients so hid away from posterity their method of Analysis (though it is certain that they had one) that more modern mathematicians found it easier to invent a new Analysis than to seek out the old.
In The Works of Archimedes (1897), Preface, vi.
Science quotes on:  |  Accustomed (16)  |  Add (40)  |  Admiration (44)  |  Analysis (159)  |  Ancient (103)  |  Anyone (35)  |  Appreciate (29)  |  Approach (53)  |  Archimedes (53)  |  Assent (6)  |  Bear (66)  |  Belief (503)  |  Blow (22)  |  Calculate (31)  |  Certain (125)  |  Characteristic (94)  |  Conducive (3)  |  Contrary (34)  |  Cover (37)  |  Dark (76)  |  Deceive (16)  |  Decidedly (2)  |  Deliberation (3)  |  Depend (87)  |  Difficult (116)  |  Difficulty (144)  |  Discover (196)  |  Easiness (3)  |  Easy (98)  |  Effect (165)  |  Elaboration (7)  |  Element (162)  |  Eliminate (21)  |  Equal (77)  |  Everything (180)  |  Exaggeration (11)  |  Excite (15)  |  Execution (17)  |  Explanation (177)  |  Extort (2)  |  Fact (725)  |  Feature (43)  |  Final (49)  |  Find (405)  |  Finish (25)  |  Foresee (13)  |  Generality (34)  |  Geometry (215)  |  Great (524)  |  Grudge (2)  |  Hide (53)  |  Immediately (21)  |  Impress (16)  |  Incidental (11)  |  Inquiry (40)  |  Invent (50)  |  Investigation (175)  |  Involve (47)  |  Late (52)  |  Lead (158)  |  Leave (127)  |  Lucid (5)  |  Main (27)  |  Master (93)  |  Mathematician (364)  |  Mathematicians and Anecdotes (123)  |  Method (230)  |  Mind (743)  |  Modern (159)  |  Mystery (151)  |  Nearly (26)  |  New (483)  |  Object (169)  |  Obvious (79)  |  Old (147)  |  Order (239)  |  Original (57)  |  Outset (7)  |  Perfect (83)  |  Plan (87)  |  Plutarch (15)  |  Position (75)  |  Possible (155)  |  Posterity (19)  |  Precede (20)  |  Present (174)  |  Probably (47)  |  Problem (490)  |  Proposition (80)  |  Purpose (193)  |  Question (404)  |  Rapidity (16)  |  Read (144)  |  Reason (454)  |  Remark (26)  |  Result (376)  |  Same (155)  |  Say (228)  |  Scarcely (13)  |  Scheme (25)  |  Secret (130)  |  Secure (20)  |  Seek (104)  |  Set (97)  |  Simple (172)  |  Simplicity (146)  |  Solution (211)  |  Spectator (9)  |  Stage (54)  |  Step (109)  |  Strike (39)  |  Study (461)  |  Successive (23)  |  Suddenly (17)  |  Suggest (32)  |  Tactic (7)  |  Time (594)  |  Trace (51)  |  Treatise (32)  |  Troublesome (7)  |  Truth (914)  |  Ultimate (84)  |  John Wallis (3)  |  Wish (92)

People who write obscurely are either unskilled in writing or up to mischief.
From 'Science and Literature', Pluto’s Republic (1984), 52.
Science quotes on:  |  Mischief (6)  |  People (388)  |  Unskilled (3)  |  Write (153)

Religion is so great a thing that it is right that those who will not take the trouble to seek it if it be obscure, should be deprived of it.
In Pensées (1670), Section 24, No. 10. As translated in Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', No. 574, collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 92. From the original French, “La religion est une chose si grande, qu’il est juste que ceux qui ne voudraient pas prendre la peine de la chercher, si elle est obscure, en soient privés,” in Ernest Havet (ed.), Pensées de Pascal (1892), 422.
Science quotes on:  |  Deprive (11)  |  Great (524)  |  Religion (239)  |  Right (196)  |  Seek (104)  |  Trouble (72)

Science is the tool of the Western mind and with it more doors can be opened than with bare hands. It is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.
Carl Jung
In Jung’s 'Commentary' as translated for the English edition of Richard Wilhelm, The Secret Of The Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life (1999, 2013), 82.
Science quotes on:  |  Door (38)  |  Insight (69)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Mind (743)  |  Open (66)  |  Science (2043)  |  Tool (87)  |  Understanding (325)  |  Western (19)

Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.
In 'A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart', Strength To Love (1963), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Cripple (3)  |  Fall (119)  |  Irrational (12)  |  Marsh (6)  |  Materialism (8)  |  Moral (123)  |  Nihilism (3)  |  Obsolete (10)  |  Paralyze (3)  |  Prevent (40)  |  Religion (239)  |  Science (2043)  |  Science And Religion (302)  |  Sink (21)  |  Valley (22)

The arithmetization of mathematics … which began with Weierstrass … had for its object the separation of purely mathematical concepts, such as number and correspondence and aggregate, from intuitional ideas, which mathematics had acquired from long association with geometry and mechanics. These latter, in the opinion of the formalists, are so firmly entrenched in mathematical thought that in spite of the most careful circumspection in the choice of words, the meaning concealed behind these words, may influence our reasoning. For the trouble with human words is that they possess content, whereas the purpose of mathematics is to construct pure thought. But how can we avoid the use of human language? The … symbol. Only by using a symbolic language not yet usurped by those vague ideas of space, time, continuity which have their origin in intuition and tend to obscure pure reason—only thus may we hope to build mathematics on the solid foundation of logic.
In Tobias Dantzig and Joseph Mazur (ed.), Number: The Language of Science (1930, ed. by Joseph Mazur 2007), 99.
Science quotes on:  |  Acquire (38)  |  Aggregate (14)  |  Association (20)  |  Avoid (52)  |  Begin (106)  |  Behind (38)  |  Build (117)  |  Careful (24)  |  Choice (79)  |  Circumspection (3)  |  Conceal (17)  |  Concept (143)  |  Construct (40)  |  Content (66)  |  Continuity (30)  |  Correspondence (15)  |  Entrench (2)  |  Firmly (6)  |  Foundation (105)  |  Geometry (215)  |  Hope (174)  |  Human (548)  |  Idea (577)  |  Influence (137)  |  Intuition (57)  |  Language (217)  |  Latter (21)  |  Logic (247)  |  Long (172)  |  Mathematics (1149)  |  Mean (101)  |  Mechanics (54)  |  Number (276)  |  Object (169)  |  Opinion (176)  |  Origin (86)  |  Possess (53)  |  Pure (98)  |  Purpose (193)  |  Reason (454)  |  Separation (36)  |  Solid (50)  |  Space (257)  |  Spite (13)  |  Symbol (65)  |  Thought (536)  |  Time (594)  |  Trouble (72)  |  Vague (25)  |  Karl Weierstrass (6)  |  Word (299)

The history of chemistry is properly divided into the mythologic, the obscure, and the certain. The first period exhibits it from its infancy, deformed by fictions, until the destruction of the library of Alexandria by the Arabs. —The second, though freed in some measure from these absurdities, yet is still clothed in numberless enigmas and allegorical expressions.— The third period commences at the middle of the seventeenth century, with the first establishment of societies and academies of science; of which the wise associates, in many places uniting their efforts, determined to pursue the study of Natural Philosophy by observation and experiments, and candidly to publish their attempts in a general account of their transactions.
In Essays, Physical and Chemical (1791), 4, translated from the original Latin.
Science quotes on:  |  17th Century (16)  |  Absurdity (21)  |  Academy (13)  |  Alexandria (2)  |  Allegory (6)  |  Candid (3)  |  Certain (125)  |  Enigma (10)  |  Experiment (600)  |  Fiction (22)  |  Library (40)  |  Myth (48)  |  Natural Philosophy (28)  |  Observation (445)  |  Publication (90)  |  Society (227)

The mental process by which hypotheses are suggested is obscure. Ordinarily they flash into consciousness without premonition, and it would he easy to ascribe them to a mysterious intuition or creative faculty; but this would contravene one of the broadest generalizations of modern psychology. Just as in the domain of matter nothing is created from nothing, just as in the domain of life there is no spontaneous generation, so in the domain of mind there are no ideas which do not owe their existence to antecedent ideas which stand in the relation of parent to child.
In Address (11 Dec 1895) as President of the Geological Society, 'The Origin of Hypotheses, illustrated by the Discussion of a Topographical Problem', printed as Presidential Address of Grove Karl Gilbert (1896), 4. Also collected in Science (1896), 3, 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Antecedent (4)  |  Consciousness (82)  |  Creation (239)  |  Creative (58)  |  Flash (34)  |  Hypothesis (249)  |  Idea (577)  |  Mind (743)  |  Mystery (151)  |  Process (261)  |  Spontaneous Generation (5)

The student should read his author with the most sustained attention, in order to discover the meaning of every sentence. If the book is well written, it will endure and repay his close attention: the text ought to be fairly intelligible, even without illustrative examples. Often, far too often, a reader hurries over the text without any sincere and vigorous effort to understand it; and rushes to some example to clear up what ought not to have been obscure, if it had been adequately considered. The habit of scrupulously investigating the text seems to me important on several grounds. The close scrutiny of language is a very valuable exercise both for studious and practical life. In the higher departments of mathematics the habit is indispensable: in the long investigations which occur there it would be impossible to interpose illustrative examples at every stage, the student must therefore encounter and master, sentence by sentence, an extensive and complicated argument.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 67.
Science quotes on:  |  Adequately (3)  |  Argument (81)  |  Attention (115)  |  Author (61)  |  Book (257)  |  Both (81)  |  Clear (97)  |  Close (66)  |  Complicated (61)  |  Consider (80)  |  Department (47)  |  Discover (196)  |  Effort (143)  |  Encounter (22)  |  Endure (20)  |  Example (92)  |  Exercise (64)  |  Extensive (18)  |  Fairly (4)  |  Far (154)  |  Ground (90)  |  Habit (107)  |  High (152)  |  Hurry (9)  |  Important (202)  |  Impossible (108)  |  Indispensable (27)  |  Intelligible (18)  |  Investigate (65)  |  Investigation (175)  |  Language (217)  |  Life (1124)  |  Long (172)  |  Master (93)  |  Mathematics (1149)  |  Mean (101)  |  Occur (43)  |  Often (106)  |  Order (239)  |  Practical (129)  |  Read (144)  |  Reader (38)  |  Repay (3)  |  Rush (18)  |  Scrupulous (5)  |  Scrutiny (14)  |  Seem (143)  |  Sentence (28)  |  Several (31)  |  Sincere (4)  |  Stage (54)  |  Student (201)  |  Studious (2)  |  Study And Research In Mathematics (59)  |  Sustain (23)  |  Text (14)  |  Understand (326)  |  Value (240)  |  Vigorous (20)  |  Write (153)

To suppose that so perfect a system as that of Euclid’s Elements was produced by one man, without any preceding model or materials, would be to suppose that Euclid was more than man. We ascribe to him as much as the weakness of human understanding will permit, if we suppose that the inventions in geometry, which had been made in a tract of preceding ages, were by him not only carried much further, but digested into so admirable a system, that his work obscured all that went before it, and made them be forgot and lost.
In Essay on the Powers of the Human Mind (1812), Vol. 2, 368.
Science quotes on:  |  Admirable (19)  |  Age (174)  |  Ascribe (17)  |  Carry (59)  |  Digest (8)  |  Element (162)  |  Euclid (52)  |  Far (154)  |  Forget (63)  |  Geometry (215)  |  Human (548)  |  Invention (318)  |  Lose (93)  |  Material (154)  |  Mathematicians and Anecdotes (123)  |  Model (80)  |  Perfect (83)  |  Permit (30)  |  Precede (20)  |  Produce (100)  |  Suppose (49)  |  System (191)  |  Tract (5)  |  Understand (326)  |  Weakness (35)  |  Work (626)

We live on an obscure hunk of rock and metal circling a humdrum sun, which is on the outskirts of a perfectly ordinary galaxy comprised of 400 billion other suns, which, in turn, is one of some hundred billion galaxies that make up the universe, which, current thinking suggests, is one of a huge number—perhaps an infinite number—of other closed-off universes. From that perspective, the idea that we’re at the center, that we have some cosmic importance, is ludicrous.
From interview with Linda Obst in her article 'Valentine to Science', in Interview (Feb 1996). Quoted and cited in Tom Head (ed.), Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), ix, and cited on p.xix.
Science quotes on:  |  Billion (62)  |  Center (34)  |  Closed (11)  |  Cosmic (47)  |  Galaxy (46)  |  Humdrum (2)  |  Idea (577)  |  Importance (216)  |  Infinite (128)  |  Live (269)  |  Ludicrous (4)  |  Metal (41)  |  Orbit (69)  |  Ordinary (71)  |  Outskirts (2)  |  Perspective (22)  |  Rock (125)  |  Sun (276)  |  Universe (683)

What hopes filled me when I discovered that there were laws behind so many obscure phenomena!
In Speech (27 Dec 1892) at the Golden Jubilee celebration for Pasteur's 70th birthday. As translated in Nature (1893), 47, 205.
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (676)  |  Hope (174)  |  Law (513)  |  Phenomenon (276)

What is the use of this history, what the use of all this minute research? I well know that it will not produce a fall in the price of pepper, a rise in that of crates of rotten cabbages, or other serious events of this kind, which cause fleets to be manned and set people face to face intent upon one another's extermination. The insect does not aim at so much glory. It confines itself to showing us life in the inexhaustible variety of its manifestations; it helps us to decipher in some small measure the obscurest book of all, the book of ourselves.
Introducing the natural history and his study of the insect Minotaurus typhoeus. In Jean-Henri Fabre and Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (trans.), The Life and Love of the Insect (1918), 128.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (257)  |  Cabbage (5)  |  Decipher (7)  |  Extermination (11)  |  History (368)  |  Insect (64)  |  Ourselves (51)  |  Pepper (2)  |  Price (33)  |  Research (589)  |  Rotten (3)

Who could have believed that … the introduction into the human body of a small particle of matter from a cow’s udder might be the means of saving thousands of human lives? We learn from these and innumerable similar instances that the highest truths lie hid in the simplest facts; that, unlike human proclamations, nature’s teachings are not by sound of trumpet, but often in the stillest voice, by indirect hints and obscure suggestions.
From Address (Oct 1874) delivered at Guy’s Hospital, 'On The Study of Medicine', printed in British Medical journal (1874), 2, 425. Collected in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), 109.
Science quotes on:  |  Cow (30)  |  Fact (725)  |  Hidden (42)  |  Hint (11)  |  Human Body (34)  |  Indirect (10)  |  Inoculation (8)  |  Learn (281)  |  Live (269)  |  Nature (1211)  |  Particle (99)  |  Proclamation (2)  |  Save (56)  |  Smallpox (12)  |  Sound (88)  |  Suggestion (30)  |  Teaching (107)  |  Thousand (152)  |  Trumpet (2)  |  Truth (914)  |  Voice (50)


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
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.