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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Origin Quotes (65 quotes)

Ogni nostra cognitione prīcipia da sentimēti.
All our knowledge has its origin in our preceptions.
Tr. 45. As translated by Jean Paul Richter, in 'Philosophical Maxims', The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci: Compiled and Edited from the Original Manuscripts (1883), Vol. 2, 288, Maxim 1147.
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A bewildering assortment of (mostly microscopic) life-forms has been found thriving in what were once thought to be uninhabitable regions of our planet. These hardy creatures have turned up in deep, hot underground rocks, around scalding volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, in the desiccated, super-cold Dry Valleys of Antarctica, in places of high acid, alkaline, and salt content, and below many meters of polar ice. ... Some deep-dwelling, heat-loving microbes, genetic studies suggest, are among the oldest species known, hinting that not only can life thrive indefinitely in what appear to us totally alien environments, it may actually originate in such places.
In Life Everywhere: the Maverick Science of Astrobiology (2002), xi.
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A hundred years ago the study of life was often pursued, and also presented to the public, in a highly unified way. Darwin, as everyone knows, in addressing the world at large began his story with the history of pigeons and ended it with the breeding of primroses, having made excursions on the way into the origins of coral reefs and of the races of Man.
In 'The Unification of Biology', New Scientist (11 Jan 1962), 13, No. 269, 72.
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All admit that the mountains of the globe are situated mostly along the border regions of the continents (taking these regions as 300 to 1000 miles or more in width), and that over these same areas the sedimentary deposits have, as a general thing, their greatest thickness. At first thought, it would seem almost incredible that the upliftings of mountains, whatever their mode of origin, should have taken place just where the earth’s crust, through these sedimentary accumulations, was the thickest, and where, therefore, there was the greatest weight to be lifted. … Earthquakes show that even now, in this last of the geological ages, the same border regions of the continents, although daily thickening from the sediments borne to the ocean by rivers, are the areas of the greatest and most frequent movements of the earth’s crust. (1866)
[Thus, the facts were known long ago; the explanation by tectonic activity came many decades later.]
In 'Observations on the Origin of Some of the Earth's Features', The American Journal of Science (Sep 1866), Second Series, 42, No. 125, 210-211.
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All material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles … variously associated with the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order: and if he did so, it is unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature.
From Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 377-378.
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All palaetiological sciences, all speculations which attempt to ascend from the present to the remote past, by the chain of causation, do also, by an inevitable consequence, urge us to look for the beginning of the state of things which we thus contemplate; but in none of these cases have men been able, by the aid of science, to arrive at a beginning which is homogeneous with the known course of events. The first origin of language, of civilization, of law and government, cannot be clearly made out by reasoning and research; and just as little, we may expect, will a knowledge of the origin of the existing and extinct species of plants and animals, be the result of physiological and geological investigation.
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1837), Vol. 3, 581.
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All sciences originated among the sons of Israel, the reason being the existence of prophecy among them which made their perfection in the sciences amazing.
Averroes
In Benzion Netanyahu, Don Isaac Abravanel, Statesman and Philosopher (1953, 1998), 100. Footnote gives: See Abravanel’s Comm, on Gen., io.i (f. 48, col. 4). The corresponding passage in Happoint ha-Happalah (Hebrew translation of Averroes’ Destruction of the Destruction, by Kalonymos ben David ben Todros, Bodleian Library, Michael Collection, Ms. 293, ff. 137b-138a) is somewhat different. Abravanel might have used the other Hebrew translation (MS. in Leyden) of Averroes' work (cf. Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, pp. 333-4).
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Already at the origin of the species man was equal to what he was destined to become.
Can Man Be Modified? (1959), 76.
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At times the [radio telescope] records exhibited a feature characteristic of interference, occurring some time later than the passage of the two known sources. This intermittent feature was curious, and I recall saying once that we would have to investigate the origin of that interference some day. We joked that it was probably due to the faulty ignition of some farm hand returning from a date.
From address to the 101st Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Gainesville, Florida (27 Dec 1958). Printed in 'An Account of the Discovery of Jupiter as a Radio Source', The Astronomical Journal (Mar 1959), 64, No. 2, 37.
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Darwin deals with evolution, not with origin.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lvii.
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Except the blind forces of Nature, nothing moves in this world which is not Greek in its origin.
Village-Communities in the East and West (1871), 238.
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For I am yearning to visit the limits of the all-nurturing Earth, and Oceans, from whom the gods are sprung.
Homer
Hera to Aphrodite in the Iliad, 14.201. As given in Norman K. Glendenning, Our Place in the Universe (2007), 126.
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For it is too bad that there are so few who seek the truth and so few who do not follow a mistaken method in philosophy. This is not, however, the place to lament the misery of our century, but to rejoice with you over such beautiful ideas for proving the truth. So I add only, and I promise, that I shall read your book at leisure; for I am certain that I shall find the noblest things in it. And this I shall do the more gladly, because I accepted the view of Copernicus many years ago, and from this standpoint I have discovered from their origins many natural phenomena, which doubtless cannot be explained on the basis of the more commonly accepted hypothesis.
Letter (4 Aug 1597) to Kepler, expressing thanks and interest in the book Kepler sent him. As quoted in translation in Jackson J. Spielvogel, Western Civilization: Alternate Volume: Since 1300 (2010), Vol. 2, 494.
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Formerly one sought the feeling of the grandeur of man by pointing to his divine origin: this has now become a forbidden way, for at its portal stands the ape, together with other gruesome beasts, grinning knowingly as if to say: no further in this direction! One therefore now tries the opposite direction: the way mankind is going shall serve as proof of his grandeur and kinship with God. Alas this, too, is vain! At the end of this way stands the funeral urn of the last man and gravedigger (with the inscription 'nihil humani a me alienum puto'). However high mankind may have evolved—and perhaps at the end it will stand even lower than at the beginning!— it cannot pass over into a higher order, as little as the ant and the earwig can at the end of its 'earthly course' rise up to kinship with God and eternal life. The becoming drags the has-been along behind it: why should an exception to this eternal spectacle be made on behalf of some little star or for any little species upon it! Away with such sentimentalities!
Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (1881), trans. R. J. Hollingdale (1982), 32.
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He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin ... will obtain the clearest view of them.
Aristotle
Politics, Benjamin Jowett trans., Franklin Center, PA, Franklin Library (1977), 4. In Leonard C. Bruno and Donna Olendorf, Science & Technology Firsts (1977), xi.
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History records the names of royal bastards, but it cannot tell us the origin of wheat.
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I have long held an opinion, almost amounting to conviction, in common I believe with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, one into another, and possess equivalents of power in their action.
Paper read to the Royal Institution (20 Nov 1845). 'On the Magnetization of Light and the Illumination of Magnetic Lines of Force', Series 19. In Experimental Researches in Electricity (1855), Vol. 3, 1. Reprinted from Philosophical Transactions (1846), 1.
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I was often humiliated to see men disputing for a piece of bread, just as animals might have done. My feelings on this subject have very much altered since I have been personally exposed to the tortures of hunger. I have discovered, in fact, that a man, whatever may have been his origin, his education, and his habits, is governed, under certain circumstances, much more by his stomach than by his intelligence and his heart.
In François Arago, trans. by William Henry Smyth, Baden Powell and Robert Grant, 'The History of My Youth: An Autobiography of Francis Arago', Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men (1859), Vol. 1, 55.
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If we look round the world, there seem to be not above six distinct varieties in the human species, each of which is strongly marked, and speaks the kind seldom to have mixed with any other. But there is nothing in the shape, nothing in the faculties, that shows their coming from different originals; and the varieties of climate, of nourishment, and custom, are sufficient to produce every change.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1812), Vol. 2, 154.
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In all speculations on the origin, or agents that have produced the changes on this globe, it is probable that we ought to keep within the boundaries of the probable effects resulting from the regular operations of the great laws of nature which our experience and observation have brought within the sphere of our knowledge. When we overleap those limits, and suppose a total change in nature's laws, we embark on the sea of uncertainty, where one conjecture is perhaps as probable as another; for none of them can have any support, or derive any authority from the practical facts wherewith our experience has brought us acquainted.
Observations on the Geology of the United States of America (1817), iv-v.
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In reality the origin of the notion of derivatives is in the vague feeling of the mobility of things, and of the greater or less speed with which phenomena take place; this is well expressed by the terms fluent and fluxion, which were used by Newton and which we may believe were borrowed from the ancient mathematician Heraclitus.
From address to the section of Algebra and Analysis, International Congress of Arts and Sciences, St. Louis (22 Sep 1904), 'On the Development of Mathematical Analysis and its Relation to Certain Other Sciences,' as translated by M.W. Haskell in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (May 1905), 11, 407.
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It has hitherto been a serious impediment to the progress of knowledge, that is in investigating the origin or causes of natural productions, recourse has generally been had to the examination, both by experiment and reasoning, of what might be rather than what is. The laws or processes of nature we have every reason to believe invariable. Their results from time to time vary, according to the combinations of influential circumstances; but the process remains the same. Like the poet or the painter, the chemist may, and no doubt often' does, create combinations which nature never produced; and the possibility of such and such processes giving rise to such and such results, is no proof whatever that they were ever in natural operation.
Considerations on Volcanoes (1825), 243.
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It is easy to create an interstellar radio message which can be recognized as emanating unambiguously from intelligent beings. A modulated signal (‘beep,’ ‘beep-beep,’…) comprising the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, for example, consists exclusively of the first 12 prime numbers…. A signal of this kind, based on a simple mathematical concept, could only have a biological origin. … But by far the most promising method is to send pictures.
From 'The Quest for Extraterrestrial Intelligence', in the magazine Smithsonian (May 1978), 43-44. Reprinted in Cosmic Search (Mar 1979), 1, No. 2, 5.
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It is therefore proper to acknowledge that the first filaments of the chick preexist in the egg and have a deeper origin, exactly as [the embryo] in the eggs of plants.
'On the Formation of the Chick in the Egg' (1673), in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 2, 945.
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It was through living among these groups and much more I think, through moving regularly from one to the other and back again that I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures’. For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups [scientists and literary intellectuals] comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all, who in intellectual, moral and psychological climate had so little in common that instead of going from Burlington House or South Kensington to Chelsea, one might have crossed an ocean.
The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture (1959), 2. The places mentioned are all in London. Burlington House is the home of the Royal Society and South Kensington is the site of the Natural History Museum, whereas Chelsea represents an affluent centre of artistic life.
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Life through many long periods has been manifested in a countless host of varying structures, all circumscribed by one general plan, each appointed to a definite place, and limited to an appointed duration. On the whole the earth has been thus more and more covered by the associated life of plants and animals, filling all habitable space with beings capable of enjoying their own existence or ministering to the enjoyment of others; till finally, after long preparation, a being was created capable of the wonderful power of measuring and weighing all the world of matter and space which surrounds him, of treasuring up the past history of all the forms of life, and considering his own relation to the whole. When he surveys this vast and co-ordinated system, and inquires into its history and origin, can he be at a loss to decide whether it be a work of Divine thought and wisdom, or the fortunate offspring of a few atoms of matter, warmed by the anima mundi, a spark of electricity, or an accidental ray of sunshine?
Life on the Earth: Its Origin and Succession (1860), 216-7.
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Neither had Watt of the Steam engine a heroic origin, any kindred with the princes of this world. The princes of this world were shooting their partridges… While this man with blackened fingers, with grim brow, was searching out, in his workshop, the Fire-secret.
From Chartism, collected in James Wood (ed.) The Carlyle Reader (1894), 73.
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Ninety-nine and nine-tenths of the earth’s volume must forever remain invisible and untouchable. Because more than 97 per cent of it is too hot to crystallize, its body is extremely weak. The crust, being so thin, must bend, if, over wide areas, it becomes loaded with glacial ice, ocean water or deposits of sand and mud. It must bend in the opposite sense if widely extended loads of such material be removed. This accounts for … the origin of chains of high mountains … and the rise of lava to the earth’s surface.
Presidential speech to the Geological Society of America at Cambridge, Mass. (1932). As quoted in New York Times (20 Sep 1957), 23. Also summarized in Popular Mechanics (Apr 1933), 513.
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Nothing in our experience suggests the introduction of [complex numbers]. Indeed, if a mathematician is asked to justify his interest in complex numbers, he will point, with some indignation, to the many beautiful theorems in the theory of equations, of power series, and of analytic functions in general, which owe their origin to the introduction of complex numbers. The mathematician is not willing to give up his interest in these most beautiful accomplishments of his genius.
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 537.
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On a perfect planet such as might be acceptable to a physicist, one might predict that from its origin the diversity of life would grow exponentially until the carrying capacity, however defined, was reached. The fossil record on Earth, however, tells a very different story.
In 'The Evolution of Diversity in AAncient Ecosystems: a Review', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (28 Feb 1998), 353, No. 1366, 327.
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One of my friends, reading the title of these lectures [The Whence and Whither of Man] said: “Of man's origin you know nothing, of his future you know less.”
From the Introduction to The Whence and Whither of Man; a Brief History of his Origin and Development through Conformity to Environment; being the Morse Lectures of 1895. (1896), ix. The Morse lectureship was founded by Prof. Samuel F.B. Morse in 1865 at Union Theological Seminary, the lectures to deal with “the relation of the Bible to any of the sciences.”
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Physics tries to discover the pattern of events which controls the phenomena we observe. But we can never know what this pattern means or how it originates; and even if some superior intelligence were to tell us, we should find the explanation unintelligible.
In Physics And Philosophy: the Revolution In Modern Science (1942), 16.
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Physio-philosophy has to show how, and in accordance indeed with what laws, the Material took its origin; and, therefore, how something derived its existence from nothing. It has to portray the first periods of the world's development from nothing; how the elements and heavenly bodies originated; in what method by self-evolution into higher and manifold forms, they separated into minerals, became finally organic, and in Man attained self-consciousness.
In Lorenz Oken, trans. by Alfred Tulk, Elements of Physiophilosophy (1847), 1.
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Proposition VIII. When two Undulations, from different Origins, coincide either perfectly or very nearly in Direction, their joint effect is a Combination of the Motions belonging to each.
'On the Theory of Light and Colours' (read in 1801), Philosophical Transactions (1802), 92, 34.
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Simple molecules combine to make powerful chemicals. Simple cells combine to make powerful life-forms. Simple electronics combine to make powerful computers. Logically, all things are created by a combination of simpler, less capable components. Therefore, a supreme being must be in our future, not our origin. What if “God” is the consciousness that will be created when enough of us are connected by the Internet?!!
Thoughts by character Dogbert in Dilbert cartoon strip (11 Feb 1996).
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Some of Feynman’s ideas about cosmology have a modern ring. A good example is his attitude toward the origin of matter. The idea of continuous matter creation in the steady state cosmology does not seriously offend him (and he notes … that the big bang cosmology has a problem just as bad, to explain where all the matter came from in the beginning). … He emphasizes that the total energy of the universe could really be zero, and that matter creation is possible because the rest energy of the matter is actually canceled by its gravitational potential energy. “It is exciting to think that it costs nothing to create a new particle, …”
In John Preskill and Kip S. Thorne, 'Foreword to Feynman Lectures on Gravitation' (15 May 1995). Feynman delivered his lectures in 1962–63.
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The axis cylinders of all nerve fibers (motor, secretory, sensitive and sensory, conducting centrifugally or centripetally) have been proved to proceed directly from the cells. A connection with a fiber network, or an origin from such a network, does not take place.
In 'Uber einige neuere Forschungen im Gebiete der Anatomie des Centralnervensystems', Deutsche Medizirusche Wochenschrlft (1891), 7, 1352. Trans. Edwin Clarke and L. S. Jacyna, Nineteenth Century Origins of Neuroscientific Concepts (1987), 99.
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The catastrophist constructs theories, the uniformitarian demolishes them. The former adduces evidence of an Origin, the latter explains the evidence away.
Aphorism 110, 'Aphorisms Concerning Ideas', The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840), Vol. 1, xxxvi.
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The chemical differences among various species and genera of animals and plants are certainly as significant for the history of their origins as the differences in form. If we could define clearly the differences in molecular constitution and functions of different kinds of organisms, there would be possible a more illuminating and deeper understanding of question of the evolutionary reactions of organisms than could ever be expected from morphological considerations.
'Uber das Vorkommen von Haemoglobin in den Muskeln der Mollusken und die Verbreitung desselben in den lebenden Organismen', Pflügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere, 1871, 4, 318-9. Trans. Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 270.
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The empirical domain of objective contemplation, and the delineation of our planet in its present condition, do not include a consideration of the mysterious and insoluble problems of origin and existence.
In lecture, 'Organic Life', collected in Cosmos, the Elements of the Physical World (1849), 348, as translated by E.C. Otté. Also seen translated as “The mysterious and unsolved problem of how things came to be does not enter the empirical province of objective research, which is confined to a description of things as they are.”
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The frontiers of science are separated now by long years of study, by specialized vocabularies, arts, techniques, and knowledge from the common heritage even of a most civilized society; and anyone working at the frontier of such science is in that sense a very long way from home, a long way too from the practical arts that were its matrix and origin, as indeed they were of what we today call art.
Address at the close of the year-long Bicentennial Celebration of Columbia University (26 Dec 54). Printed in 'Prospects in the Arts and Sciences', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Feb 1955), 52.
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The laws expressing the relations between energy and matter are, however, not solely of importance in pure science. They necessarily come first in order ... in the whole record of human experience, and they control, in the last resort, the rise or fall of political systems, the freedom or bondage of nations, the movements of commerce and industry, the origin of wealth and poverty, and the general physical welfare of the race.
In Matter and Energy (1912), 10-11.
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The mere man of pleasure is miserable in old age, and the mere drudge in business is but little better, whereas, natural philosophy, mathematical and mechanical science, are a continual source of tranquil pleasure, and in spite of the gloomy dogmas of priests and of superstition, the study of these things is the true theology; it teaches man to know and admire the Creator, for the principles of science are in the creation, and are unchangeable and of divine origin.
Age of Reason (1794, 1818), 35.
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The mighty steam-engine has its germ in the simple boiler in which the peasant prepares his food. The huge ship is but the expansion of the floating leaf freighted with its cargo of atmospheric dust; and the flying balloon is but the infant's soap-bubble lightly laden and overgrown. But the Telescope, even in its most elementary form, embodies a novel and gigantic idea, without an analogue in nature, and without a prototype in experience
Stories of Inventors and Discoverers in Science and the Useful Arts (1860), 145.
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The mystery of life is certainly the most persistent problem ever placed before the thought of man. There is no doubt that from the time humanity began to think it has occupied itself with the problem of its origin and its future which undoubtedly is the problem of life. The inability of science to solve it is absolute. This would be truly frightening were it not for faith.
Address (10 Sep 1934) to the International Congress of Electro-Radio Biology, Venice. In Associated Press, 'Life a Closed Book, Declares Marconi', New York Times (11 Sep 1934), 15.
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The only thing harder to understand than a law of statistical origin would be a law that is not of statistical origin, for then there would be no way for it—or its progenitor principles—to come into being. On the other hand, when we view each of the laws of physics—and no laws are more magnificent in scope or better tested—as at bottom statistical in character, then we are at last able to forego the idea of a law that endures from everlasting to everlasting.
In 'Law without Law' (1979), in John Archibald Wheeler and Wojciech Hubert Zurek (eds.), Quantum Theory and Measurement (1983), 203.
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The origin of all science is the desire to know causes, and the origin of all false science and imposture is the desire to accept false causes rather than none; or, which is the same thing, in the unwillingness to acknowledge our own ignorance.
From 'Burke and the Edinburgh Phrenologists', The Atlas (15 Feb 1829). Collected in William Hazlitt and Percival Presland Howe (ed.), New Writings by William Hazlitt (2nd Ed., 1925), 117.
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The origin of an adaptive structure and the purposes it comes to fulfill are only chance combinations. Purposefulness is a very human conception for usefulness. It is usefulness looked at backwards. Hard as it is to imagine, inconceivably hard it may appear to many, that there is no direct relation between the origin of useful variations and the ends they come to serve, yet the modern zoologist takes his stand as a man of science on this ground. He may admit in secret to his father confessor, the metaphysician, that his poor intellect staggers under such a supposition, but he bravely carries forward his work of investigation along the only lines that he has found fruitful.
'For Darwin', The Popular Science Monthly (1909), 74, 380.
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The origin of volcanic energy is one of the blankest mysteries of science, and it is strange indeed, that a class of phenomena so long familiar to the human race and so zealously studied through all the ages should be so utterly without explanation. (1880)
In Report on the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah (1880), 113.
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The question of the origin of the hypothesis belongs to a domain in which no very general rules can be given; experiment, analogy and constructive intuition play their part here. But once the correct hypothesis is formulated, the principle of mathematical induction is often sufficient to provide the proof.
As co-author with Herbert Robbins, in What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (1941, 1996), 15.
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The sciences are like a beautiful river, of which the course is easy to follow, when it has acquired a certain regularity; but if one wants to go back to the source, one will find it nowhere, because it is everywhere; it is spread so much [as to be] over all the surface of the earth; it is the same if one wants to go back to the origin of the sciences, one will find only obscurity, vague ideas, vicious circles; and one loses oneself in the primitive ideas.
In Essai sur les machines en général (1783), conclusion, as translated in Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800-1840 (1990), Vol. 1, 32.
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The source and origin of the nerves is the brain and spinal marrow, and hence some nerves originate from the brain and some from the spinal marrow. Some … experts set down the heart as the origin of the nerves and some the hard membrane that envelops the brain; none of them, however, thought it was the liver or any other viscus of that kind … Aristotle in particular, and quite a few others, thought that the nerves took origin from the heart.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1543), Book IV, 315, as translated by William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman, in 'The Nerves Originate From the Brain', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book III: The Veins And Arteries; Book IV: The Nerves (1998), 160
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The unscientific person takes things as they are, and cares not for their origin. To study things from a scientific standpoint means to take an inventory of them—to find the process in which they are being produced; to connect them with other things; to see things in their causal process.
From a series of lectures at Johns Hopkins University. Lecture 5 (4 Feb 1893), 'Herbert Spencer and What Knowledge is of Most Worth', The Philosophy of Education (1893), 7.
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The word “mathematics” is a Greek word and, by origin, it means “something that has been learned or understood,” or perhaps “acquired knowledge,” or perhaps even, somewhat against grammar, “acquirable knowledge,” that is, “learnable knowledge,” that is, “knowledge acquirable by learning.”
'Why Mathematics Grows', Journal of the History of Ideas (Jan-Mar 1965), 26, No. 1, 4. In Salomon Bochner and Robert Clifford Gunning (ed.) Collected Papers of Salomon Bochner (1992), Vol. 4, 192.
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There is no science which does not spring from pre-existing knowledge, and no certain and definite idea which has not derived its origin from the senses.
In Willis (trans.) and Alex Bowie (trans.), 'The First Anatomical Disquisition on the Circulation of the Blood, Addressed to Jo. Riolan', On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals (1889), 93.
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This fundamental discovery that all bodies owe their origin to arrangements of single initial corpuscular type is the beacon that lights the history of the universe to our eyes. In its own way, matter obeyed from the beginning that great law of biology to which we shall have to recur time and time again, the law of “complexification.”
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 48. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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This spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability, which is often referred to simply as “emergence,” is one of the hallmarks of life. It has been recognized as the dynamic origin of development, learning, and evolution. In other words, creativity—the generation of new forms—is a key property of all living systems.
From 'Complexity and Life', in Fritjof Capra, Alicia Juarrero, Pedro Sotolongo (eds.) Reframing Complexity: Perspectives From the North and South (2007), 16.
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Thus we conclude, that the strata both primary and secondary, both those of ancient and those of more recent origin, have had their materials furnished from the ruins of former continents, from the dissolution of rocks, or the destruction of animal or vegetable bodies, similar, at least in some respects, to those that now occupy the surface of the earth.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 14-5.
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Truth is beautiful and divine, no matter how humble its origin; it is the same in the musty boiler-room as it is in the glorious stars of heaven.
In 'From Chaos to Cosmos', Scribner's Magazine (July 1924), 76, No. 1, 9. Reprinted in The New Reformation: From Physical to Spiritual Realities (1927), 205.
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We are as remote from adequate explanation of the nature and causes of mechanical evolution of the hard parts of animals as we were when Aristotle first speculated on this subject … I think it is possible that we may never fathom all the causes of mechanical evolution or of the origin of new mechanical characters, but shall have to remain content with observing the modes of mechanical evolution, just as embryologists and geneticists are observing the modes of development, from the fertilized ovum to the mature individual, without in the least understanding either the cause or the nature of the process of development which goes on under their eyes every day
From 'Orthogenesis as observed from paleontological evidence beginning in the year 1889', American Naturalist (1922) 56, 141-142. As quoted and cited in 'G.G. Simpson, Paleontology, and the Modern Synthesis', collected in Ernst Mayr, William B. Provine (eds.), The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (1998), 171.
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We expect that the study of lunar geology will help to answer some longstanding questions about the early evolution of the earth. The moon and the earth are essentially a two-planet system, and the two bodies are probably closely related in origin. In this connection the moon is of special interest because its surface has not been subjected to the erosion by running water that has helped to shape the earth's surface.
In Scientific American (Sep 1964). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Dec 2014), 311, No. 6, 98.
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We have found that where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature.
We have found a strange foot-print on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the foot-print. And Lo! it is our own.
Concluding sentences in Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1921), 200-201
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While natural science up to the end of the last century was predominantly a collecting science, a science of finished things, in our century it is essentially a classifying science, a science of processes, of the origin and development of these things and of the interconnection which binds these processes into one great whole.
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Without the suitable conditions life could not exist. But both life and its conditions set forth the operations of inscrutable Power. We know not its origin; we know not its end. And the presumption, if not the degradation, rests with those who place upon the throne of the universe a magnified image of themselves, and make its doings a mere colossal imitation of their own.
In Forms of Water in Clouds and Rivers, Ice and Glaciers (1872), 125.
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[Man] … his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labour of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…
From 'A Free Man's Worship', Independent Review (Dec 1903). Collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1918), 47-48.
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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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