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Parasite Quotes (30 quotes)
Parasitic Quotes

...on opening the incubator I experienced one of those rare moments of intense emotion which reward the research worker for all his pains: at first glance I saw that the broth culture, which the night before had been very turbid was perfectly clear: all the bacteria had vanished... as for my agar spread it was devoid of all growth and what caused my emotion was that in a flash I understood: what causes my spots was in fact an invisible microbe, a filterable virus, but a virus parasitic on bacteria. Another thought came to me also, If this is true, the same thing will have probably occurred in the sick man. In his intestine, as in my test-tube, the dysentery bacilli will have dissolved away under the action of their parasite. He should now be cured.
In Allan Chase, Magic Shots: A Human and Scientific Account of the Long and Continuing Struggle to Eradicated Infectious Diseases by Vaccination (1982), 249-250. Also in Allan J. Tobin and Jennie Dusheck, Asking About Life (2005), 206.
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A lot of people ask, “Do you think humans are parasites?” It’s an interesting idea and one worth thinking about. People casually refer to humanity as a virus spreading across the earth. In fact, we do look like some strange kind of bio-film spreading across the landscape. A good metaphor? If the biosphere is our host, we do use it up for our own benefit. We do manipulate it. We alter the flows and fluxes of elements like carbon and nitrogen to benefit ourselves—often at the expense of the biosphere as a whole. If you look at how coral reefs or tropical forests are faring these days, you’ll notice that our host is not doing that well right now. Parasites are very sophisticated; parasites are highly evolved; parasites are very successful, as reflected in their diversity. Humans are not very good parasites. Successful parasites do a very good job of balancing—using up their hosts and keeping them alive. It’s all a question of tuning the adaptation to your particular host. In our case, we have only one host, so we have to be particularly careful.
Talk at Columbia University, 'The Power of Parasites'.
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After the planet becomes theirs, many millions of years will have to pass before a beetle particularly loved by God, at the end of its calculations will find written on a sheet of paper in letters of fire that energy is equal to the mass multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. The new kings of the world will live tranquilly for a long time, confining themselves to devouring each other and being parasites among each other on a cottage industry scale.
'Beetles' Other People’s Trades (1985, trans. 1989).
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All infections, of whatever type, with no exceptions, are products of parasitic beings; that is, by living organisms that enter in other living organisms, in which they find nourishment, that is, food that suits them, here they hatch, grow and reproduce themselves.
Quoted in English in Paolo Mazzarello, The Hidden Structure: A Scientific Biography of Camillo Golgi (1999), trans. and ed. Henry A. Buchtel and Aldo Hadiani, 19.
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And this is the ultimate lesson that our knowledge of the mode of transmission of typhus has taught us: Man carries on his skin a parasite, the louse. Civilization rids him of it. Should man regress, should he allow himself to resemble a primitive beast, the louse begins to multiply again and treats man as he deserves, as a brute beast. This conclusion would have endeared itself to the warm heart of Alfred Nobel. My contribution to it makes me feel less unworthy of the honour which you have conferred upon me in his name.
'Investigations on Typhus', Nobel Lecture, 1928. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 187.
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DNA that used to have some function way back in evolution but currently does not (and might possibly be revived if, say, an ancient parasite reappeared), DNA that controls how genes switch their protein manufacturing on and off, DNA that controls those, and so on. Some may actually be genuine junk. And some (so the joke goes) may encode a message like ‘It was me, I’m God, I existed all along, ha ha.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 218.
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Experimental physicists … walk a narrow path with pitfalls on either side. If we spend all our time developing equipment, we risk the appellation of “plumber,” and if we merely use the tools developed by others, we risk the censure of our peers for being parasitic.
In Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1968), 'Recent Developments in Particle Physics', collected in Nobel Lectures: Physics 1963-1970 (1972), 241.
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For the philosopher, order is the entirety of repetitions manifested, in the form of types or of laws, by perceived objects. Order is an intelligible relation. For the biologist, order is a sequence in space and time. However, according to Plato, all things arise out of their opposites. Order was born of the original disorder, and the long evolution responsible for the present biological order necessarily had to engender disorder.
An organism is a molecular society, and biological order is a kind of social order. Social order is opposed to revolution, which is an abrupt change of order, and to anarchy, which is the absence of order.
I am presenting here today both revolution and anarchy, for which I am fortunately not the only one responsible. However, anarchy cannot survive and prosper except in an ordered society, and revolution becomes sooner or later the new order. Viruses have not failed to follow the general law. They are strict parasites which, born of disorder, have created a very remarkable new order to ensure their own perpetuation.
'Interaction Among Virus, Cell, and Organism', Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1965). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1963-1970 (1972), 174.
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I can think of a few microorganisms, possibly the tubercle bacillus, the syphilis spirochete, the malarial parasite, and a few others, that have a selective advantage in their ability to infect human beings, but there is nothing to be gained, in an evolutionary sense, by the capacity to cause illness or death. Pathogenicity may be something of a disadvantage for most microbes…
In 'Germs', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 90.
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I have a friendly feeling towards pigs generally, and consider them the most intelligent of beasts, not excepting the elephant and the anthropoid ape—the dog is not to be mentioned in this connection. I also like his disposition and attitude towards all other creatures, especially man. He is not suspicious, or shrinkingly submissive, like horses, cattle, and sheep; nor an impudent devil-may-care like the goat; nor hostile like the goose; nor condescending like the cat; nor a flattering parasite like the dog. He views us from a totally different, a sort of democratic, standpoint as fellow-citizens and brothers, and takes it for granted, or grunted, that we understand his language, and without servility or insolence he has a natural, pleasant, camerados-all or hail-fellow-well-met air with us.
In The Book of a Naturalist (1919), 295-296.
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I have failed in finding parasites in mosquitoes fed on malaria patients, but perhaps I am not using the proper kind of mosquito.
Letter to his wife (14 Aug 1897). In Memoirs, With a Full Account of the Great Malaria Problem and its Solution (1923), 221.
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If a solution fails to appear … and yet we feel success is just around the corner, try resting for a while. … Like the early morning frost, this intellectual refreshment withers the parasitic and nasty vegetation that smothers the good seed. Bursting forth at last is the flower of truth.
From Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), 35.
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If diphtheria is a disease caused by a microorganism, it is essential that three postulates be fulfilled. The fulfilment of these postulates is necessary in order to demonstrate strictly the parasitic nature of a disease:
1) The organism must be shown to be constantly present in characteristic form and arrangement in the diseased tissue.
2) The organism which, from its behaviour appears to be responsible for the disease, must be isolated and grown in pure culture.
3) The pure culture must be shown to induce the disease experimentally.
An early statement of Koch's postulates.
Mittheilungen aus den Kaiserliche Gesundheitsamt (1884) Vol. 2. Trans. T. D. Brock, Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology (1988), 180.
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In order to pursue chemotherapy successfully we must look for substances which possess a high affinity and high lethal potency in relation to the parasites, but have a low toxicity in relation to the body, so that it becomes possible to kill the parasites without damaging the body to any great extent. We want to hit the parasites as selectively as possible. In other words, we must learn to aim and to aim in a chemical sense. The way to do this is to synthesize by chemical means as many derivatives as possible of relevant substances.
'Ueber den jetzigen Stand der Chemotherapie'. Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschagt, 1909, 42, 17-47. Translated in B. Holmstedt and G. Liljestrand (eds.), Readings in Pharmacology (1963), 286.
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It is usually not recognized that for every injurious or parasitic microbe there are dozens of beneficial ones. Without the latter, there would be no bread to eat nor wine to drink, no fertile soils and no potable waters, no clothing and no sanitation. One can visualize no form of higher life without the existence of the microbes. They are the universal scavengers. They keep in constant circulation the chemical elements which are so essential to the continuation of plant and animal life.
In My Life With the Microbes (1954), 4.
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It’s humbling to think that all animals, including human beings, are parasites of the plant world.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 39.
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Lately, however, on abandoning the brindled and grey mosquitos and commencing similar work on a new, brown species, of which I have as yet obtained very few individuals, I succeeded in finding in two of them certain remarkable and suspicious cells containing pigment identical in appearance to that of the parasite of malaria. As these cells appear to me to be very worthy of attention … I think it would be advisable to place on record a brief description both of the cells and of the mosquitos.
In 'On Some Peculiar Pigmented Cells Found in Two Mosquitoes Fed on Malarial Blood', British Medical Journal (18 Dec 1897), 1786. Ross continued this study and identified how malaria was transmitted.
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Most of us who become experimental physicists do so for two reasons; we love the tools of physics because to us they have intrinsic beauty, and we dream of finding new secrets of nature as important and as exciting as those uncovered by our scientific heroes.
In Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1968), 'Recent Developments in Particle Physics', collected in Nobel Lectures: Physics 1963-1970 (1972), 241.
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Nowhere is it more true that “prevention is better than cure,” than in the case of Parasitic Diseases.
From Author's Preface to English edition, trans. by William E. Hoyle, The Parasites of Man, and the Diseases which Proceed from Them: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners (1886), vii.
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Parasites are not only incredibly diverse; they are also incredibly successful. There are parasitic stretches of DNA in your own genes, some of which are called retrotransposons. Many of the parasitic stretches were originally viruses that entered our DNA. Most of them don't do us any harm. They just copy and insert themselves in other parts of our DNA, basically replicating themselves. Sometimes they hop into other species and replicate themselves in a new host. According to one estimate, roughly one-third to one-half of all human DNA is basically parasitic.
Talk at Columbia University, 'The Power of Parasites.'
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The belief is growing on me that the disease is communicated by the bite of the mosquito. … She always injects a small quantity of fluid with her bite—what if the parasites get into the system in this manner.
Letter (27 May 1896) to Patrick Manson. In The Great Malaria Problem and Its Solution: From the Memoirs of Ronald Ross (1988), 72. Ross asked for Manson’s opinion; the ellipsis above, in full is: “What do you think?” As quoted in William Derek Foster, A History of Parasitology (1965), 173. (It was for this insight that Ross was awarded a Nobel Prize.)
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The facts obtained in this study may possibly be sufficient proof of the causal relationship, that only the most sceptical can raise the objection that the discovered microorganism is not the cause but only an accompaniment of the disease... It is necessary to obtain a perfect proof to satisfy oneself that the parasite and the disease are ... actually causally related, and that the parasite is the... direct cause of the disease. This can only be done by completely separating the parasite from the diseased organism [and] introducing the isolated parasite into healthy organisms and induce the disease anew with all its characteristic symptoms and properties.
Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift (1882), 393. Quoted in Edward J. Huth and T. Jock Murray (eds.), Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2000), 52.
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To please men and to kill parasites are the only uses tobacco—its ultimate effects are the same in both cases.
In Tobaccoism: or, How Tobacco Kills (1922), Preface, 7.
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To prove that tuberculosis is caused by the invasion of bacilli, and that it is a parasitic disease primarily caused by the growth and multiplication of bacilli, it is necessary to isolate the bacilli from the body, to grow them in pure culture until they are freed from every disease product of the animal organism, and, by introducing isolated bacilli into animals, to reproduce the same morbid condition that is known to follow from inoculation with spontaneously developed tuberculous material.
'The Etiology of Tuberculosis' (1882), Essays of Robert Koch (1987), trans. K. Codell Carter, 87.
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We are all parasites; we humans, the greatest.
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We humans are the greatest of earth’s parasites
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Whoever looks at the insect world, at flies, aphides, gnats and innumerable parasites, and even at the infant mammals, must have remarked the extreme content they take in suction, which constitutes the main business of their life. If we go into a library or newsroom, we see the same function on a higher plane, performed with like ardor, with equal impatience of interruption, indicating the sweetness of the act. In the highest civilization the book is still the highest delight.
In Lecture, second in a series given at Freeman Place Chapel, Boston (Mar 1859), 'Quotation and Originality', in Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1917), 177.
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Why Become Extinct? Authors with varying competence have suggested that dinosaurs disappeared because the climate deteriorated (became suddenly or slowly too hot or cold or dry or wet), or that the diet did (with too much food or not enough of such substances as fern oil; from poisons in water or plants or ingested minerals; by bankruptcy of calcium or other necessary elements). Other writers have put the blame on disease, parasites, wars, anatomical or metabolic disorders (slipped vertebral discs, malfunction or imbalance of hormone and endocrine systems, dwindling brain and consequent stupidity, heat sterilization, effects of being warm-blooded in the Mesozoic world), racial old age, evolutionary drift into senescent overspecialization, changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg-eaters, overkill capacity by predators, fluctuation of gravitational constants, development of psychotic suicidal factors, entropy, cosmic radiation, shift of Earth's rotational poles, floods, continental drift, extraction of the moon from the Pacific Basin, draining of swamp and lake environments, sunspots, God’s will, mountain building, raids by little green hunters in flying saucers, lack of standing room in Noah’s Ark, and palaeoweltschmerz.
'Riddles of the Terrible Lizards', American Scientist (1964) 52, 231.
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Will our Philosophy to later Life
Seem but a crudeness of the planet's youth,
Our Wisdom but a parasite of Truth?
Essay read at the Heretics Club, Cambridge (May 1922), 'Philosophic Ants', collected in Essays of a Biologist (1923), 176.
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[The parasite that causes malaria] edges through the cells of the stomach wall of the mosquito and forms a cyst which grows and eventually bursts to release hundreds of “sporozoites” into the body cavity of the mosquito … As far as we can tell, the parasite does not harm the mosquito … It has always seemed to me, though, that these growing cysts … must at least give the mosquito something corresponding to a stomach-ache.
In The Prevalence of People (1955, 1962), 165.
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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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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
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
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
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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