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Who said: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
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Perfect Quotes (216 quotes)

“Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let me touch the axis.” So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the three level, radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing, suddenly and nervously twitched them; meanwhile, glancing intently from Starbuck to Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some nameless, interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of Starbuck fell downright.
“In vain!&rsdquo; cried Ahab; “but, maybe, 'tis well. For did ye three but once take the full-forced shock, then mine own electric thing, that had perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too, it would have dropped ye dead. ...”
[Commentary by Henry Schlesinger: Electricity—mysterious and powerful as it seemed at the time—served as a perfect metaphor for Captain Ahab's primal obsession and madness, which he transmits through the crew as if through an electrical circuit in Moby-Dick.]
Extract from Herman Melville, Moby-Dick and comment by Henry Schlesinger in The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution (2010), 64.
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... I left Caen, where I was living, to go on a geologic excursion under the auspices of the School of Mines. The incidents of the travel made me forget my mathematical work. Having reached Coutances, we entered an omnibus to go to some place or other. At the moment when I put my foot on the step, the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, that the transformations I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Eudidean geometry. I did not verify the idea; I should not have had time, as upon taking my seat in the omnibus, I went on with a conversation already commenced, but I felt a perfect certainty. On my return to Caen, for convenience sake, I verified the result at my leisure.
Quoted in Sir Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (1990), 541. Science and Method (1908) 51-52, 392.
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230(231-1) ... is the greatest perfect number known at present, and probably the greatest that ever will be discovered; for; as they are merely curious without being useful, it is not likely that any person will attempt to find a number beyond it.
In An Elementary Investigation of the Theory of Numbers (1811), 43. The stated number, which evaluates as 2305843008139952128 was discovered by Euler in 1772 as the eighth known perfect number. It has 19 digits. By 2013, the 48th perfect number found had 34850340 digits.
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Les grands ponts étant … des monuments qui peuvent servir à faire connoître la magnificence et le génie d’une nation, on ne sauroit trop s’occuper des moyens d’en perfectionner l’architecture, qui peut d’ailleurs être susceptible de variété, en conservant toujours, dans les formes et la décoration, le caractere de solidité qui lui est propre.
Great bridges being monuments which serve to make known the grandeur and genius of a nation, we cannot pay too much attention to means for perfecting their architecture; this may be varied in treatment, but there must ever be conserved, in form and in decoration, the indispensable character of solidity.
In Description des projets et de la construction des ponts de Neuilli, de Mantes, d'Orléans, de Louis XVI, etc. (1777, New ed. 1788), 630. Translated by D. B. Steinman, as quoted in 'Some Reflections on the architecture of Bridges', Engineering and Contracting (26 Dec 1917), 48, No. 26, 536. Also seen translated as, “A great bridge is a great monument which should serve to make known the splendour and genius of a nation; one should not occupy oneself with efforts to perfect it architecturally, for taste is always susceptible to change, but to conserve always in its form and decoration the character of solidity which is proper.”
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Les Leucocytes Et L'esprit De Sacrifice. — Il semble, d'après les recherches de De Bruyne (Phagocytose, 1895) et de ceux qui le citent, que les leucocytes des Lamellibranches — probablement lorsqu'ils ont phagocyté, qu'ils se sont chargés de résidus et de déchets, qu'ils ont, en un mot, accompli leur rôle et bien fait leur devoir — sortent du corps de l'animal et vont mourir dans le milieu ambiant. Ils se sacrifient. Après avoir si bien servi l'organisme par leur activité, ils le servent encore par leur mort en faisant place aux cellules nouvelles, plus jeunes.
N'est-ce pas la parfaite image du désintéressement le plus noble, et n'y a-t-il point là un exemple et un modèle? Il faut s'en inspirer: comme eux, nous sommes les unités d'un grand corps social; comme eux, nous pouvons le servir et envisager la mort avec sérénité, en subordonnant notre conscience individuelle à la conscience collective.
(30 Jan 1896)
Leukocytes and The Spirit Of Sacrifice. - It seems, according to research by De Bruyne (Phagocytosis, 1885) and those who quote it, that leukocytes of Lamellibranches [bivalves] - likely when they have phagocytized [ingested bacteria], as they become residues and waste, they have, in short, performed their role well and done their duty - leave the body of the animal and will die in the environment. They sacrifice themselves. Having so well served the body by their activities, they still serve in their death by making room for new younger cells.
Isn't this the perfect image of the noblest selflessness, and thereby presents an example and a model? It should be inspiring: like them, we are the units of a great social body, like them, we can serve and contemplate death with equanimity, subordinating our individual consciousness to collective consciousness.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 194. Google translation by Webmaster. Please give feedback if you can improve it.
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Neque enim ingenium sine disciplina aut disciplina sine ingenio perfectum artificem potest efficere
For neither talent without instruction nor instruction without talent can produce the perfect craftsman.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 1, Sec. 3. As in Frank Granger (trans.), Vitruvius: De Architectura (1931), 8-9. Also translated as “Neither natural ability without instruction nor instruction without natural ability can make the perfect artist.” In Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 3.
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Question: A hollow indiarubber ball full of air is suspended on one arm of a balance and weighed in air. The whole is then covered by the receiver of an air pump. Explain what will happen as the air in the receiver is exhausted.
Answer: The ball would expand and entirely fill the vessell, driving out all before it. The balance being of greater density than the rest would be the last to go, but in the end its inertia would be overcome and all would be expelled, and there would be a perfect vacuum. The ball would then burst, but you would not be aware of the fact on account of the loudness of a sound varying with the density of the place in which it is generated, and not on that in which it is heard.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 181, Question 21. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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To the Memory of Fourier
Fourier! with solemn and profound delight,
Joy born of awe, but kindling momently
To an intense and thrilling ecstacy,
I gaze upon thy glory and grow bright:
As if irradiate with beholden light;
As if the immortal that remains of thee
Attuned me to thy spirit’s harmony,
Breathing serene resolve and tranquil might.
Revealed appear thy silent thoughts of youth,
As if to consciousness, and all that view
Prophetic, of the heritage of truth
To thy majestic years of manhood due:
Darkness and error fleeing far away,
And the pure mind enthroned in perfect day.
In R. Graves, Life of W. R. Hamilton (1882), Vol. l, 696.
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A distinguished writer [Siméon Denis Poisson] has thus stated the fundamental definitions of the science:
“The probability of an event is the reason we have to believe that it has taken place, or that it will take place.”
“The measure of the probability of an event is the ratio of the number of cases favourable to that event, to the total number of cases favourable or contrary, and all equally possible” (equally like to happen).
From these definitions it follows that the word probability, in its mathematical acceptation, has reference to the state of our knowledge of the circumstances under which an event may happen or fail. With the degree of information which we possess concerning the circumstances of an event, the reason we have to think that it will occur, or, to use a single term, our expectation of it, will vary. Probability is expectation founded upon partial knowledge. A perfect acquaintance with all the circumstances affecting the occurrence of an event would change expectation into certainty, and leave neither room nor demand for a theory of probabilities.
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 243-244. The Poisson quote is footnoted as from Recherches sur la Probabilité des Jugemens.
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A good notation has a subtlety and suggestiveness which at times make it almost seem like a live teacher. … a perfect notation would be a substitute for thought.
In 'Introduction' by Bertrand Russell written for Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922), 17-18.
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A perfect thermo-dynamic engine is such that, whatever amount of mechanical effect it can derive from a certain thermal agency; if an equal amount be spent in working it backwards, an equal reverse thermal effect will be produced.
'Thomson on Carnot’s Motive Power of Heat' (appended to 'Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu' (1824) translated by R.H. Thurston) in Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, and on Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1890), 139.
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A professor … may be to produce a perfect mathematical work of art, having every axiom stated, every conclusion drawn with flawless logic, the whole syllabus covered. This sounds excellent, but in practice the result is often that the class does not have the faintest idea of what is going on. … The framework is lacking; students do not know where the subject fits in, and this has a paralyzing effect on the mind.
In A Concrete Approach to Abstract Algebra (1959), 1-2.
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After the discovery of spectral analysis no one trained in physics could doubt the problem of the atom would be solved when physicists had learned to understand the language of spectra. So manifold was the enormous amount of material that has been accumulated in sixty years of spectroscopic research that it seemed at first beyond the possibility of disentanglement. An almost greater enlightenment has resulted from the seven years of Röntgen spectroscopy, inasmuch as it has attacked the problem of the atom at its very root, and illuminates the interior. What we are nowadays hearing of the language of spectra is a true 'music of the spheres' in order and harmony that becomes ever more perfect in spite of the manifold variety. The theory of spectral lines will bear the name of Bohr for all time. But yet another name will be permanently associated with it, that of Planck. All integral laws of spectral lines and of atomic theory spring originally from the quantum theory. It is the mysterious organon on which Nature plays her music of the spectra, and according to the rhythm of which she regulates the structure of the atoms and nuclei.
Atombau und Spektrallinien (1919), viii, Atomic Structure and Spectral Lines, trans. Henry L. Brose (1923), viii.
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All that science can achieve is a perfect knowledge and a perfect understanding of the action of natural and moral forces.
…...
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All the different classes of beings which taken together make up the universe are, in the ideas of God who knows distinctly their essential gradations, only so many ordinates of a single curve so closely united that it would be impossible to place others between any two of them, since that would imply disorder and imperfection. Thus men are linked with the animals, these with the plants and these with the fossils which in turn merge with those bodies which our senses and our imagination represent to us as absolutely inanimate. And, since the law of continuity requires that when the essential attributes of one being approximate those of another all the properties of the one must likewise gradually approximate those of the other, it is necessary that all the orders of natural beings form but a single chain, in which the various classes, like so many rings, are so closely linked one to another that it is impossible for the senses or the imagination to determine precisely the point at which one ends and the next begins?all the species which, so to say, lie near the borderlands being equivocal, at endowed with characters which might equally well be assigned to either of the neighboring species. Thus there is nothing monstrous in the existence zoophytes, or plant-animals, as Budaeus calls them; on the contrary, it is wholly in keeping with the order of nature that they should exist. And so great is the force of the principle of continuity, to my thinking, that not only should I not be surprised to hear that such beings had been discovered?creatures which in some of their properties, such as nutrition or reproduction, might pass equally well for animals or for plants, and which thus overturn the current laws based upon the supposition of a perfect and absolute separation of the different orders of coexistent beings which fill the universe;?not only, I say, should I not be surprised to hear that they had been discovered, but, in fact, I am convinced that there must be such creatures, and that natural history will perhaps some day become acquainted with them, when it has further studied that infinity of living things whose small size conceals them for ordinary observation and which are hidden in the bowels of the earth and the depth of the sea.
Lettre Prétendue de M. De Leibnitz, à M. Hermann dont M. Koenig a Cité le Fragment (1753), cxi-cxii, trans. in A. O. Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (1936), 144-5.
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All the inventions and devices ever constructed by the human hand or conceived by the human mind, no matter how delicate, how intricate and complicated, are simple, childish toys compared with that most marvelously wrought mechanism, the human body. Its parts are far more delicate, and their mutual adjustments infinitely more accurate, than are those of the most perfect chronometer ever made.
In Plain Facts For Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life (1879, 1887), Revised Ed., 332.
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All the Universe is full of the life of perfect creatures.
In The Scientific Ethics (1930), 20.
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Also the earth is not spherical, as some have said, although it tends toward sphericity, for the shape of the universe is limited in its parts as well as its movement… . The movement which is more perfect than others is, therefore, circular, and the corporeal form which is the most perfect is the sphere.
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Although a physical law may never admit of a perfectly abrupt change, there is no limit to the approach which it may make to abruptness.
In The Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method (1874), Vols. 1-2, 273.
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Although the works of the Creator may be in themselves all equally perfect, the animal is, as I see it, the most complete work of nature, and man is her masterpiece.
'Histoire des Animaux', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. 2, 2. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth -Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 437.
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Among the minor, yet striking characteristics of mathematics, may be mentioned the fleshless and skeletal build of its propositions; the peculiar difficulty, complication, and stress of its reasonings; the perfect exactitude of its results; their broad universality; their practical infallibility.
In Charles S. Peirce, ‎Charles Hartshorne (ed.), ‎Paul Weiss (ed.), Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (1931), Vol. 4, 197.
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An acquaintance of mine, a notary by profession, who, by perpetual writing, began first to complain of an excessive wariness of his whole right arm which could be removed by no medicines, and which was at last succeeded by a perfect palsy of the whole arm. … He learned to write with his left hand, which was soon thereafter seized with the same disorder.
Concerning a notary, a scribe skilled in rapid writing, in a translation published by the University of Chicago Press (1940).
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And from true lordship it follows that the true God is living, intelligent, and powerful; from the other perfections, that he is supreme, or supremely perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, he endures from eternity to eternity; and he is present from infinity to infinity; he rules all things, and he knows all things that happen or can happen.
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), General Scholium, 941.
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Archeus, the Workman and Governour of generation, doth cloath himself presently with a bodily cloathing: For in things soulified he walketh thorow all the Dens and retiring places of his Seed, and begins to transform the matter, according to the perfect act of his own Image.
Oriatrike: Or, Physick Refined, trans. John Chandler (1662), 35.
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As a nation, we are too young to have true mythic heroes, and we must press real human beings into service. Honest Abe Lincoln the legend is quite a different character from Abraham Lincoln the man. And so should they be. And so should both be treasured, as long as they are distinguished. In a complex and confusing world, the perfect clarity of sports provides a focus for legitimate, utterly unambiguous support or disdain. The Dodgers are evil, the Yankees good. They really are, and have been for as long as anyone in my family can remember.
…...
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As for me ... I would much rather be a perfected ape than a degraded Adam. Yes, if it is shown to me that my humble ancestors were quadrupedal animals, arboreal herbivores, brothers or cousins of those who were also the ancestors of monkeys and apes, far from blushing in shame for my species because of its genealogy and parentage, I will be proud of all that evolution has accomplished, of the continuous improvement which takes us up to the highest order, of the successive triumphs that have made us superior to all of the other species ... the splendid work of progress.
I will conclude in saying: the fixity of species is almost impossible, it contradicts the mode of succession and of the distribution of species in the sequence of extant and extinct creatures. It is therefore extremely likely that species are variable and are subject to evolution. But the causes, the mechanisms of this evolution are still unknown.
'Discussion sur la Machoire Humaine de la Naulette (Belgique)', Bulletin de la Societé d'Anthropologie de Paris, 2nd Series, I (1866), 595. Trans. Erik Trinkaus and Pat Shipman, The Neanderthals: Changing the Image of Mankind (1993), 103-4.
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As geologists, we learn that it is not only the present condition of the globe that has been suited to the accommodation of myriads of living creatures, but that many former states also have been equally adapted to the organization and habits of prior races of beings. The disposition of the seas, continents, and islands, and the climates have varied; so it appears that the species have been changed, and yet they have all been so modelled, on types analogous to those of existing plants and animals, as to indicate throughout a perfect harmony of design and unity of purpose. To assume that the evidence of the beginning or end of so vast a scheme lies within the reach of our philosophical inquiries, or even of our speculations, appears to us inconsistent with a just estimate of the relations which subsist between the finite powers of man and the attributes of an Infinite and Eternal Being.
Concluding remark, Principles of Geology(1833), Vol. 3, 384-5.
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As mineralogy constitutes a part of chemistry, it is clear that this arrangement [of minerals] must derive its principles from chemistry. The most perfect mode of arrangement would certainly be to allow bodies to follow each other according to the order of their electro-chemical properties, from the most electro-negative, oxygen, to the most electro-positive, potassium; and to place every compound body according to its most electro-positive ingredient.
An Attempt to Establish a Pure Scientific System of Mineralogy (1814), trans. J. Black, 48.
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As science has supplanted its predecessors, so it may hereafter be superseded by some more perfect hypothesis, perhaps by some totally different way of looking at the phenomena—of registering the shadows on the screen—of which we in this generation can form no idea. The advance of knowledge is an infinite progression towards a goal that for ever recedes.
In The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (1890, 1900), Vol. 3, 460.
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As to a perfect Science of natural Bodies … we are, I think, so far from being capable of any such thing that I conclude it lost labour to seek after it.
In 'Extent of Human Knowledge', An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (1700), Book 4, 335.
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Ask a follower of Bacon what [science] the new philosophy, as it was called in the time of Charles the Second, has effected for mankind, and his answer is ready; “It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly offices, all dispatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, to cross the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its first-fruits; for it is a philosophy which never rests, which has never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will be its starting-point to-morrow.”
From essay (Jul 1837) on 'Francis Bacon' in Edinburgh Review. In Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay and Lady Trevelyan (ed.) The Works of Lord Macaulay Complete (1871), Vol. 6, 222.
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At the sea shore you pick up a pebble, fashioned after a law of nature, in the exact form that best resists pressure, and worn as smooth as glass. It is so perfect that you take it as a keepsake. But could you know its history from the time when a rough fragment of rock fell from the overhanging cliff into the sea, to be taken possession of by the under currents, and dragged from one ocean to another, perhaps around the world, for a hundred years, until in reduced and perfect form it was cast upon the beach as you find it, you would have a fit illustration of what many principles, now in familiar use, have endured, thus tried, tortured and fashioned during the ages.
From Address (1 Aug 1875), 'The Growth of Principles' at Saratoga. Collected in William L. Snyder (ed.), Great Speeches by Great Lawyers: A Collection of Arguments and Speeches (1901), 246.
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Before delivering your lectures, the manuscript should be in such a perfect form that, if need be, it could be set in type. Whether you follow the manuscript during the delivery of the lecture is purely incidental. The essential point is that you are thus master of the subject matter.
Advice to his son. As quoted in Ralph Oesper, The Human Side Of Scientists (1975), 185.
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Before the introduction of the Arabic notation, multiplication was difficult, and the division even of integers called into play the highest mathematical faculties. Probably nothing in the modern world could have more astonished a Greek mathematician than to learn that, under the influence of compulsory education, the whole population of Western Europe, from the highest to the lowest, could perform the operation of division for the largest numbers. This fact would have seemed to him a sheer impossibility. … Our modern power of easy reckoning with decimal fractions is the most miraculous result of a perfect notation.
In Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 59.
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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.
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By destroying the biological character of phenomena, the use of averages in physiology and medicine usually gives only apparent accuracy to the results. From our point of view, we may distinguish between several kinds of averages: physical averages, chemical averages and physiological and pathological averages. If, for instance, we observe the number of pulsations and the degree of blood pressure by means of the oscillations of a manometer throughout one day, and if we take the average of all our figures to get the true or average blood pressure and to learn the true or average number of pulsations, we shall simply have wrong numbers. In fact, the pulse decreases in number and intensity when we are fasting and increases during digestion or under different influences of movement and rest; all the biological characteristics of the phenomenon disappear in the average. Chemical averages are also often used. If we collect a man's urine during twenty-four hours and mix all this urine to analyze the average, we get an analysis of a urine which simply does not exist; for urine, when fasting, is different from urine during digestion. A startling instance of this kind was invented by a physiologist who took urine from a railroad station urinal where people of all nations passed, and who believed he could thus present an analysis of average European urine! Aside from physical and chemical, there are physiological averages, or what we might call average descriptions of phenomena, which are even more false. Let me assume that a physician collects a great many individual observations of a disease and that he makes an average description of symptoms observed in the individual cases; he will thus have a description that will never be matched in nature. So in physiology, we must never make average descriptions of experiments, because the true relations of phenomena disappear in the average; when dealing with complex and variable experiments, we must study their various circumstances, and then present our most perfect experiment as a type, which, however, still stands for true facts. In the cases just considered, averages must therefore be rejected, because they confuse, while aiming to unify, and distort while aiming to simplify. Averages are applicable only to reducing very slightly varying numerical data about clearly defined and absolutely simple cases.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 134-135.
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By research in pure science I mean research made without any idea of application to industrial matters but solely with the view of extending our knowledge of the Laws of Nature. I will give just one example of the ‘utility’ of this kind of research, one that has been brought into great prominence by the War—I mean the use of X-rays in surgery. Now, not to speak of what is beyond money value, the saving of pain, or, it may be, the life of the wounded, and of bitter grief to those who loved them, the benefit which the state has derived from the restoration of so many to life and limb, able to render services which would otherwise have been lost, is almost incalculable. Now, how was this method discovered? It was not the result of a research in applied science starting to find an improved method of locating bullet wounds. This might have led to improved probes, but we cannot imagine it leading to the discovery of X-rays. No, this method is due to an investigation in pure science, made with the object of discovering what is the nature of Electricity. The experiments which led to this discovery seemed to be as remote from ‘humanistic interest’ —to use a much misappropriated word—as anything that could well be imagined. The apparatus consisted of glass vessels from which the last drops of air had been sucked, and which emitted a weird greenish light when stimulated by formidable looking instruments called induction coils. Near by, perhaps, were great coils of wire and iron built up into electro-magnets. I know well the impression it made on the average spectator, for I have been occupied in experiments of this kind nearly all my life, notwithstanding the advice, given in perfect good faith, by non-scientific visitors to the laboratory, to put that aside and spend my time on something useful.
In Speech made on behalf of a delegation from the Conjoint Board of Scientific Studies in 1916 to Lord Crewe, then Lord President of the Council. In George Paget Thomson, J. J. Thomson and the Cavendish Laboratory in His Day (1965), 167-8.
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Chemistry is not a primitive science like geometry and astronomy; it is constructed from the debris of a previous scientific formation; a formation half chimerical and half positive, itself found on the treasure slowly amassed by the practical discoveries of metallurgy, medicine, industry and domestic economy. It has to do with alchemy, which pretended to enrich its adepts by teaching them to manufacture gold and silver, to shield them from diseases by the preparation of the panacea, and, finally, to obtain for them perfect felicity by identifying them with the soul of the world and the universal spirit.
From Les Origines de l’Alchimie (1885), 1-2. Translation as quoted in Harry Shipley Fry, 'An Outline of the History of Chemistry Symbolically Represented in a Rookwood Fountain', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (1 Sep 1922), 14, No. 9, 868. From the original French, “La Chimie n’est pas une science primitive, comme la géométrie ou l’astronomie; elle s’est constituée sur les débris d’une formation scientifique antérieure; formation demi-chimérique et demi-positive, fondée elle-même sur le trésor lentement amassé des découvertes pratiques de la métallurgie, de la médecine, de l’industrie et de l’économie domestique. Il s’agit de l’alchimie, qui prétendait à la fois enrichir ses adeptes en leur apprenant à fabriquer l’or et l’argent, les mettre à l’abri des maladies par la préparation de la panacée, enfin leur procurer le bonheur parfait en les identifiant avec l’âme du monde et l’esprit universel.”
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Confined to its true domain, mathematical reasoning is admirably adapted to perform the universal office of sound logic: to induce in order to deduce, in order to construct. … It contents itself to furnish, in the most favorable domain, a model of clearness, of precision, and consistency, the close contemplation of which is alone able to prepare the mind to render other conceptions also as perfect as their nature permits. Its general reaction, more negative than positive, must consist, above all, in inspiring us everywhere with an invincible aversion for vagueness, inconsistency, and obscurity, which may always be really avoided in any reasoning whatsoever, if we make sufficient effort.
In Synthèse Subjective (1856), 98. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 202-203. From the original French, “Bornée à son vrai domaine, la raison mathématique y peut admirablement remplir l’office universel de la saine logique: induire pour déduire, afin de construire. … Elle se contente de former, dans le domaine le plus favorable, un type de clarté, de précision, et de consistance, dont la contemplation familière peut seule disposer l’esprit à rendre les autres conceptions aussi parfaites que le comporte leur nature. Sa réaction générale, plus négative que positive, doit surtout consister à nous inspirer partout une invincible répugnance pour le vague, l’incohérence, et l’obscurité, que nous pouvons réellement éviter envers des pensées quelconques, si nous y faisons assez d’efforts.”
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Crystals grew inside rock like arithmetic flowers. They lengthened and spread, added plane to plane in an awed and perfect obedience to an absolute geometry that even stones—maybe only the stones—understood.
In An American Childhood (1987), 139.
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Distrust even Mathematics; albeit so sublime and highly perfected, we have here a machine of such delicacy it can only work in vacuo, and one grain of sand in the wheels is enough to put everything out of gear. One shudders to think to what disaster such a grain of sand may bring a Mathematical brain. Remember Pascal.
The Garden of Epicurus (1894) translated by Alfred Allinson, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 187.
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ENGINEER, in the military art, an able expert man, who, by a perfect knowledge in mathematics, delineates upon paper, or marks upon the ground, all sorts of forts, and other works proper for offence and defence. He should understand the art of fortification, so as to be able, not only to discover the defects of a place, but to find a remedy proper for them; as also how to make an attack upon, as well as to defend, the place. Engineers are extremely necessary for these purposes: wherefore it is requisite that, besides being ingenious, they should be brave in proportion. When at a siege the engineers have narrowly surveyed the place, they are to make their report to the general, by acquainting him which part they judge the weakest, and where approaches may be made with most success. Their business is also to delineate the lines of circumvallation and contravallation, taking all the advantages of the ground; to mark out the trenches, places of arms, batteries, and lodgments, taking care that none of their works be flanked or discovered from the place. After making a faithful report to the general of what is a-doing, the engineers are to demand a sufficient number of workmen and utensils, and whatever else is necessary.
In Encyclopaedia Britannica or a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1771), Vol. 2, 497.
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Euclidean mathematics assumes the completeness and invariability of mathematical forms; these forms it describes with appropriate accuracy and enumerates their inherent and related properties with perfect clearness, order, and completeness, that is, Euclidean mathematics operates on forms after the manner that anatomy operates on the dead body and its members. On the other hand, the mathematics of variable magnitudes—function theory or analysis—considers mathematical forms in their genesis. By writing the equation of the parabola, we express its law of generation, the law according to which the variable point moves. The path, produced before the eyes of the student by a point moving in accordance to this law, is the parabola.
If, then, Euclidean mathematics treats space and number forms after the manner in which anatomy treats the dead body, modern mathematics deals, as it were, with the living body, with growing and changing forms, and thus furnishes an insight, not only into nature as she is and appears, but also into nature as she generates and creates,—reveals her transition steps and in so doing creates a mind for and understanding of the laws of becoming. Thus modern mathematics bears the same relation to Euclidean mathematics that physiology or biology … bears to anatomy.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 38. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 112-113.
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Euler was a believer in God, downright and straightforward. The following story is told by Thiebault, in his Souvenirs de vingt ans de séjour à Berlin, … Thiebault says that he has no personal knowledge of the truth of the story, but that it was believed throughout the whole of the north of Europe. Diderot paid a visit to the Russian Court at the invitation of the Empress. He conversed very freely, and gave the younger members of the Court circle a good deal of lively atheism. The Empress was much amused, but some of her counsellors suggested that it might be desirable to check these expositions of doctrine. The Empress did not like to put a direct muzzle on her guest’s tongue, so the following plot was contrived. Diderot was informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraical demonstration of the existence of God, and would give it him before all the Court, if he desired to hear it. Diderot gladly consented: though the name of the mathematician is not given, it was Euler. He advanced toward Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction:
Monsieur, (a + bn) / n = x, donc Dieu existe; repondez!

Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted; while peals of laughter rose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1878), 251. [The declaration in French expresses, “therefore God exists; please answer!” This Euler-Diderot anecdote, as embellished by De Morgan, is generally regarded as entirely fictional. Diderot before he became an encyclopedist was an accomplished mathematician and fully capable of recognizing—and responding to—the absurdity of an algebraic expression in proving the existence of God. See B.H. Brown, 'The Euler-Diderot Anecdote', The American Mathematical Monthly (May 1942), 49, No. 5, 392-303. —Webmaster.]
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Every species of plant and animal is determined by a pool of germ plasm that has been most carefully selected over a period of hundreds of millions of years. We can understand now why it is that mutations in these carefully selected organisms almost invariably are detrimental.The situation can be suggested by a statement by Dr. J.B.S. Haldane: “My clock is not keeping perfect time. It is conceivable that it will run better if I shoot a bullet through it; but it is much more probable that it will stop altogether.” Professor George Beadle, in this connection, has asked: “What is the chance that a typographical error would improve Hamlet?”
In No More War! (1958), Chap. 4, 53.
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Evolution is the conviction that organisms developed their current forms by an extended history of continual transformation, and that ties of genealogy bind all living things into one nexus. Panselectionism is a denial of history, for perfection covers the tracks of time. A perfect wing may have evolved to its current state, but it may have been created just as we find it. We simply cannot tell if perfection be our only evidence. As Darwin himself understood so well, the primary proofs of evolution are oddities and imperfections that must record pathways of historical descent–the panda’s thumb and the flamingo’s smile of my book titles (chosen to illustrate this paramount principle of history).
…...
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Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the greatest poet, but always his encouragement and support … The sailor and traveller, the anatomist, chemist, astronomer, geologist, phrenologist, spiritualist, mathematician, historian and lexicographer are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets and their construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem.
In Walt Whitman and William Michael Rossetti (ed.), 'Preface to the First Edition of Leaves of Grass', Poems By Walt Whitman (1868), 46.
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For Nature is accustomed to rehearse with certain large, perhaps baser, and all classes of wild (animals), and to place in the imperfect the rudiments of the perfect animals.
De Pulmonibus (1661), trans. James Young, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (1929-30), 23, 7.
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For since the fabric of the universe is most perfect and the work of a most wise creator, nothing at all takes place in the universe in which some rule of the maximum or minimum does not appear….
From Methodus Inveniendi Uneas Curvas (1744), 1st addition, art. 1, translated as an epigram in Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800-1840: From the Calculus and Mechanics to Mathematical Analysis and Mathematical Physics (1990), Vol. 1, 285.
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For the evolution of science by societies the main requisite is the perfect freedom of communication between each member and anyone of the others who may act as a reagent.
The gaseous condition is exemplified in the soiree, where the members rush about confusedly, and the only communication is during a collision, which in some instances may be prolonged by button-holing.
The opposite condition, the crystalline, is shown in the lecture, where the members sit in rows, while science flows in an uninterrupted stream from a source which we take as the origin. This is radiation of science. Conduction takes place along the series of members seated round a dinner table, and fixed there for several hours, with flowers in the middle to prevent any cross currents.
The condition most favourable to life is an intermediate plastic or colloidal condition, where the order of business is (1) Greetings and confused talk; (2) A short communication from one who has something to say and to show; (3) Remarks on the communication addressed to the Chair, introducing matters irrelevant to the communication but interesting to the members; (4) This lets each member see who is interested in his special hobby, and who is likely to help him; and leads to (5) Confused conversation and examination of objects on the table.
I have not indicated how this programme is to be combined with eating.
Letter to William Grylls Adams (3 Dec 1873). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 949-50.
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Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.
In The Temper of Our Time (1967), 103.
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Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 257.
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God put a secret art into the forces of Nature so as to enable it to fashion itself out of chaos into a perfect world system.
Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1755), editted and translated by William Hastie in Kant's Cosmogony (1900), 27.
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He rules all things, not as the world soul but as the lord of all. And because of his dominion he is called Lord God Pantokrator. For 'god' is a relative word and has reference to servants, and godhood is the lordship of God, not over his own body as is supposed by those for whom God is the world soul, but over servants. The supreme God is an eternal, infinite, and absolutely perfect being; but a being, however perfect, without dominion is not the Lord God.
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), General Scholium, 940-1.
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His [Erwin Schrödinger's] private life seemed strange to bourgeois people like ourselves. But all this does not matter. He was a most lovable person, independent, amusing, temperamental, kind and generous, and he had a most perfect and efficient brain.
Max Born
In My Life, Recollections of a Nobel Laureate (1978), 270. Quoted by Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1992), 6.
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I am convinced that it is impossible to expound the methods of induction in a sound manner, without resting them upon the theory of probability. Perfect knowledge alone can give certainty, and in nature perfect knowledge would be infinite knowledge, which is clearly beyond our capacities. We have, therefore, to content ourselves with partial knowledge—knowledge mingled with ignorance, producing doubt.
The Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method, 2nd edition (1877), 197.
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I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.
In 'The Science Of Deduction', A Study In Scarlet (1887, 1904), 15-16.
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I had at one time a very bad fever of which I almost died. In my fever I had a long consistent delirium. I dreamt that I was in Hell, and that Hell is a place full of all those happenings that are improbable but not impossible. The effects of this are curious. Some of the damned, when they first arrive below, imagine that they will beguile the tedium of eternity by games of cards. But they find this impossible, because, whenever a pack is shuffled, it comes out in perfect order, beginning with the Ace of Spades and ending with the King of Hearts. There is a special department of Hell for students of probability. In this department there are many typewriters and many monkeys. Every time that a monkey walks on a typewriter, it types by chance one of Shakespeare's sonnets. There is another place of torment for physicists. In this there are kettles and fires, but when the kettles are put on the fires, the water in them freezes. There are also stuffy rooms. But experience has taught the physicists never to open a window because, when they do, all the air rushes out and leaves the room a vacuum.
'The Metaphysician's Nightmare', Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories (1954), 38-9.
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I have stated, that in the thirteen species of ground-finches [in the Galapagos Islands], a nearly perfect gradation may be traced, from a beak extraordinarily thick, to one so fine, that it may be compared to that of a warbler. I very much suspect, that certain members of the series are confined to different islands; therefore, if the collection had been made on any one island, it would not have presented so perfect a gradation. It is clear, that if several islands have each their peculiar species of the same genera, when these are placed together, they will have a wide range of character. But there is not space in this work, to enter on this curious subject.
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XIX, 475.
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I know of scarcely anything so apt to impress the imagination as the wonderful form of cosmic order expressed by the “Law of Frequency of Error.” The law would have been personified by the Greeks and deified, if they had known of it. It reigns with serenity and in complete self-effacement, amidst the wildest confusion. The huger the mob, and the greater the apparent anarchy, the more perfect is its sway. It is the supreme law of Unreason. Whenever a large sample of chaotic elements are taken in hand and marshaled in the order of their magnitude, an unsuspected and most beautiful form of regularity proves to have been latent all along.
In Natural Inheritance (1894), 66.
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I like a deep and difficult investigation when I happen to have made it easy to myself, if not to all others; and there is a spirit of gambling in this, whether, as by the cast of a die, a calculation è perte de vue shall bring out a beautiful and perfect result or shall be wholly thrown away. Scientific investigations are a sort of warfare carried on in the closet or on the couch against all one's contemporaries and predecessors; I have often gained a signal victory when I have been half asleep, but more frequently have found, upon being thoroughly awake, that the enemy had still the advantage of me, when I thought I had him fast in a corner, and all this you see keeps me alive.
Letter to Hudson Gurney, quoted in George Peacock, The Life of Thomas Young (1855), 239.
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I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve it. I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others. I want to save and advance human life, not destroy it. I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill. The dove is my emblem.
…...
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I presume that few who have paid any attention to the history of the Mathematical Analysis, will doubt that it has been developed in a certain order, or that that order has been, to a great extent, necessary—being determined, either by steps of logical deduction, or by the successive introduction of new ideas and conceptions, when the time for their evolution had arrived. And these are the causes that operate in perfect harmony. Each new scientific conception gives occasion to new applications of deductive reasoning; but those applications may be only possible through the methods and the processes which belong to an earlier stage.
Explaining his choice for the exposition in historical order of the topics in A Treatise on Differential Equations (1859), Preface, v-vi.
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I spent most of a lifetime trying to be a mathematician—and what did I learn. What does it take to be one? I think I know the answer: you have to be born right, you must continually strive to become perfect, you must love mathematics more than anything else, you must work at it hard and without stop, and you must never give up.
In I Want to be a Mathematician: an Automathography (1985), 400.
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I work for perfection, for perfection's sake. I don't care what the external reasons are. And it's much more like a ballerina on opening night. You've done what you've got to do. When you go out, the purpose is to turn a perfect turn. You are not thinking about the future of the company, you are not thinking about your future, you're not thinking about the critics, it is you and the perfect turn.
[Describing his task of repairing the Hubble Space Telescope.]
Interview (22 May 1997). On Academy of Achievement website.
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If one of these people, in whom the chance-worship of our remoter ancestors thus strangely survives, should be within reach of the sea when a heavy gale is blowing, let him betake himself to the shore and watch the scene. Let him note the infinite variety of form and size of the tossing waves out at sea; or against the curves of their foam-crested breakers, as they dash against the rocks; let him listen to the roar and scream of the shingle as it is cast up and torn down the beach; or look at the flakes of foam as they drive hither and thither before the wind: or note the play of colours, which answers a gleam of sunshine as it falls upon their myriad bubbles. Surely here, if anywhere, he will say that chance is supreme, and bend the knee as one who has entered the very penetralia of his divinity. But the man of science knows that here, as everywhere, perfect order is manifested; that there is not a curve of the waves, not a note in the howling chorus, not a rainbow-glint on a bubble, which is other than a necessary consequence of the ascertained laws of nature; and that with a sufficient knowledge of the conditions, competent physico-mathematical skill could account for, and indeed predict, every one of these 'chance' events.
In 'On the Reception of the Origin of Species'. In Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol. 2, 200-1.
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If some race of quadrumanous animals, especially one of the most perfect of them, were to lose, by force of circumstances or some other cause, the habit of climbing trees and grasping the branches with its feet in the same way as with its hands, in order to hold on to them; and if the individuals of this race were forced for a series of generations to use their feet only for walking, and to give up using their hands like feet; there is no doubt, according to the observations detailed in the preceding chapter, that these quadrumanous animals would at length be transformed into bimanous, and that the thumbs on their feet would cease to be separated from the other digits, when they only used their feet for walking.
Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Vol. 1, 349, trans. Hugh Elliot (1914), 170.
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If thou art able, O stranger, to find out all these things and gather them together in your mind, giving all the relations, thou shalt depart crowned with glory and knowing that thou hast been adjudged perfect in this species of wisdom.
From a letter to Eratosthenes, the chief librarian at Alexandria, containing the Cattle Problem, an exceedingly difficult calculation involving huge numbers (which was not solved exactly until the use of a supercomputer in 1981). In David J. Darling, The Universal Book of Mathematics (2004), 23. The debate by scholars regarding whether Archimedes is the true author is in T. L. Heath (ed.), The Works of Archimedes (1897), xxxiv.
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If we were capable of following the progress of increase of the number of the parts of the most perfect animal, as they first formed in succession, from the very first to its state of full perfection, we should probably be able to compare it with some one of the incomplete animals themselves, of every order of animals in the Creation, being at no stage different from some of the inferior orders; or, in other words, if we were to take a series of animals, from the more imperfect to the perfect, we should probably find an imperfect animal, corresponding with some stage of the most perfect.
R. Owen (ed.), John Hunter's Observations on Animal Development (1841), 14.
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In abstract mathematical theorems, the approximation to absolute truth is perfect. … In physical science, on the contrary, we treat of the least quantities which are perceptible.
In The Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method (1913), 478.
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In despair, I offer your readers their choice of the following definitions of entropy. My authorities are such books and journals as I have by me at the moment.
(a) Entropy is that portion of the intrinsic energy of a system which cannot be converted into work by even a perfect heat engine.—Clausius.
(b) Entropy is that portion of the intrinsic energy which can be converted into work by a perfect engine.—Maxwell, following Tait.
(c) Entropy is that portion of the intrinsic energy which is not converted into work by our imperfect engines.—Swinburne.
(d) Entropy (in a volume of gas) is that which remains constant when heat neither enters nor leaves the gas.—W. Robinson.
(e) Entropy may be called the ‘thermal weight’, temperature being called the ‘thermal height.’—Ibid.
(f) Entropy is one of the factors of heat, temperature being the other.—Engineering.
I set up these bald statement as so many Aunt Sallys, for any one to shy at.
[Lamenting a list of confused interpretations of the meaning of entropy, being hotly debated in journals at the time.]
In The Electrician (9 Jan 1903).
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In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.
…...
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In other branches of science, where quick publication seems to be so much desired, there may possibly be some excuse for giving to the world slovenly or ill-digested work, but there is no such excuse in mathematics. The form ought to be as perfect as the substance, and the demonstrations as rigorous as those of Euclid. The mathematician has to deal with the most exact facts of Nature, and he should spare no effort to render his interpretation worthy of his subject, and to give to his work its highest degree of perfection. “Pauca sed matura” was Gauss’s motto.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Section A, (1890), Nature, 42, 467. [The Latin motto translates as “Few, but ripe”. —Webmaster]
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In pure mathematics we have a great structure of logically perfect deductions which constitutes an integral part of that great and enduring human heritage which is and should be largely independent of the perhaps temporary existence of any particular geographical location at any particular time. … The enduring value of mathematics, like that of the other sciences and arts, far transcends the daily flux of a changing world. In fact, the apparent stability of mathematics may well be one of the reasons for its attractiveness and for the respect accorded it.
In Fundamentals of Mathematics (1941), 463.
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In the Choice of … Things, neglect not any, tho’ the most ordinary and trivial; the Commonest Peble or Flint, Cockle or Oyster-shell, Grass, Moss, Fern or Thistle, will be as useful, and as proper to be gathered and sent, as any the rarest production of the Country. Only take care to choose of each the fairest of its kind, and such as are perfect or whole.
In Brief Instructions for Making Observations in all Parts of the World (1696), 10.
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In the year 1692, James Bernoulli, discussing the logarithmic spiral [or equiangular spiral, ρ = αθ] … shows that it reproduces itself in its evolute, its involute, and its caustics of both reflection and refraction, and then adds: “But since this marvellous spiral, by such a singular and wonderful peculiarity, pleases me so much that I can scarce be satisfied with thinking about it, I have thought that it might not be inelegantly used for a symbolic representation of various matters. For since it always produces a spiral similar to itself, indeed precisely the same spiral, however it may be involved or evolved, or reflected or refracted, it may be taken as an emblem of a progeny always in all things like the parent, simillima filia matri. Or, if it is not forbidden to compare a theorem of eternal truth to the mysteries of our faith, it may be taken as an emblem of the eternal generation of the Son, who as an image of the Father, emanating from him, as light from light, remains ὁμοούσιος with him, howsoever overshadowed. Or, if you prefer, since our spira mirabilis remains, amid all changes, most persistently itself, and exactly the same as ever, it may be used as a symbol, either of fortitude and constancy in adversity, or, of the human body, which after all its changes, even after death, will be restored to its exact and perfect self, so that, indeed, if the fashion of Archimedes were allowed in these days, I should gladly have my tombstone bear this spiral, with the motto, ‘Though changed, I arise again exactly the same, Eadem numero mutata resurgo.’”
In 'The Uses of Mathesis', Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 32, 516-516. [The Latin phrase “simillima filia matri” roughly translates as “the daughter resembles the mother”. “Spira mirabilis” is Latin for “marvellous spiral”. The Greek word (?µ???s???) translates as “consubstantial”, meaning of the same substance or essence (used especially of the three persons of the Trinity in Christian theology). —Webmaster]
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Invention depends altogether upon Execution or Organisation, as that is right or wrong, so is the Invention perfect or imperfect.
Marginal note (c. 1808) written At head of account of Reynolds’ life in his copy of The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1798), beside “Much copying discountenanced”. As given in William Blake, Edwin John Ellis (ed.) and William Butler Yeats (ed.), The Works of William Blake (1893), Vol. 2, 319-320.
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Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.
In The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1893), Vol. 9, 458.
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Isolated facts and experiments have in themselves no value, however great their number may be. They only become valuable in a theoretical or practical point of view when they make us acquainted with the law of a series of uniformly recurring phenomena, or, it may be, only give a negative result showing an incompleteness in our knowledge of such a law, till then held to be perfect.
'The Aim and Progress of Physical Science' (1869). Trans. E. Atkinson, Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects (1873), 369.
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It follows from the supreme perfection of God, that in creating the universe has chosen the best possible plan, in which there is the greatest variety together with the greatest order; the best arranged ground, place, time; the most results produced in the most simple ways; the most of power, knowledge, happiness and goodness the creatures that the universe could permit. For since all the possibles in I understanding of God laid claim to existence in proportion to their perfections, the actual world, as the resultant of all these claims, must be the most perfect possible. And without this it would not be possible to give a reason why things have turned out so rather than otherwise.
The Principles of Nature and Grace (1714), The Philosophical Works of Leibnitz (1890), ed. G. M. Duncan, 213-4.
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It is a misfortune for a science to be born too late when the means of observation have become too perfect. That is what is happening at this moment with respect to physical chemistry; the founders are hampered in their general grasp by third and fourth decimal places.
Science and Hypothesis (1902), trans. W. J. G. and preface by J. Larmor (1905), 181.
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It is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodeling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the direction of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.
'The Struggle for Existence in Human Society' (1888). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 199.
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It is distinctly proved, by this series of observations, that the reflex function exists in the medulla independently of the brain; in the medulla oblongata independently of the medulla spinalis; and in the spinal marrow of the anterior extremities, of the posterior extremities, and of the tail, independently of that of each other of these parts, respectively. There is still a more interesting and satisfactory mode of performing the experiment: it is to divide the spinal marrow between the nerves of the superior and inferior extremities. We have then two modes of animal life : the first being the assemblage of the voluntary and respiratory powers with those of the reflex function and irritability; the second, the two latter powers only: the first are those which obtain in the perfect animal, the second those which animate the foetus. The phenomena are precisely what might have been anticipated. If the spinal marrow be now destroyed, the irritability alone remains,—all the other phenomena having ceased.
'On the Reflex Function of the Medulla Oblongata and Medulla Spinalis,' Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1833, 123, 650.
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It is for such inquiries the modern naturalist collects his materials; it is for this that he still wants to add to the apparently boundless treasures of our national museums, and will never rest satisfied as long as the native country, the geographical distribution, and the amount of variation of any living thing remains imperfectly known. He looks upon every species of animal and plant now living as the individual letters which go to make up one of the volumes of our earth’s history; and, as a few lost letters may make a sentence unintelligible, so the extinction of the numerous forms of life which the progress of cultivation invariably entails will necessarily render obscure this invaluable record of the past. It is, therefore, an important object, which governments and scientific institutions should immediately take steps to secure, that in all tropical countries colonised by Europeans the most perfect collections possible in every branch of natural history should be made and deposited in national museums, where they may be available for study and interpretation. If this is not done, future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations. They will charge us with having culpably allowed the destruction of some of those records of Creation which we had it in our power to preserve; and while professing to regard every living thing as the direct handiwork and best evidence of a Creator, yet, with a strange inconsistency, seeing many of them perish irrecoverably from the face of the earth, uncared for and unknown.
In 'On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1863), 33, 234.
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It is impossible to trap modern physics into predicting anything with perfect determinism because it deals with probabilities from the outset.
New Pathways in Science (1935), 105.
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It is not easy to name another sailor who has supplied such valuable information to the world; he had a passion for reporting exactly as he saw it, with a delicate and perfect style; he felt an unending curiosity that made his accounts have a unique delicate touch.
describing William Dampier in Burney's Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea (1803)
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It is not for us to say whether Inspiration revealed to the Psalmist the wonders of the modern astronomy. But even though the mind be a perfect stranger to the science of these enlightened times, the heavens present a great and an elevating spectacle—an immense concave reposing on the circular boundary of the world, and the innumerable lights which are suspended from on high, moving with solemn regularity along its surface.
From Discourse, 'A Sketch of Modern Astronomy', in The Works of Thomas Chalmers (1830), 69.
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It is now necessary to indicate more definitely the reason why mathematics not only carries conviction in itself, but also transmits conviction to the objects to which it is applied. The reason is found, first of all, in the perfect precision with which the elementary mathematical concepts are determined; in this respect each science must look to its own salvation .... But this is not all. As soon as human thought attempts long chains of conclusions, or difficult matters generally, there arises not only the danger of error but also the suspicion of error, because since all details cannot be surveyed with clearness at the same instant one must in the end be satisfied with a belief that nothing has been overlooked from the beginning. Every one knows how much this is the case even in arithmetic, the most elementary use of mathematics. No one would imagine that the higher parts of mathematics fare better in this respect; on the contrary, in more complicated conclusions the uncertainty and suspicion of hidden errors increases in rapid progression. How does mathematics manage to rid itself of this inconvenience which attaches to it in the highest degree? By making proofs more rigorous? By giving new rules according to which the old rules shall be applied? Not in the least. A very great uncertainty continues to attach to the result of each single computation. But there are checks. In the realm of mathematics each point may be reached by a hundred different ways; and if each of a hundred ways leads to the same point, one may be sure that the right point has been reached. A calculation without a check is as good as none. Just so it is with every isolated proof in any speculative science whatever; the proof may be ever so ingenious, and ever so perfectly true and correct, it will still fail to convince permanently. He will therefore be much deceived, who, in metaphysics, or in psychology which depends on metaphysics, hopes to see his greatest care in the precise determination of the concepts and in the logical conclusions rewarded by conviction, much less by success in transmitting conviction to others. Not only must the conclusions support each other, without coercion or suspicion of subreption, but in all matters originating in experience, or judging concerning experience, the results of speculation must be verified by experience, not only superficially, but in countless special cases.
In Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 105. As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 19.
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It is obvious that man dwells in a splendid universe, a magnificent expanse of earth and sky and heaven, which manifestly is built on a majestic plan, maintains some mighty design, though man himself cannot grasp it. Yet for him it is not a pleasant or satisfying world. In his few moments of respite from labor or from his enemies, he dreams that this very universe might indeed be perfect, its laws operating just as now they seem to do, and yet he and it somehow be in full accord. The very ease with which he can frame this image to himself makes the reality all the more mocking. ... It is only too clear that man is not at home in this universe, and yet he is not good enough to deserve a better.
In The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939, 1954), 7.
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It is profitable nevertheless to permit ourselves to talk about 'meaningless' terms in the narrow sense if the preconditions to which all profitable operations are subject are so intuitive and so universally accepted as to form an almost unconscious part of the background of the public using the term. Physicists of the present day do constitute a homogenous public of this character; it is in the air that certain sorts of operation are valueless for achieving certain sorts of result. If one wants to know how many planets there are one counts them but does not ask a philosopher what is the perfect number.
Reflections of a Physicist (1950), 6.
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It is to geometry that we owe in some sort the source of this discovery [of beryllium]; it is that [science] that furnished the first idea of it, and we may say that without it the knowledge of this new earth would not have been acquired for a long time, since according to the analysis of the emerald by M. Klaproth and that of the beryl by M. Bindheim one would not have thought it possible to recommence this work without the strong analogies or even almost perfect identity that Citizen Haüy found for the geometrical properties between these two stony fossils.
Haüy used the geometry of cleavage to reveal the underlying crystal structure, and thus found the emeral and beryl were geometrically identical. In May Elvira Weeks, The Discovery of the Elements (1934), 153, citing Mellor, Comprehensive Treatise on Inorganic and Theoretical Chemistry (1923), 204-7.
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It is true that a mathematician who is not somewhat of a poet, will never be a perfect mathematician.
From letter to Sofia Kovalevskaya (27 Aug 1883), as quoted by Mittag-Leffler in Compte Rendu du Deuxième Congrès International des Mathématiciens Tenu à Paris du 6 au 12 Août 1900 (1902), 149. In Robert Edoward Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath's Quotation-book (1914), 121. From the original German, “Es ist wahr, ein Mathematiker, der nicht etwas Poet ist, wird nimmer ein vollkommener Mathematiker sein.” Also seen translated as, “No mathematician can be a complete mathematician unless he is also something of a poet”, in, for example, E.T. Bell, Men of Mathematics (1937), 432.
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It seems to me, that the only Objects of the abstract Sciences or of Demonstration is Quantity and Number, and that all Attempts to extend this more perfect Species of Knowledge beyond these Bounds are mere Sophistry and Illusion.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 252.
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It usually takes me from five to seven years to perfect a thing. Some things I have been working on for twenty-five years—and some of them are still unsolved. My average would be about seven years. The incandescent light was the hardest one of all: it took many years not only of concentrated thought but also of world-wide research. The storage battery took eight years. It took even longer to perfect the phonograph.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 86.
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It was found after many troublesome experiments that when the vacuum within the lamp globe was good, and the contact between the carbon and the conductor which supported it sufficient, there was no blackening of the globes, and no appreciable wasting away of the carbons. Thus was swept away a pernicious error, which, like a misleading finger post proclaiming “No road this way,” tended to bar progress along a good thoroughfare. It only remained to perfect the details of the lamp, to find the best material from which to form the carbon, and to fix this material in the lamp in the best manner. These points, I think, I have now satisfactorily settled, and you see the result in the lamp before me on the table.
In Lecture (20 Oct 1880) at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, as quoted in United States Courts of Appeals Reports: Cases Adjudged in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals (1894), Vol. 11, 419-420.
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It was not just the Church that resisted the heliocentrism of Copernicus. Many prominent figures, in the decades following the 1543 publication of De Revolutionibus, regarded the Copernican model of the universe as a mathematical artifice which, though it yielded astronomical predictions of superior accuracy, could not be considered a true representation of physical reality: 'If Nicolaus Copernicus, the distinguished and incomparable master, in this work had not been deprived of exquisite and faultless instruments, he would have left us this science far more well-established. For he, if anybody, was outstanding and had the most perfect understanding of the geometrical and arithmetical requisites for building up this discipline. Nor was he in any respect inferior to Ptolemy; on the contrary, he surpassed him greatly in certain fields, particularly as far as the device of fitness and compendious harmony in hypotheses is concerned. And his apparently absurd opinion that the Earth revolves does not obstruct this estimate, because a circular motion designed to go on uniformly about another point than the very center of the circle, as actually found in the Ptolemaic hypotheses of all the planets except that of the Sun, offends against the very basic principles of our discipline in a far more absurd and intolerable way than does the attributing to the Earth one motion or another which, being a natural motion, turns out to be imperceptible. There does not at all arise from this assumption so many unsuitable consequences as most people think.'
from Letter to Christopher Rothman, 20 Jan 1587
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It wasn’t the finches that put the idea [of natural selection] in Darwin’s head, it was the tortoises. The reason he didn’t use the tortoises [in writing On the Origin of Species] was that, when he got back, he found he didn’t have localities on the tortoise specimens. Here the great god, the greatest naturalist we have records of, made a mistake. His fieldwork wasn’t absolutely perfect.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 33.
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It [mathematics] is in the inner world of pure thought, where all entia dwell, where is every type of order and manner of correlation and variety of relationship, it is in this infinite ensemble of eternal verities whence, if there be one cosmos or many of them, each derives its character and mode of being,—it is there that the spirit of mathesis has its home and its life.
Is it a restricted home, a narrow life, static and cold and grey with logic, without artistic interest, devoid of emotion and mood and sentiment? That world, it is true, is not a world of solar light, not clad in the colours that liven and glorify the things of sense, but it is an illuminated world, and over it all and everywhere throughout are hues and tints transcending sense, painted there by radiant pencils of psychic light, the light in which it lies. It is a silent world, and, nevertheless, in respect to the highest principle of art—the interpenetration of content and form, the perfect fusion of mode and meaning—it even surpasses music. In a sense, it is a static world, but so, too, are the worlds of the sculptor and the architect. The figures, however, which reason constructs and the mathematic vision beholds, transcend the temple and the statue, alike in simplicity and in intricacy, in delicacy and in grace, in symmetry and in poise. Not only are this home and this life thus rich in aesthetic interests, really controlled and sustained by motives of a sublimed and supersensuous art, but the religious aspiration, too, finds there, especially in the beautiful doctrine of invariants, the most perfect symbols of what it seeks—the changeless in the midst of change, abiding things hi a world of flux, configurations that remain the same despite the swirl and stress of countless hosts of curious transformations.
In 'The Universe and Beyond', Hibbert Journal (1904-1906), 3, 314.
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It [the Euglena] is a perfect laboratory in itself, and it will act and react upon the water and the matters contained therein; converting them into new compounds resembling its own substance, and at the same time giving up portions of its own substance which have become effete.
From Address (22 Jul 1854) delivered at St. Martin’s Hall, published as a pamphlet (1854), 8, and collected in 'Educational Value of Natural History Sciences', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 75.
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Just after sundown I see a large flock of wild geese in a perfect harrow cleaving their way toward the northeast, with Napoleonic tactics splitting the forces of winter.
(31 Mar 1858). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: X: August 8, 1857-June 29, 1858 (1906), 336.
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Just as it will never be successfully challenged that the French language, progressively developing and growing more perfect day by day, has the better claim to serve as a developed court and world language, so no one will venture to estimate lightly the debt which the world owes to mathematicians, in that they treat in their own language matters of the utmost importance, and govern, determine and decide whatever is subject, using the word in the highest sense, to number and measurement.
In 'Sprüche in Prosa', Natur, III, 868.
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Looking through the telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round planet swimming in the field. It seemed such a little thing, so bright and small and still, faintly marked with transverse stripes, and slightly flattened from the perfect round. But so little it was, so silvery warm—a pin’s-head of light! It was as if it quivered, but really this was the telescope vibrating with the activity of the clockwork that kept the planet in view.
As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and smaller and to advance and recede, but that was simply that my eye was tired. Forty millions of miles it was from us—more than forty millions of miles of void. Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.
The War of the Worlds (1898), editted by Frank D. McConnell (1977), 128.
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Man perfected by society is the best of all animals; he is the most terrible of all when he lives without law and without justice.
Aristotle
In Politics, Book 1, 1253a. As given in Maturin Murray Ballou (ed.), Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors (1872), 323. As translated by Benjamin Jowett, The Politics of Aristotle (1899), 4: “For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.” As translated by Harris Rackham in Aristotle: Politics, 13: “For as man is the best of the animals when perfected, so he is the worst of all when sundered from law and justice.”
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Manufacturing is more than just putting parts together. It’s coming up with ideas, testing principles and perfecting the engineering, as well as final assembly.
Epigraph in The Business Book (2014), 286. Need primary source - can you help?
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Mathematics, including not merely Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and the higher Calculus, but also the applied Mathematics of Natural Philosophy, has a marked and peculiar method or character; it is by preeminence deductive or demonstrative, and exhibits in a nearly perfect form all the machinery belonging to this mode of obtaining truth. Laying down a very small number of first principles, either self-evident or requiring very little effort to prove them, it evolves a vast number of deductive truths and applications, by a procedure in the highest degree mathematical and systematic.
In Education as a Science (1879), 148.
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Mathematics, too, is a language, and as concerns its structure and content it is the most perfect language which exists, superior to any vernacular; indeed, since it is understood by every people, mathematics may be called the language of languages. Through it, as it were, nature herself speaks; through it the Creator of the world has spoken, and through it the Preserver of the world continues to speak.
In Die Mathematik die Fackeltragerin einer neutn Zeit (1889), 5. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 194. From the original German, “Denn auch die Mathematik ist eine Sprache, und zwar nach Bau und Inhalt die vollkommenste Sprache, die es giebt, höher als jede Volkssprache; ja, weil alle Völker sie verstehen, kann sie die Sprache der Sprachen heißen. In ihr spricht sozusagen die Natur selbst, in ihr hat der Schöpfer der Welt geredet und in ihr redet noch immer ihr Erhalter.”
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May not Music be described as the Mathematic of sense, Mathematic as Music of the reason? the soul of each the same! Thus the musician feels Mathematic, the mathematician thinks Music, Music the dream, Mathematic the working life each to receive its consummation from the other when the human intelligence, elevated to its perfect type, shall shine forth glorified in some future Mozart-Dirichlet or Beethoven-Gauss a union already not indistinctly foreshadowed in the genius and labours of a Helmholtz!
In paper read 7 Apr 1864, printed in 'Algebraical Researches Containing a Disquisition On Newton’s Rule for the Discovery of Imaginary Roots', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1865), 154, 613, footnote. Also in Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, 419.
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Men of science, osteologists
And surgeons, beat some poets, in respect
For nature,—count nought common or unclean,
Spend raptures upon perfect specimens
Of indurated veins, distorted joints,
Or beautiful new cases of curved spine;
While we, we are shocked at nature’s falling off,
We dare to shrink back from her warts and blains.
From poem, 'Aurora Leigh' (1856), Book 6. In Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Harriet Waters Preston (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of Mrs. Browning (1900), 344.
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My mother, my dad and I left Cuba when I was two [January, 1959]. Castro had taken control by then, and life for many ordinary people had become very difficult. My dad had worked [as a personal bodyguard for the wife of Cuban president Batista], so he was a marked man. We moved to Miami, which is about as close to Cuba as you can get without being there. It’s a Cuba-centric society. I think a lot of Cubans moved to the US thinking everything would be perfect. Personally, I have to say that those early years were not particularly happy. A lot of people didn’t want us around, and I can remember seeing signs that said: “No children. No pets. No Cubans.” Things were not made easier by the fact that Dad had begun working for the US government. At the time he couldn’t really tell us what he was doing, because it was some sort of top-secret operation. He just said he wanted to fight against what was happening back at home. [Estefan’s father was one of the many Cuban exiles taking part in the ill-fated, anti-Castro Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow dictator Fidel Castro.] One night, Dad disappered. I think he was so worried about telling my mother he was going that he just left her a note. There were rumours something was happening back home, but we didn’t really know where Dad had gone. It was a scary time for many Cubans. A lot of men were involved—lots of families were left without sons and fathers. By the time we found out what my dad had been doing, the attempted coup had taken place, on April 17, 1961. Intitially he’d been training in Central America, but after the coup attempt he was captured and spent the next wo years as a political prisoner in Cuba. That was probably the worst time for my mother and me. Not knowing what was going to happen to Dad. I was only a kid, but I had worked out where my dad was. My mother was trying to keep it a secret, so she used to tell me Dad was on a farm. Of course, I thought that she didn’t know what had really happened to him, so I used to keep up the pretence that Dad really was working on a farm. We used to do this whole pretending thing every day, trying to protect each other. Those two years had a terrible effect on my mother. She was very nervous, just going from church to church. Always carrying her rosary beads, praying her little heart out. She had her religion, and I had my music. Music was in our family. My mother was a singer, and on my father’s side there was a violinist and a pianist. My grandmother was a poet.
…...
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Natural causes, as we know, are at work, which tend to modify, if they do not at length destroy, all the arrangements and dimensions of the earth and the whole solar system. But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred and may yet occur in the heavens, though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins, the molecules [i.e. atoms] out of which these systems are built—the foundation stones of the material universe—remain unbroken and unworn. They continue to this day as they were created—perfect in number and measure and weight.
Lecture to the British Association at Bradford, 'Molecules', Nature (1873), 8, 437-441. Reprinted in James Clerk Maxwell and W. D. Niven, editor, The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (2003), 377. By
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Natural powers, principally those of steam and falling water, are subsidized and taken into human employment Spinning-machines, power-looms, and all the mechanical devices, acting, among other operatives, in the factories and work-shops, are but so many laborers. They are usually denominated labor-saving machines, but it would be more just to call them labor-doing machines. They are made to be active agents; to have motion, and to produce effect; and though without intelligence, they are guided by laws of science, which are exact and perfect, and they produce results, therefore, in general, more accurate than the human hand is capable of producing.
Speech in Senate (12 Mar 1838). In The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), Vol. 8, 177.
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Nothing could be more admirable than the manner in which for forty years he [Joseph Black] performed this useful and dignified office. His style of lecturing was as nearly perfect as can well be conceived; for it had all the simplicity which is so entirely suited to scientific discourse, while it partook largely of the elegance which characterized all he said or did … I have heard the greatest understandings of the age giving forth their efforts in its most eloquent tongues—have heard the commanding periods of Pitt’s majestic oratory—the vehemence of Fox’s burning declamation—have followed the close-compacted chain of Grant’s pure reasoning—been carried away by the mingled fancy, epigram, and argumentation of Plunket; but I should without hesitation prefer, for mere intellectual gratification (though aware how much of it is derived from association), to be once more allowed the privilege which I in those days enjoyed of being present while the first philosopher of his age was the historian of his own discoveries, and be an eyewitness of those experiments by which he had formerly made them, once more performed with his own hands.
In 'Philosophers of the Time of George III', The Works of Henry, Lord Brougham, F.R.S. (1855), Vol. I, 19-21.
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Nothing will ever equal that moment of joyous excitement which filled my whole being when I felt myself flying away from the earth. It was not mere pleasure; it was perfect bliss. Escaped from the frightful torments of persecution and of calumny, I felt that I was answering all in rising above all.
after making man's first ascent by hydrogen balloon in 1783 quoted in Wonderful Balloon Ascents: Or, the Conquest of the Skies by F. Marion
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Now this supreme wisdom, united to goodness that is no less infinite, cannot but have chosen the best. For as a lesser evil is a kind of good, even so a lesser good is a kind of evil if it stands in the way of a greater good; and the would be something to correct in the actions of God if it were possible to the better. As in mathematics, when there is no maximum nor minimum, in short nothing distinguished, everything is done equally, or when that is not nothing at all is done: so it may be said likewise in respect of perfect wisdom, which is no less orderly than mathematics, that if there were not the best (optimum) among all possible worlds, God would not have produced any.
Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God and Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil (1710), 128.
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Of Science generally we can remark, first, that it is the most perfect embodiment of Truth, and of the ways of getting at Truth. More than anything else does it impress the mind with the nature of Evidence, with the labour and precautions necessary to prove a thing. It is the grand corrective of the laxness of the natural man in receiving unaccredited facts and conclusions. It exemplifies the devices for establishing a fact, or a law, under every variety of circumstances; it saps the credit of everything that is affirmed without being properly attested.
In Education as a Science (1879), 147-148.
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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 can descend by imperceptible degree from the most perfect creature to the most shapeless matter, from the best-organised animal to the roughest mineral.
'Premier Discours: De la Manière d'Étudier et de Traiter l'Histoire naturelle'. In Oeuvres Complètes (1774-79), Vol. I, 17.
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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.
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One of his followers said to him, “O Perfect One, why do you do this thing? For though we find joy in it, we know not the celestial reason nor the correspondency of it.” And Sabbah answered: “I will tell you first what I do; I will tell you the reasons afterward.”
In 'The Perfect One'. The Century Magazine (Dec 1918), 95, No. 2, 320. Collected in Ironical Tales (1927), 17.
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Our commercial and mercantile law was no sudden invention. It was not the work of a day, or of one set of minds… In the incipient, the early existence of this system, a single maxim obtained force, others succeeded; one rule of right formed a nucleus around which other kindred rules might cling; the necessities of trade originated customs, customs ripened into law; a few feeble decisions of courts laid the foundation for others; the wisdom and experience of each succeeding generation improved upon the wisdom and experience of generations that were past; and thus the edifice arose, perfect in its parts, beautiful in its proportions.
From biographical preface by T. Bigelow to Austin Abbott (ed.), Official Report of the Trial of Henry Ward Beecher (1875), Vol. 1, xi-xii.
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Our sight is the most perfect and most delightful of all our senses.
The Spectator (21 Jun 1712), 4, No. 411. In The Works of Joseph Addison editted by George Washington Greene (1883), Vol. 6, 322.
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Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air. Facts are the air of science. Without them a man of science can never rise. Without them your theories are vain surmises. But while you are studying, observing, experimenting, do not remain content with the surface of things. Do not become a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin. Seek obstinately for the laws that govern them.
Translation of a note, 'Bequest of Pavlov to the Academic Youth of his Country', written a few days before his death for a student magazine, The Generation of the Victors. As published in 'Pavlov and the Spirit of Science', Nature (4 Apr 1936), 137, 572.
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Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference.
Diary entry for 21 Feb 1940, The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1961), 169.
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Perfect clarity would profit the intellect but damage the will.
In Pensées (1670), Section 12, No. 3. As translated in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 347. From the original French, “La clarté parfaite ne servirait qu’à l’esprit, et nuirait à la volonté,” in Pensées de Blaise Pascal (1847),
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Perfect concordance among reformers is not to be expected; and men who are honestly struggling towards the light cannot hope to attain at one bound to the complete truth. There is always a danger lest the fascination of a new discovery should lead us too far. Men of science, being human, are apt, like lovers, to exaggerate the perfections and be a little blind to the faults of the object of their choice.
'The Anniversary Address of the President', Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 1885, 41, 55.
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Perfect health is above gold; a sound body before riches.
Ecclesiasticus
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Perhaps the most impressive illustration of all is to suppose that you could label the molecules in a tumbler of water. ... threw it anywhere you please on the earth, and went away from the earth for a few million years while all the water on the earth, the oceans, rivers, lakes and clouds had had time to mix up perfectly. Now supposing that perfect mixing had taken place, you come back to earth and draw a similar tumbler of water from the nearest tap, how many of those marked molecules would you expect to find in it? Well, the answer is 2000. There are 2000 times more molecules in a tumbler of water than there are tumblers of water in the whole earth.
In Lecture (1936) on 'Forty Years of Atomic Theory', collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.) in Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 99-100.
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Pope has elegantly said a perfect woman's but a softer man. And if we take in the consideration, that there can be but one rule of moral excellence for beings made of the same materials, organized after the same manner, and subjected to similar laws of Nature, we must either agree with Mr. Pope, or we must reverse the proposition, and say, that a perfect man is a woman formed after a coarser mold.
Letter XXII. 'No Characteristic Difference in Sex'. In Letters on Education with Observations on Religious and Metaphysical Subjects (1790), 128.
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Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endangers its cargo.
Proposed summation written for the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925), in Genevieve Forbes Herrick and John Origen Herrick ,The Life of William Jennings Bryan (1925), 405. This speech was prepared for delivery at the trial, but was never heard there, as both sides mutually agreed to forego arguments to the jury.
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Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best one we have. In this respect, as in many others, it’s like democracy.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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Science is not ... a perfect instrument, but it is a superb and invaluable tool that works harm only when taken as an end in itself.
Carl Jung
Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower
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So many of the properties of matter, especially when in the gaseous form, can be deduced from the hypothesis that their minute parts are in rapid motion, the velocity increasing with the temperature, that the precise nature of this motion becomes a subject of rational curiosity. Daniel Bernoulli, Herapath, Joule, Kronig, Clausius, &c., have shewn that the relations between pressure, temperature and density in a perfect gas can be explained by supposing the particles move with uniform velocity in straight lines, striking against the sides of the containing vessel and thus producing pressure. (1860)
In W.D. Niven (ed.) 'Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases,' The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, Vol 1, 377. Quoted in John David Anderson, Jr., Hypersonic and High Temperature Gas Dynamics (2000), 468.
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Species do not grow more perfect: the weaker dominate the strong, again and again— the reason being that they are the great majority, and they are also cleverer. Darwin forgot the mind (—that is English!): the weak possess more mind. … To acquire mind, one must need mind—one loses it when one no longer needs it.
[Criticism of Darwin’s Origin of Species.]
The Twilight of the Idols (1888), translated by R. J. Hollingdale, Twilight of the Idols and the Anti Christ (1990), 67. Also see alternate translations.
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That which is perfect in science, is most commonly the elaborate result of successive improvements, and of various judgments exercised in the rejection of what was wrong, no less than in the adoption of what was right.
Reflection 490, in Lacon: Or Many Things in Few Words, Addressed to Those who Think (1832), 202.
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The admirable perfection of the adaptations of organisms and of their parts to the functions they perform has detracted attention from the fact that adaptedness does not consist of perfect fit, but capacity to fit or to adapt in a variety of ways: only in this sense is adaptedness a guarantee of further survival and evolutionary progress, for too perfect a fit is fatal to the species if not to the individual. This, I think, sets phylogeny and ontogeny in the correct perspective. It is the genotype which bears the marks of past experience of the species and defines the range of possible fits. What fit is actually chosen, what phenotype is actually evolved, is determined by the ever renewed individual history.
'The Interplay of Heredity and Environment in the Synthesis of Respiratory Enzymes in Yeast', The Harvey Lectures: Delivered under the auspices of The Harvey Society of New York 1950-1951, 1951, 156, 45-6.
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The animal frame, though destined to fulfill so many other ends, is as a machine more perfect than the best contrived steam-engine—that is, is capable of more work with the same expenditure of fuel.
'On Matter, Living Force, and Heat' (1847). In The Scientific Papers of James Prescott Joule (1884), Vol. 1, 271.
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The art of flying has only just been born; it will be perfected, and some day we’ll go to the Moon.
In Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes (1686), as translated in Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds (1990), 34.
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The average English author [of mathematical texts] leaves one under the impression that he has made a bargain with his reader to put before him the truth, the greater part of the truth, and nothing but the truth; and that if he has put the facts of his subject into his book, however difficult it may be to unearth them, he has fulfilled his contract with his reader. This is a very much mistaken view, because effective teaching requires a great deal more than a bare recitation of facts, even if these are duly set forth in logical order—as in English books they often are not. The probable difficulties which will occur to the student, the objections which the intelligent student will naturally and necessarily raise to some statement of fact or theory—these things our authors seldom or never notice, and yet a recognition and anticipation of them by the author would be often of priceless value to the student. Again, a touch of humour (strange as the contention may seem) in mathematical works is not only possible with perfect propriety, but very helpful; and I could give instances of this even from the pure mathematics of Salmon and the physics of Clerk Maxwell.
In Perry, Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 59-61.
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The belief that mathematics, because it is abstract, because it is static and cold and gray, is detached from life, is a mistaken belief. Mathematics, even in its purest and most abstract estate, is not detached from life. It is just the ideal handling of the problems of life, as sculpture may idealize a human figure or as poetry or painting may idealize a figure or a scene. Mathematics is precisely the ideal handling of the problems of life, and the central ideas of the science, the great concepts about which its stately doctrines have been built up, are precisely the chief ideas with which life must always deal and which, as it tumbles and rolls about them through time and space, give it its interests and problems, and its order and rationality. That such is the case a few indications will suffice to show. The mathematical concepts of constant and variable are represented familiarly in life by the notions of fixedness and change. The concept of equation or that of an equational system, imposing restriction upon variability, is matched in life by the concept of natural and spiritual law, giving order to what were else chaotic change and providing partial freedom in lieu of none at all. What is known in mathematics under the name of limit is everywhere present in life in the guise of some ideal, some excellence high-dwelling among the rocks, an “ever flying perfect” as Emerson calls it, unto which we may approximate nearer and nearer, but which we can never quite attain, save in aspiration. The supreme concept of functionality finds its correlate in life in the all-pervasive sense of interdependence and mutual determination among the elements of the world. What is known in mathematics as transformation—that is, lawful transfer of attention, serving to match in orderly fashion the things of one system with those of another—is conceived in life as a process of transmutation by which, in the flux of the world, the content of the present has come out of the past and in its turn, in ceasing to be, gives birth to its successor, as the boy is father to the man and as things, in general, become what they are not. The mathematical concept of invariance and that of infinitude, especially the imposing doctrines that explain their meanings and bear their names—What are they but mathematicizations of that which has ever been the chief of life’s hopes and dreams, of that which has ever been the object of its deepest passion and of its dominant enterprise, I mean the finding of the worth that abides, the finding of permanence in the midst of change, and the discovery of a presence, in what has seemed to be a finite world, of being that is infinite? It is needless further to multiply examples of a correlation that is so abounding and complete as indeed to suggest a doubt whether it be juster to view mathematics as the abstract idealization of life than to regard life as the concrete realization of mathematics.
In 'The Humanization of Teaching of Mathematics', Science, New Series, 35, 645-46.
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The black holes of nature are the most perfect macroscopic objects there are in the universe: the only elements in their construction are our concepts of space and time.
…...
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The body of man has in itself blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile; these make up the nature of this body, and through these he feels pain or enjoys health. Now he enjoys the most perfect health when these elements are duly proportioned to one another in respect of compounding, power and bulk, and when they are perfectly mingled.
Nature of Man, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1931), Vol. 4, II.
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The earliest signs of living things, announcing as they do a high complexity of organization, entirely exclude the hypothesis of a transmutation from lower to higher grades of being. The first fiat of Creation which went forth, doubtlessly ensured the perfect adaptation of animals to the surrounding media; and thus, whilst the geologist recognizes a beginning, he can see in the innumerable facts of the eye of the earliest crustacean, the same evidences of Omniscience as in the completion of the vertebrate form.
Siluria (1854), 469.
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The Earth obey’d and straight
Op’ning her fertile womb, teem’d at a birth Innumerous living creatures, perfect forms,
Limb’d and full grown.
From 'Paradise Lost', Book 7, collected in Edward Hawkins (ed.), The Poetical Works of John Milton (1824), Vol. 2, 43.
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The equations of dynamics completely express the laws of the historical method as applied to matter, but the application of these equations implies a perfect knowledge of all the data. But the smallest portion of matter which we can subject to experiment consists of millions of molecules, not one of which ever becomes individually sensible to us. We cannot, therefore, ascertain the actual motion of anyone of these molecules; so that we are obliged to abandon the strict historical method, and to adopt the statistical method of dealing with large groups of molecules … Thus molecular science teaches us that our experiments can never give us anything more than statistical information, and that no law derived from them can pretend to absolute precision. But when we pass from the contemplation of our experiments to that of the molecules themselves, we leave a world of chance and change, and enter a region where everything is certain and immutable.
'Molecules' (1873). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 374.
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The expenditure [on building railways] of £286,000,000 by the people has secured to us the advantages of internal communication all but perfect,—of progress in science and arts unexampled at any period of the history of the world,—of national progress almost unchecked, and of prosperity and happiness increased beyond all precedent.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 512.
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The experimental investigation by which Ampere established the law of the mechanical action between electric currents is one of the most brilliant achievements in science. The whole theory and experiment, seems as if it had leaped, full grown and full armed, from the brain of the 'Newton of Electricity'. It is perfect in form, and unassailable in accuracy, and it is summed up in a formula from which all the phenomena may be deduced, and which must always remain the cardinal formula of electro-dynamics.
A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873), Vol. 2, 162.
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The experimental investigation by which Ampère established the law of the mechanical action between electric currents is one of the most brilliant achievements in science. The whole, theory and experiment, seems as if it had leaped, full grown and full armed, from the brain of the “Newton of Electricity”. It is perfect in form, and unassailable in accuracy, and it is summed up in a formula from which all the phenomena may be deduced, and which must always remain the cardinal formula of electro-dynamics.
In James Clerk Maxwell, Electricity and Magnetism (1881), Vol. 2, 163
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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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The first principle of architectural beauty is that the essential lines of a construction be determined by a perfect appropriateness to its use.
From translation in J. Harriss, The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoque (1975), 20, as quoted and cited by David P. Billington, 'Bridges and the New Art of Structural Engineering,' in National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Bridge Aesthetics, Bridge Aesthetics Around the World (1991), 67. From the original French in interview of Eiffel by Paul Bourde, in the newspaper Le Temps (14 Feb 1887). Reprinted in 'Au Jour le Jour: Les Artistes Contre la Tour Eiffel', Gazette Anecdotique, Littéraire, Artistique et Bibliographique (Feb 1887), 126, and in Gustave Eiffel, Travaux Scientifiques Exécutés à la Tour de 300 Mètres de 1889 à 1900 (1900), 14. “Le premier principe de l'esthétique architecturale est que les lignes essentielles d’un monument soient déterminées par la parfaite appropriation à sa destination.”
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The genius of Laplace was a perfect sledge hammer in bursting purely mathematical obstacles; but, like that useful instrument, it gave neither finish nor beauty to the results. In truth, in truism if the reader please, Laplace was neither Lagrange nor Euler, as every student is made to feel. The second is power and symmetry, the third power and simplicity; the first is power without either symmetry or simplicity. But, nevertheless, Laplace never attempted investigation of a subject without leaving upon it the marks of difficulties conquered: sometimes clumsily, sometimes indirectly, always without minuteness of design or arrangement of detail; but still, his end is obtained and the difficulty is conquered.
In 'Review of “Théorie Analytique des Probabilites” par M. le Marquis de Laplace, 3eme edition. Paris. 1820', Dublin Review (1837), 2, 348.
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The great masters of modern analysis are Lagrange, Laplace, and Gauss, who were contemporaries. It is interesting to note the marked contrast in their styles. Lagrange is perfect both in form and matter, he is careful to explain his procedure, and though his arguments are general they are easy to follow. Laplace on the other hand explains nothing, is indifferent to style, and, if satisfied that his results are correct, is content to leave them either with no proof or with a faulty one. Gauss is as exact and elegant as Lagrange, but even more difficult to follow than Laplace, for he removes every trace of the analysis by which he reached his results, and studies to give a proof which while rigorous shall be as concise and synthetical as possible.
In History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 468.
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The history of the living world can be summarized as the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is always something more to be seen.
In The Phenomenon of Man (1955).
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The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. And though there be many things in nature which are singular and unmatched, yet it devises for them parallels and conjugates and relatives which do not exist. Hence the fiction that all celestial bodies move in perfect circles, spirals and dragons being (except in name) utterly rejected.
From Aphorism 45, Novum Organum, Book I (1620). Collected in James Spedding (ed.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1858), Vol. 4, 55.
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The language of analysis, most perfect of all, being in itself a powerful instrument of discoveries, its notations, especially when they are necessary and happily conceived, are so many germs of new calculi.
From Theorie Analytique des Probabilités (1812), 7. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 200. From the original French, “La langue de l’Analyse, la plus parfaite de toutes, étant par elle-même un puissant instrument de découvertes, ses notations, lorsqu’elles sont nécessaires et heureusement imaginées, sont autant de germes de nouveaux calculs.”
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The man of perfect knowledge should not unsettle the foolish whose knowledge is imperfect.
Anonymous
In Bhagavad-gîtâ, third discourse, v.29, translation by Annie Wood Besant (1904), 49.
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The mathematician is perfect only in so far as he is a perfect being, in so far as he perceives the beauty of truth; only then will his work be thorough, transparent, comprehensive, pure, clear, attractive and even elegant. All this is necessary to resemble Lagrange.
In Wilhelm Meister, Wanderjahre, Zweites Buch, in 'Sprüche in Prosa' Natur, VI, 950.
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The mathematician’s best work is art, a high and perfect art, as daring as the most secret dreams of imagination, clear, and limpid. Mathematical genius and artistic genius touch each other.
As quoted in Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life (1923), 139.
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The mathematician’s best work is art, a high perfect art, as daring as the most secret dreams of imagination, clear and limpid. Mathematical genius and artistic genius touch one another.
As quoted, without citation, in Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life (1923), 139.
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The method of science is tried and true. It is not perfect, it’s just the best we have. And to abandon it, with its skeptical protocols, is the pathway to a dark age.
From a sound clip from CSICOP, now CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). If you know a more specific citation, please contact Webmaster.
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The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions. As instances of such discoveries, which are in most cases due to the increasing order of accuracy made possible by improvements in measuring instruments, may be mentioned: first, the departure of actual gases from the simple laws of the so-called perfect gas, one of the practical results being the liquefaction of air and all known gases; second, the discovery of the velocity of light by astronomical means, depending on the accuracy of telescopes and of astronomical clocks; third, the determination of distances of stars and the orbits of double stars, which depend on measurements of the order of accuracy of one-tenth of a second-an angle which may be represented as that which a pin's head subtends at a distance of a mile. But perhaps the most striking of such instances are the discovery of a new planet or observations of the small irregularities noticed by Leverrier in the motions of the planet Uranus, and the more recent brilliant discovery by Lord Rayleigh of a new element in the atmosphere through the minute but unexplained anomalies found in weighing a given volume of nitrogen. Many other instances might be cited, but these will suffice to justify the statement that “our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.”
In Light Waves and Their Uses (1903), 23-4. Michelson had some years earlier referenced “an eminent physicist” that he did not name who had “remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals,” near the end of his Convocation Address at the Dedication of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, 'Some of the Objects and Methods of Physical Science' (4 Jul 1894), published in University of Chicago Quarterly Calendar (Aug 1894), 3, No.2, 15. Also
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The one who stays in my mind as the ideal man of science is, not Huxley or Tyndall, Hooker or Lubbock, still less my friend, philosopher and guide Herbert Spencer, but Francis Galton, whom I used to observe and listen to—I regret to add, without the least reciprocity—with rapt attention. Even to-day. I can conjure up, from memory’s misty deep, that tall figure with its attitude of perfect physical and mental poise; the clean-shaven face, the thin, compressed mouth with its enigmatical smile; the long upper lip and firm chin, and, as if presiding over the whole personality of the man, the prominent dark eyebrows from beneath which gleamed, with penetrating humour, contemplative grey eyes. Fascinating to me was Francis Galton’s all-embracing but apparently impersonal beneficence. But, to a recent and enthusiastic convert to the scientific method, the most relevant of Galton’s many gifts was the unique contribution of three separate and distinct processes of the intellect; a continuous curiosity about, and rapid apprehension of individual facts, whether common or uncommon; the faculty for ingenious trains of reasoning; and, more admirable than either of these, because the talent was wholly beyond my reach, the capacity for correcting and verifying his own hypotheses, by the statistical handling of masses of data, whether collected by himself or supplied by other students of the problem.
In My Apprenticeship (1926), 134-135.
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The perfect reckoner needs no counting-slips.
Lao Tzu
In Lao Tsu and Arthur Waley (trans.), Tao Te Ching (1996), chap. 27, 28. Also seen translated as: “A good calculator does not need artificial aids,” Translated by James Legge as “The skilful reckoner uses no tallies.” Note: Before the abacus, slips of bamboo were thrown in small bowls for counting.
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The power of the eye could not be extended further in the opened living animal, hence I had believed that this body of the blood breaks into the empty space, and is collected again by a gaping vessel and by the structure of the walls. The tortuous and diffused motion of the blood in divers directions, and its union at a determinate place offered a handle to this. But the dried lung of the frog made my belief dubious. This lung had, by chance, preserved the redness of the blood in (what afterwards proved to be) the smallest vessels, where by means of a more perfect lens, no more there met the eye the points forming the skin called Sagrino, but vessels mingled annularly. And, so great is the divarication of these vessels as they go out, here from a vein, there from an artery, that order is no longer preserved, but a network appears made up of the prolongations of both vessels. This network occupies not only the whole floor, but extends also to the walls, and is attached to the outgoing vessel, as I could see with greater difficulty but more abundantly in the oblong lung of a tortoise, which is similarly membranous and transparent. Here it was clear to sense that the blood flows away through the tortuous vessels, that it is not poured into spaces but always works through tubules, and is dispersed by the multiplex winding of the vessels.
De Pulmonibus (1661), trans. James Young, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (1929-30), 23, 8.
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The reasoning of mathematics is a type of perfect reasoning.
In Common Sense in Education and Teaching (1905), 222.
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The results have exhibited one striking feature which has been frequently emphasized, namely that at high pressures all twelve liquids become more nearly like each other. This suggests that it might be useful in developing a theory of liquids to arbitrarily construct a 'perfect liquid' and to discuss its properties. Certainly the conception of a 'perfect gas' has been of great service in the kinetic theory of gases; and the reason is that all actual gases approximate closely to the 'perfect gas.' In the same way, at high pressures all liquids approximate to one and the same thing, which may be called by analogy the 'perfect liquid.' It seems to offer at least a promising line of attack to discuss the properties of this 'perfect liquid,' and then to invent the simplest possible mechanism to explain them.
'Thermodynamic Properties of Twelve Liquids Between 200 and 800 and up to 1200 KGM. Per Sq. Cm.', Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1913, 49, 113.
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The second law of thermodynamics is, without a doubt, one of the most perfect laws in physics. Any reproducible violation of it, however small, would bring the discoverer great riches as well as a trip to Stockholm. The world’s energy problems would be solved at one stroke… . Not even Maxwell’s laws of electricity or Newton’s law of gravitation are so sacrosanct, for each has measurable corrections coming from quantum effects or general relativity. The law has caught the attention of poets and philosophers and has been called the greatest scientific achievement of the nineteenth century.
In Thermodynamics (1964). As cited in The Mathematics Devotional: Celebrating the Wisdom and Beauty of Physics (2015), 82.
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The significant thing about the Darbys and coke-iron is not that the first Abraham Darby “invented” a new process but that five generations of the Darby connection were able to perfect it and develop most of its applications.
In Essays on Culture Change (2003), Vol. 2, 200.
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The tendency of modern physics is to resolve the whole material universe into waves, and nothing but waves. These waves are of two kinds: bottled-up waves, which we call matter, and unbottled waves, which we call radiation or light. If annihilation of matter occurs, the process is merely that of unbottling imprisoned wave-energy and setting it free to travel through space. These concepts reduce the whole universe to a world of light, potential or existent, so that the whole story of its creation can be told with perfect accuracy and completeness in the six words: 'God said, Let there be light'.
In The Mysterious Universe (1930, 1932), 97-98
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The theory here developed is that mega-evolution normally occurs among small populations that become preadaptive and evolve continuously (without saltation, but at exceptionally rapid rates) to radically different ecological positions. The typical pattern involved is probably this: A large population is fragmented into numerous small isolated lines of descent. Within these, inadaptive differentiation and random fixation of mutations occur. Among many such inadaptive lines one or a few are preadaptive, i.e., some of their characters tend to fit them for available ecological stations quite different from those occupied by their immediate ancestors. Such groups are subjected to strong selection pressure and evolve rapidly in the further direction of adaptation to the new status. The very few lines that successfully achieve this perfected adaptation then become abundant and expand widely, at the same time becoming differentiated and specialized on lower levels within the broad new ecological zone.
Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944), 123.
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The theory of numbers is particularly liable to the accusation that some of its problems are the wrong sort of questions to ask. I do not myself think the danger is serious; either a reasonable amount of concentration leads to new ideas or methods of obvious interest, or else one just leaves the problem alone. “Perfect numbers” certainly never did any good, but then they never did any particular harm.
In A Mathematician’s Miscellany (1953). Reissued as Béla Bollobás (ed.), Littlewood’s Miscellany (1986), 74.
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The true mathematician is always a good deal of an artist, an architect, yes, of a poet. Beyond the real world, though perceptibly connected with it, mathematicians have intellectually created an ideal world, which they attempt to develop into the most perfect of all worlds, and which is being explored in every direction. None has the faintest conception of this world, except he who knows it.
In Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, 32, 381. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 184.
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The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.
…...
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The University is a Mecca to which students come with something less than perfect faith. It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.
From The Ascent of Man (1973,2011), 275.
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The valuable properties of this cement depend in a great measure on the mode of preparing it for use. The mixing should therefore be conducted with care in order to form a perfect union of the powdered cement, sand and water. This can be best accomplished by the use of the New England corn hoe on a board floor or by beating with a hand stamper; not much labour is required if properly applied. Mechanics can judge when the mixture is perfect by the appearance of the mortar, which, when properly prepared, very much resembles putty.
Directions for Using White's Patent Hydraulic Cement.
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The value of mathematical instruction as a preparation for those more difficult investigations, consists in the applicability not of its doctrines but of its methods. Mathematics will ever remain the past perfect type of the deductive method in general; and the applications of mathematics to the simpler branches of physics furnish the only school in which philosophers can effectually learn the most difficult and important of their art, the employment of the laws of simpler phenomena for explaining and predicting those of the more complex. These grounds are quite sufficient for deeming mathematical training an indispensable basis of real scientific education, and regarding with Plato, one who is … as wanting in one of the most essential qualifications for the successful cultivation of the higher branches of philosophy
In System of Logic, Bk. 3, chap. 24, sect. 9.
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Their vain presumption of knowing all can take beginning solely from their never having known anything; for if one has but once experienced the perfect knowledge of one thing, and truly tasted what it is to know, he shall perceive that of infinite other conclusions he understands not so much as one.
Dialogue on the Great World Systems (1632). Revised and Annotated by Giorgio De Santillana (1953), 112.
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There are many points in the history of an invention which the inventor himself is apt to overlook as trifling, but in which posterity never fail to take a deep interest. The progress of the human mind is never traced with such a lively interest as through the steps by which it perfects a great invention; and there is certainly no invention respecting which this minute information will be more eagerly sought after, than in the case of the steam-engine.
Quoted in The Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James Watt (1854), Vol.1, 4.
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There are three distinctions in the kinds of bodies, or three states, which have more especially claimed the attention of philosophical chemists; namely, those which are marked by the terms elastic fluids, liquids, and solids. A very familiar instance is exhibited to us in water, of a body, which, in certain circumstances, is capable of assuming all the three states. In steam we recognise a perfectly elastic fluid, in water, a perfect liquid, and in ice of a complete solid. These observations have tacitly led to the conclusion which seems universally adopted, that all bodies of sensible magnitude, whether liquid or solid, are constituted of a vast number of extremely small particles, or atoms of matter bound together by a force of attraction.
A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808), Vol. 1, 141.
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There are, at present, fundamental problems in theoretical physics … the solution of which … will presumably require a more drastic revision of our fundmental concepts than any that have gone before. Quite likely, these changes will be so great that it will be beyond the power of human intelligence to get the necessary new ideas by direct attempts to formulate the experimental data in mathematical terms. The theoretical worker in the future will, therefore, have to proceed in a more direct way. The most powerful method of advance that can be suggested at present is to employ all the resources of pure mathematics in attempts to perfect and generalize the mathematical formalism that forms the existing basis of theoretical physics, and after each success in this direction, to try to interpret the new mathematical features in terms of physical entities.
At age 28.
Proceedings of the Royal Society (1931), A133, 60. In A. Pais, 'Playing With Equations, the Dirac Way'. Behram N. Kursunoglu (Ed.) and Eugene Paul Wigner (Ed.), Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac: Reminiscences about a Great Physicist (1990), 109.
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There is in Nature a general prototype in each species on which each individual is modeled, but which seems, in realizing itself, to alter itself or perfect itself according to circumstances. So that, relative to certain qualities, this is an extraordinary appearing variation in the succession of these individuals, and at the same time a constancy which appears wonderful in the entire species. The first animal, the first horse, for example, has been the external model and the interieur mold on which all horses which have been born, all those which now exist, and all those which will be born have been formed.
'Le Cheval', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1753), Vol. 4, 215-6. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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There is no foundation in geological facts, for the popular theory of the successive development of the animal and vegetable world, from the simplest to the most perfect forms.
Principles of Geology (1830-3), Vol. 1, 153.
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There is no such thing as absolute truth and absolute falsehood. The scientific mind should never recognise the perfect truth or the perfect falsehood of any supposed theory or observation. It should carefully weigh the chances of truth and error and grade each in its proper position along the line joining absolute truth and absolute error.
In 'The Highest Aim of the Physicist: Presidential Address Delivered at the 2nd Meeting of the Society, October 28th, 1899', Bulletin of the American Physical Society (1899), 1, 13.
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These works [the creation of the world] are recorded to have been completed in six days … because six is a perfect number … [and] the perfection of the works was signified by the number six.
From De Civitate Dei (early 400s), as translated by Marcus Dods, collected in The Works of Aurelius Augustine (1871), Vol. 1: 'Of the Perfection of the Number Six, which is the First of the Numbers Which is Composed of its Aliquot Parts', The City of God, Book 11, sect. 30, 474. Also seen translated as “Six is a number perfect in itself, and not because God created the world in six days; rather the contrary is true. God created the world in six days because this number is perfect, and it would remain perfect, even if the work of the six days did not exist.” [Note: 6 can be exactly divided (excluding itself) by 1, 2 or 3. It is a perfect number because those possible divisors also add up to a sum of 6.]
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Think, In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us, and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence.
From poem, 'Sonnets From the Portuguese' (1826), XXII. In Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Harriet Waters Preston (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of Mrs. Browning (1900), 219.
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This organ deserves to be styled the starting point of life and the sun of our microcosm just as much as the sun deserves to be styled the heart of the world. For it is by the heart's vigorous beat that the blood is moved, perfected, activated, and protected from injury and coagulation. The heart is the tutelary deity of the body, the basis of life, the source of all things, carrying out its function of nourishing, warming, and activating body as a whole. But we shall more fittingly speak of these matters when we consider the final cause of this kind of movement.
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth J. Franklin (1957), Chapter 8, 59. Alternate translation: “The heart is the beginning of life; the sun of the microcosm, even as the sun in his turn might well be designated the heart of the world; for it is the heart by whose virtue and pulse the blood is moved, perfected, made apt to nourish, and is preserved from corruption and coagulation; it is the household divinity which, discharging its function, nourishes, cherishes, quickens the whole body, and is indeed the foundation of life, the source of all action. … The heart, like the prince in a kingdom, in whose hands lie the chief highest authority, rules over all; it is the original and foundation from which all power is derived, on which all power depends in the animal body.” In translation by Geoffrey Keynes (1953), 59.
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Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have.
Bible
Book of Deuteronomy.
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Thus with every advance in our scientific knowledge new elements come up, often forcing us to recast our entire picture of physical reality. No doubt, theorists would much prefer to perfect and amend their theories rather than be obliged to scrap them continually. But this obligation is the condition and price of all scientific progress.
New Perspectives in Physics (1962), 31.
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Time... is an essential requirement for effective research. An investigator may be given a palace to live in, a perfect laboratory to work in, he may be surrounded by all the conveniences money can provide; but if his time is taken from him he will remain sterile.
Quoted in S. Benison, A. C. Barger and E. L. Wolfe, Walter B Cannon: The Life and Times of a Young Scientist (1987), 253.
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Tis evident that all reasonings concerning matter of fact are founded on the relation of cause and effect, and that we can never infer the existence of one object from another, unless they be connected together, either mediately or immediately... Here is a billiard ball lying on the table, and another ball moving toward it with rapidity. They strike; and the ball which was formerly at rest now acquires a motion. This is as perfect an instance of the relation of cause and effect as any which we know, either by sensation or reflection.
An Abstract of A Treatise on Human Nature (1740), ed. John Maynard Keynes and Piero Sraffa (1938), 11.
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To me every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.
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To most ... of us, Russia was as mysterious and remote as the other side of the moon and not much more productive when it came to really new ideas or inventions. A common joke of the time [mid 1940s] said that the Russians could not surreptitiously introduce nuclear bombs in suitcases into the United States because they had not yet been able to perfect a suitcase.
In Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), 760.
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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.
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To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1882), 143-144.
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To take one of the simplest cases of the dissipation of energy, the conduction of heat through a solid—consider a bar of metal warmer at one end than the other and left to itself. To avoid all needless complication, of taking loss or gain of heat into account, imagine the bar to be varnished with a substance impermeable to heat. For the sake of definiteness, imagine the bar to be first given with one half of it at one uniform temperature, and the other half of it at another uniform temperature. Instantly a diffusing of heat commences, and the distribution of temperature becomes continuously less and less unequal, tending to perfect uniformity, but never in any finite time attaining perfectly to this ultimate condition. This process of diffusion could be perfectly prevented by an army of Maxwell’s ‘intelligent demons’* stationed at the surface, or interface as we may call it with Prof. James Thomson, separating the hot from the cold part of the bar.
* The definition of a ‘demon’, according to the use of this word by Maxwell, is an intelligent being endowed with free will, and fine enough tactile and perceptive organisation to give him the faculty of observing and influencing individual molecules of matter.
In 'The Kinetic Theory of the Dissipation of Energy', Nature (1874), 9, 442.
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To test a perfect theory with imperfect instruments did not impress the Greek philosophers as a valid way to gain knowledge.
The New Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (1965), Vol. 1, 12.
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To-day we not only have no perfect model [of the atom] but we know that it is of no use to search for one.