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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index P > Category: Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis Quotes (15 quotes)


...the life of the planet began the long, slow process of modulating and regulating the physical conditions of the planet. The oxygen in today's atmosphere is almost entirely the result of photosynthetic living, which had its start with the appearance of blue-green algae among the microorganisms.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 74.
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By blending water and minerals from below with sunlight and CO2 from above, green plants link the earth to the sky. We tend to believe that plants grow out of the soil, but in fact most of their substance comes from the air. The bulk of the cellulose and the other organic compounds produced through photosynthesis consists of heavy carbon and oxygen atoms, which plants take directly from the air in the form of CO2. Thus the weight of a wooden log comes almost entirely from the air. When we burn a log in a fireplace, oxygen and carbon combine once more into CO2, and in the light and heat of the fire we recover part of the solar energy that went into making the wood.
The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems (1997), 178.
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For I took an Earthen Vessel, in which I put 200 pounds of Earth that had been dried in a Furnace, which I moystened with Rain-water, and I implanted therein the Trunk or Stem of a Willow Tree, weighing five pounds: and about three ounces: But I moystened the Earthen Vessel with Rain-water, or distilled water (alwayes when there was need) and it was large, and implanted into the Earth, and leaft of the Vessel, with an Iron-Plate covered with Tin, and easily passable with many holes. I computed not the weight of the leaves that fell off in the four Autumnes. At length, I again dried the Earth of the Vessel, and there were found the same 200 pounds, wanting about two ounces. Therefore 164 pounds of Wood, Barks, and Roots, arose out of water onely.
Oriatrike: Or, Physick Refined, trans. john Chandler (1662), 109.
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Four elements, Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, also provide an example of the astonishing togetherness of our universe. They make up the “organic” molecules that constitute living organisms on a planet, and the nuclei of these same elements interact to generate the light of its star. Then the organisms on the planet come to depend wholly on that starlight, as they must if life is to persist. So it is that all life on the Earth runs on sunlight. [Referring to photosynthesis]
In lecture, 'Life and Mind in the Universe', versions of which George Wald delivered throughout the 1980s. On the website of his son, Elijah Wald, who states it was the last of his father's major lectures.
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I observed that plants not only have a faculty to correct bad air in six to ten days, by growing in it...but that they perform this important office in a complete manner in a few hours; that this wonderful operation is by no means owing to the vegetation of the plant, but to the influence of light of the sun upon the plant.
Experiments Upon Vegetables', in Tobias George Smollett, The Critical Review, Or, Annals of Literature (1779), 48, 334.

If it was the warmth of the sun, and not its light, that produced this operation, it would follow, that, by warming the water near the fire about as much as it would have been in the sun, this very air would be produced; but this is far from being the case..
Experiments Upon Vegetables', in Tobias George Smollett, The Critical Review, Or, Annals of Literature (1779), 48, 334.

In Melvin Calvin’s office there were four photographs: Michael Polanyi, Joel Hildebrand, Gilbert N. Lewis, and Ernest O. Lawrence. These scientists were his mentors: Polanyi for introducing him to the chemistry of phthalocyanine; Hildebrand for bringing him to Berkeley; Lewis, perhaps his most influential teacher; and Lawrence, who provided him the opportunity to work with the new scientific tool of radioactive carbon, which enabled the search for the path of carbon in photosynthesis to be successful.
Co-author with Marilyn Taylor and Robert E. Connick, obituary, 'Melvin Calvin', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (Dec 2000), 144, No. 4, 454.
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It is sunlight in modified form which turns all the windmills and water wheels and the machinery which they drive. It is the energy derived from coal and petroleum (fossil sunlight) which propels our steam and gas engines, our locomotives and automobiles. ... Food is simply sunlight in cold storage.
In New Dietetics: What to Eat and How (1921), 29.
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Nature has put itself the problem how to catch in flight light streaming to the earth and to store the most elusive of all powers in rigid form. To achieve this aim, it has covered the crust of earth with organisms which in their life processes absorb the light of the sun and use this power to produce a continuously accumulating chemical difference. ... The plants take in one form of power, light; and produce another power, chemical difference.
In pamphlet, The Organic Motion in its Relation to Metabolism (1845), as translated in Eugene Rabinowitch, Govindjee, Photosynthesis (1969), 9.

Our atom of carbon enters the leaf, colliding with other innumerable (but here useless) molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light; in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphous, and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life. All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis: dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise we will be sicut Deus [like God], and we will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world.
Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans.), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. In this final section of his book, Levi imagines the life of a carbon atom. He calls this his first “literary dream”. It came to him at Auschwitz.
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Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter. ... Transmutation of the elements, unlimited power, ability to investigate the working of living cells by tracer atoms, the secret of photosynthesis about to be uncovered, these and a host of other results, all in about fifteen short years. It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under the and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a life span far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.
Speech at the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Science Writers, New York City (16 Sep 1954), asquoted in 'Abundant Power From Atom Seen', New York Times (17 Sep 1954) 5.
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That all plants immediately and substantially stem from the element water alone I have learnt from the following experiment. I took an earthern vessel in which I placed two hundred pounds of earth dried in an oven, and watered with rain water. I planted in it a willow tree weighing five pounds. Five years later it had developed a tree weighing one hundred and sixty-nine pounds and about three ounces. Nothing but rain (or distilled water) had been added. The large vessel was placed in earth and covered by an iron lid with a tin-surface that was pierced with many holes. I have not weighed the leaves that came off in the four autumn seasons. Finally I dried the earth in the vessel again and found the same two hundred pounds of it diminished by about two ounces. Hence one hundred and sixty-four pounds of wood, bark and roots had come up from water alone. (1648)
A diligent experiment that was quantitatively correct only as far as it goes. He overlooked the essential role of air and photosynthesis in the growth process.
Complex. atque mist. elem. fig., 30, Opp. pp. 104-5; Aufgang, 148. In Walter Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont (2002) , 53.
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The sun's rays are the ultimate source of almost every motion which takes place on the surface of the earth. By their heat are produced all winds, and those disturbances in the electric equilibrium of the atmosphere which give rise to the phenomena of terrestrial magnetism. By their vivifying action vegetables are elaborated from inorganic matter, and become in their turn the support of animals and of man, and the sources of those great deposits of dynamical efficiency which are laid up for human use in our coal strata. By them the waters of the sea are made to circulate in vapor through the air, and irrigate the land, producing springs and rivers. By them are produced all disturbances of the chemical equilibrium of the elements of nature which, by a series of compositions and decompositions, give rise to new products, and originate a transfer of materials. Even the slow degradation of the solid constituents of the surface, in which its chief geological changes consist, and their diffusion among the waters of the ocean, are entirely due to the abrasion of the wind, rain, and tides, which latter, however, are only in part the effect of solar influence and the alternate action of the seasons.
from Outlines of Astronomy (1849), 237.
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There is a finite number of species of plants and animals—even of insects—upon the earth. … Moreover, the universality of the genetic code, the common character of proteins in different species, the generality of cellular structure and cellular reproduction, the basic similarity of energy metabolism in all species and of photosynthesis in green plants and bacteria, and the universal evolution of living forms through mutation and natural selection all lead inescapably to a conclusion that, although diversity may be great, the laws of life, based on similarities, are finite in number and comprehensible to us in the main even now.
Presidential Address (28 Dec 1970) to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 'Science: Endless Horizons or Golden Age?', Science (8 Jan 1971), 171, No. 3866, 24.
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We cannot cheat on DNA. We cannot get round photosynthesis. We cannot say I am not going to give a damn about phytoplankton. All these tiny mechanisms provide the preconditions of our planetary life. To say we do not care is to say in the most literal sense that “we choose death.”
In Maurice F. Strong (ed.), Who Speaks For Earth (1973), 31. In Robert Andrews, The Columbia Book of Quotations (1993), 261.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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