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

Plague Quotes (32 quotes)

A study of Disease—of Pestilences methodically prepared and deliberately launched upon man and beast—is certainly being pursue in the laboratories of more than one great country. Blight to destroy crops, Anthrax to slay horses and cattle, Plague to poison not armies but whole districts—such are the lines along which military science is remorselessly advancing.
'Shall We All Commit Suicide?'. Pall Mall (Sep 1924). Reprinted in Thoughts and Adventures (1932), 250.
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Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, & sloth;
Or the Gout will seize you and plague you both.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1734).
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Thomas Robert Malthus quote Famine … the most dreadful resource of nature.
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Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), 140, and in new enlarged edition (1803), 350.
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For this we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague?
'The Laws of Habit', The Popular Science Monthly (Feb 1887), 434.
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Having always observed that most of them who constantly took in the weekly Bills of Mortality made little other use of them than to look at the foot how the burials increased or decreased, and among the Casualties what had happened, rare and extraordinary, in the week current; so as they might take the same as a Text to talk upon in the next company, and withal in the Plague-time, how the Sickness increased or decreased, that the Rich might judg of the necessity of their removal, and Trades-men might conjecture what doings they were likely to have in their respective dealings.
From Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index and Made upon Bills of Mortality (1662), Preface. Reproduced in Cornelius Walford, The Insurance Cyclopaedia (1871), Vol. 1, 286. Italicizations from another source.
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In the arts of life main invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine. … There is nothing in Man's industrial machinery but his greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons.
Play, Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy (1903)
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In the beginning of the year 1665 I found the Method of approximating series & the Rule for reducing any dignity of any Bionomial into such a series. The same year in May I found the method of Tangents of Gregory & Slusius, & in November had the direct method of fluxions & the next year in January had the Theory of Colours & in May following I had entrance into ye inverse method of fluxions. And the same year I began to think of gravity extending to ye orb of the Moon & (having found out how to estimate the force with wch [a] globe revolving within a sphere presses the surface of the sphere) from Keplers rule of the periodic times of the Planets being in sesquialterate proportion of their distances from the center of their Orbs, I deduced that the forces wch keep the Planets in their Orbs must [be] reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about wch they revolve: & thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in her Orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the earth, & found them answer pretty nearly. All this was in the two plague years of 1665-1666. For in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention & minded Mathematicks & Philosophy more then than at any time since.
Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 143.
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In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 729, two comets appeared about the sun, to the great terror of the beholders. One of them went before the rising sun in the morning, the other followed him when he set at night, as it were presaging much destruction to the east and west; one was the forerunner of the day, and the other of the night, to signify that mortals were threatened with calamities at both times. They carried their flaming tails towards the north, as it were ready to set the world on fire. They appeared in January, and continued nearly a fortnight. At which time a dreadful plague of Saracens ravaged France with miserable slaughter; … the beginning and progress of Ceolwulf’s reign were so filled with commotions, that it cannot yet be known what is to be said concerning them, or what end they will have.
Bede
From Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Book V, Chap. XXIII, as translated in J.A. Giles (ed.), The Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England. Also the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1894), 291-292. The editor reprinted the translation based on the 1723 work of John Stevens into modern English. Note: The observation likely was on a single comet seen twice each day. The event is also in both the Laud and Parker manuscripts of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
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Nature being capricious and taking pleasure in creating and producing a continuous sucession of lives and forms because she knows that they serve to increase her terrestrial substance, is more ready and swift in her creating than time is in destroying, and therefore she has ordained that many animals shall serve as food one for the other; and as this does not satisfy her desire she sends forth frequently certain noisome and pestilential vapours and continual plagues upon the vast accumulations and herds of animals and especially upon human beings who increase very rapidly because other animals do not feed upon them.
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1 80.
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PLAGUE, n. Nature's fortuitous manifestation of her purposeless objectionableness.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  255-256.
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The ruthless destruction of their forests by the Chinese is one of the reasons why famine and plague today hold this nation in their sinister grasp. Denudation, wherever practiced, leaves naked soil; floods and erosion follow, and when the soil is gone men must also go—and the process does not take long. The great plains of Eastern China were centuries ago transformed from forest into agricultural land. The mountain plateau of Central China have also within a few hundred years been utterly devastated of tree growth, and no attempt made at either natural or artificial reforestation. As a result, the water rushes off the naked slopes in veritable floods, gullying away the mountain sides, causing rivers to run muddy with yellow soil, and carrying enormous masses of fertile earth to the sea. Water courses have also changed; rivers become uncontrollable, and the water level of the country is lowered perceptibly. In consequence, the unfortunate people see their crops wither and die for lack of water when it is most needed.
Statement (11 May 1921) by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning the famine in China in seven out of every ten years. Reported in 'Blames Deforestation: Department of Agriculture Ascribes Chinese Famine to it', New York Times (12 May 1921), 12.
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We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.
As quoted and cited from Radio Times in Louise Gray, 'David Attenborough - Humans are Plague on Earth', The Telegraph (22 Jan 2013).
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[1665-04-30] ...Great fear of the sicknesses here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (30 Apr 1665)

[1665-06-07] ...This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and 'Lord have mercy upon us' writ there - which was a sad sight to me, being the first of that kind that to my remembrance I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell to and chaw - which took away the apprehension.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (7 Jun 1665)

[1665-06-10] ...In the evening home to supper, and there to my great trouble hear that the plague is come into the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the City); but where it begin but in my good friend and neighbour's, Dr Burnett in Fanchurch Street - which in both points troubles me mightily. To the office to finish my letters, and then home to bed, being troubled at the sickness ... and particularly how to put my things and estate in order, in case it should please God to call me away.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (10 Jun 1665)

[1665-06-11] I out of doors a little to show forsooth my new suit, and back again; and in going, saw poor Dr Burnets door shut. But he hath, I hear, gained goodwill among his neighbours; for he discovered it himself first, and caused himself to be shut up of his own accord - which was very handsome.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (11 Jun 1665)

[1665-06-15] ...The town grows very sickly, and people to be afeared of it - there dying this last week of the plague 112, from 43 the week before - whereof, one in Fanchurch-street and one in Broadstreete by the Treasurer's office.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (15 Jun 1665)

[1665-06-17] It stroke me very deep this afternoon, going with a hackney-coach from my Lord Treasurer's down Holborne - the coachman I found to drive easily and easily; at last stood still, and came down hardly able to stand; and told me that he was suddenly stroke very sick and almost blind. So I light and went into another coach, with a sad heart for the poor man and trouble for myself, lest he should have been stroke with the plague - being at that end of the town that I took him up. But God have mercy upon us all.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (17 Jun 1665)

[1665-06-20] ...This day I informed myself that there died four or five at Westminster of the Plague, in one alley in several houses upon Sunday last - Bell Alley, over against the Palace gate. yet people do think that the number will be fewer in the town then it was last week. ...
Diary of Samuel Pepys (20 Jun 1665)

[1665-07-22] I met this noon with Dr Burnett, who told me ... that his servant died of a Bubo on his right groine, and two Spots on his right thigh, which is the plague.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (22 Jul 1665)

[1665-07-31] ...Thus we end this month, as I said, after the greatest glut of content that ever I had; only, under some difficulty because of the plague, which grows mightily upon us, the last week being about 1700 or 1800 of the plague. ...
Diary of Samuel Pepys (31 Jul 1665)

[1665-08-12] The people die so, that now it seems they are fain to carry the dead to be buried by daylight, the nights not sufficing to do it in. And my Lord Mayor commands people to be inside by nine at night that the sick may leave their domestic prison for air and exercise.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (12 Aug 1665)

[1665-08-16] ...Hence to the Exchange, which I have not been a great while. But Lord, how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the Change - jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague - and about us, two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up. ... It was dark before I could get home; and so land at church-yard stairs, where to my great trouble I met a dead Corps, of the plague, in the narrow ally, just bringing down a little pair of stairs - but I thank God I was not much disturbed at it. However, I shall beware of being late abroad again.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (16 Aug 1665)

[1665-08-22] I went on a walk to Greenwich, on my way seeing a coffin with a dead body in it, dead of plague. It lay in an open yeard. ... It was carried there last night, and the parish has not told anyone to bury it. This disease makes us more cruel to one another than we are to dogs.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (22 Aug 1665)

[1665-08-28] But now, how few people I see, and those walking like people that have taken leave of the world.... I to the Exchange, and I think there was not 50 people upon it and but few more like to be, as they told me, Sir G Smith and others. Thus I think to take Adieu today of London streets ....
Diary of Samuel Pepys (28 Aug 1665)

[1665-08-31] Up, and after putting several things in order to my removal to Woolwich, the plague having a great increase this week beyond all expectation, of almost 2000 - making the general Bill 7000, odd 100 and the plague above 6000 .... Thus this month ends, with great sadness upon the public through the greateness of the plague, everywhere through the Kingdom almost. Every day sadder and sadder news of its increase. In the City died this week 7496; and all of them, 6102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead this week is near 10000 - partly from the poor that cannot be taken notice of through the greatness of the number, and partly from the Quakers and others that will not have any bell ring for them. As to myself, I am very well; only, in fear of the plague, and as much of an Ague, by being forced to go early and late to Woolwich, and my family to lie there continually.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (31 August 1665)
Science quotes on:  |  Sadness (20)

[1665-09-03] Up, and put on my coloured suit on, very fine, and my new periwig, bought a good while since, but durst not wear, because the plague was in westminster when I bought it; and it is a wonder what will be the fashion after the plague is done as to periwigs, for nobody will dare to buy any haire for fear of the infection - that it had been cut off of heads of people dead of the plague. ... but Lord, to consider the madness of people of the town, who will (because they are forbid) come in crowds along with the dead corps to see them buried. ...
Diary of Samuel Pepys (3 Sep 1665)

[1665-09-14] ...my finding that although the Bill [total of dead] in general is abated, yet the City within the walls is encreasd and likely to continue so (and is close to our house there) - my meeting dead corps's of the plague, carried to be buried close to me at noonday through the City in Fanchurch-street - to see a person sick of the sores carried close by me by Grace-church in a hackney-coach - my finding the Angell tavern at the lower end of Tower-hill shut up; and more then that, the alehouse at the Tower-stairs; and more then that, that the person was then dying of the plague when I was last there, a little while ago at night, to write a short letter there, and I overheard the mistress of the house sadly saying to her husband somebody was very ill, but did not think it was of the plague - to hear that poor Payne my waterman hath buried a child and is dying himself - to hear that a labourer I sent but the other day to Dagenhams to know how they did there is dead of the plague and that one of my own watermen, that carried me daily, fell sick as soon as he had landed me on Friday morning last, when I had been all night upon the water ... is now dead of the plague - to hear ... that Mr Sidny Mountagu is sick of a desperate fever at my Lady Carteret's at Scott's hall - to hear that Mr. Lewes hath another daughter sick - and lastly, that both my servants, W Hewers and Tom Edwards, have lost their fathers, both in St. Sepulcher's parish, of the plague this week - doth put me into great apprehensions of melancholy, and with good reason. But I put off the thoughts of sadness as much as I can, and the rather to keep my wife in good heart and family also.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (14 Sep 1665)
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[1665-10-16] But Lord, how empty the streets are, and melancholy, so many poor sick people in the streets, full of sores, and so many sad stories overheard as I walk, everybody talking of this dead, and that man sick, and so many in this place, and so many in that. And they tell me that in Westminster there is never a physitian, and but one apothecary left, all being dead - but that there are great hopes of a great decrease this week. God send it.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (16 Oct 1665)

[1665-11-09] ...The Bill of Mortality, to all our griefs, is encreased 399 this week, and the encrease general through the whole city and suburbs, which makes us all sad.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (9 Nov 1665)
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[1665-11-22] I heard this day that the plague is come very low; that is 600 and odd - and great hopes of a further decrease, because of this day's being a very exceeding hard frost - and continues freezing. ...
Diary of Samuel Pepys (22 Nov 1665)

[1665-12-31] Thus ends this year ... It is true we have gone through great melancholy because of the great plague, and I put to great charges by it, by keeping my family long at Woolwich, and myself and another part of my family, my clerks, at my charge at Greenwich ... But now the plague is abated almost to nothing ... But many of such as I know very well, dead. Yet to our great joy, the town fills apace, and shops begin to open again. Pray God continue the plague's decrease - for that keeps the Court away from the place of business, and so all goes to wrack as to public matters, they at this distance not thinking of it.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (31 Dec 1665)


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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