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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Practice Quotes (92 quotes)

'Unless,' said I [Socrates], either philosophers become kings in our states or those whom we now call our kings:. and rulers take to the pursuit of' philosophy seriously and adequately, and there is a conjunction of these two things, political power and philosophic intelligence, while the motley horde of the natures who at present pursue either apart from the other are compulsorily excluded, there can be no cessation of troubles, dear Glaucon, for our states, nor, I fancy for the human race either. Nor, until this happens, will this constitution which we have been expounding in theory ever be put into practice within the limits of possibility and see the light of the sun.
Plato
The Republic 5 474ce, trans. P. Shorey (1930), Vol. 1, Book 5, 509.
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Dans l’étude de la nature, comme dans la pratique de l’art, il n’est pas donné a l’homme d’arriver au but sans laisser des traces des fausses routes qu’il a tenues.
In the study of nature, as in the practice of art, it is not given to man to achieve the goal without leaving a trail of dead ends he had pursued.
French version in Encyclopédie Méthodique (1786), Vol. 1, Introduction, iv. English by Webmaster assisted by Google Translate.
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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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A Vulgar Mechanick can practice what he has been taught or seen done, but if he is in an error he knows not how to find it out and correct it, and if you put him out of his road, he is at a stand; Whereas he that is able to reason nimbly and judiciously about figure, force and motion, is never at rest till he gets over every rub.
Letter (25 May 1694) to Nathaniel Hawes. In J. Edleston (ed.), Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Cotes (1850), 284.
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Alice laughed: “There's no use trying,” she said; “one can't believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
In Through the Looking-glass: And what Alice Found There (1875), 100.
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Although my Aachen colleagues and students at first regarded the “pure mathematician” with suspicion, I soon had the satisfaction of being accepted a useful member not merely in teaching but also engineering practice; thus I was requested to render expert opinions and to participate in the Ingenieurverein [engineering association].
As quoted in Paul Forman and Armin Hermann, 'Sommerfeld, Arnold (Johannes Wilhelm)', Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975), Vol. 12, 527. Cited from 'Autobiographische Skizze', Gesammelte Schriften, Vol 4, 673–682.
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Although with the majority of those who study and practice in these capacities [engineers, builders, surveyors, geographers, navigators, hydrographers, astronomers], secondhand acquirements, trite formulas, and appropriate tables are sufficient for ordinary purposes, yet these trite formulas and familiar rules were originally or gradually deduced from the profound investigations of the most gifted minds, from the dawn of science to the present day. … The further developments of the science, with its possible applications to larger purposes of human utility and grander theoretical generalizations, is an achievement reserved for a few of the choicest spirits, touched from time to time by Heaven to these highest issues. The intellectual world is filled with latent and undiscovered truth as the material world is filled with latent electricity.
In Orations and Speeches, Vol. 3 (1870), 513.
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Archimedes was not free from the prevailing notion that geometry was degraded by being employed to produce anything useful. It was with difficulty that he was induced to stoop from speculation to practice. He was half ashamed of those inventions which were the wonder of hostile nations, and always spoke of them slightingly as mere amusements, as trifles in which a mathematician might be suffered to relax his mind after intense application to the higher parts of his science.
In Lord Bacon', Edinburgh Review (Jul 1887), in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1879), Vol. 1, 395.
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Besides accustoming the student to demand, complete proof, and to know when he has not obtained it, mathematical studies are of immense benefit to his education by habituating him to precision. It is one of the peculiar excellencies of mathematical discipline, that the mathematician is never satisfied with à peu près. He requires the exact truth. Hardly any of the non-mathematical sciences, except chemistry, has this advantage. One of the commonest modes of loose thought, and sources of error both in opinion and in practice, is to overlook the importance of quantities. Mathematicians and chemists are taught by the whole course of their studies, that the most fundamental difference of quality depends on some very slight difference in proportional quantity; and that from the qualities of the influencing elements, without careful attention to their quantities, false expectation would constantly be formed as to the very nature and essential character of the result produced.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611. [The French phrase, à peu près means “approximately”. —Webmaster]
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Chemical engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of mathematics, chemistry and other natural sciences gained by study, experience and practice is applied with judgment to develop economic ways of using materials and energy for the benefit of mankind.
AIChE
In Article III, 'Definition of the Profession', Constitution of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (as amended 17 Jan 2003). The same wording is found in the 1983 Constitution, as quoted in Nicholas A. Peppas (ed.), One Hundred Years of Chemical Engineering: From Lewis M. Norton (M.I.T. 1888) to Present (2012), 334.
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Criticism is as often a trade as a science, requiring, as it does, more health than wit, more labour than capacity, more practice than genius.
In John Timbs (ed.), Laconics; or, The Best Words of the Best Authors (1929), 156.
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Engineering is the practice of safe and economic application of the scientific laws governing the forces and materials of nature by means of organization, design and construction, for the general benefit of mankind.
1920
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Engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind.
ABET
In EAC Criteria for 1999-2000 as cited in Charles R. Lord, Guide to Information Sources in Engineering (2000), 5. Found in many sources, and earlier, for example, Otis E. Lancaster, American Society for Engineering Education, Engineers' Council for Professional Development, Achieve Learning Objectives (1962), 8.
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Faith and knowledge lean largely upon each other in the practice of medicine.
In The Collected Works of Dr. P.M. Latham (1878), Vol. 2, 408.
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Geometry is founded in mechanical practice, and is nothing but that part of universal mechanics which accurately proposes and demonstrates the art of measuring.
In Principia (1687), Preface, translated by Andrew Motte (1729), in Florian Cajori (ed.), Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1934), xvii.
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He who loves practice without theory is like a seafarer who boards ship without wheel or compass and knows not wither he travels.
From the original Italian: “Quelli che s’inamorā di pratica sāza sciētia, sō come ’l nochiere che ēstra navilio sanza timone o bussola che mai à certezza dove si uada.” Italian and English in Jean Paul Richter (trans), G. 8a, 'General Introduction to the Book on Painting', The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci (1883), Vol. 1, 18. Also seen translated as “He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast,” in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times (1972), 224.
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I hold every man a debtor to his profession; from the which as men of course do seek to receive countenance and profit, so ought they of duty to endeavour themselves, by way of amends, to be a help and ornament thereunto. This is performed, in some degree, by the honest and liberal practice of a profession; where men shall carry a respect not to descend into any course that is corrupt and unworthy thereof, and preserve themselves free from the abuses wherewith the same profession is noted to be infected: but much more is this performed, if a man be able to visit and strengthen the roots and foundation of the science itself; thereby not only gracing it in reputation and dignity, but also amplifying it in profession and substance.
Opening sentences of Preface, Maxims of Law (1596), in The Works of Francis Bacon: Law tracts. Maxims of the Law (1803), Vol. 4, 10.
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I love to read the dedications of old books written in monarchies–for they invariably honor some (usually insignificant) knight or duke with fulsome words of sycophantic insincerity, praising him as the light of the universe (in hopes, no doubt, for a few ducats to support future work); this old practice makes me feel like such an honest and upright man, by comparison, when I put a positive spin, perhaps ever so slightly exaggerated, on a grant proposal.
…...
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I ran into the gigantic and gigantically wasteful lumbering of great Sequoias, many of whose trunks were so huge they had to be blown apart before they could be handled. I resented then, and I still resent, the practice of making vine stakes hardly bigger than walking sticks out of these greatest of living things.
In Breaking New Ground (1947, 1998), 102-3.
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I think it is a duty I owe to my profession and to my sex to show that a woman has a right to the practice of her profession and cannot be condemned to abandon it merely because she marries. I cannot conceive how women’s colleges, inviting and encouraging women to enter professions can be justly founded or maintained denying such a principle.
(From a letter Brooks wrote to her dean, knowing that she would be told to resign if she married, she asked to keep her job. Nevertheless, she lost her teaching position at Barnard College in 1906. Dean Gill wrote that “The dignity of women’s place in the home demands that your marriage shall be a resignation.”)
As quoted by Margaret W. Rossiter in Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press (1982).
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If basketball was going to enable Bradley to make friends, to prove that a banker’s son is as good as the next fellow, to prove that he could do without being the greatest-end-ever at Missouri, to prove that he was not chicken, and to live up to his mother’s championship standards, and if he was going to have some moments left over to savor his delight in the game, he obviously needed considerable practice, so he borrowed keys to the gym and set a schedule for himself that he adhereded to for four full years—in the school year, three and a half hours every day after school, nine to five on Saturday, one-thirty to five on Sunday, and, in the summer, about three hours a day.
A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton
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If there is real love, it is not difficult to exercise tolerance, for tolerance is the daughter of love—it is the truly Christian trait, which, of course, Christians of today do not practice.
English translation of the original German, “Liebt man sich wirklich, so ist es ja nicht schwer, die Toleranz zu üben, denn die Toleranz ist die Tochter der Liebe—es ist die eigentlich christliche Eigenschaft, die freilich von der heutigen Christenwelt nicht geübt wird.” In a letter to his father (7 Apr 1851), published in Briefe an seite Eltern, 1839 bis 1864 (1907).
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In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there is.
Attributed. Although widely seen, a reliable source is never cited. If you know a primary print source, please contact Webmaster. Occasionally also seen attributed to Yogi Berra, Chuck Reid, Grant Gainey or Jerry Percell. The earliest example found by Webmaster is in Walter J. Savitch, An Introduction to the Art and Science of Programming (1986), where it is merely attributed as "Remark overheard at a computer science conference."
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In geometry, as in most sciences, it is very rare that an isolated proposition is of immediate utility. But the theories most powerful in practice are formed of propositions which curiosity alone brought to light, and which long remained useless without its being able to divine in what way they should one day cease to be so. In this sense it may be said, that in real science, no theory, no research, is in effect useless.
In 'Geometry', A Philosophical Dictionary, (1881), Vol. l, 374.
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In many cases, mathematics is an escape from reality. The mathematician finds his own monastic niche and happiness in pursuits that are disconnected from external affairs. Some practice it as if using a drug. Chess sometimes plays a similar role. In their unhappiness over the events of this world, some immerse themselves in a kind of self-sufficiency in mathematics. (Some have engaged in it for this reason alone.)
In Adventures of a Mathematician (1976), 120.
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In medical practice a man may die when, scientifically speaking, he ought to have lived. I have actually known a man to die of a disease from which he was, scientifically speaking, immune. But that does not affect the fundamental truth of science.
B.B. character in The Doctor's Dilemma, Act 3 (First produced in 1906). In The Doctor's Dilemma: With a Preface on Doctors (1911), 70.
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In the search for truth there are certain questions that are not important. Of what material is the universe constructed? Is the universe eternal? Are there limits or not to the universe? ... If a man were to postpone his search and practice for Enlightenment until such questions were solved, he would die before he found the path.
Budha
…...
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In working out physical problems there should be, in the first place, no pretence of rigorous formalism. The physics will guide the physicist along somehow to useful and important results, by the constant union of physical and geometrical or analytical ideas. The practice of eliminating the physics by reducing a problem to a purely mathematical exercise should be avoided as much as possible. The physics should be carried on right through, to give life and reality to the problem, and to obtain the great assistance which the physics gives to the mathematics.
In Electromagnetic Theory (1892), Vol. 2, 5.
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It has been said by a distinguished philosopher that England is “usually the last to enter into the general movement of the European mind.” The author of the remark probably meant to assert that a man or a system may have become famous on the continent, while we are almost ignorant of the name of the man and the claims of his system. Perhaps, however, a wider range might be given to the assertion. An exploded theory or a disadvantageous practice, like a rebel or a patriot in distress, seeks refuge on our shores to spend its last days in comfort if not in splendour.
Opening from essay, 'Elementary Geometry', included in The Conflict of Studies and Other Essays (1873), 136.
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It has long been a complaint against mathematicians that they are hard to convince: but it is a far greater disqualification both for philosophy, and for the affairs of life, to be too easily convinced; to have too low a standard of proof. The only sound intellects are those which, in the first instance, set their standards of proof high. Practice in concrete affairs soon teaches them to make the necessary abatement: but they retain the consciousness, without which there is no sound practical reasoning, that in accepting inferior evidence because there is no better to be had, they do not by that acceptance raise it to completeness.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611.
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It is customary to connect Medicine with Botany, yet scientific treatment demands that we should consider each separately. For the fact is that in every art, theory must be disconnected and separated from practice, and the two must be dealt with singly and individually in their proper order before they are united. And for that reason, in order that Botany, which is, as it were, a special branch of Natural Philosophy [Physica], may form a unit by itself before it can be brought into connection with other sciences, it must be divided and unyoked from Medicine.
Methodi herbariae libri tres (1592), translated in Agnes Arber, Herbals: Their Origin and Evolution, 2nd edition (1938), 144.
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It may be that in the practice of religion men have real evidence of the Being of God. If that is so, it is merely fallacious to refuse consideration of this evidence because no similar evidence is forthcoming from the study of physics, astronomy or biology.
In Nature, Man and God: Being the Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Glasgow in the Academical Years 1932-1933 and 1933-1934 (1934), 11.
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It takes fifty years from the discovery of a principle in medicine to its adoption in practice.
In Jess M. Brallier, Medical Wit & Wisdom (1993), 29.
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Just as the arts of tanning and dyeing were practiced long before the scientific principles upon which they depend were known, so also the practice of Chemical Engineering preceded any analysis or exposition of the principles upon which such practice is based.
In William H. Walker, Warren K. Lewis and William H. MacAdams, The Principles of Chemical Engineering (1923), Preface to 1st. edition, v.
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Logic is the hygiene the mathematician practices to keep his ideas healthy and strong.
As quoted, without citation, in Morris Kline, 'Logic Versus Pedagogy', The American Mathematical Monthly (Mar 1970), 77, No. 3, 272.
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Mathematicians create by acts of insight and intuition. Logic then sanctions the conquests of intuition. It is the hygiene that mathematics practices to keep its ideas healthy and strong. Moreover, the whole structure rests fundamentally on uncertain ground, the intuition of humans. Here and there an intuition is scooped out and replaced by a firmly built pillar of thought; however, this pillar is based on some deeper, perhaps less clearly defined, intuition. Though the process of replacing intuitions with precise thoughts does not change the nature of the ground on which mathematics ultimately rests, it does add strength and height to the structure.
In Mathematics in Western Culture (1964), 408.
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Mathematicians practice absolute freedom.
In A Letter to American Teachers of History (1910), 169.
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Mathematics as we practice it is much more formally complete and precise than other sciences, but it is much less formally complete and precise for its content than computer programs.
In 'On Proof and Progress in Mathematics', For the Learning of Mathematics (Feb 1995), 15, No. 1, 33. Reprinted from Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (1994), 30, No. 2, 170.
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My Lord said that he who knew men only in this way [from history] was like one who had got the theory of anatomy perfectly, but who in practice would find himself very awkward and liable to mistakes. That he again who knew men by observation was like one who picked up anatomy by practice, but who like all empirics would for a long time be liable to gross errors.
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My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.
In Fact and Faith (1934), vi.
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My profession often gets bad press for a variety of sins, both actual and imagined: arrogance, venality, insensitivity to moral issues about the use of knowledge, pandering to sources of funding with insufficient worry about attendant degradation of values. As an advocate for science, I plead ‘mildly guilty now and then’ to all these charges. Scientists are human beings subject to all the foibles and temptations of ordinary life. Some of us are moral rocks; others are reeds. I like to think (though I have no proof) that we are better, on average, than members of many other callings on a variety of issues central to the practice of good science: willingness to alter received opinion in the face of uncomfortable data, dedication to discovering and publicizing our best and most honest account of nature’s factuality, judgment of colleagues on the might of their ideas rather than the power of their positions.
…...
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My whole life is devoted unreservedly to the service of my sex. The study and practice of medicine is in my thought but one means to a great end, for which my very soul yearns with intensest passionate emotion, of which I have dreamed day and night, from my earliest childhood, for which I would offer up my life with triumphant thanksgiving, if martyrdom could secure that glorious end:— the true ennoblement of woman, the full harmonious development of her unknown nature, and the consequent redemption of the whole human race.
From letter (12 Aug 1848) replying to Emily Collins, reproduced in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, History of Woman Suffrage (1881), Vol. 1, 91. Blackwell was at the time a student at the medical college of Geneva, N.Y.
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Nature without learning is a blind thing, and learning without nature is an imperfect thing, and practice without both is an ineffective thing. Just as in farming, first of all the soil must be good, secondly, the husbandman skilful, and thirdly, the seed sound, so, after the same manner, nature is like to the soil, the teacher to the farmer and the verbal counsels precepts like to the seed.
Plutarch
In 'On the Education of Children', Moralia (1927), Vol 3, 9, as translated by Frank Cole Babbitt.
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Nobody can be a good reasoner unless by constant practice he has realised the importance of getting hold of the big ideas and hanging on to them like grim death.
In 'Presidential Address to the London Branch of the Mathematical Association', Mathematical Gazette (Mar 1913), 7, No. 104, 92.
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Not only such Actions as were at first Indifferent to us, but even such as were Painful, will by Custom and Practice become Pleasant. Sir Francis Bacon observes in his Natural Philosophy, that our Taste is never pleased better, than with those things which at first created a Disgust in it. He gives particular Instances of Claret, Coffee, and other Liquors, which the Palate seldom approves upon the first Taste; but when it has once got a Relish of them, generally retains it for Life.
In The Spectator (2 Aug 1712), No. 447, collected in The Spectator (9th ed., 1728), Vol. 6, 225-226.
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Observe the practice of many physicians; do not implicitly believe the mere assertion of your master; be something better than servile learner; go forth yourselves to see and compare!
In Armand Trousseau, as translated by P. Victor and John Rose Cormack, Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1873), Vol. 1, 40.
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Occurrences that other men would have noted only with the most casual interest became for Whitney exciting opportunities to experiment. Once he became disturbed by a scientist's seemingly endless pursuit of irrelevant details in the course of an experiment, and criticized this as being as pointless as grabbing beans out of a pot, recording the numbers, and then analyzing the results. Later that day, after he had gone home, his simile began to intrigue him, and he asked himself whether it would really be pointless to count beans gathered in such a random manner. Another man might well have dismissed this as an idle fancy, but to Whitney an opportunity to conduct an experiment was not to be overlooked. Accordingly, he set a pot of beans beside his bed, and for several days each night before retiring he would take as many beans as he could grasp in one hand and make a note of how many were in the handful. After several days had passed he was intrigued to find that the results were not as unrewarding as he had expected. He found that each handful contained more beans than the one before, indicating that with practice he was learning to grasp more and more beans. “This might be called research in morphology, the science of animal structure,” he mused. “My hand was becoming webbed … so I said to myself: never label a real experiment useless, it may reveal something unthought of but worth knowing.”
'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 358-359.
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One can claim that chemical engineering was practiced even by the ancient Greeks and Romans when they were making soap or wine, or treating ores in Lavrion or Sicily.
In 'The Origins of Academic Chemical Engineering', collected in Nicholas A. Peppas, One Hundred Years of Chemical Engineering: From Lewis M. Norton (M.I.T. 1888) to Present (2012), 1.
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One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.
Sophocles
In play, 'Trachiniae', collected in George Young (trans.), The Dramas of Sophocles: Rendered in English Verse: Dramatic and Lyric (1916), 191.
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Philosophy would long ago have reached a high level if our predecessors and fathers had put this into practice; and we would not waste time on the primary difficulties, which appear now as severe as in the first centuries which noticed them. We would have the experience of assured phenomena, which would serve as principles for a solid reasoning; truth would not be so deeply sunken; nature would have taken off most of her envelopes; one would see the marvels she contains in all her individuals. ...
Les Préludes de l'Harmonie Universelle (1634), 135-139. In Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 316.
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Research is fundamentally a state of mind involving continual re­examination of doctrines and axioms upon which current thought and action are based. It is, therefore, critical of existing practices.
In 'The Influence of Research in Bringing into Closer Relationship the Practice of Medicine and Public Health Activities', American Journal of Medical Sciences (Dec 1929), No. 178. As cited in Bill Swainson (ed.), The Encarta Book of Quotations (2000), 885.
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Scientific practice is above all a story-telling practice. ... Biology is inherently historical, and its form of discourse is inherently narrative. ... Biology as a way of knowing the world is kin to Romantic literature, with its discourse about organic form and function. Biology is the fiction appropriate to objects called organisms; biology fashions the facts “discovered” about organic beings.
Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science(1989), 4-5.
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Scientists are entitled to be proud of their accomplishments, and what accomplishments can they call ‘theirs’ except the things they have done or thought of first? People who criticize scientists for wanting to enjoy the satisfaction of intellectual ownership are confusing possessiveness with pride of possession. Meanness, secretiveness and, sharp practice are as much despised by scientists as by other decent people in the world of ordinary everyday affairs; nor, in my experience, is generosity less common among them, or less highly esteemed.
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Surgical knowledge depends on long practice, not from speculations.
'Letter to Borghese' (27 Jul 1689), quoted in H.B. Adelmann (ed.), The Correspondence of Marcello Malpighi (1975), Vol. 4, 1486.
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The architect should be equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for it is by his judgement that all work done by the other arts is put to test. This knowledge is the child of practice and theory.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 1, Sec. 1. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 3.
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The dollar is the final term in almost every equation which arises in the practice of engineering in any or all of its branches, except qualifiedly as to military and naval engineering, where in some cases cost may be ignored.
From Address on 'Industrial Engineering' at Purdue University (24 Feb 1905). Reprinted by Yale & Towne Mfg Co of New York and Stamford, Conn. for the use of students in its works.
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The engineer is concerned to travel from the abstract to the concrete. He begins with an idea and ends with an object. He journeys from theory to practice. The scientist’s job is the precise opposite. He explores nature with his telescopes or microscopes, or much more sophisticated techniques, and feeds into a computer what he finds or sees in an attempt to define mathematically its significance and relationships. He travels from the real to the symbolic, from the concrete to the abstract. The scientist and the engineer are the mirror image of each other.
In The Development of Design (1981), 19-20.
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The examples which a beginner should choose for practice should be simple and should not contain very large numbers. The powers of the mind cannot be directed to two things at once; if the complexity of the numbers used requires all the student’s attention, he cannot observe the principle of the rule which he is following.
In Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1902), chap. 3.
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The fear of meeting the opposition of envy, or the illiberality of ignorance is, no doubt, the frequent cause of preventing many ingenious men from ushering opinions into the world which deviate from common practice. Hence for want of energy, the young idea is shackled with timidity and a useful thought is buried in the impenetrable gloom of eternal oblivion.
A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation (1796), preface, ix.
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The human mind needs nature in order to think most deeply. Pretending to be other creatures, children practise metaphor and empathy alike.
In 'Fifty Years On, the Silence of Rachel Carson’s Spring Consumes Us', The Guardian (25 Sep 2012),
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The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues-self-restraint.
Circle of the Seasons
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The methods of science aren’t foolproof, but they are indefinitely perfectible. Just as important: there is a tradition of criticism that enforces improvement whenever and wherever flaws are discovered. The methods of science, like everything else under the sun, are themselves objects of scientific scrutiny, as method becomes methodology, the analysis of methods. Methodology in turn falls under the gaze of epistemology, the investigation of investigation itself—nothing is off limits to scientific questioning. The irony is that these fruits of scientific reflection, showing us the ineliminable smudges of imperfection, are sometimes used by those who are suspicious of science as their grounds for denying it a privileged status in the truth-seeking department—as if the institutions and practices they see competing with it were no worse off in these regards. But where are the examples of religious orthodoxy being simply abandoned in the face of irresistible evidence? Again and again in science, yesterday’s heresies have become today’s new orthodoxies. No religion exhibits that pattern in its history.
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The physicist, in his study of natural phenomena, has two methods of making progress: (1) the method of experiment and observation, and (2) the method of mathematical reasoning. The former is just the collection of selected data; the latter enables one to infer results about experiments that have not been performed. There is no logical reason why the second method should be possible at all, but one has found in practice that it does work and meets with reasonable success.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 122.
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The story of a theory’s failure often strikes readers as sad and unsatisfying. Since science thrives on self-correction, we who practice this most challenging of human arts do not share such a feeling. We may be unhappy if a favored hypothesis loses or chagrined if theories that we proposed prove inadequate. But refutation almost always contains positive lessons that overwhelm disappointment, even when no new and comprehensive theory has yet filled the void.
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The surgeon is a man of action. By temperament and by training he prefers to serve the sick by operating on them, and he inwardly commiserates with a patient so unfortunate as to have a disease not suited to surgical treatment. Young surgeons, busy mastering the technicalities of the art, are particularly alert to seize every legitimate opportunity to practice technical maneuvers, the more complicated the better.
American Journal of Surgery.
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The tool which serves as intermediary between theory and practice, between thought and observation, is mathematics; it is mathematics which builds the linking bridges and gives the ever more reliable forms. From this it has come about that our entire contemporary culture, inasmuch as it is based on the intellectual penetration and the exploitation of nature, has its foundations in mathematics. Already Galileo said: one can understand nature only when one has learned the language and the signs in which it speaks to us; but this language is mathematics and these signs are mathematical figures.
Radio broadcast (8 Sep 1930). As quoted in Michael Fitzgerald and Ioan James, The Mind of the Mathematician (2007), 6-7.
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William Osler quote Two sorts of doctors
Candidate for medical degree being examined in the subject of “Bedside Manner” — Punch (22 Apr 1914) (source)
There are only two sorts of doctors: those who practice with their brains, and those who practice with their tongues.
Address to McGill Medical School (1 Oct 1894), 'Teaching and Thinking', collected in Aequanimitas: With Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 131.
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There is no art so difficult as the art of observation: it requires a skillful, sober spirit and a well-trained experience, which can only be acquired by practice; for he is not an observer who only sees the thing before him with his eyes, but he who sees of what parts the thing consists, and in what connexion the parts stand to the whole. One person overlooks half from inattention; another relates more than he sees while he confounds it with that which he figures to himself; another sees the parts of the whole, but he throws things together that ought to be separated. ... When the observer has ascertained the foundation of a phenomenon, and he is able to associate its conditions, he then proves while he endeavours to produce the phenomena at his will, the correctness of his observations by experiment. To make a series of experiments is often to decompose an opinion into its individual parts, and to prove it by a sensible phenomenon. The naturalist makes experiments in order to exhibit a phenomenon in all its different parts. When he is able to show of a series of phenomena, that they are all operations of the same cause, he arrives at a simple expression of their significance, which, in this case, is called a Law of Nature. We speak of a simple property as a Law of Nature when it serves for the explanation of one or more natural phenomena.
'The Study of the Natural Sciences: An Introductory Lecture to the Course of Experimental Chemistry in the University of Munich, for the Winter Session of 1852-53,' as translated and republished in The Medical Times and Gazette (22 Jan 1853), N.S. Vol. 6, 82.
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Therefore it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analysing long-held commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend, and how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. Thus their excessive authority will be broken.
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These machines [used in the defense of the Syracusans against the Romans under Marcellus] he [Archimedes] had designed and contrived, not as matters of any importance, but as mere amusements in geometry; in compliance with king Hiero’s desire and request, some time before, that he should reduce to practice some part of his admirable speculation in science, and by accommodating the theoretic truth to sensation and ordinary use, bring it more within the appreciation of people in general. Eudoxus and Archytas had been the first originators of this far-famed and highly-prized art of mechanics, which they employed as an elegant illustration of geometrical truths, and as means of sustaining experimentally, to the satisfaction of the senses, conclusions too intricate for proof by words and diagrams. As, for example, to solve the problem, so often required in constructing geometrical figures, given the two extremes, to find the two mean lines of a proportion, both these mathematicians had recourse to the aid of instruments, adapting to their purpose certain curves and sections of lines. But what with Plato’s indignation at it, and his invectives against it as the mere corruption and annihilation of the one good of geometry,—which was thus shamefully turning its back upon the unembodied objects of pure intelligence to recur to sensation, and to ask help (not to be obtained without base supervisions and depravation) from matter; so it was that mechanics came to be separated from geometry, and, repudiated and neglected by philosophers, took its place as a military art.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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They are the best physicians, who being great in learning most incline to the traditions of experience, or being distinguished in practice do not reflect the methods and generalities of art.
The Advancement of Learning, Bk IV, Ch. II.
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Those who are enamoured of practice without science, are like the pilot who embarks in a ship without rudder or compass and who is never certain where he is going.
From original Italian: “Quelli che s'innamorano della pratica senza la diligenza, ovvero scienza, per dir meglio,sono come i nocchieri, che entrano in mare sopra nave senza timone o bussola, che mai hanno certezza dove si vadano,” in Trattato Della Pittura (Treatise on Painting) (1817), Part 2, 69. Translated in Anthony Lejeune, The Concise Dictionary of Foreign Quotations (2001), 234.
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Those who are good at archery learnt from the bow and not from Yi the Archer. Those who know how to manage boats learnt from boats and not from Wo (the legendary mighty boatman). Those who can think learnt for themselves and not from the sages.
Kuan-Yin
As quoted in Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 2: History of Scientific Thought (1956), 73, citing “in the Kuan Yin Tzu, a Taoist book of Thang (perhaps + 8th century).” Also in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 144, citing Needham.
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To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behaviour of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is one needs to know. And yet those with the courage to tread this path to real discovery are not only offered practically no guidance on how to do so, they are actively discouraged and have to set about it in secret, pretending meanwhile to be diligently engaged in the frantic diversions and to conform with the deadening personal opinions which are continually being thrust upon them.
In 'Appendix 1', The Laws of Form (1969), 110.
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Today's water institutions—the policies and laws, government agencies and planning and engineering practices that shape patterns of water use—are steeped in a supply-side management philosophy no longer appropriate to solving today's water problems.
From a study Postel wrote for Worldwatch Institute, quoted in New York Times (22 Sep 1985), 19.
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Unless we practice conservation, those who come after us will have to pay the price of misery, degradation, and failure for the progress and prosperity of our day.
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We have to keep in practice like musicians. Besides, there are still potentialities to be realized in color film. To us, it’s just like bringing up a child. You don’t stop after you’ve had it.
On product improvement research. As Quoted in Alix Kerr, 'What It Took: Intuition, Goo,' Life (25 Jan 1963), 54, No. 4, 86.
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We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye ... The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.
The Ascent of Man (1973), 115-6.
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We ought to observe that practice which is the hardest of all—especially for young physicians—we ought to throw in no medicine at all—to abstain—to observe a wise and masterly inactivity.
Speech (25 Jan 1828), in Register of Debates in Congress, Vol. 4, Col. 1170.
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We profess to teach the principles and practice of medicine, or, in other words, the science and art of medicine. Science is knowledge reduced to principles; art is knowledge reduced to practice. The knowing and doing, however, are distinct. ... Your knowledge, therefore, is useless unless you cultivate the art of healing. Unfortunately, the scientific man very often has the least amount of art, and he is totally unsuccessful in practice; and, on the other hand, there may be much art based on an infinitesimal amount of knowledge, and yet it is sufficient to make its cultivator eminent.
From H.G. Sutton, Abstract of Lecture delivered at Guy's Hospital by Samuel Wilks, 'Introductory to Part of a Course on the Theory and Practice of Medicine', The Lancet (24 Mar 1866), 1, 308
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We shall be ready, I think, to practice conservation when “farmer plants tamarack” is no longer news.
In Aldo Leopold and ‎Luna B. Leopold, Round River (1972), 64.
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We thus begin to see that the institutionalized practice of citations and references in the sphere of learning is not a trivial matter. While many a general reader–that is, the lay reader located outside the domain of science and scholarship–may regard the lowly footnote or the remote endnote or the bibliographic parenthesis as a dispensable nuisance, it can be argued that these are in truth central to the incentive system and an underlying sense of distributive justice that do much to energize the advancement of knowledge.
In ''he Matthew Effect in Science, II: Cumulative Advantage and the Symbolism of Intellectual Property', Isis (1988), 79, 621.
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When Cayley had reached his most advanced generalizations he proceeded to establish them directly by some method or other, though he seldom gave the clue by which they had first been obtained: a proceeding which does not tend to make his papers easy reading. …
His literary style is direct, simple and clear. His legal training had an influence, not merely upon his mode of arrangement but also upon his expression; the result is that his papers are severe and present a curious contrast to the luxuriant enthusiasm which pervades so many of Sylvester’s papers. He used to prepare his work for publication as soon as he carried his investigations in any subject far enough for his immediate purpose. … A paper once written out was promptly sent for publication; this practice he maintained throughout life. … The consequence is that he has left few arrears of unfinished or unpublished papers; his work has been given by himself to the world.
In Proceedings of London Royal Society (1895), 58, 23-24.
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When one considers how hard it is to write a computer program even approaching the intellectual scope of a good paper, and how much greater time and effort have to be put in to make it “almost” formally correct, it is preposterous to claim that mathematics as we practice it is anywhere near formally correct.
In 'On Proof and Progress in Mathematics', For the Learning of Mathematics (Feb 1995), 15, No. 1, 33. Reprinted from Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (1994), 30, No. 2, 170-171.
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When, however, you see the specification, you will see that the fundamental principles are contained therein. I do not, however, claim even the credit of inventing it, as I do not believe a mere description of an idea that has never been reduced to practice—in the strict sense of that phrase—should be dignified with the name invention.‎
Letter (5 Mar 1877) to Alexander Graham Bell. Quoted in The Bell Telephone (1908), 168.
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Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.
In Where do Correct Ideas Come From? (May 1963). As quoted and cited in Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (1966, 1972), 206.
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Whereas there is nothing more necessary for promoting the improvement of Philosophical Matters, than the communicating to such, as apply their Studies and Endeavours that way, such things as are discovered or put in practice by others; it is therefore thought fit to employ the Press, as the most proper way to gratifie those, whose engagement in such Studies, and delight in the advancement of Learning and profitable Discoveries, doth entitle them to the knowledge of what this Kingdom, or other parts of the World, do, from time to time, afford as well of the progress of the Studies, Labours, and attempts of the Curious and learned in things of this kind, as of their compleat Discoveries and performances: To the end, that such Productions being clearly and truly communicated, desires after solid and usefull knowledge may be further entertained, ingenious Endeavours and Undertakings cherished, and those, addicted to and conversant in such matters, may be invited and encouraged to search, try, and find out new things, impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving Natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophical Arts, and Sciences. All for the Glory of God, the Honour and Advantage of these Kingdoms, and the Universal Good of Mankind.
'Introduction', Philosophical Transactions (1665), 1, 1-2.
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While the easiest way in metaphysics is to condemn all metaphysics as nonsense, the easiest way in morals is to elevate the common practice of the community into a moral absolute.
In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (1948, 1993), 111.
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Why then be concerned about the conservation of wildlife when for all practical purposes we would be much better off if humans and their domestic animals and pets were the only living creatures on the face of the earth? There is no obvious and demolishing answer to this rather doubtful logic although in practice the destruction of all wild animals would certainly bring devastating changes to our existence on this planet as we know it today...The trouble is that everything in nature is completely interdependent. Tinker with one part of it and the repercussions ripple out in all directions...Wildlife - and that includes everything from microbes to blue whales and from a fungus to a redwood tree - has been so much part of life on the earth that we are inclined to take its continued existence for granted...Yet the wildlife of the world is disappearing, not because of a malicious and deliberate policy of slaughter and extermination, but simply because of a general and widespread ignorance and neglect.
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Without theory, practice is but routine born of habit. Theory alone can bring forth and develop the spirit of invention. ... [Do not] share the opinion of those narrow minds who disdain everything in science which has not an immediate application. ... A theoretical discovery has but the merit of its existence: it awakens hope, and that is all. But let it be cultivated, let it grow, and you will see what it will become.
Inaugural Address as newly appointed Professor and Dean (Sep 1854) at the opening of the new Faculté des Sciences at Lille (7 Dec 1854). In René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, translated by Mrs. R. L. Devonshire (1919), 76.
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World-wide practice of Conservation and the fair and continued access by all nations to the resources they need are the two indispensable foundations of continuous plenty and of permanent peace.
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Young writers find out what kinds of writers they are by experiment. If they choose from the outset to practice exclusively a form of writing because it is praised in the classroom or otherwise carries appealing prestige, they are vastly increasing the risk inherent in taking up writing in the first place.
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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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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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