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Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index P > Category: Principal

Principal Quotes (63 quotes)

Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was that they escaped teething.
In Pudd’nhead Wilson: a Tale (1894), 31.
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But if the heavens are moved by a daily movement, it is necessary to assume in the principal bodies of the universe and in the heavens two ways of movement which are contrary to each other: one from east to west and the other from west to east, as has often been said. And with this, it is proper to assume an excessively great speed, for anyone who reckons and considers well the height of distance of the heavens and the magnitude of these and of their circuit, if such a circuit were made in a day, could not imagine or conceive how marvelously and excessively swift would be the movement of the heavens, and how unbelievable and unthinkable.
In Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 329. Webmaster so far has been unable to locate the primary source (can you help?)
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Common sense … has the very curious property of being more correct retrospectively than prospectively. It seems to me that one of the principal criteria to be applied to successful science is that its results are almost always obvious retrospectively; unfortunately, they seldom are prospectively. Common sense provides a kind of ultimate validation after science has completed its work; it seldom anticipates what science is going to discover.
Quoted in A. De Reuck, M. Goldsmith and J. Knight (eds.), Decision Making in National Science Policy (1968), 96.
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Disease is largely a removable evil. It continues to afflict humanity, not only because of incomplete knowledge of its causes and lack of individual and public hygiene, but also because it is extensively fostered by harsh economic and industrial conditions and by wretched housing in congested communities. ... The reduction of the death rate is the principal statistical expression and index of human social progress. It means the saving and lengthening of lives of thousands of citizens, the extension of the vigorous working period well into old age, and the prevention of inefficiency, misery, and suffering. These advances can be made by organized social effort. Public health is purchasable. (1911)
Quoted in Evelynn Maxine Hammonds, Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880-1930(1999), 221.
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Every river appears to consist of a main trunk, fed from a variety of branches, each running in a valley proportional to its size, and all of them together forming a system of vallies, communicating with one another, and having such a nice adjustment of their declivities that none of them join the principal valley on too high or too low a level; a circumstance which would be infinitely improbable if each of these vallies were not the work of the stream that flows in it.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 102.
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For that which can shewn only in a certain Light is questionable. Truth, ’tis suppos’d, may bear all Lights: and one of those principal Lights or natural Mediums, by which Things are to be view’d, in order to a thorow Recognition, is Ridicule it-self.
Also seen in short form: “Ridicule is the test of truth.”
In 'An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour', Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1723), Vol. 1, 61.
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For the Members of the Assembly having before their eyes so many fatal Instances of the errors and falshoods, in which the greatest part of mankind has so long wandred, because they rely'd upon the strength of humane Reason alone, have begun anew to correct all Hypotheses by sense, as Seamen do their dead Reckonings by Cœlestial Observations; and to this purpose it has been their principal indeavour to enlarge and strengthen the Senses by Medicine, and by such outward Instruments as are proper for their particular works.
Micrographia, or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon (1665), preface sig.
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Hardly a pure science, history is closer to animal husbandry than it is to mathematics, in that it involves selective breeding. The principal difference between the husbandryman and the historian is that the former breeds sheep or cows or such, and the latter breeds (assumed) facts. The husbandryman uses his skills to enrich the future; the historian uses his to enrich the past. Both are usually up to their ankles in bullshit.
Another Roadside Attraction (1990), 127.
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Here I shall present, without using Analysis [mathematics], the principles and general results of the Théorie, applying them to the most important questions of life, which are indeed, for the most part, only problems in probability. One may even say, strictly speaking, that almost all our knowledge is only probable; and in the small number of things that we are able to know with certainty, in the mathematical sciences themselves, the principal means of arriving at the truth—induction and analogy—are based on probabilities, so that the whole system of human knowledge is tied up with the theory set out in this essay.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 1.
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Hormones, vitamines, stimulants and depressives are oils upon the creaky machinery of life. Principal item, however, is the machinery.
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I am more of a sponge than an inventor. I absorb ideas from every source. I take half-matured schemes for mechanical development and make them practical. I am a sort of middleman between the long-haired and impractical inventor and the hard-headed businessman who measures all things in terms of dollars and cents. My principal business is giving commercial value to the brilliant but misdirected ideas of others.
…...
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I confess that Fermat’s Theorem as an isolated proposition has very little interest for me, for a multitude of such theorems can easily be set up, which one could neither prove nor disprove. But I have been stimulated by it to bring our again several old ideas for a great extension of the theory of numbers. Of course, this theory belongs to the things where one cannot predict to what extent one will succeed in reaching obscurely hovering distant goals. A happy star must also rule, and my situation and so manifold distracting affairs of course do not permit me to pursue such meditations as in the happy years 1796-1798 when I created the principal topics of my Disquisitiones arithmeticae. But I am convinced that if good fortune should do more than I expect, and make me successful in some advances in that theory, even the Fermat theorem will appear in it only as one of the least interesting corollaries.
In reply to Olbers' attempt in 1816 to entice him to work on Fermat's Theorem. The hope Gauss expressed for his success was never realised.
Letter to Heinrich Olbers (21 Mar 1816). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 413.
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I had come to the conclusion, that the principal alimentary matters might be reduced to the three great classes, namely the saccharine, the oily and the albuminous.
'On the Ultimate Composition of Simple Alimentary Substances; with some Preliminary Remarks on the Analysis of Organised Bodies in General', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1827), 117, 357.
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I have not chosen a career that will lead me to a great fortune, but not my principal ambition.
In fact, later in life he enjoyed comfortable income from his science discoveries.
Letter to his father, 1803. In Maurice Crosland, Gay-Lussac, Scientist and Bourgeois (1978), 1.
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I was introduced to Mr. Davy, who has rooms adjoining mine (in the Royal Institution); he is a very agreeable and intelligent young man, and we have interesting conversation in an evening; the principal failing in his character as a philosopher is that he does not smoke.
Letter to John Rothwell, January 1804. Quoted in J. P. Millington, John Dalton (1906), 141.
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I would clarify that by ‘animal’ I understand a being that has feeling and that is capable of exercising life functions through a principle called soul; that the soul uses the body's organs, which are true machines, by virtue of its being the principal cause of the action of each of the machine's parts; and that although the placement that these parts have with respect to one another does scarcely anything else through the soul's mediation than what it does in pure machines, the entire machine nonetheless needs to be activated and guided by the soul in the same way as an organ, which, although capable of rendering different sounds through the placement of the parts of which it is composed, nonetheless never does so except through the guidance of the organist.
'La Mechanique des Animaux', in Oeuvres Diverses de Physique et de Mechanique (1721), Vol. 1, 329. Quoted in Jacques Roger, Keith R. Benson (ed.), Robert Ellrich (trans.), The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, (1997), 273-4.
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If any person thinks the examination of the rest of the animal kingdom an unworthy task, he must hold in like disesteem the study of man. For no one can look at the primordia of the human frame—blood, flesh, bones, vessels, and the like—without much repugnance. Moreover, in every inquiry, the examination of material elements and instruments is not to be regarded as final, but as ancillary to the conception of the total form. Thus, the true object of architecture is not bricks, mortar or timber, but the house; and so the principal object of natural philosophy is not the material elements, but their composition, and the totality of the form to which they are subservient, and independently of which they have no existence.
Aristotle
On Parts of Animals, Book 1, Chap 5, 645a, 26-36. In W. Ogle (trans.), Aristotle on the Parts of Animals (1882), 17. Alternate translations: “primodia” = “elements”; “Moreover ... Thus” = “Moreover, when anyone of the parts or structures, be it which it may, is under discussion, it must not be supposed that it is its material composition to which attention is being directed or which is the object of the discussion, but rather the total form. Similarly”; “form ... subservient, and” = “totality of the substance.” See alternate translation in Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 1, 1004.
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If I have succeeded in discovering any truths in the sciences…, I can declare that they are but the consequences and results of five or six principal difficulties which I have surmounted, and my encounters with which I reckoned as battles in which victory declared for me.
In Discours de la Méthode (1637), as translated by J. Veitch, A Discourse on Method (1912), 53. Also seen translated as, “If I found any new truths in the sciences…, I can say that they follow from, or depend on, five or six principal problems which I succeeded in solving and which I regard as so many battles where the fortunes of war were on my side.”
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If one might wish for impossibilities, I might then wish that my children might be well versed in physical science, but in due subordination to the fulness and freshness of their knowledge on moral subjects. ... Rather than have it the principal thing in my son's mind, I would gladly have him think that the sun went round the earth, and that the stars were so many spangles set in the bright blue firmament.
Letter to Dr. Greenhill (9 May 1836). In Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold (2nd Ed., 1846), 277.
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If we seek for the simplest arrangement, which would enable it [the eye] to receive and discriminate the impressions of the different parts of the spectrum, we may suppose three distinct sensations only to be excited by the rays of the three principal pure colours, falling on any given point of the retina, the red, the green, and the violet; while the rays occupying the intermediate spaces are capable of producing mixed sensations, the yellow those which belong to the red and green, and the blue those which belong to the green and violet.
'Chromatics', in Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1824), Vol. 3, 142.
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In all cases when a particular agent or cause is to be studied, experiments should be arranged in such a way as to lead if possible to results depending on it alone ; or, if this cannot be done, they should be arranged so as to increase the effects due to the cause to be studied till these so far exceed the unavoidable concomitants, that the latter may be considered as only disturbing, not essentially modifying the effects of the principal agent.
In William Thomson and Peter Guthrie Tait, Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867), Vol. 1, 305.
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In the mathematics I can report no deficience, except that it be that men do not sufficiently understand the excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual. For if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if too wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it. So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to put itself into all postures; so in the mathematics, that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.
As translated in John Fauvel and Jeremy Gray (eds.) A History of Mathematics: A Reader (1987), 290-291. From De Augmentis, Book 3, The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 2. Reprinted in The Two Books of Francis Bacon: Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Human (2009), 97.
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In the tropical and subtropical regions, endemic malaria takes first place almost everywhere among the causes of morbidity and mortality and it constitutes the principal obstacle to the acclimatization of Europeans in these regions.
From Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1907), 'Protozoa as Causes of Diseases', collected in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967, 1999), 264.
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It is true that Fourier had the opinion that the principal end of mathematics was public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a philosopher as he is should have known that the unique end of science is the honor of the human mind and that from this point of view a question of [the theory of] number is as important as a question of the system of the world.
From letter to Legendre, translation as given in F.R. Moulton, 'The Influence of Astronomy on Mathematics', Science (10 Mar 1911), N.S. Vol. 33, No. 845, 359. A different translation begins, “It is true that M. Fourier believed…” on the Karl Jacobi Quotes web page on this site.
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It is true that M. Fourier believed that the main aim of mathematics was public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a philosopher of his ability ought to have known that the sole aim of science is the honour of the human intellect, and that on this ground a problem in numbers is as important as a problem on the system of the world.
In Letter to Legendre, as quoted in an Address by Emile Picard to the Congress of Science and Art, St. Louis (22 Sep 1904), translated in 'Development of Mathematical Analysis', The Mathematical Gazette (Jul 1905), 3, No. 52, 200. A different translation begins, “It is true that Fourier had the opinion…” on the Karl Jacobi Quotes web page on this site.
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It need scarcely be pointed out that with such a mechanism complete isolation of portion of a species should result relatively rapidly in specific differentiation, and one that is not necessarily adaptive. The effective inter­group competition leading to adaptive advance may be between species rather than races. Such isolation is doubtless usually geographic in character at the outset but may be clinched by the development of hybrid sterility. The usual difference of the chromosome complements of related species puts the importance of chromosome aberration as an evolutionary process beyond question, but, as I see it, this importance is not in the character differences which they bring (slight in balanced types), but rather in leading to the sterility of hybrids and thus making permanent the isolation of two groups.
How far do the observations of actual species and their subdivisions conform to this picture? This is naturally too large a subject for more than a few suggestions.
That evolution involves non-adaptive differentiation to a large extent at the subspecies and even the species level is indicated by the kinds of differences by which such groups are actually distinguished by systematics. It is only at the subfamily and family levels that clear-cut adaptive differences become the rule. The principal evolutionary mechanism in the origin of species must thus be an essentially nonadaptive one.
In Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress of Genetics: Ithaca, New York, 1932 (1932) Vol. 1, 363-364.
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Kepler’s principal goal was to explain the relationship between the existence of five planets (and their motions) and the five regular solids. It is customary to sneer at Kepler for this. … It is instructive to compare this with the current attempts to “explain” the zoology of elementary particles in terms of irreducible representations of Lie groups.
In Celestial Mechanics (1969), Vol. 1, 95.
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Knowledge of Nature is an account at bank, where each dividend is added to the principal and the interest is ever compounded; and hence it is that human progress, founded on natural knowledge, advances with ever increasing speed.
Concluding sentence of Address (11 Dec 1895) as President of the Geological Society, 'The Origin of Hypotheses, illustrated by the Discussion of a Topographical Problem', printed as Presidential Address of Grove Karl Gilbert (1896), 24. Also collected in Science (1896), 3, 13.
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Language is the principal tool with which we communicate; but when words are used carelessly or mistakenly, what was intended to advance mutual understanding may in fact hinder it; our instrument becomes our burden
Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen (probably? in their Introduction to Logic), In K. Srinagesh, The Principles of Experimental Research (2006), 15.
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Most, if not all, of the great ideas of modern mathematics have had their origin in observation. Take, for instance, the arithmetical theory of forms, of which the foundation was laid in the diophantine theorems of Fermat, left without proof by their author, which resisted all efforts of the myriad-minded Euler to reduce to demonstration, and only yielded up their cause of being when turned over in the blow-pipe flame of Gauss’s transcendent genius; or the doctrine of double periodicity, which resulted from the observation of Jacobi of a purely analytical fact of transformation; or Legendre’s law of reciprocity; or Sturm’s theorem about the roots of equations, which, as he informed me with his own lips, stared him in the face in the midst of some mechanical investigations connected (if my memory serves me right) with the motion of compound pendulums; or Huyghen’s method of continued fractions, characterized by Lagrange as one of the principal discoveries of that great mathematician, and to which he appears to have been led by the construction of his Planetary Automaton; or the new algebra, speaking of which one of my predecessors (Mr. Spottiswoode) has said, not without just reason and authority, from this chair, “that it reaches out and indissolubly connects itself each year with fresh branches of mathematics, that the theory of equations has become almost new through it, algebraic geometry transfigured in its light, that the calculus of variations, molecular physics, and mechanics” (he might, if speaking at the present moment, go on to add the theory of elasticity and the development of the integral calculus) “have all felt its influence”.
In 'A Plea for the Mathematician', Nature, 1, 238 in Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, 655-56.
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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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No excavation ought to ever be permitted except under the immediate eye of a responsible and trustworthy superintendent. ... Superfluous precision may be regarded as a fault on the right side. ... [P]ottery [i]s the human fossil, so widely is it distributed.
Some of the basic principals of digging he adopted.
Excavations in Cranborne Chase. Quoted in Alice Beck, The Land of Prehistory: A Critical History of American Archaeology (1998), 62-63.
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Oh, my dear Kepler, how I wish that we could have one hearty laugh together. Here, at Padua, is the principal professor of philosophy, whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested to look at the moon and planets through my glass, [telescope] which he pertinaciously refuses to do. Why are you not here? what shouts of laughter we should have at this glorious folly! and to hear the professor of philosophy at Pisa laboring before the grand duke with logical arguments, as if with magical incantations, to charm the new planets out of the sky.
From Letter to Johannes Kepler. As translated in John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, Life of Galileo Galilei: With Illustrations of the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy (1832), 92-93.
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One of the principal objects of theoretical research in my department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity.
In letter published in Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1881), 420.
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One of the principal obstacles to the rapid diffusion of a new idea lies in the difficulty of finding suitable expression to convey its essential point to other minds. Words may have to be strained into a new sense, and scientific controversies constantly resolve themselves into differences about the meaning of words. On the other hand, a happy nomenclature has sometimes been more powerful than rigorous logic in allowing a new train of thought to be quickly and generally accepted.
Opening Address to the Annual Meeting of the British Association by Prof. Arthur Schuster, in Nature (4 Aug 1892), 46, 325.
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One of the principal results of civilization is to reduce more and more the limits within which the different elements of society fluctuate. The more intelligence increases the more these limits are reduced, and the nearer we approach the beautiful and the good. The perfectibility of the human species results as a necessary consequence of all our researches. Physical defects and monstrosities are gradually disappearing; the frequency and severity of diseases are resisted more successfully by the progress of modern science; the moral qualities of man are proving themselves not less capable of improvement; and the more we advance, the less we shall have need to fear those great political convulsions and wars and their attendant results, which are the scourges of mankind.
…...
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So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.
In Leviathan: Or, The Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (1886), 64.
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Such is the tendency of the human mind to speculation, that on the least idea of an analogy between a few phenomena, it leaps forward, as it were, to a cause or law, to the temporary neglect of all the rest; so that, in fact, almost all our principal inductions must be regarded as a series of ascents and descents, and of conclusions from a few cases, verified by trial on many.
In A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830), 164-165.
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The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.
In 'Childhood’s Promises', Television & Children (1980), 3, No. 3, 17.
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The Chinese … use fossil teeth as one of their principal medicines. Some Chinese families have for centuries been in the business of “mining” fossils to supply the drug trade.
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The Grand Duke [of Tuscany] …after observing the Medicaean plants several times with me … has now invited me to attach myself to him with the annual salary of one thousand florins, and with the title of Philosopher and Principal Mathematicial to His Highness; without the duties of office to perform, but with the most complete leisure; so that I can complete my Treatises...
From a letter to Kepler. Quoted in John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, Life of Galileo Galilei (1832), 63.
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The Greeks in the first vigour of their pursuit of mathematical truth, at the time of Plato and soon after, had by no means confined themselves to those propositions which had a visible bearing on the phenomena of nature; but had followed out many beautiful trains of research concerning various kinds of figures, for the sake of their beauty alone; as for instance in their doctrine of Conic Sections, of which curves they had discovered all the principal properties. But it is curious to remark, that these investigations, thus pursued at first as mere matters of curiosity and intellectual gratification, were destined, two thousand years later, to play a very important part in establishing that system of celestial motions which succeeded the Platonic scheme of cycles and epicycles. If the properties of conic sections had not been demonstrated by the Greeks and thus rendered familiar to the mathematicians of succeeding ages, Kepler would probably not have been able to discover those laws respecting the orbits and motions of planets which were the occasion of the greatest revolution that ever happened in the history of science.
In History of Scientific Ideas, Bk. 9, chap. 14, sect. 3.
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The inspired and expired air may be sometimes very useful, by condensing and cooling the blood that passeth through the lungs; I hold that the depuration of the blood in that passage, is not only one of the ordinary, but one of the principal uses of respiration.
New Experiments ... Touching the Spring of Air. In Works, Vol 1, 113. Quoted in Barbara Kaplan (ed.), Divulging of Useful Truths in Physick: The Medical Agenda of Robert Boyle (1993), 85.
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The opinion I formed from attentive observation of the facts and phenomena, is as follows. When ice, for example, or any other solid substance, is changing into a fluid by heat, I am of opinion that it receives a much greater quantity of heat than that what is perceptible in it immediately after by the thermometer. A great quantity of heat enters into it, on this occasion, without making it apparently warmer, when tried by that instrument. This heat, however, must be thrown into it, in order to give it the form of a fluid; and I affirm, that this great addition of heat is the principal, and most immediate cause of the fluidity induced. And, on the other hand, when we deprive such a body of its fluidity again, by a diminution of its heat, a very great quantity of heat comes out of it, while it is assuming a solid form, the loss of which heat is not to be perceived by the common manner of using the thermometer. The apparent heat of the body, as measured by that instrument, is not diminished, or not in proportion to the loss of heat which the body actually gives out on this occasion; and it appears from a number of facts, that the state of solidity cannot be induced without the abstraction of this great quantity of heat. And this confirms the opinion, that this quantity of heat, absorbed, and, as it were, concealed in the composition of fluids, is the most necessary and immediate cause of their fluidity.
Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry, delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1803), Vol. I, 116-7.
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The opinion of Bacon on this subject [geometry] was diametrically opposed to that of the ancient philosophers. He valued geometry chiefly, if not solely, on account of those uses, which to Plato appeared so base. And it is remarkable that the longer Bacon lived the stronger this feeling became. When in 1605 he wrote the two books on the Advancement of Learning, he dwelt on the advantages which mankind derived from mixed mathematics; but he at the same time admitted that the beneficial effect produced by mathematical study on the intellect, though a collateral advantage, was “no less worthy than that which was principal and intended.” But it is evident that his views underwent a change. When near twenty years later, he published the De Augmentis, which is the Treatise on the Advancement of Learning, greatly expanded and carefully corrected, he made important alterations in the part which related to mathematics. He condemned with severity the pretensions of the mathematicians, “delidas et faslum mathematicorum.” Assuming the well-being of the human race to be the end of knowledge, he pronounced that mathematical science could claim no higher rank than that of an appendage or an auxiliary to other sciences. Mathematical science, he says, is the handmaid of natural philosophy; she ought to demean herself as such; and he declares that he cannot conceive by what ill chance it has happened that she presumes to claim precedence over her mistress.
In 'Lord Bacon', Edinburgh Review (Jul 1837). Collected in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays: Contributed to the Edinburgh Review (1857), Vol. 1, 395.
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The plan followed by nature in producing animals clearly comprises a predominant prime cause. This endows animal life with the power to make organization gradually more complex, and to bring increasing complexity and perfection not only to the total organization but also to each individual apparatus when it comes to be established by animal life. This progressive complication of organisms was in effect accomplished by the said principal cause in all existing animals. Occasionally a foreign, accidental, and therefore variable cause has interfered with the execution of the plan, without, however, destroying it. This has created gaps in the series, in the form either of terminal branches that depart from the series in several points and alter its simplicity, or of anomalies observable in specific apparatuses of various organisms.
Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertèbres (1815-22), Vol. 1, 133. In Pietro Corsi, The Age of Lamarck: Evolutionary Theories in France 1790-1830, trans. J. Mandelbaum (1988), 189.
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The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discovers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered.
From remarks at a conference on cognitive development, Cornell University (1964). In Philip Hampson Taylor, New Directions in Curriculum Studies (1979), 90.
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The principal impetus for my entering a career in science … was the successful launching of Sputnik in 1957, and the then current belief that science and technology was going to be where the action was in the coming decades.
From 'Richard E. Smalley: Biographical', collected in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1996 (1997).
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The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.
In The Act of Creation (1964), 402.
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The principal objection to old age is that there is no future in it.
Anonymous
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The principal result of my investigation is that a uniform developmental principle controls the individual elementary units of all organisms, analogous to the finding that crystals are formed by the same laws in spite of the diversity of their forms.
Mikroskopische Untersuchungen über die Uebereinstimmung in der Struktur und dem Wachsthum der Thiue und Pflanzen (1839). Microscopic Researches into the Accordance in the Structure and Growth of Animals and Plants, trans. Henry Smith (1847), 1.
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The teacher can seldom afford to miss the questions: What is the unknown? What are the data? What is the condition? The student should consider the principal parts of the problem attentively, repeatedly, and from various sides.
In How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (2004), 77
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There is no profession so incompatible with original enquiry as is a Scotch Professorship, where one’s income depends on the numbers of pupils. Is there one Professor in Edinburgh pursuing science with zeal? Are they not all occupied as showmen whose principal object is to attract pupils and make money?
Brewster to J. D. Forbes, 11 February 1830 (St. Andrew's University Library). Quoted in William Cochlan, 'Sir David Brewster: An Outline Biography', in J.R.R. Christie (ed.), Martyr of Science: Sir David Brewster, 1781-1868 (1984), 13.
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This is one of the greatest advantages of modern geometry over the ancient, to be able, through the consideration of positive and negative quantities, to include in a single enunciation the several cases which the same theorem may present by a change in the relative position of the different parts of a figure. Thus in our day the nine principal problems and the numerous particular cases, which form the object of eighty-three theorems in the two books De sectione determinata of Appolonius constitute only one problem which is resolved by a single equation.
In Histoire de la Géométrie, chap. 1, sect. 35.
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This leads us to ask for the reasons which call for this new theory of transmutation. The beginning of things must needs lie in obscurity, beyond the bounds of proof, though within those of conjecture or of analogical inference. Why not hold fast to the customary view, that all species were directly, instead of indirectly, created after their respective kinds, as we now behold them,--and that in a manner which, passing our comprehension, we intuitively refer to the supernatural? Why this continual striving after “the unattained and dim,”—these anxious endeavors, especially of late years, by naturalists and philosophers of various schools and different tendencies, to penetrate what one of them calls “the mystery of mysteries,” the origin of species? To this, in general, sufficient answer may be found in the activity of the human intellect, “the delirious yet divine desire to know,” stimulated as it has been by its own success in unveiling the laws and processes of inorganic Nature,—in the fact that the principal triumphs of our age in physical science have consisted in tracing connections where none were known before, in reducing heterogeneous phenomena to a common cause or origin, in a manner quite analogous to that of the reduction of supposed independently originated species to a common ultimate origin,—thus, and in various other ways, largely and legitimately extending the domain of secondary causes. Surely the scientific mind of an age which contemplates the solar system as evolved from a common, revolving, fluid mass,— which, through experimental research, has come to regard light, heat, electricity, magnetism, chemical affinity, and mechanical power as varieties or derivative and convertible forms of one force, instead of independent species,—which has brought the so-called elementary kinds of matter, such as the metals, into kindred groups, and raised the question, whether the members of each group may not be mere varieties of one species,—and which speculates steadily in the direction of the ultimate unity of matter, of a sort of prototype or simple element which may be to the ordinary species of matter what the protozoa or component cells of an organism are to the higher sorts of animals and plants,—the mind of such an age cannot be expected to let the old belief about species pass unquestioned.
Asa Gray
'Darwin on the Origin of Species', The Atlantic Monthly (Jul 1860), 112-3. Also in 'Natural Selection Not Inconsistent With Natural Theology', Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism (1876), 94-95.
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Unhappily for the physiologist, the subjects of the principal department of his science, that of animal physiology, are sentient beings; and every experiment, every new or unusual situation of such a being, is necessarily attended by pain or suffering of a bodily or mental kind.
A Critical and Experimental Essay on the Circulation of the Blood (1831), 1.
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We are told that “Mathematics is that study which knows nothing of observation, nothing of experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation.” I think no statement could have been made more opposite to the facts of the case; that mathematical analysis is constantly invoking the aid of new principles, new ideas, and new methods, not capable of being defined by any form of words, but springing direct from the inherent powers and activities of the human mind, and from continually renewed introspection of that inner world of thought of which the phenomena are as varied and require as close attention to discern as those of the outer physical world (to which the inner one in each individual man may, I think, be conceived to stand somewhat in the same relation of correspondence as a shadow to the object from which it is projected, or as the hollow palm of one hand to the closed fist which it grasps of the other), that it is unceasingly calling forth the faculties of observation and comparison, that one of its principal weapons is induction, that it has frequent recourse to experimental trial and verification, and that it affords a boundless scope for the exercise of the highest efforts of the imagination and invention.
In Presidential Address to British Association, Exeter British Association Report (1869), pp. 1-9, in Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, 654.
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We have three principal means: observation of nature, reflection, and experiment. Observation gathers the facts, reflection combines them, experiment verifies the result of the combination. It is essential that the observation of nature be assiduous, that reflection be profound, and that experimentation be exact. Rarely does one see these abilities in combination. And so, creative geniuses are not common.
In On the Interpretation of Nature (1753).
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We may affirm of Mr. Buffon, that which has been said of the chemists of old; though he may have failed in attaining his principal aim, of establishing a theory, yet he has brought together such a multitude of facts relative to the history of the earth, and the nature of its fossil productions, that curiosity finds ample compensation, even while it feels the want of conviction.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1847), Vol. 1, 73.
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We may have three principal objects in the study of truth: one to discover it when it is sought; another to demonstrate it when it is possessed; and a third, to discriminate it from the false when it is examined.
As translated in Blaise Pascal and G.W. Wight (trans.), Of the Geometrical Spirit, collected in Charles William Eliot, The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 427. From the original French, “On peut avoir trois principaux objets dans l’etude de la vérité: l’un, de la découvrir quand on la cherche; l’autre, de la démontrer quand on la possède; le dernier, de la discerner d'avec le faux quand on l’examine,” in 'De l'Ésprit Géométrique', Pascal: Opuscules Philosophiques (1887), 82. For an alternative translation, see the quote beginning, “There are three leading objects…” on the Blaise Pascal Quotes page of this website.
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We see, then, that the disappearance of the conscious personality, the predominance of the unconscious personality, the turning by means of suggestion and contagion of feelings and ideas in an identical direction, the tendency to immediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; these, we see, are the principal characteristics of the individual forming part of a crowd. He is no longer himself, but has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 20. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 1, Chap. 1, 12. Original French text: “Donc, évanouissement de la personnalité consciente, prédominance de la personnalité inconsciente, orientation par voie de suggestion et de contagion des sentiments et des idées dans un même sens, tendance a transformer immédiatement en actes les idée suggérées, tels sont les principaux caractères de l’individu en foule. II n’est plus lui-même, il est devenu un automate que sa volonté ne guide plus.”
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When we survey our lives and endeavours we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings. We see that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have grown, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human society, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.
…...
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You boil it in sawdust: you salt it in glue:
You condense it with locusts and tape:
Still keeping one principal object in view—
To preserve its symmetrical shape.
In 'The Beaver’s Lesson', The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits (1876), 56.
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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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