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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index P > Category: Pursue

Pursue Quotes (58 quotes)

The Charms of Statistics.—It is difficult to understand why statisticians commonly limit their inquiries to Averages, and do not revel in more comprehensive views. Their souls seem as dull to the charm of variety as that of the native of one of our flat English counties, whose retrospect of Switzerland was that, if its mountains could be thrown into its lakes, two nuisances would be got rid of at once. An Average is but a solitary fact, whereas if a single other fact be added to it, an entire Normal Scheme, which nearly corresponds to the observed one, starts potentially into existence. Some people hate the very name of statistics, but I find them full of beauty and interest. Whenever they are not brutalised, but delicately handled by the higher methods, and are warily interpreted, their power of dealing with complicated phenomena is extraordinary. They are the only tools by which an opening can be cut through the formidable thicket of difficulties that bars the path of those who pursue the Science of man.
Natural Inheritance (1889), 62-3.
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A free soul ought not to pursue any study slavishly; for while bodily labors performed under constraint do not harm the body, nothing that is learned under compulsion stays with the mind.
Plato
From The Republic 7 536e, as translated by Paul Shorey (1930).
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A study of Disease—of Pestilences methodically prepared and deliberately launched upon man and beast—is certainly being pursue in the laboratories of more than one great country. Blight to destroy crops, Anthrax to slay horses and cattle, Plague to poison not armies but whole districts—such are the lines along which military science is remorselessly advancing.
'Shall We All Commit Suicide?'. Pall Mall (Sep 1924). Reprinted in Thoughts and Adventures (1932), 250.
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After a short period spent in Brussels as a guest of a neurological institute, I returned to Turin on the verge of the invasion of Belgium by the German army, Spring 1940, to join my family. The two alternatives left then to us were either to emigrate to the United States, or to pursue some activity that needed neither support nor connection with the outside Aryan world where we lived. My family chose this second alternative. I then decided to build a small research unit at home and installed it in my bedroom.
Autobiography, Nobel Foundation
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After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 9.
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All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
…...
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Creative imagination is likely to find corroborating novel evidence even for the most 'absurd' programme, if the search has sufficient drive. This look-out for new confirming evidence is perfectly permissible. Scientists dream up phantasies and then pursue a highly selective hunt for new facts which fit these phantasies. This process may be described as “science creating its own universe” (as long as one remembers that “creating” here is used in a provocative-idiosyncratic sense). A brilliant school of scholars (backed by a rich society to finance a few well-planned tests) might succeed in pushing any fantastic programme ahead, or alternatively, if so inclined, in overthrowing any arbitrarily chosen pillar of “established knowledge”.
In 'Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes', in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London 1965 (1970), Vol. 4, 187-8.
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Doubtless the reasoning faculty, the mind, is the leading and characteristic attribute of the human race. By the exercise of this, man arrives at the properties of the natural bodies. This is science, properly and emphatically so called. It is the science of pure mathematics; and in the high branches of this science lies the truly sublime of human acquisition. If any attainment deserves that epithet, it is the knowledge, which, from the mensuration of the minutest dust of the balance, proceeds on the rising scale of material bodies, everywhere weighing, everywhere measuring, everywhere detecting and explaining the laws of force and motion, penetrating into the secret principles which hold the universe of God together, and balancing worlds against worlds, and system against system. When we seek to accompany those who pursue studies at once so high, so vast, and so exact; when we arrive at the discoveries of Newton, which pour in day on the works of God, as if a second fiat had gone forth from his own mouth; when, further, we attempt to follow those who set out where Newton paused, making his goal their starting-place, and, proceeding with demonstration upon demonstration, and discovery upon discovery, bring new worlds and new systems of worlds within the limits of the known universe, failing to learn all only because all is infinite; however we may say of man, in admiration of his physical structure, that “in form and moving he is express and admirable,” it is here, and here without irreverence, we may exclaim, “In apprehension how like a god!” The study of the pure mathematics will of course not be extensively pursued in an institution, which, like this [Boston Mechanics’ Institute], has a direct practical tendency and aim. But it is still to be remembered, that pure mathematics lie at the foundation of mechanical philosophy, and that it is ignorance only which can speak or think of that sublime science as useless research or barren speculation.
In Works (1872), Vol. 1, 180.
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Engineering training deals with the exact sciences. That sort of exactness makes for truth and conscience. It might be good for the world if more men had that sort of mental start in life even if they did not pursue the profession.
Reprint of his 1916 statement in 'Engineering as a Profession', Engineer’s Week (1954).
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First, as concerns the success of teaching mathematics. No instruction in the high schools is as difficult as that of mathematics, since the large majority of students are at first decidedly disinclined to be harnessed into the rigid framework of logical conclusions. The interest of young people is won much more easily, if sense-objects are made the starting point and the transition to abstract formulation is brought about gradually. For this reason it is psychologically quite correct to follow this course.
Not less to be recommended is this course if we inquire into the essential purpose of mathematical instruction. Formerly it was too exclusively held that this purpose is to sharpen the understanding. Surely another important end is to implant in the student the conviction that correct thinking based on true premises secures mastery over the outer world. To accomplish this the outer world must receive its share of attention from the very beginning.
Doubtless this is true but there is a danger which needs pointing out. It is as in the case of language teaching where the modern tendency is to secure in addition to grammar also an understanding of the authors. The danger lies in grammar being completely set aside leaving the subject without its indispensable solid basis. Just so in Teaching of Mathematics it is possible to accumulate interesting applications to such an extent as to stunt the essential logical development. This should in no wise be permitted, for thus the kernel of the whole matter is lost. Therefore: We do want throughout a quickening of mathematical instruction by the introduction of applications, but we do not want that the pendulum, which in former decades may have inclined too much toward the abstract side, should now swing to the other extreme; we would rather pursue the proper middle course.
In Ueber den Mathematischen Unterricht an den hoheren Schulen; Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 11, 131.
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For it is owing to their wonder that men now both begin and at first began to philosophize; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of the moon and those of the sun and the stars, and about the genesis of the universe. And a man who is puzzled and wonders thinks himself ignorant (whence even the lover of myth is in a sense a lover of wisdom, for myth is composed of wonders); therefore since they philosophized in order to escape from ignorance, evidently they were pursuing science in order to know, and not for any utilitarian end. And this is confirmed by the facts; for it was when almost all the necessities of life and the things that make for comfort and recreation were present, that such knowledge began to be sought. Evidently then we do not seek it for the sake of any advantage; but as the man is free, we say, who exists for himself and not for another, so we pursue this as the only free science, for it alone exists for itself.
Aristotle
Metaphysics, 982b, 12-27. In Jonathan Baines (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 2, 1554.
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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 didn’t really decide that I wanted to be an astronaut for sure until the end of college. But even in elementary school and junior high, I was very interested in space and in the space program. I had both male and female heroes. One was a high school science teacher who was very important in encouraging me to pursue science. Because I was a tennis player, Billie Jean King was a hero of mine. And the early astronauts, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, were heroes of mine as well.
Interview conducted on Scholastic website (20 Nov 1998).
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I trust and believe that the time spent in this voyage … will produce its full worth in Natural History; and it appears to me the doing what little we can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelihood pursue.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1888), 245.
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In order to pursue chemotherapy successfully we must look for substances which possess a high affinity and high lethal potency in relation to the parasites, but have a low toxicity in relation to the body, so that it becomes possible to kill the parasites without damaging the body to any great extent. We want to hit the parasites as selectively as possible. In other words, we must learn to aim and to aim in a chemical sense. The way to do this is to synthesize by chemical means as many derivatives as possible of relevant substances.
'Ueber den jetzigen Stand der Chemotherapie'. Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschagt, 1909, 42, 17-47. Translated in B. Holmstedt and G. Liljestrand (eds.), Readings in Pharmacology (1963), 286.
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In the celestial spaces above the Earth’s atmosphere; in which spaces, where there is no air to resist their motions, all bodies will move with the greatest freedom; and the Planets and Comets will constantly pursue their revolutions in orbits … by the mere laws of gravity.
In 'General Scholium' from The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1729), Vol. 2, Book 3, 388.
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It is the technologist who is transforming at least the outward trappings of modern civilization and no hard and fast line can or should be drawn between those who apply science, and in the process make discoveries, and those who pursue what is sometimes called basic science.
Presidential Address to the Anniversary Meeting (30 Nov 1964) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (5 Jan 1965), 283, No. 1392, xiii.
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It required unusual inquisitiveness to pursue the development of scientific curiosities such as charged pith balls, the voltaic cell, and the electrostatic machine. Without such endeavors and the evolution of associated instrumentation, initially of purely scientific interest, most of the investigations that lead to the basic equations of electromagnetism would have been missed. … We would have been deprived of electromagnetic machinery as well as knowledge of electromagnetic waves.
From The Science Matrix: The Journey, Travails, Triumphs (1992, 1998), 14.
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It was astonishing that for some considerable distance around the mould growth the staphococcal colonies were undergoing lysis. What had formerly been a well-grown colony was now a faint shadow of its former self...I was sufficiently interested to pursue the subject.
[Sep 1928, the first observation of penicillin. Lysis is the dissolution or destruction of cells.]
Sarah R. Riedman and Elton T. Gustafson, Portraits of Nobel Laureates in Medicine and Physiology (1964), 72.
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It would be a mistake to suppose that a science consists entirely of strictly proved theses, and it would be unjust to require this. Only a disposition with a passion for authority will raise such a demand, someone with a craving to replace his religious catechism by another, though it is a scientific one. Science has only a few apodeictic propositions in its catechism: the rest are assertions promoted by it to some particular degree of probability. It is actually a sign of a scientific mode of thought to find satisfaction in these approximations to certainty and to be able to pursue constructive work further in spite of the absence of final confirmation.
In Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1916-17).
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Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history; he discovered the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of idealogy [sic], that mankind must first of all eat and drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, religion, art etc.
Engels' Speech over the Grave of Karl Marx, delivered at Highgate Cemetery, London, 17 Mar 1883. Quoted in Karl Marx 1818-1883, for the Anniversary of his Death (1942), 27.
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Kepler’s discovery would not have been possible without the doctrine of conics. Now contemporaries of Kepler—such penetrating minds as Descartes and Pascal—were abandoning the study of geometry ... because they said it was so UTTERLY USELESS. There was the future of the human race almost trembling in the balance; for had not the geometry of conic sections already been worked out in large measure, and had their opinion that only sciences apparently useful ought to be pursued, the nineteenth century would have had none of those characters which distinguish it from the ancien régime.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 32.
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Mathematics pursues its own course unrestrained, not indeed with an unbridled licence which submits to no laws, but rather with the freedom which is determined by its own nature and in conformity with its own being.
In Die Entwickelung der Mathematik in den letzten Jahrhunderten (1869), 20. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 12. From the original German, “Die Mathematik folgt frei ihren eigenen Bahnen; zwar nicht mit der zügellosen Freiheit, die keinen Gesetzen unterliegt, sondern mit der Freiheit, die sich aus ihrer Natur heraus und mit ihr in Uebereinstimmung selbst determinirt.”
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Never burn your bridges, especially if you pursue science as a career.
Anonymous
Found in The NIH Catalyst (May-June 2003), 11, No. 3, 8, as part of list 'A Scientist’s Dozen,' cited as “culled and adapted…from a variety of sources” by Howard Young.
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On Tuesday evening at Museum, at a ball in the gardens. The night was chill, I dropped too suddenly from Differential Calculus into ladies’ society, and could not give myself freely to the change. After an hour’s attempt so to do, I returned, cursing the mode of life I was pursuing; next morning I had already shaken hands, however, with Diff. Calculus, and forgot the ladies….
From his diary for 10 Aug 1851, as quoted in J. Helen Gardner and Robin J. Wilson, 'Thomas Archer Hirst—Mathematician Xtravagant II: Student Days in Germany', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jun-Jul 1993), 6, No. 100, 534.
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People who are unused to learning, learn little, and that slowly, while those more accustomed do much more and do it more easily. The same thing also happens in connection with research. Those who are altogether unfamiliar with this become blinded and bewildered as soon as their minds begin to work: they readily withdraw from the inquiry, in a state of mental fatigue and exhaustion, much like people who attempt to race without having been trained. He, on the other hand, who is accustomed to research, seeks and penetrates everywhere mentally, passing constantly from one topic to another; nor does he ever give up his investigation; he pursues it not merely for a matter of days, but throughout his whole life. Also by transferring his mind to other ideas which are yet not foreign to the questions at issue, he persists till he reaches the solution.
'On Paralysis'. Quoted in A. J. Brock, Greek Medicine: Being Extracts Illustrative of Medical Writers from Hippocrates to Galen (1929), 185.
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Professor [Max] Planck, of Berlin, the famous originator of the Quantum Theory, once remarked to me that in early life he had thought of studying economics, but had found it too difficult! Professor Planck could easily master the whole corpus of mathematical economics in a few days. He did not mean that! But the amalgam of logic and intuition and the wide knowledge of facts, most of which are not precise, which is required for economic interpretation in its highest form is, quite truly, overwhelmingly difficult for those whose gift mainly consists in the power to imagine and pursue to their furthest points the implications and prior conditions of comparatively simple facts which are known with a high degree of precision.
'Alfred Marshall: 1842-1924' (1924). In Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Essays in Biography (1933), 191-2
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Scientific method is not just a method which it has been found profitable to pursue in this or that abstruse subject for purely technical reasons. It represents the only method of thinking that has proved fruitful in any subject—that is what we mean when we call it scientific. It is not a peculiar development of thinking for highly specialized ends; it is thinking, so far as thought has become conscious of its proper ends and of the equipment indispensable for success in their pursuit ... When our schools truly become laboratories of knowledge-making, not mills fitted out with information-hoppers, there will no longer be need to discuss the place of science in education.
Address to Section L, Education, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at Boston (1909), 'Science as Subject-Matter and as Method'. Published in Science (28 Jan 1910), N.S. Vol. 31, No. 787, 127.
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Scientists, therefore, are responsible for their research, not only intellectually but also morally. This responsibility has become an important issue in many of today's sciences, but especially so in physics, in which the results of quantum mechanics and relativity theory have opened up two very different paths for physicists to pursue. They may lead us—to put it in extreme terms—to the Buddha or to the Bomb, and it is up to each of us to decide which path to take.
In The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (1983), 87.
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Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. Bentley met accidentally in London, and on Sir Isaac’s inquiring what philosophical pursuits were carrying on at Cambridge, the doctor replied—None—for when you go a hunting Sir Isaac, you kill all the game; you have left us nothing to pursue.—Not so, said the philosopher, you may start a variety of game in every bush if you will but take the trouble to beat for it.
From Richard Watson, Chemical Essays (1786, 1806), Vol. 4, 257-258. No citation given, so—assuming it is more or less authentic—Webmaster offers this outright guess. Watson was the source of another anecdote about Newton (see “I find more sure marks…”). Thus, one might by pure speculation wonder if this quote was passed along in the same way. Was this another anecdote relayed to Watson by his former teacher, Dr. Robert Smith (Master of Trinity House), who might have been told this by Newton himself? Perhaps we’ll never know, but if you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Society is a republic. When an individual endeavors to lift himself above his fellows, he is dragged down by the mass, either by means of ridicule or of calumny. No one shall be more virtuous or more intellectually gifted than others. Whoever, by the irresistible force of genius, rises above the common herd is certain to be ostracized by society, which will pursue him with such merciless derision and detraction that at last he will be compelled to retreat into the solitude of his thoughts.
In Heinrich Heine: His Wit, Wisdom, Poetry (1892), 26.
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Sometimes truth frightens us. And in fact we know that it is sometimes deceptive, that it is a phantom never showing itself for a moment except to ceaselessly flee, that it must be pursued further and ever further without ever being attained. … Yet truth should not be feared, for it alone is beautiful.
As translated by George Bruce Halsted, in 'The Value of Science', Popular Science Monthly (Sep 1906), 69 193.
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Stop the mindless wishing that things would be different. Rather than wasting time and emotional and spiritual energy in explaining why we don’t have what we want, we can start to pursue other ways to get it.
…...
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Success is achievable without public recognition, and the world has many unsung heroes. The teacher who inspires you to pursue your education to your ultimate ability is a success. The parents who taught you the noblest human principles are a success. The coach who shows you the importance of teamwork is a success. The spiritual leader who instills in you spiritual values and faith is a success. The relatives, friends, and neighbors with whom you develop a reciprocal relationship of respect and support - they, too, are successes. The most menial workers can properly consider themselves successful if they perform their best and if the product of their work is of service to humanity.
From 'Getting to the Heart of Success', in Jim Stovall, Success Secrets of Super Achievers: Winning Insights from Those Who Are at the Top (1999), 42-43.
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The “British Association for the Promotion of Science,” … is almost necessary for the purposes of science. The periodical assemblage of persons, pursuing the same or différent branches of knowledge, always produces an excitement which is favourable to the development of new ideas; whilst the long period of repose which succeeds, is advantageous for the prosecution of the reasonings or the experiments then suggested; and the récurrence of the meeting in the succeeding year, will stimulate the activity of the inquirer, by the hope of being then enabled to produce the successful result of his labours.
In 'Future Prospects', On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1st ed., 1832), chap. 32, 274. Note: The British Association for the Advancement of Science held its first meeting at York in 1831, the year before the first publication of this book in 1832.
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The blood, the fountain whence the spirits flow,
The generous stream that waters every part,
And motion, vigour, and warm life conveys
To every Particle that moves or lives;
This vital fluid, thro' unnumber'd tubes
Pour'd by the heart, and to the heart again
Refunded; scourg'd forever round and round;
Enrag'd with heat and toil, at last forgets
Its balmy nature; virulent and thin
It grows; and now, but that a thousand gates
Are open to its flight, it would destroy
The parts it cherish' d and repair'd before.
Besides, the flexible and tender tubes
Melt in the mildest, most nectareous tide
That ripening Nature rolls; as in the stream
Its crumbling banks; but what the vital force
Of plastic fluids hourly batters down,
That very force, those plastic particles
Rebuild: so mutable the state of man.
For this the watchful appetite was given,
Daily with fresh materials to repair
This unavoidable expense of life,
This necessary waste of flesh and blood.
Hence the concoctive powers, with various art,
Subdue the cruder aliments to chyle;
The chyle to blood; the foamy purple tide
To liquors, which through finer arteries
To different parts their winding course pursue;
To try new changes, and new forms put on,
Or for the public, or some private use.
The Art of Preserving Health (1744), book 2, I. 12-23, p.15-16.
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The farther researches we make into this admirable scene of things, the more beauty and harmony we see in them: And the stronger and clearer convictions they give us, of the being, power and wisdom of the divine Architect, who has made all things to concur with a wonderful conformity, in carrying on, by various and innumerable combinations of matter, such a circulation of causes, and effects, as was necessary to the great ends of nature. And since we are assured that the all-wise Creator has observed the most exact proportions, of number, weight and measure, in the make of all things; the most likely way therefore, to get any insight into the nature of those parts of the creation, which come within our observation, must in all reason be to number, weigh and measure. And we have much encouragement to pursue this method, of searching into the nature of things, from the great success that has attended any attempts of this kind.
Vegetable Staticks (1727), xxxi.
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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 history of chemistry is properly divided into the mythologic, the obscure, and the certain. The first period exhibits it from its infancy, deformed by fictions, until the destruction of the library of Alexandria by the Arabs. —The second, though freed in some measure from these absurdities, yet is still clothed in numberless enigmas and allegorical expressions.— The third period commences at the middle of the seventeenth century, with the first establishment of societies and academies of science; of which the wise associates, in many places uniting their efforts, determined to pursue the study of Natural Philosophy by observation and experiments, and candidly to publish their attempts in a general account of their transactions.
In Essays, Physical and Chemical (1791), 4, translated from the original Latin.
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The mathematician who pursues his studies without clear views of this matter, must often have the uncomfortable feeling that his paper and pencil surpass him in intelligence.
From 'The Economy of Science' in The Science of Mechanics: A Critical and Historical Exposition of its Principles (1893), 489.
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The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
Nobody Knows My Name (1961). In The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985 (1985), 302.
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The reason I cannot really say that I positively enjoy nature is that I do not quite realize what it is that I enjoy. A work of art, on the other hand, I can grasp. I can — if I may put it this way — find that Archimedian point, and as soon as I have found it, everything is readily clear for me. Then I am able to pursue this one main idea and see how all the details serve to illuminate it.
Søren Kierkegaard, translation by Howard Vincent Hong and Edna Hatlestad Hong Søren Kierkegaard’s Journal and Papers (1834), 50.
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The science [geometry] is pursued for the sake of the knowledge of what eternally exists, and not of what comes for a moment into existence, and then perishes.
[Also seen condensed as: ``Geometry is knowledge of the eternally existent” or “The knowledge at which geometry aims is the knowledge of the eternal.”]
Plato
The Republic of Plato Book VII, trans. by John Llewelyn Favies and David James Vaughan (1908), 251.
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The sciences of Natural History and Botany require so much time to be devoted to them that, however pleasing, they may be justly considered as improper objects for the man of business to pursue scientifically, so as to enter into the exact arrangement and classification of the different bodies of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. But reading and personal observation will supply him with ample matter for reflection and admiration.
'On the Advantages of Literature and Philosophy in general and especially on the Consistency of Literary and Philosophical with Commercial Pursuits' (Read 3 Oct 1781). As quoted in Robert Angus Smith, A Centenary of Science in Manchester (1883), 79.
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The tastes and pursuits of manhood will bear on them the traces of the earlier impressions of our education. It is therefore not unreasonable to suppose that some portion of the neglect of science in England, may be attributed to the system of education we pursue.
Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830), 3.
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There are very few persons who pursue science with true dignity.
Consolations in Travel (1830), Dialogue 5, The Chemical Philosopher, 226.
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There is no short cut, nor “royal road” to the attainment of medical knowledge. The path which we have to pursue is long, difficult, and unsafe. In our progress, we must frequently take up our abode with death and corruption, we must adopt loathsome diseases for our familiar associates, or we shall never be acquainted with their nature and dispositions ; we must risk, nay, even injure our own health, in order to be able to preserve, or restore that of others.
Hunterian Oration (1819). Quoted in Clement Carlyon, Early Years and Late Reflections (1856), 110-111.
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To Descartes, the great philosopher of the 17th century, is due the undying credit of having removed the bann which until then rested upon geometry. The analytical geometry, as Descartes’ method was called, soon led to an abundance of new theorems and principles, which far transcended everything that ever could have been reached upon the path pursued by the ancients.
In Die Entwickelung der Mathematik in den letzten Jahrhunderten (1884), 10.
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We avoid the gravest difficulties when, giving up the attempt to frame hypotheses concerning the constitution of matter, we pursue statistical inquiries as a branch of rational mechanics.
Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics (1902), ix.
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We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: Vishnu is trying to pursue the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that one way or another. There was a great deal of solemn talk that this was the end of the great wars of the century.
At the first atomic bomb test (16 Jul 1945), in Len Giovanitti and Fred Freed, The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965), 197
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We must never be too absorbed by the thought we are pursuing.
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What intellectual phenomenon can be older, or more oft repeated, than the story of a large research program that impaled itself upon a false central assumption accepted by all practitioners? Do we regard all people who worked within such traditions as dishonorable fools? What of the scientists who assumed that the continents were stable, that the hereditary material was protein, or that all other galaxies lay within the Milky Way? These false and abandoned efforts were pursued with passion by brilliant and honorable scientists. How many current efforts, now commanding millions of research dollars and the full attention of many of our best scientists, will later be exposed as full failures based on false premises?
…...
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When an inquiry becomes so convoluted, we must suspect that we are proceeding in the wrong way. We must return to go, change gears, and reformulate the problem, not pursue every new iota of information or nuance of argument jn the old style, hoping all the time that our elusive solution simply awaits a crucial item, yet undiscovered.
In The Flamingo’s Smile (1985).
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While we keep an open mind on this question of vitalism, or while we lean, as so many of us now do, or even cling with a great yearning, to the belief that something other than the physical forces animates the dust of which we are made, it is rather the business of the philosopher than of the biologist, or of the biologist only when he has served his humble and severe apprenticeship to philosophy, to deal with the ultimate problem. It is the plain bounden duty of the biologist to pursue his course unprejudiced by vitalistic hypotheses, along the road of observation and experiment, according to the accepted discipline of the natural and physical sciences. … It is an elementary scientific duty, it is a rule that Kant himself laid down, that we should explain, just as far as we possibly can, all that is capable of such explanation, in the light of the properties of matter and of the forms of energy with which we are already acquainted.
From Presidential Address to Zoological Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. As quoted in H.V. Neal, 'The Basis of Individuality in Organisms: A Defense of Vitalism', Science (21 Jul 1916), 44 N.S., No. 1125, 82.
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With your talents and industry, with science, and that steadfast honesty which eternally pursues right, regardless of consequences, you may promise yourself every thing—but health, without which there is no happiness. An attention to health then should take place of evey other object. The time necessary to secure this by active exercises, should be devoted to it in preference to every other pursuit.
Letter to Tomas Mann Randolph, Jr., (6 Jul 1787), In Thomas Jefferson and Paul Leicester Ford (ed.) The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1904), Vol. 5, 300. Julian P. Boyd (Ed.), The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955), Vol. 11, 558.
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[Richard Drew] always encouraged his people to pursue ideas… He said, “If it’s a dumb idea, you’ll find out. You’ll smack into that brick wall, then you’ll stagger back and see another opportunity that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”
Art Fry
As quoted in W. James McNerney Jr., A Century of Innovation: The 3M Story (2002), 68. (Note: The quote is in the words of Art Fry, as a recollection, and not necessarily a verbatim quote as spoken by Drew.)
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“Science for its own sake” usually means nothing more than science for the sake of the people who happen to be pursuing it.
In 'Standpoints in Scientific Medicine', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 42.
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“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
From The Republic 5 473 c-e, in Paul Shorey (trans.), Plato in Twelve Volumes (1930, 1969), Vol. 5, 509.
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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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