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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Remember Quotes (53 quotes)

Nulla (enim) res tantum ad dicendum proficit, quantum scriptio
Nothing so much assists learning as writing down what we wish to remember.
In Jon R. Stone, The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2005), 78.
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A pair of Siamese twins in Australia, surgically separated six months ago, has been sewn back together. Apparently, each of them could remember only half the combination to their locker.
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 104.
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About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!
Letter to Henry Fawcett (18 Sep 1861). In Charles Darwin, Francis Darwin, Albert Charles Seward, More Letters of Charles Darwin (1903), Vol. 1, 195.
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Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion. Remember he is face to face with his enemy all the time.
In Notes on Nursing: What it is, and What it is Not (1860), 53.
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As a graduate student at Columbia University, I remember the a priori derision of my distinguished stratigraphy professor toward a visiting Australian drifter ... Today my own students would dismiss with even more derision anyone who denied the evident truth of continental drift–a prophetic madman is at least amusing; a superannuated fuddy-duddy is merely pitiful.
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As a nation, we are too young to have true mythic heroes, and we must press real human beings into service. Honest Abe Lincoln the legend is quite a different character from Abraham Lincoln the man. And so should they be. And so should both be treasured, as long as they are distinguished. In a complex and confusing world, the perfect clarity of sports provides a focus for legitimate, utterly unambiguous support or disdain. The Dodgers are evil, the Yankees good. They really are, and have been for as long as anyone in my family can remember.
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Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
In his dialogue 'The Critic As Artist', collected in Intentions (1904), 101.
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I don’t think many people remember what life was like in those days. This was the era when the Russians were claiming superiority, and they could make a pretty good case—they put up Sputnik in ’57; they had already sent men into space to orbit the earth. There was this fear that perhaps communism was the wave of the future. The astronauts, all of us, really believed we were locked in a battle of democracy versus communism, where the winner would dominate the world.
As reported by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002).
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I have seen the sea lashed into fury and tossed into spray, and its grandeur moves the soul of the dullest man; but I remember that it is not the billows, but the calm level of the sea from which all heights and depths are measured.
Speech (5 Jun 1880) at the 7th Republican National Convention, Chicago to nominate John Sherman to be President. In John Tweedy, A History of the Republican National Conventions from 1856 to 1908 (1910), 191. The Convention subsequently nominated Garfield to run for President. He won the election, and was inaugurated on 4 Mar 1881.
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I remember being with my grandmother and mother and my uncle came in and asked what I wanted to be when grew up. I said ‘A doctor,’ which took him aback. He was expecting me to say ‘nurse’ or ‘actress.’ And my mother and grandmother laughed like, ‘Kids say the darndest things.’ I grew up in a time when women were not expected to do anything interesting.
As quoted in Anna Azvolinsky, 'Fearless About Folding', The Scientist (Jan 2016).
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I remember my first look at the great treatise of Maxwell’s when I was a young man… I saw that it was great, greater and greatest, with prodigious possibilities in its power… I was determined to master the book and set to work. I was very ignorant. I had no knowledge of mathematical analysis (having learned only school algebra and trigonometry which I had largely forgotten) and thus my work was laid out for me. It took me several years before I could understand as much as I possibly could. Then I set Maxwell aside and followed my own course. And I progressed much more quickly… It will be understood that I preach the gospel according to my interpretation of Maxwell.
From translations of a letter (24 Feb 1918), cited in Paul J. Nahin, Oliver Heaviside: The Life, Work, and Times of an Electrical Genius of the Victorian Age (2002), 24. Nahin footnotes that the words are not verbatim, but are the result of two translations. Heaviside's original letter in English was quoted, translated in to French by J. Bethenode, for the obituary he wrote, "Oliver Heaviside", in Annales des Posies Telegraphs (1925), 14, 521-538. The quote was retranslated back to English in Nadin's book. Bethenode footnoted that he made the original translation "as literally as possible in order not to change the meaning." Nadin assures that the retranslation was done likewise. Heaviside studyied Maxwell's two-volume Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.
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If I could remember the names of all these particles I’d be a botanist.
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If you ask me whether science has solved, or is likely to solve, the problem of this universe, I must shake my head in doubt. We have been talking of matter and force; but whence came matter, and whence came force? You remember the first Napoleon’s question, when the savans who accompanied him to Egypt discussed in his presence the problem of the universe, and solved it to their apparent satisfaction. He looked aloft to the starry heavens, and said—“It is all very well, gentlemen, but who made all these!” That question still remains unanswered, and science makes no attempt to answer it.
Lecture 'On Matter and Force', to nearly 3,000 working men, at the Dundee Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Sep 1867), reported in 'Dundee Meeting, 1867', Chemical News and Journal of Physical Science (Nov 1867)
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If you have an idea that you wish your audience to carry away, turn it upside down and inside out, rephrasing it from different angles. Remember that the form in which the thing may appear best to you may not impress half your audience.
Advice to the writer of his first paper for presentation at a scientific meeting. As expressed in quotation marks by Charles Thom in 'Robert Almer Harper', National Academy Biographical Memoirs (1948), 25, 233-234. Also, in Thom's words, “[Harper] added that a miscellaneous audience can not he expected to carry away a lot of separate facts but one good idea, well pictured out, will be remembered by some of them.”
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In assessing Audubon, whose firm grip on the popular imagination has scarcely lessened since 1826, we must as historians of science seriously ask who would remember him if he had not been an artist of great imagination and flair. ... The chances seem to be very poor that had he not been an artist, he would be an unlikely candidate for a dictionary of scientific biography, if remembered to science at all.
In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1972), Vol. 1, 331.
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Indeed, we need not look back half a century to times which many now living remember well, and see the wonderful advances in the sciences and arts which have been made within that period. Some of these have rendered the elements themselves subservient to the purposes of man, have harnessed them to the yoke of his labors and effected the great blessings of moderating his own, of accomplishing what was beyond his feeble force, and extending the comforts of life to a much enlarged circle, to those who had before known its necessaries only.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia' (Dec 1818), reprinted in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite. This is a very comforting thought—particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things.
Side Effects (1981), 36.
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It is Surgery that, long after it has passed into obsolescence, will be remembered as the glory of Medicine.
In Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), 51.
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It is well to remember that most arguments in favor of not trying an experiment are too flimsily based.
Quoted in a lecture published in Experientia, Supplementum II (1955), 226.
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Just remember - when you think all is lost, the future remains.
Attributed. Found as a quote in several books, but without citation. For example, in William O. Morris, Dental Litigation (1977), 112. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Look at those animals and remember the greatest scientists in the world have never discovered how to make grass into milk.
As quoted in Dorothy Caruso, Enrico Caruso: His Life and Death (1963), 41.
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Make it compulsory for a doctor using a brass plate to have inscribed on it, in addition to the letters indicating his qualifications, the words 'Remember that I too am mortal.'
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Modern cytological work involves an intricacy of detail, the significance of which can be appreciated by the specialist alone; but Miss Stevens had a share in a discovery of importance, and her work will be remembered for this, when the minutiae of detailed investigations that she carried out have become incorporated in the general body of the subject.
In obituary, 'The Scientific Work of Miss N.M. Steves', Science (11 Oct 1912), 36, No. 928, 468.
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My mother, my dad and I left Cuba when I was two [January, 1959]. Castro had taken control by then, and life for many ordinary people had become very difficult. My dad had worked [as a personal bodyguard for the wife of Cuban president Batista], so he was a marked man. We moved to Miami, which is about as close to Cuba as you can get without being there. It’s a Cuba-centric society. I think a lot of Cubans moved to the US thinking everything would be perfect. Personally, I have to say that those early years were not particularly happy. A lot of people didn’t want us around, and I can remember seeing signs that said: “No children. No pets. No Cubans.” Things were not made easier by the fact that Dad had begun working for the US government. At the time he couldn’t really tell us what he was doing, because it was some sort of top-secret operation. He just said he wanted to fight against what was happening back at home. [Estefan’s father was one of the many Cuban exiles taking part in the ill-fated, anti-Castro Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow dictator Fidel Castro.] One night, Dad disappered. I think he was so worried about telling my mother he was going that he just left her a note. There were rumours something was happening back home, but we didn’t really know where Dad had gone. It was a scary time for many Cubans. A lot of men were involved—lots of families were left without sons and fathers. By the time we found out what my dad had been doing, the attempted coup had taken place, on April 17, 1961. Intitially he’d been training in Central America, but after the coup attempt he was captured and spent the next wo years as a political prisoner in Cuba. That was probably the worst time for my mother and me. Not knowing what was going to happen to Dad. I was only a kid, but I had worked out where my dad was. My mother was trying to keep it a secret, so she used to tell me Dad was on a farm. Of course, I thought that she didn’t know what had really happened to him, so I used to keep up the pretence that Dad really was working on a farm. We used to do this whole pretending thing every day, trying to protect each other. Those two years had a terrible effect on my mother. She was very nervous, just going from church to church. Always carrying her rosary beads, praying her little heart out. She had her religion, and I had my music. Music was in our family. My mother was a singer, and on my father’s side there was a violinist and a pianist. My grandmother was a poet.
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Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic.
Anonymous
Ralph Keyes, in The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When (2007), 116, states “This is a new saw that floats about in search of an originator.” It was seen, for example, in the her advice column, shortly before Abby stopped writing her column. A variant, with only the “amateurs” and “professionals" clauses, appears as early 1984 in The World Economy, Vol. 7, 406.
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Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralisation of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
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No creature is too bulky or formidable for man's destructive energies—none too minute and insignificant for his keen detection and skill of capture. It was ordained from the beginning that we should be the masters and subduers of all inferior animals. Let us remember, however, that we ourselves, like the creatures we slay, subjugate, and modify, are the results of the same Almighty creative will—temporary sojourners here, and co-tenants with the worm and the whale of one small planet. In the exercise, therefore, of those superior powers that have been intrusted to us, let us ever bear in mind that our responsibilities are heightened in proportion.
Lecture to the London Society of Arts, 'The Raw Materials of the Animal Kingdom', collected in Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851' (1852), 131.
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O’ Great Spirit, help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.
Cherokee
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 180
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Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
The Life of Reason, or the Phases of Human Progress (1954), 82.
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Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful. [Co-author with Norman R. Draper]
In George E.P. Box and Norman R. Draper, Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces (1987), 74.
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Something to remember. If you have remembered every word in this article, your memory will have recorded about 150 000 bits of information. Thus, the order in your brain will have increased by about 150 000 units. However, while you have been reading the article, you will have converted about 300 000 joules of ordered energy, in the form of food, into disordered energy, in the form of heat which you lose to the air around you by convection and sweat. This will increase the disorder of the Universe by about 3 x 1024 units, about 20 million million million times the increase in order because you remember my article.
An afterword to his three-page article discussing thermodynamics and entropy, in 'The Direction of Time', New Scientist (9 Jul 1987), 49.
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The faculty for remembering is not diminished in proportion to what one has learnt, just as little as the number of moulds in which you cast sand lessens its capacity for being cast in new moulds.
Religion: a Dialogue, and Other Essays (1890), 99.
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The freely roaming dinosaurs, I like to remember, had no plumbing.
From Of Stars and Men: The Human Response to an Expanding Universe (1958), 24.
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The girls are all giggling, then one girl suddenly remembers
the wild goat. Up there, on the hilltop, in the woods
and rocky ravines, the peasants saw him butting his head
against the trees, looking for the nannies. He’s gone wild,
and the reason why is this: if you don’t make an animal work,
if you keep him only for stud, he likes to hurt, he kills.

From Poem, 'The Goat God', Hard Labor (1936, 1976), 10.
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The increase of disorder or entropy with time is one example of what is called an arrow of time something that gives a direction to time and distinguishes the past from the future. There are at least three different directions of time. First, there is the thermodynamic arrow of time—the direction of time in which disorder or entropy increases. Second, there is the psychological arrow of time. This is the direction in which we feel time passes—the direction of time in which we remember the past, but not the future. Third, there is the cosmological arrow of time. This is the direction of time in which the universe is expanding rather than contracting.
In 'The Direction of Time', New Scientist (9 Jul 1987), 46.
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The spectacular thing about Johnny [von Neumann] was not his power as a mathematician, which was great, or his insight and his clarity, but his rapidity; he was very, very fast. And like the modern computer, which no longer bothers to retrieve the logarithm of 11 from its memory (but, instead, computes the logarithm of 11 each time it is needed), Johnny didn't bother to remember things. He computed them. You asked him a question, and if he didn't know the answer, he thought for three seconds and would produce and answer.
From interview with Donald J. Albers. In John H. Ewing and Frederick W. Gehring, Paul Halmos Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics (1991), 9.
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The way in which the persecution of Galileo has been remembered is a tribute to the quiet commencement of the most intimate change in outlook which the human race had yet encountered. Since a babe was born in a manger, it may be doubted whether so great a thing has happened with so little stir
In Science and the Modern World (1925), 2.
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There cannot be mental atrophy in any person who continues to observe, to remember what he observes, and to seek answers for his unceasing hows and whys about things.
From interview with Mary R. Mullett, 'How to Keep Young Mentally', The American Magazine (Dec 1921), 92, 68.
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There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.
In The Analysis of Mind (1921) 159–160.
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Those who suggest that the “dark ages” were a time of violence and superstition would do well to remember the appalling cruelties of our own time, truly without parallel in past ages, as well as the fact that the witch-hunts were not strictly speaking a medieval phenomenon but belong rather to the so-called Renaissance.
From Interview (2003) on the Exhibition, 'Il Medioevo Europeo di Jacques le Goff' (The European Middle Ages by Jacques Le Goff), at Parma, Italy (27 Sep 2003—11 Jan 2004). Published among web pages about the Exhibition, that were on the website of the Province of Parma.
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To me, it [the 1962 space flight of Friendship 7] is not something that happened a long time ago. It seems like a couple of days ago, really. It’s a rare day I don’t think about it, relive it in my mind. I can remember every switch I flipped, every move I made, every word I spoke and every word spoken to me. Clear as a bell.
As reported by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002).
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To remember simplified pictures is better than to forget accurate figures.
In Otto Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology (1973), 220.
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We do not remember days, we remember moments.
In The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1961), 188.
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We fall from womb to tomb, from one blackness and toward another, remembering little of the one and knowing nothing of the other… except through faith.
Danse Macabre. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 14
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We must remember that all our [models of flying machine] inventions are but developments of crude ideas; that a commercially successful result in a practically unexplored field cannot possibly be got without an enormous amount of unremunerative work. It is the piled-up and recorded experience of many busy brains that has produced the luxurious travelling conveniences of to-day, which in no way astonish us, and there is no good reason for supposing that we shall always be content to keep on the agitated surface of the sea and air, when it is possible to travel in a superior plane, unimpeded by frictional disturbances.
Paper to the Royal Society of New South Wales (4 Jun 1890), as quoted in Octave Chanute, Progress in Flying Machines (1894), 2226.
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We need to remember that we are spiritual beings spending some time in a human body.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 32
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We remember our dreams; we do not remember our sleep.
…...
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We speak erroneously of “artificial” materials, “synthetics”, and so forth. The basis for this erroneous terminology is the notion that Nature has made certain things which we call natural, and everything else is “man-made”, ergo artificial. But what one learns in chemistry is that Nature wrote all the rules of structuring; man does not invent chemical structuring rules; he only discovers the rules. All the chemist can do is find out what Nature permits, and any substances that are thus developed or discovered are inherently natural. It is very important to remember that.
From 'The Comprehensive Man', Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure (1963), 75-76.
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When the body becomes Your mirror,
how can it serve?
When the mind becomes Your mind,
what is left to remember?
Once my life is Your gesture,
how can I pray?
When all my awareness is Yours,
what can there be to know?
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 190
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When you are identifying science of the motion of water, remember to include under each subject its application and use, so that the science will be useful.
…...
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While DNA could be claimed to be both simple and elegant, it must be remembered that DNA almost certainly originated fairly close to the origin of life when things were necessarily simple or they would not have got going.
In What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 138.
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Within each of us there is a silence, a silence as vast as the universe. And when we experience that silence, we remember who we are.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 189
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…it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.
The Prince (1532). W. K. Marriott (translator) and Rob McMahon (editor), The Prince (2008), 71.
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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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- 20 -
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