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River Quotes (68 quotes)

Changements arrivées dans le globe: Quand on a vu de ses yeux une montagne s’avancer dans une plaine, c’est-à-dire un immense rocher de cette montagne se détacher et couvrir des champs, un château tout entier enfoncé dans la terre, un fleuve englouti qui sort ensuite de son abîme, des marques indubitables qu’un vaste amas d’eau inondait autrefois un pays habité aujourd’hui, et cent vestiges d’autres révolutions, on est alors plus disposé à croire les grands changements qui ont altéré la face du monde, que ne l’est une dame de Paris qui sait seulement que la place où est bâtie sa maison était autrefois un champ labourable. Mais une dame de Naples, qui a vu sous terre les ruines d’Herculanum, est encore moins asservie au préjugé qui nous fait croire que tout a toujours été comme il est aujourd’hui.
Changes That Have Occurred in the Globe: When we have seen with our own eyes a mountain progressing into a plain; that is to say, an immense boulder separating from this mountain and covering the fields; an entire castle broken into pieces over the ground; a river swallowed up which then bursts out from its abyss; clear marks of a vast amount of water having once flooded regions now inhabited, and a hundred vestiges of other transformations, then we are much more willing to believe that great changes altered the face of the earth, than a Parisian lady who knows only that the place where her house was built was once a cultivated field. However, a lady from Naples who has seen the buried ruins of Herculaneum, is much less subject to the bias which leads us to believe that everything has always been as it is today.
From article 'Changements arrivées dans le globe', in Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), collected in Œuvres Complètes de Voltaire (1878), Vol. 2, 427-428. Translated by Ian Ellis.
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All admit that the mountains of the globe are situated mostly along the border regions of the continents (taking these regions as 300 to 1000 miles or more in width), and that over these same areas the sedimentary deposits have, as a general thing, their greatest thickness. At first thought, it would seem almost incredible that the upliftings of mountains, whatever their mode of origin, should have taken place just where the earth’s crust, through these sedimentary accumulations, was the thickest, and where, therefore, there was the greatest weight to be lifted. … Earthquakes show that even now, in this last of the geological ages, the same border regions of the continents, although daily thickening from the sediments borne to the ocean by rivers, are the areas of the greatest and most frequent movements of the earth’s crust. (1866)
[Thus, the facts were known long ago; the explanation by tectonic activity came many decades later.]
In 'Observations on the Origin of Some of the Earth's Features', The American Journal of Science (Sep 1866), Second Series, 42, No. 125, 210-211.
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All rivers, small or large, agree in one character; they like to lean a little on one side; they cannot bear to have their channels deepest in the middle, but will always, if they can, have one bank to sun themselves upon, and another to get cool under.
In 'Water', The True and the Beautiful in Nature, Art, Morals, and Religion (1872), 62.
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Almost daily we shudder as prophets of doom announce the impending end of civilization and universe. We are being asphyxiated, they say, by the smoke of the industry; we are suffocating in the ever growing mountain of rubbish. Every new project depicts its measureable effects and is denounced by protesters screaming about catastrophe, the upsetting of the land, the assault on nature. If we accepted this new mythology we would have to stop pushing roads through the forest, harnessing rivers to produce the electricity, breaking grounds to extract metals, enriching the soil with chemicals, killing insects, combating viruses … But progress—basically, an effort to organise a corner of land and make it more favourable for human life—cannot be baited. Without the science of pomiculture, for example, trees will bear fruits that are small, bitter, hard, indigestible, and sour. Progress is desirable.
Anonymous
Uncredited. In Lachman Mehta, Stolen Treasure (2012), 117.
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Already the steam-engine works our mines, impels our ships, excavates our ports and our rivers, forges iron, fashions wood, grinds grain, spins and weaves our cloths, transports the heaviest burdens, etc. It appears that it must some day serve as a universal motor, and be substituted for animal power, waterfalls, and air currents.
'Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu' (1824) translated by R.H. Thurston in Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, and on Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1890), 38.
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Amid all the revolutions of the globe, the economy of Nature has been uniform, ... and her laws are the only things that have resisted the general movement. The rivers and the rocks, the seas and the continents, have been changed in all their parts; but the laws which direct those changes, and the rules to which they are subject, have remained invariably the same.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) collected in The Works of John Playfair (1822), Vol. 1, 415
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Ask a follower of Bacon what [science] the new philosophy, as it was called in the time of Charles the Second, has effected for mankind, and his answer is ready; “It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly offices, all dispatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, to cross the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its first-fruits; for it is a philosophy which never rests, which has never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will be its starting-point to-morrow.”
From essay (Jul 1837) on 'Francis Bacon' in Edinburgh Review. In Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay and Lady Trevelyan (ed.) The Works of Lord Macaulay Complete (1871), Vol. 6, 222.
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At first, the people talking about ecology were only defending the fishes, the animals, the forest, and the river. They didn’t realize that human beings were in the forest—and that these humans were the real ecologists, because they couldn’t live without the forest and the forest couldn’t be saved without them.
Quoted in Andrew Revkin, The Burning Season
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At the end of 1854 … the aggregate length of railways opened in Great Britain and Ireland at that time measured about 8,054 miles,—about the diameter of the globe, and nearly 500 miles more than the united lengths of the Thames, the Seine, the Rhone, the Ebro, the Tagus, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Vistula, the Dnieper, and the Danube, or the ten chief rivers of Europe. … the work of only twenty-five years.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 511-512.
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Domesticated salmon, after several generations, are fat, listless things that are good at putting on weight, not swimming up fast-moving rivers. When they get into a river and breed with wild fish, they can damage the wild fish's prospects of surviving to reproduce.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and what We Eat (2004), 312.
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Egypt has been called the Gift of the Nile. Once every year the river overflows its banks, depositing a layer of rich alluvial soil on the parched ground. Then it recedes and soon the whole countryside, as far as the eye can reach, is covered with Egyptologists.
In 'Cheops, or Khufu', The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody (1950), 7.
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Eratosthenes declares that it is no longer necessary to inquire as to the cause of the overflow of the Nile, since we know definitely that men have come to the sources of the Nile and have observed the rains there.
Proclus on Plato Timaeus, Vol. 1, 121.8-11 (Diehl). Quoted in Morris R. Cohen and I. E. Drabkin, A Sourcebook in Greek Science (1948), 383.
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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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Felling a tree was possibly the original deed of appropriation of the natural earth by early mankind in Europe. Thousands of years ago,… man lifted a heavy flint tool and struck at the base of a tree. He may have wanted the tree for shelter and fuel, or possibly to make a bridge over a river or a path through a bog…. [E]ventually the tree crashed to the floor, and the first act in the slow possession of the land by its people was complete.
In The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees: The Ash in Human Culture and History (2015), Chap. 1.
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For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond this point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports.
Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity (1997), 184.
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For nature is a perpetuall circulatory worker, generating fluids out of solids, and solids out of fluids, fixed things out of volatile, & volatile out of fixed, subtile out of gross, & gross out of subtile, Some things to ascend & make the upper terrestriall juices, Rivers and the Atmosphere; & by consequence others to descend for a Requitall to the former. And as the Earth, so perhaps may the Sun imbibe this spirit copiously to conserve his Shineing, & keep the Planets from recedeing further from him. And they that will, may also suppose, that this Spirit affords or carryes with it thither the solary fewell & materiall Principle of Light; And that the vast aethereall Spaces between us, & the stars are for a sufficient repository for this food of the Sunn and Planets.
Letter to Oldenburg (7 Dec 1675). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 366.
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For the time of making Observations none can ever be amiss; there being no season, nor indeed hardly any place where in some Natural Thing or other does not present it self worthy of Remark: yea there are some things that require Observation all the Year round, as Springs, Rivers, &c. Nor is there any Season amiss for the gathering Natural Things. Bodies of one kind or other presenting themselves at all times, and in Winter as well as Summer.
In Brief Instructions for Making Observations in all Parts of the World (1696), 10-11.
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Fractal geometry will make you see everything differently. There is a danger in reading further. You risk the loss of your childhood vision of clouds, forests, flowers, galaxies, leaves, feathers, rocks, mountains, torrents of water, carpet, bricks, and much else besides. Never again will your interpretation of these things be quite the same.
Fractals Everywhere (2000), 1.
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I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.…
And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river;
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.
From 'Song of the Brook' (1842), collected in The Poetical Works of Alfred Tennyson (1873), 142.
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I did enjoy the [CCNY geology] field trips. We went upstate and clambered over formations of synclines and anticlines. We had to diagram them, and figure out their mirror images. If you had an anticline here, you should be able to predict a complementing syncline bulging out somewhere else. Very satisfying when I got it right. Geology allowed me to display my brilliance to my non-college friends. “You know, the Hudson really isn't a river.” “What are you talking about? … Everybody knows the Hudson River's a river.” I would explain that the Hudson was a “drowned” river, up to about Poughkeepsie. The Ice Age had depressed the riverbed to a depth that allowed the Atlantic Ocean to flood inland. Consequently, the lower Hudson was really a saltwater estuary.[Powell graduated with a B.S. degree in Geology.]
My American Journey (1996), 30-31.
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I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers (1926).
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Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.
In The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1893), Vol. 9, 458.
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It is a strange feeling which comes over one as he stands in the centre of the tunnel, and knows that a mighty river is rolling on over his head, and that great ships with their thousands of tons burthen, sail over him. ... There is no single work of Art in London (with the exception of St. Paul's Cathedral) which excites so much curiosity and admiration among foreigners as the Tunnel. Great buildings are common to all parts of Europe, but the world has not such another Tunnel as this. There is something grand in the idea of walking under a broad river—making a pathway dry and secure beneath ships and navies!
[About visiting Brunel's Thames Tunnel, the first in the world under a navigable waterway.]
What I Saw in London: or, Men and Things in the Great Metropolis (1853), 168-169.
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It is not necessary to probe into the nature of things, as was done by those whom the Greeks call physici; nor need we be in alarm lest the Christian should be ignorant of the force and number of the elements—the motion, and order, and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the form of the heavens; the species and the natures of animals, plants, stones, fountains, rivers, mountains; about chronology and distances; the signs of coming storms; and a thousand other things which those philosophers either have found out, or think they have found out. … It is enough for the Christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly … is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God.
In Marcus Dods (ed.), J.F. Shaw (trans.), The Enchiridion of Augustine, Chap. 9, collected in The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo: A new translation (1873), Vol. 9, 180-181. The physici are natural philosophers.
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It seems that the rivers know the theory. It only remains to convince the engineers of the validity of this analysis.
Epigraph, without citation, in Péter Érdi, Complexity Explained (2007), 339. In French, “Il semble que les rivières connaissent déjà la théorie Il ne reste qu'à convaincre les ingénieurs de la validité de cette analyse.”
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Looking back across the long cycles of change through which the land has been shaped into its present form, let us realise that these geographical revolutions are not events wholly of the dim past, but that they are still in progress. So slow and measured has been their march, that even from the earliest times of human history they seem hardly to have advanced at all. But none the less are they surely and steadily transpiring around us. In the fall of rain and the flow of rivers, in the bubble of springs and the silence of frost, in the quiet creep of glaciers and the tumultuous rush of ocean waves, in the tremor of the earthquake and the outburst of the volcano, we may recognise the same play of terrestrial forces by which the framework of the continents has been step by step evolved.
Lecture at the Evening Meeting, Royal Geographical Society (24 Mar 1879), 'Discussion on Geographical Evolution', in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record (1879), New Monthly Series, 1, 443.
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Many consider that the conflict of religion and science is a temporary phase, and that in due course the two mighty rivers of human understanding will merge into an even mightier Amazon of comprehension. I take the opposite view, that reconciliation is impossible. I consider that Science is mightier than the Word, and that the river of religion will (or, at least, should) atrophy and die.
In 'Religion - The Antithesis to Science', Chemistry & Industry (Feb 1997).
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Nature uncovers the inner secrets of nature in two ways: one by the force of bodies operating outside it; the other by the very movements of its innards. The external actions are strong winds, rains, river currents, sea waves, ice, forest fires, floods; there is only one internal force—earthquake.
About the Layers of the Earth and other Works on Geology (1757), trans. A. P. Lapov (1949), 45.
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Nature will be reported. Everything in nature is engaged in writing its own history; the planet and the pebble are attended by their shadows, the rolling rock leaves its furrows on the mountain-side, the river its channel in the soil; the animal, its bones in the stratum; the fern and leaf, their modest epitaph in the coal.
In The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1847, 1872), Vol. 2, 141.
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Nature … is, as it were, a continual circulation. Water is rais'd in Vapour into the Air by one Quality and precipitated down in drops by another, the Rivers run into the Sea, and the Sea again supplies them.
In 'A Discourse of Earthquakes', Lectures and Discourses of Earthquakes (1668). In The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke, containing his Cutlerian Lectures and other Discourses read at the Meetings of the Illustrious Royal Society (1705), 312.
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Nature. As the word is now commonly used it excludes nature's most interesting productions—the works of man. Nature is usually taken to mean mountains, rivers, clouds and undomesticated animals and plants. I am not indifferent to this half of nature, but it interests me much less than the other half.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 220.
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No one tests the depth of a river with both feet.
Ashanti proverb, on web page 'African Proverb Wisdom', citing a book by Charlotte & Wolf Leslau.
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Now the American eagle is verging on extinction. Even the polar bear on its ice floes has become easy game for flying sportsmen. A peninsula named Udjung Kulon holds the last two or three dozen Javan rhinoceroses. The last known herd of Arabian oryx has been machine-gunned by a sheik. Blue whales have nearly been harpooned out of their oceans. Pollution ruins bays and rivers. Refuse litters beaches. Dam projects threaten Colorado canyons, Hudson valleys, every place of natural beauty that can be a reservoir for power. Obviously the scientific progress so alluring to me is destroying qualities of greater worth.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 8-9. (Note: the Arabian oryx is no longer listed as extinct.)
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Once established, an original river advances through its long life, manifesting certain peculiarities of youth, maturity and old age, by which its successive stages of growth may be recognized without much difficulty.
'The Rivers and Valleys of Pennsylvania', The National Geographic Magazine, 1889, 1, 203.

One would like to see mankind spend the balance of the century in a total effort to clean up and groom the surface of the globe – wipe out the jungles, turn deserts and swamps into arable land, terrace barren mountains, regulate rivers, eradicate all pests, control the weather, and make the whole land mass a fit habitation for Man. The globe should be our and not nature’s home, and we no longer nature’s guests.
In The Temper of Our Time (1967), 94.
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Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
Cree
Cree Indian prophecy. Quoted by the United Nations Director for the Environment at a conference in Geneva. Recalled by a writer in Ann: Zoologische wetenschappen Issues 275-276 (1984), 16.
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People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
In Circulations: Webster's Quotations, Facts and Phrases, 1.
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Perhaps the most impressive illustration of all is to suppose that you could label the molecules in a tumbler of water. ... threw it anywhere you please on the earth, and went away from the earth for a few million years while all the water on the earth, the oceans, rivers, lakes and clouds had had time to mix up perfectly. Now supposing that perfect mixing had taken place, you come back to earth and draw a similar tumbler of water from the nearest tap, how many of those marked molecules would you expect to find in it? Well, the answer is 2000. There are 2000 times more molecules in a tumbler of water than there are tumblers of water in the whole earth.
In Lecture (1936) on 'Forty Years of Atomic Theory', collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.) in Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 99-100.
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Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go.
In Pascal’s Pensées (1958), 6.
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Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams—they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do—they all contain truths.
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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Science should leave off making pronouncements: the river of knowledge has too often turned back on itself.
The Mysterious Universe (1930, 1976), 188.
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See with what force yon river’s crystal stream
Resists the weight of many a massy beam.
To sink the wood the more we vainly toil,
The higher it rebounds, with swift recoil.
Yet that the beam would of itself ascend
No man will rashly venture to contend.
Thus too the flame has weight, though highly rare,
Nor mounts but when compelled by heavier air.
De Rerum Natura, second book, as quoted in translation in Thomas Young, A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts (1845), 12.
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The ancestors of the higher animals must be regarded as one-celled beings, similar to the Amœbæ which at the present day occur in our rivers, pools, and lakes. The incontrovertible fact that each human individual develops from an egg, which, in common with those of all animals, is a simple cell, most clearly proves that the most remote ancestors of man were primordial animals of this sort, of a form equivalent to a simple cell. When, therefore, the theory of the animal descent of man is condemned as a “horrible, shocking, and immoral” doctrine, tho unalterable fact, which can be proved at any moment under the microscope, that the human egg is a simple cell, which is in no way different to those of other mammals, must equally be pronounced “horrible, shocking, and immoral.”
Translated from his Ueber die Entstehung und den Stammbaum des Menschengeschlechts, (1873), Vol. 2, as an epigraph to Chap. 6, The Evolution of Man, (1879), Vol 1, 120-121.
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The architect does not demand things which cannot be found or made ready without great expense. For example: it is not everywhere that there is plenty of pitsand, rubble, fir, clear fir, and marble… Where there is no pitsand, we must use the kinds washed up by rivers or by the sea… and other problems we must solve in similar ways.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 2, Sec. 8. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 16.
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The earth holds a silver treasure, cupped between ocean bed and tenting sky. Forever the heavens spend it, in the showers that refresh our temperate lands, the torrents that sluice the tropics. Every suckling root absorbs it, the very soil drains it down; the rivers run unceasing to the sea, the mountains yield it endlessly… Yet none is lost; in vast convection our water is returned, from soil to sky, and sky to soil, and back gain, to fall as pure as blessing. There was never less; there could never be more. A mighty mercy on which life depends, for all its glittering shifts, water is constant.
In A Cup of Sky (1950), 41.
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The function of Latin literature is its expression of Rome. When to England and France your imagination can add Rome in the background, you have laid firm the foundations of culture. The understanding of Rome leads back to the Mediterranean civilisation of which Rome was the last phase, and it automatically exhibits the geography of Europe, and the functions of seas and rivers and mountains and plains. The merit of this study in the education of youth is its concreteness, its inspiration to action, and the uniform greatness of persons, in their characters and their staging. Their aims were great, their virtues were great, and their vices were great. They had the saving merit of sinning with cart ropes.
In The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 74.
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The proof given by Wright, that non-adaptive differentiation will occur in small populations owing to “drift,” or the chance fixation of some new mutation or recombination, is one of the most important results of mathematical analysis applied to the facts of neo-mendelism. It gives accident as well as adaptation a place in evolution, and at one stroke explains many facts which puzzled earlier selectionists, notably the much greater degree of divergence shown by island than mainland forms, by forms in isolated lakes than in continuous river-systems.
Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942), 199-200.
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The quality of Mersey is not strained. A century ago the river of that name, in England, afforded not less than sixty varieties of fish; now it affords none. (1876)
Newspaper
Description of the turbid, polluted River Mersey, Liverpool, England in the nineteenth century. In Daily Alta California (21 Aug 1876), 28, No. 9633, 2. The expression “The quality of Mersey is not strained” is seen repeated in various sources through the years to the present. The pun refers a line in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice that “The quality of mercy is not strained.” An earlier mention appears in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Dec 1870), 42, No. 247, 158.
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The river Mersey, a mile-wide estuary not unlike the Hudson, perhaps in my childhood even more filthy. We used to say “the quality of Mersey is not strained.”
In Kenneth Ewart Boulding and Richard P. Beilock (Ed.), Illustrating Economics: Beasts, Ballads and Aphorisms (1980, 2009), 3.
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The ruins of Machu Picchu are perched on top of a steep ridge in the most inaccessible corner of the most inaccessible section of the central Andes. No part of the highlands of Peru has been better defended by natural bulwarks—a stupendous canyon whose rim is more than a mile above the river, whose rock is granite, and whose precipices are frequently a thousand feet sheer.
As quoted in Mark Collins Jenkins (ed.), National Geographic 125 Years: Legendary Photographs, Adventures, and Discoveries (2012), 70, citing Machu Picchu: A Citadel of the Incas (1930).
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The ruthless destruction of their forests by the Chinese is one of the reasons why famine and plague today hold this nation in their sinister grasp. Denudation, wherever practiced, leaves naked soil; floods and erosion follow, and when the soil is gone men must also go—and the process does not take long. The great plains of Eastern China were centuries ago transformed from forest into agricultural land. The mountain plateau of Central China have also within a few hundred years been utterly devastated of tree growth, and no attempt made at either natural or artificial reforestation. As a result, the water rushes off the naked slopes in veritable floods, gullying away the mountain sides, causing rivers to run muddy with yellow soil, and carrying enormous masses of fertile earth to the sea. Water courses have also changed; rivers become uncontrollable, and the water level of the country is lowered perceptibly. In consequence, the unfortunate people see their crops wither and die for lack of water when it is most needed.
Statement (11 May 1921) by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning the famine in China in seven out of every ten years. Reported in 'Blames Deforestation: Department of Agriculture Ascribes Chinese Famine to it', New York Times (12 May 1921), 12.
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The sciences are like a beautiful river, of which the course is easy to follow, when it has acquired a certain regularity; but if one wants to go back to the source, one will find it nowhere, because it is everywhere; it is spread so much [as to be] over all the surface of the earth; it is the same if one wants to go back to the origin of the sciences, one will find only obscurity, vague ideas, vicious circles; and one loses oneself in the primitive ideas.
In Essai sur les machines en général (1783), conclusion, as translated in Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800-1840 (1990), Vol. 1, 32.
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The sea is the source of water and the source of wind; for neither would blasts of wind arise in the clouds and blow out from within them, except for the great sea, nor would the streams of rivers nor the rain-water in the sky exist but for the sea ; but the great sea is the begetter of clouds and winds and rivers.
Quoted in Arthur Fairbanks (ed. And trans.), The First Philosophers of Greece (1898), 69, fragment 11.
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The universe is one great kindergarten for man. Everything that exists has brought with it its own peculiar lesson. The mountain teaches stability and grandeur; the ocean immensity and change. Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes—every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.
…...
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There is a river in the ocean. In the severest droughts it never fails, and in the mightiest floods it never overflows. Its banks and its bottom are of cold water, while its current is of warm. The Gulf of Mexico is its fountain, and its mouth is in the Arctic Sea. It is the Gulf Stream.
Opening paragraph of The Physical Geography of the Sea (1855), 25.
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There is a river in the ocean. In the severest droughts it never fails, and in the mightiest floods it never overflows. Its banks and its bottom are of cold water, while its current is of warm. The Gulf of Mexico is its fountain, and its mouth is in the Arctic Seas. It is the Gulf Stream. There is in the world no other such majestic flow of waters. Its current is more rapid than the Mississippi or the Amazon.
In The Physical Geography of the Sea and Its Meteorology (1855), 25.
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There is more evidence to prove that saltiness [of the sea] is due to the admixture of some substance ... It is this stuff which makes salt water heavy (it weighs more than fresh water) and thick. The difference in consistency is such that ships with the same cargo very nearly sink in a river when they are quite fit to navigate in the sea. This circumstance has before now caused loss to shippers freighting their ships in a river. That the thicker consistency is due to an admixture of something is proved by the fact that if you make strong brine by the admixture of salt, eggs, even when they are full, float in it. It almost becomes like mud; such a quantity of earthy matter is there in the sea.
[Aristotle recognised the different density of fresh (river) or salty (sea) water. He describes an experiment using an egg (which sinks in fresh water) that floats in a strong brine solution.]
Aristotle
Meteorology (350 B.C.), Book II, translated by E. W. Webster. Internet Classics Archive, (classics.mit.edu).
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This king [Sesostris] divided the land among all Egyptians so as to give each one a quadrangle of equal size and to draw from each his revenues, by imposing a tax to be levied yearly. But everyone from whose part the river tore anything away, had to go to him to notify what had happened; he then sent overseers who had to measure out how much the land had become smaller, in order that the owner might pay on what was left, in proportion to the entire tax imposed. In this way, it appears to me, geometry originated, which passed thence to Hellas.
Heroditus
(II. c. 109) As quoted in Florian Cajori, A History of Elementary Mathematics (1893), 10, footnoted to C.A. Bretschneider, Die Geometrie und die Geometer vor Eukides (1870). Note that the word geometry itself means “land measurement.”
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Upon the rivers which are tributary to the Mississippi and also upon those which empty themselves into Lake Michigan, there are interminable forests of pine, sufficient to supply all the wants of the citizens ... for all time to come.
Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives (22 Jul 1852), Congressional Globe (1851-52). In Susan Flader, The Great Lakes Forest: an Environmental and Social History (1983), 124.
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We are like the explorers of a great continent, who have penetrated its margins in most points of the compass and have mapped the major mountain chains and rivers. There are still innumerable details to fill in, but the endless horizons no longer exist.
Stating his belief that within a generation or two, scientific progress was likely to halt. In Presidential Address (28 Dec 1970) to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 'Science: Endless Horizons or Golden Age?', Science (8 Jan 1971), 171, No. 3866, 24. Quoted in obituary by Douglas Martin, New York Times (20 Jan 2005).
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We reached the village of Watervliet, [New York] … and here we crossed the Hudson in a horse-tow-boat. Having never witnessed, except in America, this ingenious contrivance for crossing a river, I shall explain to you what it is … On each side of the boat, and standing on a revolving platform constructed a foot below the surface of the deck, is placed a horse, harnessed and attached to a splinter-bar which is fastened to the boat, so as to keep him in his proper position. When every thing is ready for departure, the animal is made to walk, and by the action of his feet puts the platform in motion, which, communicating with the paddle-wheels, gives them their rotatory evolution; and by this means the boat is propelled in any direction in which the helmsman wishes to go.
In Letter VIII, to a friend in England, from Lockport, New York (25 Jul 1831), collected in Narrative of a Tour in North America (1834), Vol. 1, 184-184.
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We stand by the river and admire the great body of water flowing so sweetly on; could you trace it back to its source, you might find a mere rivulet, but meandering on, joined by other streams and by secret springs, and fed by the rains and dews of heaven, it gathers volume and force, makes its way through the gorges of the mountains, plows, widens and deepens its channel through the provinces, and attains its present majesty.
From Address (1 Aug 1875), 'The Growth of Principles' at Saratoga. Collected in William L. Snyder (ed.), Great Speeches by Great Lawyers: A Collection of Arguments and Speeches (1901), 246.
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When the aggregate amount of solid matter transported by rivers in a given number of centuries from a large continent, shall be reduced to arithmetical computation, the result will appear most astonishing to those...not in the habit of reflecting how many of the mightiest of operations in nature are effected insensibly, without noise or disorder.
Principles of Geology (1837), Vol. 1, 230.
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Who, of men, can tell
That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,
The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,
The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,
The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,
If human souls did never kiss and greet?
Endymion (1818), bk. 1, l. 835-842. In John Barnard (ed.), John Keats. The Complete Poems (1973), 129.
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Willis Rodney Whitney ... once compared scientific research to a bridge being constructed by a builder who was fascinated by the construction problems involved. Basic research, he suggested, is such a bridge built wherever it strikes the builder's fancy—wherever the construction problems seem to him to be most challenging. Applied research, on the other hand, is a bridge built where people are waiting to get across the river. The challenge to the builder's ingenuity and skill, Whitney pointed out, can be as great in one case as the other.
'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 351.
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Wisdom is a river that runs deep and slow. Inspiration and intuition are lightning flashes reflected on its surface.
Anonymous
In Barbara A. Robinson, Mind Bungee Jumping: Words of Life, Love, Inspiration, Encouragement and Motivation (2008), 287. by - Poetry - 2008
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Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river: and he was always ready to lead a huckleberry-party or a search for chestnuts and grapes.
In magazine article, 'Thoreau', The Atlantic (Aug 1862), 10, 240. Emerson is credited as author on the Contents page.
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“True is it, my incorporate friends,” quoth he, “That I receive the general food at first, Which you do live upon; and fit it is, Because I am the storehouse and the shop Of the whole body. But, if you do remember, I send it through the rivers of your blood, Even to the court, the heart, to th’ seat o’ th’ brain; And, through the cranks and offices of man, The strongest nerves and small inferior veins From me receive that natural competency Whereby they live. And though that all at once”— You, good friends, this says the belly, mark me.
[Told as a fable, this is the belly’s answer to a complaint from the other members of the body that it received all the food but did no work.] In Coriolanus (1623), Act 1, Scene 1, line 130-141. Webmaster’s note: The Fable of the Belly has its roots in antiquity. William Harvey delivered a lecture in Apr 1616 on his discovery the circulation of blood in the body, but did not publish until 1628.
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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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