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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Specimen

Specimen Quotes (28 quotes)

A fossil hunter needs sharp eyes and a keen search image, a mental template that subconsciously evaluates everything he sees in his search for telltale clues. A kind of mental radar works even if he isn’t concentrating hard. A fossil mollusk expert has a mollusk search image. A fossil antelope expert has an antelope search image. … Yet even when one has a good internal radar, the search is incredibly more difficult than it sounds. Not only are fossils often the same color as the rocks among which they are found, so they blend in with the background; they are also usually broken into odd-shaped fragments. … In our business, we don’t expect to find a whole skull lying on the surface staring up at us. The typical find is a small piece of petrified bone. The fossil hunter’s search therefore has to have an infinite number of dimensions, matching every conceivable angle of every shape of fragment of every bone on the human body.
Describing the skill of his co-worker, Kamoya Kimeu, who discovered the Turkana Boy, the most complete specimen of Homo erectus, on a slope covered with black lava pebbles.
Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human (1992), 26.
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A quotation without a reference is like a geological specimen of unknown locality.
In Notes and Queries (21 Jun 1884), 6th Series, 9, 499.
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A single tree by itself is dependent upon all the adverse chances of shifting circumstances. The wind stunts it: the variations in temperature check its foliage: the rains denude its soil: its leaves are blown away and are lost for the purpose of fertilisation. You may obtain individual specimens of line trees either in exceptional circumstances, or where human cultivation had intervened. But in nature the normal way in which trees flourish is by their association in a forest. Each tree may lose something of its individual perfection of growth, but they mutually assist each other in preserving the conditions of survival. The soil is preserved and shaded; and the microbes necessary for its fertility are neither scorched, nor frozen, nor washed away. A forest is the triumph of the organisation of mutually dependent species.
In Science and the Modern World (1926), 296-7.
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All fossil anthropoids found hitherto have been known only from mandibular or maxillary fragments, so far as crania are concerned, and so the general appearance of the types they represented had been unknown; consequently, a condition of affairs where virtually the whole face and lower jaw, replete with teeth, together with the major portion of the brain pattern, have been preserved, constitutes a specimen of unusual value in fossil anthropoid discovery. Here, as in Homo rhodesiensis, Southern Africa has provided documents of higher primate evolution that are amongst the most complete extant. Apart from this evidential completeness, the specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man ... Whether our present fossil is to be correlated with the discoveries made in India is not yet apparent; that question can only be solved by a careful comparison of the permanent molar teeth from both localities. It is obvious, meanwhile, that it represents a fossil group distinctly advanced beyond living anthropoids in those two dominantly human characters of facial and dental recession on one hand, and improved quality of the brain on the other. Unlike Pithecanthropus, it does not represent an ape-like man, a caricature of precocious hominid failure, but a creature well advanced beyond modern anthropoids in just those characters, facial and cerebral, which are to be anticipated in an extinct link between man and his simian ancestor. At the same time, it is equally evident that a creature with anthropoid brain capacity and lacking the distinctive, localised temporal expansions which appear to be concomitant with and necessary to articulate man, is no true man. It is therefore logically regarded as a man-like ape. I propose tentatively, then, that a new family of Homo-simidæ be created for the reception of the group of individuals which it represents, and that the first known species of the group be designated Australopithecus africanus, in commemoration, first, of the extreme southern and unexpected horizon of its discovery, and secondly, of the continent in which so many new and important discoveries connected with the early history of man have recently been made, thus vindicating the Darwinian claim that Africa would prove to be the cradle of mankind.
'Australopithicus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa', Nature, 1925, 115, 195.
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As Crystallography was born of a chance observation by Haüy of the cleavage-planes of a single fortunately fragile specimen, … so out of the slender study of the Norwich Spiral has sprung the vast and interminable Calculus of Cyclodes, which strikes such far-spreading and tenacious roots into the profoundest strata of denumeration, and, by this and the multitudinous and multifarious dependent theories which cluster around it, reminds one of the Scriptural comparison of the Kingdom of Heaven “to a grain of mustard-seed which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and waxed a great tree, and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.”
From 'Outline Trace of the Theory of Reducible Cyclodes', Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society (1869), 2, 155, collected in Collected Mathematical Papers of James Joseph Sylvester (1908), Vol. 2, 683-684.
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At last such field studies have been put on a sound basis which should result in the hunting of information rather than specimens.
Concluding line of review (of Hiram Bingham’s 1932 book, Gorillas in a Native Habitat), in journal, Ecology (1933), 14, No. 3, 320. Note that the quote is authored by the reviewer, W.C. Allee, and any source attributing it directly to Bingham himself is incorrect.
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Bacon himself was very ignorant of all that had been done by mathematics; and, strange to say, he especially objected to astronomy being handed over to the mathematicians. Leverrier and Adams, calculating an unknown planet into a visible existence by enormous heaps of algebra, furnish the last comment of note on this specimen of the goodness of Bacon’s view… . Mathematics was beginning to be the great instrument of exact inquiry: Bacon threw the science aside, from ignorance, just at the time when his enormous sagacity, applied to knowledge, would have made him see the part it was to play. If Newton had taken Bacon for his master, not he, but somebody else, would have been Newton.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 53-54.
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He who has mastered the Darwinian theory, he who recognizes the slow and subtle process of evolution as the way in which God makes things come to pass, … sees that in the deadly struggle for existence that has raged throughout countless aeons of time, the whole creation has been groaning and travailing together in order to bring forth that last consummate specimen of God’s handiwork, the Human Soul
In The Destiny of Man Viewed in the Light of his Origin (1884), 32. Collected in Studies in Religion (1902), 19–20.
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I can remember … starting to gather all sorts of things like rocks and beetles when I was about nine years old. There was no parental encouragement—nor discouragement either—nor any outside influence that I can remember in these early stages. By about the age of twelve, I had settled pretty definitely on butterflies, largely I think because the rocks around my home were limited to limestone, while the butterflies were varied, exciting, and fairly easy to preserve with household moth-balls. … I was fourteen, I remember, when … I decided to be scientific, caught in some net of emulation, and resolutely threw away all of my “childish” specimens, mounted haphazard on “common pins” and without “proper labels.” The purge cost me a great inward struggle, still one of my most vivid memories, and must have been forced by a conflict between a love of my specimens and a love for orderliness, for having everything just exactly right according to what happened to be my current standards.
In The Nature of Natural History (1950, 1990), 255.
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If there is any kind of animal which is female and has no male separate from it, it is possible that this may generate a young one from itself. No instance of this worthy of any credit has been observed up to the present at any rate, but one case in the class of fishes makes us hesitate. No male of the so-called erythrinus has ever yet been seen, but females, and specimens full of roe, have been seen. Of this, however, we have as yet no proof worthy of credit.
Aristotle
Generation of Animals, 741a, 32-8. In Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. I, 1150.
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In order to survive, an animal must be born into a favoring or at least tolerant environment. Similarly, in order to achieve preservation and recognition, a specimen of fossil man must be discovered in intelligence, attested by scientific knowledge, and interpreted by evolutionary experience. These rigorous prerequisites have undoubtedly caused many still-births in human palaeontology and are partly responsible for the high infant mortality of discoveries of geologically ancient man.
Apes, Men and Morons (1938), 106.
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It is better to have a few forms well known than to teach a little about many hundred species. Better a dozen specimens thoroughly studied as the result of the first year’s work, than to have two thousand dollars’ worth of shells and corals bought from a curiosity-shop. The dozen animals would be your own.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147.
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It wasn’t the finches that put the idea [of natural selection] in Darwin’s head, it was the tortoises. The reason he didn’t use the tortoises [in writing On the Origin of Species] was that, when he got back, he found he didn’t have localities on the tortoise specimens. Here the great god, the greatest naturalist we have records of, made a mistake. His fieldwork wasn’t absolutely perfect.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 33.
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Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.
In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which the other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.
Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh—not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.
In Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings (),
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Men of science, osteologists
And surgeons, beat some poets, in respect
For nature,—count nought common or unclean,
Spend raptures upon perfect specimens
Of indurated veins, distorted joints,
Or beautiful new cases of curved spine;
While we, we are shocked at nature’s falling off,
We dare to shrink back from her warts and blains.
From poem, 'Aurora Leigh' (1856), Book 6. In Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Harriet Waters Preston (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of Mrs. Browning (1900), 344.
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My father’s collection of fossils was practically unnamed, but the appearance of Phillips’ book [Geology of the Yorkshire Coast], in which most of our specimens were figured, enabled us to remedy this defect. Every evening was devoted by us to accomplishing the work. This was my first introduction to true scientific study. … Phillips’ accurate volume initiated an entirely new order of things. Many a time did I mourn over the publication of this book, and the consequences immediately resulting from it. Instead of indulging in the games and idleness to which most lads are prone, my evenings throughout a long winter were devoted to the detested labour of naming these miserable stones. Such is the short-sightedness of boyhood. Pursuing this uncongenial work gave me in my thirteenth year a thorough practical familiarity with the palaeontological treasures of Eastern Yorkshire. This early acquisition happily moulded the entire course of my future life.
In Reminiscences of a Yorkshire naturalist (1896), 12.
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Nature progresses by unknown gradations and consequently does not submit to our absolute division when passing by imperceptible nuances, from one species to another and often from one genus to another. Inevitably there are a great number of equivocal species and in-between specimens that one does not know where to place and which throw our general systems into turmoil.
Jean Piveteau (ed.), Oeuvres Philosophiques de Buffon (1965), 10. Trans. in Paul Farber, 'Buffon and the Concept of Species', in Journal of the History of Biology, 1972, 5, 260.
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Of what use are the great number of petrifactions, of different species, shape and form which are dug up by naturalists? Perhaps the collection of such specimens is sheer vanity and inquisitiveness. I do not presume to say; but we find in our mountains the rarest animals, shells, mussels, and corals embalmed in stone, as it were, living specimens of which are now being sought in vain throughout Europe. These stones alone whisper in the midst of general silence.
Philosophia Botanica (1751), aphorism 132. Trans. Frans A. Stafleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans: The Spreading of their Ideas in Systematic Botany, 1735-1789 (1971), 56.
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On entering his [John James Audubon] room, I was astonished and delighted to find that it was turned into a museum. The walls were festooned with all kinds of birds’ eggs, carefully blown out and strung on a thread. The chimney-piece was covered with stuffed squirrels, raccoons, and opossums; and the shelves around were likewise crowded with specimens, among which were fishes, frogs, snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. Besides these stuffed varieties, many paintings were arrayed on the walls, chiefly of birds.
In Richard Rhodes, John James Audubon: The Making of an American (2004), 36.
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Scientists and Drapers. Why should the botanist, geologist or other-ist give himself such airs over the draper’s assistant? Is it because he names his plants or specimens with Latin names and divides them into genera and species, whereas the draper does not formulate his classifications, or at any rate only uses his mother tongue when he does? Yet how like the sub-divisions of textile life are to those of the animal and vegetable kingdoms! A few great families—cotton, linen, hempen, woollen, silk, mohair, alpaca—into what an infinite variety of genera and species do not these great families subdivide themselves? And does it take less labour, with less intelligence, to master all these and to acquire familiarity with their various habits, habitats and prices than it does to master the details of any other great branch of science? I do not know. But when I think of Shoolbred’s on the one hand and, say, the ornithological collections of the British Museum upon the other, I feel as though it would take me less trouble to master the second than the first.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 218.
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Louis Agassiz quote: Select such subjects that your pupils cannot walk out without seeing them. Train your pupils to be observer
Select such subjects that your pupils cannot walk out without seeing them. Train your pupils to be observers, and have them provided with the specimens about which you speak. If you can find nothing better, take a house-fly or a cricket, and let each one hold a specimen and examine it as you talk.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 146.
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Since an organism is inseparable from its environment, any person who attempts to understand an organism’s distribution must keep constantly in mind that the item being studied is neither a stuffed skin, a pickled specimen, nor a dot on a map. It is not even the live organism held in the hand, caged in a laboratory, or seen in the field. It is a complex interaction between a self-sustaining physicochemical system and the environment. An obvious corollary is that to know the organism it is necessary to know its environment.
From 'The role of physiology in the distribution of terrestrial vertebrates', collected in C.L. Hubbs (ed.), Zoogeography: Publ. 51 (1958), 83.
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The method I take to do this is not yet very usual; for instead of using only comparative and superlative Words, and intellectual Arguments, I have taken the course (as a Specimen of the Political Arithmetic I have long aimed at) to express myself in Terms of Number, Weight, or Measure; to use only Arguments of Sense, and to consider only such Causes, as have visible Foundations in Nature.
From Essays in Political Arithmetic (1679, 1755), 98.
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There is no part of the country where in the summer you cannot get a sufficient supply of the best specimens. Teach your children to bring them in for themselves. Take your text from the brooks, not from the booksellers.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 146-147.
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These specimens, which I could easily multiply, may suffice to justify a profound distrust of Auguste Comte, wherever he may venture to speak as a mathematician. But his vast general ability, and that personal intimacy with the great Fourier, which I most willingly take his own word for having enjoyed, must always give an interest to his views on any subject of pure or applied mathematics.
In R. Graves, Life of W. R. Hamilton (1882-89), Vol. 3, 475.
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To Monsieur Eiffel the Engineer, the brave builder of so gigantic and original a specimen of modern Engineering from one who has the greatest respect and admiration for all Engineers including the Great Engineer the Bon Dieu.
As stated by Joseph Harriss in The Tallest Tower (2004), 95. The author wrote that Edison was displaying his phonograph at the Paris World's Fair for which the Eiffel Tower was built as a centrepiece. On one of his visits to ascend the tower, Edison presented to Eiffel a phograph and a recording of “The Marseillaise.” On that occasion, Edison signed the guest book with the quoted remark.
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[There is an] immense advantage to be gained by ample space and appropriate surroundings in aiding the formation of a just idea of the beauty and interest of each specimen... Nothing detracts so much from the enjoyment ... from a visit to a museum as the overcrowding of the specimens exhibited.
Essays on Museums (1898), 33.
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[T]here is little chance that aliens from two societies anywhere in the Galaxy will be culturally close enough to really 'get along.' This is something to ponder as you watch the famous cantina scene in Star Wars. ... Does this make sense, given the overwhelmingly likely situation that galactic civilizations differ in their level of evolutionary development by thousands or millions of years? Would you share drinks with a trilobite, an ourang-outang, or a saber-toothed tiger? Or would you just arrange to have a few specimens stuffed and carted off to the local museum?
Quoted in 'Do Aliens Exist in the Milky Way', PBS web page for WGBH Nova, 'Origins.'
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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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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
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Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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