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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index T > Category: Talent

Talent Quotes (94 quotes)

Le génie crée, le talent reproduit.
Genius creates, talent repeats.
In Pailles et Poutres (1877), collected in La Pensées Française: Anthologie des Auteurs de Maximes du XVie Siècle a nos Jours (1921), 295. Alternative translations could be "talent reproduces" or "talent copies."
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Neque enim ingenium sine disciplina aut disciplina sine ingenio perfectum artificem potest efficere
For neither talent without instruction nor instruction without talent can produce the perfect craftsman.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 1, Sec. 3. As in Frank Granger (trans.), Vitruvius: De Architectura (1931), 8-9. Also translated as “Neither natural ability without instruction nor instruction without natural ability can make the perfect artist.” In Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 3.
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A pound of energy with an ounce of talent will achieve greater results than a pound of talent with an ounce of energy.
In Getting on in the World; Or, Hints on Success in Life (1873), 55.
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A scientist strives to understand the work of Nature. But with our insufficient talents as scientists, we do not hit upon the truth all at once. We must content ourselves with tracking it down, enveloped in considerable darkness, which leads us to make new mistakes and errors. By diligent examination, we may at length little by little peel off the thickest layers, but we seldom get the core quite free, so that finally we have to be satisfied with a little incomplete knowledge.
Lecture to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, 23 May 1764. Quoted in J. A. Schufle 'Torbern Bergman, Earth Scientist', Chymia, 1967, 12, 78.
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Accordingly, we find Euler and D'Alembert devoting their talent and their patience to the establishment of the laws of rotation of the solid bodies. Lagrange has incorporated his own analysis of the problem with his general treatment of mechanics, and since his time M. Poinsôt has brought the subject under the power of a more searching analysis than that of the calculus, in which ideas take the place of symbols, and intelligent propositions supersede equations.
J. C. Maxwell on Louis Poinsôt (1777-1859) in 'On a Dynamical Top' (1857). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 1, 248.
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All scientific men were formerly accused of practicing magic. And no wonder, for each said to himself: “I have carried human intelligence as far as it will go, and yet So-and-so has gone further than I. Ergo, he has taken to sorcery.”
Tous les savants étoient autrefois accusés de magie. Je n’en suis point étonné. Chacun disoit en lui-même: J’ai porté les talents naturels aussi loin qu’ils peuvent aller; cependant un certain savant a des avantages sur moi: il faut bien qu’il y ait là quelque diablerie.
English translation from Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 296. Original French from Lettres Persanes de Montesquieu (1721, 1831), 382. Webmaster has not identified the source of the above translation (can you help?), but it is more fluent than ones published earlier. For example, “All scientific men were formerly accused of magic. I am not surprised at it. Each one said to himself, ‘I have carried human capacity as far as it can go; and yet a certain savant has distanced me: beyond doubt he deals in sorcery.’” by John Davidson (trans.), in Persian and Chinese Letters: Being the Lettres Persanes (1892), 173. Compare with the very early: “Formerly the Virtuosi were all accused of Magic; nor do I wonder at it; every one said to himself: I have carried the Talents of Nature as far as they can go; and yet a certain Virtuoso has the advantage of me, he must certainly deal with the Devil,” by John Ozell (trans), in Persian Letters (1736), Vol. 1, 257-258.
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Among the multitude of animals which scamper, fly, burrow and swim around us, man is the only one who is not locked into his environment. His imagination, his reason, his emotional subtlety and toughness, make it possible for him not to accept the environment, but to change it. And that series of inventions, by which man from age to age has remade his environment, is a different kind of evolution—not biological, but cultural evolution. I call that brilliant sequence of cultural peaks The Ascent of Man. I use the word ascent with a precise meaning. Man is distinguished from other animals by his imaginative gifts. He makes plans, inventions, new discoveries, by putting different talents together; and his discoveries become more subtle and penetrating, as he learns to combine his talents in more complex and intimate ways. So the great discoveries of different ages and different cultures, in technique, in science, in the arts, express in their progression a richer and more intricate conjunction of human faculties, an ascending trellis of his gifts.
The Ascent of Man (1973), 19-20.
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Anyone of common mental and physical health can practice scientific research. … Anyone can try by patient experiment what happens if this or that substance be mixed in this or that proportion with some other under this or that condition. Anyone can vary the experiment in any number of ways. He that hits in this fashion on something novel and of use will have fame. … The fame will be the product of luck and industry. It will not be the product of special talent.
In Essays of a Catholic Layman in England (1931).
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Cuvier had even in his address & manner the character of a superior Man, much general power & eloquence in conversation & great variety of information on scientific as well as popular subjects. I should say of him that he is the most distinguished man of talents I have ever known on the continent: but I doubt if He be entitled to the appellation of a Man of Genius.
J. Z. Fullmer, 'Davy's Sketches of his Contemporaries', Chymia, 1967, 12, 132.
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Even in Europe a change has sensibly taken place in the mind of man. Science has liberated the ideas of those who read and reflect, and the American example has kindled feelings of right in the people. An insurrection has consequently begun of science talents and courage against rank and birth, which have fallen into contempt. It has failed in its first effort, because the mobs of the cities, the instrument used for its accomplishment, debased by ignorance, poverty and vice, could not be restrained to rational action. But the world will soon recover from the panic of this first catastrophe.
Letter to John Adams (Monticello, 1813). In Thomas Jefferson and John P. Foley (ed.), The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia (1900), 49. From Paul Leicester Ford (ed.), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1892-99). Vol 4, 439.
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Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow that talent to dark place where it leads.
…...
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First of all a natural talent is required; for when Nature opposes, everything else is in vain; but when Nature leads the way to what is most excellent, instruction in the art takes place...
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 284.
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For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.
Letter to John Adams, 28 Oct 1813. In Paul Witstach (ed.), Correspondence of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson 1812-1826 (1925), 92.
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Gauss was not the son of a mathematician; Handel’s father was a surgeon, of whose musical powers nothing is known; Titian was the son and also the nephew of a lawyer, while he and his brother, Francesco Vecellio, were the first painters in a family which produced a succession of seven other artists with diminishing talents. These facts do not, however, prove that the condition of the nerve-tracts and centres of the brain, which determine the specific talent, appeared for the first time in these men: the appropriate condition surely existed previously in their parents, although it did not achieve expression. They prove, as it seems to me, that a high degree of endowment in a special direction, which we call talent, cannot have arisen from the experience of previous generations, that is, by the exercise of the brain in the same specific direction.
In 'On Heredity', Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems (1889), Vol. 1, 96.
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Genius is the gold in the mine, talent is the miner who works and brings it out.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 106.
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John B. Watson quote: Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guar
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. (1930)
Behaviorism (1998), 82.
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He (Anaxagoras) is said to have been twenty years old at the time of Xerxes' crossing, and to have lived to seventy-two. Apollodorus says in his Chronicles that he was born in the seventieth Olympiad (500-497 B.C.) and died in the first year of the eighty-eighth (428/7). He began to be a philosopher at Athens in the archonship of Callias (456/5), at the age of twenty, as Demetrius Phalereus tells us in his Register of Archons, and they say he spent thirty years there. … There are different accounts given of his trial. Sotion, in his Succession of Philosophers, says that he was prosecuted by Cleon for impiety, because he maintained that the sun was a red hot mass of metal, and after that Pericles, his pupil, had made a speech in his defence, he was fined five talents and exiled. Satyrus in his Uves, on the other hand, says that the charge was brought by Thucydides in his political campaign against Pericles; and he adds that the charge was not only for the impiety but for Medism as well; and he was condemned to death in his absence. ... Finally he withdrew to Lampsacus, and there died. It is said that when the rulers of the city asked him what privilege he wished to be granted, he replied that the children should be given a holiday every year in the month in which he died. The custom is preserved to the present day. When he died the Lampsacenes buried him with full honours.
Diogenes Laërtius 2.7. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 353.
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He who gives a portion of his time and talent to the investigation of mathematical truth will come to all other questions with a decided advantage over his opponents. He will be in argument what the ancient Romans were in the field: to them the day of battle was a day of comparative recreation, because they were ever accustomed to exercise with arms much heavier than they fought; and reviews differed from a real battle in two respects: they encountered more fatigue, but the victory was bloodless.
Reflection 352, in Lacon: or Many things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think (1820), 159.
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Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?
…...
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I ask myself whether the huge national commitment of technical talent to human spaceflight and the ever-present potential for the loss of precious human life are really justifiable.
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004). [Note: published one year after the loss of seven lives in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. —Webmaster]
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I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.
About his proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, later to be known as 'Star Wars.')
National address (23 Mar 1983)
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I have a true aversion to teaching. The perennial business of a professor of mathematics is only to teach the ABC of his science; most of the few pupils who go a step further, and usually to keep the metaphor, remain in the process of gathering information, become only Halbwisser [one who has superficial knowledge of the subject], for the rarer talents do not want to have themselves educated by lecture courses, but train themselves. And with this thankless work the professor loses his precious time.
Letter to Heinrich Olbers (26 Oct 1802). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 414.
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I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
Letter to Carl Seelig (11 Mar 1952), AEA 39-013. As cited in Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (2008), 548.
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I never could do anything with figures, never had any talent for mathematics, never accomplished anything in my efforts at that rugged study, and to-day the only mathematics I know is multiplication, and the minute I get away up in that, as soon as I reach nine times seven— [He lapsed into deep thought, trying to figure nine times seven. Mr. McKelway whispered the answer to him.] I’ve got it now. It’s eighty-four. Well, I can get that far all right with a little hesitation. After that I am uncertain, and I can’t manage a statistic.
Speech at the New York Association for Promoting the Interests of the Blind (29 Mar 1906). In Mark Twain and William Dean Howells (ed.), Mark Twain’s Speeches? (1910), 323.
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I said that there is something every man can do, if he can only find out what that something is. Henry Ford has proved this. He has installed in his vast organization a system for taking hold of a man who fails in one department, and giving him a chance in some other department. Where necessary every effort is made to discover just what job the man is capable of filling. The result has been that very few men have had to be discharged, for it has been found that there was some kind of work each man could do at least moderately well. This wonderful system adopted by my friend Ford has helped many a man to find himself. It has put many a fellow on his feet. It has taken round pegs out of square holes and found a round hole for them. I understand that last year only 120 workers out of his force of 50,000 were discharged.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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If a man is in any sense a real mathematician, then it is a hundred to one that his mathematics will be far better than anything else he can do, and that it would be silly if he surrendered any decent opportunity of exercising his one talent in order to do undistinguished work in other fields. Such a sacrifice could be justified only by economic necessity of age.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 70.
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If you have great talents, industry will improve them; if moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiencies. Nothing is denied to well-directed labour; nothing is ever to be attained without it.
From 'A Discourse Delivered to the Students of the Royal Academy, on the Distribution of Prizes' (11 Dec 1769), in Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy (1778), 57.
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In my opinion, there is absolutely no trustworthy proof that talents have been improved by their exercise through the course of a long series of generations. The Bach family shows that musical talent, and the Bernoulli family that mathematical power, can be transmitted from generation to generation, but this teaches us nothing as to the origin of such talents. In both families the high-watermark of talent lies, not at the end of the series of generations, as it should do if the results of practice are transmitted, but in the middle. Again, talents frequently appear in some member of a family which has not been previously distinguished.
In 'On Heredity', Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems (1889), Vol. 1, 95-96.
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In scientific matters ... the greatest discoverer differs from the most arduous imitator and apprentice only in degree, whereas he differs in kind from someone whom nature has endowed for fine art. But saying this does not disparage those great men to whom the human race owes so much in contrast to those whom nature has endowed for fine art. For the scientists' talent lies in continuing to increase the perfection of our cognitions and on all the dependent benefits, as well as in imparting that same knowledge to others; and in these respects they are far superior to those who merit the honour of being called geniuses. For the latter's art stops at some point, because a boundary is set for it beyond which it cannot go and which has probably long since been reached and cannot be extended further.
The Critique of Judgement (1790), trans. J. C. Meredith (1991), 72.
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In the spring of 1760, [I] went to William and Mary college, where I continued two years. It was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed the destinies of my life, that Dr. William Small of Scotland, was then Professor of Mathematics, a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, and an enlarged and liberal mind. He, most happily for me, became soon attached to me, and made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science, and of the system of things in which we are placed.
In Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Adgate Lipscomb (ed.), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1904), Vol. 1, 3.
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It is said of Jacobi, that he attracted the particular attention and friendship of Böckh, the director of the philological seminary at Berlin, by the great talent he displayed for philology, and only at the end of two years’ study at the University, and after a severe mental struggle, was able to make his final choice in favor of mathematics.
In Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2 (1908), 661.
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Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.
…...
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Mr Humphry Davy is a lively and talented man, and a thorough chemist; but if I might venture to give an opinion... he is rather too lively to fill the Chair of the Royal Society with that degree of gravity it is most becoming to assume.
Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society. Quoted in John Barrow, Sketches of the Royal Society (1849), 52.
Royal Society;Davy_Humphry
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Of science and logic he chatters,
As fine and as fast as he can;
Though I am no judge of such matters,
I’m sure he’s a talented man.
'The Talented Man.' In Winthrop Mackworth Praed, Ferris Greenslet, The Poems of Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1909), 122. by - 1909
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Over the years, many Americans have made sacrifices in order to promote freedom and human rights around the globe: the heroic actions of our veterans, the lifesaving work of our scientists and physicians, and generosity of countless individuals who voluntarily give of their time, talents, and energy to help others—all have enriched humankind and affirmed the importance of our Judeo-Christian heritage in shaping our government and values.
Message on the observance of Christmas (8 Dec 1992). In William J. Federer, A Treasury of Presidential Quotations (2004), 300.
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Perhaps five or even ten per cent of men can do something rather well. It is a tiny minority who can do anything really well, and the number of men who can do two things well is negligible. If a man has any genuine talent, he should be ready to make almost any sacrifice in order to cultivate it to the full.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 53.
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Persons, who have a decided mathematical talent, constitute, as it were, a favored class. They bear the same relation to the rest of mankind that those who are academically trained bear to those who are not.
In Ueber die Anlage zur Mathematik (1900), 4.
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Persons, who have a decided mathematical talent, constitute, as it were, a favored class. They bear the same relation to the rest of mankind that those who are academically trained bear to those who are not.
In Ueber die Anlage zur Mathematik (1900), 4.
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Seldom has there occurred a more pitifully tragic disaster than the sudden fall of the Wright aeroplane, involving the death of that promising young officer Lieut. Thomas Selfridge, and inflicting shocking injuries on the talented inventor, Orville Wright. But although the accident is deplorable, it should not be allowed to discredit the art of aeroplane navigation. If it emphasizes the risks, there is nothing in the mishap to shake our faith in the principles upon which the Wright brothers built their machine, and achieved such brilliant success.
Magazine
In Scientific American (Sep 1908). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Sep 2008), 299, No. 3, 14.
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Shun no toil to make yourself remarkable by some talent or other; yet do not devote yourself to one branch exclusively. Strive to get clear notions about all. Give up no science entirely; for science is but one.
In Henry Southgate (ed.), Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1862), 340.
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Talent accumulates knowledge, and has it packed up in the memory; genius assimilates it with its own substance, grows with every new accession, and converts knowledge into power.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Talent deals with the actual, with discovered and realized truths, any analyzing, arranging, combining, applying positive knowledge, and, in action, looking to precedents. Genius deals with the possible, creates new combinations, discovers new laws, and acts from an insight into new principles.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Talent gives out what it has taken in ; genius, what has risen from its unsounded wells of living thought.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Talent is a cistern; genius a fountain.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Talent is full of thoughts; genius, of thought. One has definite acquisitions; the other, indefinite power.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Talent jogs to conclusions to which genius takes giant leaps.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Talent repeats; genius creates.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Talent wears well, genius wears itself out; talent drives a snug brougham in fact; genius, a sun-chariot in fancy.
In Marie Louise De la Ramée, Chandos (1866), 38. Ramée used the pen-name 'Ouida.'
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Talent, in difficult situations, strives to untie knots, which genius instantly cuts with one swift decision.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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The attitude of the intellectual community toward America is shaped not by the creative few but by the many who for one reason or another cannot transmute their dissatisfaction into a creative impulse, and cannot acquire a sense of uniqueness and of growth by developing and expressing their capacities and talents. There is nothing in contemporary America that can cure or alleviate their chronic frustration. They want power, lordship, and opportunities for imposing action. Even if we should banish poverty from the land, lift up the Negro to true equality, withdraw from Vietnam, and give half of the national income as foreign aid, they will still see America as an air-conditioned nightmare unfit for them to live in.
In 'Some Thoughts on the Present', The Temper of Our Time (1967), 107.
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The discovery of truth by slow, progressive meditation is talent. Intuition of the truth, not preceded by perceptible meditation, is genius.
Aphorism 93 (1787), in Aphorisms on Man. Translated from the original manuscript of the Rev. John Caspar Lavater (3rd ed. 1790), 36.
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The enchanting charms of this sublime science reveal only to those who have the courage to go deeply into it. But when a woman, who because of her sex and our prejudices encounters infinitely more obstacles that an man in familiarizing herself with complicated problems, succeeds nevertheless in surmounting these obstacles and penetrating the most obscure parts of them, without doubt she must have the noblest courage, quite extraordinary talents and superior genius.
in a letter to Sophie Germain (c.April 1807)
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The enthusiasm of Sylvester for his own work, which manifests itself here as always, indicates one of his characteristic qualities: a high degree of subjectivity in his productions and publications. Sylvester was so fully possessed by the matter which for the time being engaged his attention, that it appeared to him and was designated by him as the summit of all that is important, remarkable and full of future promise. It would excite his phantasy and power of imagination in even a greater measure than his power of reflection, so much so that he could never marshal the ability to master his subject-matter, much less to present it in an orderly manner.
Considering that he was also somewhat of a poet, it will be easier to overlook the poetic flights which pervade his writing, often bombastic, sometimes furnishing apt illustrations; more damaging is the complete lack of form and orderliness of his publications and their sketchlike character, … which must be accredited at least as much to lack of objectivity as to a superfluity of ideas. Again, the text is permeated with associated emotional expressions, bizarre utterances and paradoxes and is everywhere accompanied by notes, which constitute an essential part of Sylvester’s method of presentation, embodying relations, whether proximate or remote, which momentarily suggested themselves. These notes, full of inspiration and occasional flashes of genius, are the more stimulating owing to their incompleteness. But none of his works manifest a desire to penetrate the subject from all sides and to allow it to mature; each mere surmise, conceptions which arose during publication, immature thoughts and even errors were ushered into publicity at the moment of their inception, with utmost carelessness, and always with complete unfamiliarity of the literature of the subject. Nowhere is there the least trace of self-criticism. No one can be expected to read the treatises entire, for in the form in which they are available they fail to give a clear view of the matter under contemplation.
Sylvester’s was not a harmoniously gifted or well-balanced mind, but rather an instinctively active and creative mind, free from egotism. His reasoning moved in generalizations, was frequently influenced by analysis and at times was guided even by mystical numerical relations. His reasoning consists less frequently of pure intelligible conclusions than of inductions, or rather conjectures incited by individual observations and verifications. In this he was guided by an algebraic sense, developed through long occupation with processes of forms, and this led him luckily to general fundamental truths which in some instances remain veiled. His lack of system is here offset by the advantage of freedom from purely mechanical logical activity.
The exponents of his essential characteristics are an intuitive talent and a faculty of invention to which we owe a series of ideas of lasting value and bearing the germs of fruitful methods. To no one more fittingly than to Sylvester can be applied one of the mottos of the Philosophic Magazine:
“Admiratio generat quaestionem, quaestio investigationem investigatio inventionem.”
In Mathematische Annalen (1898), 50, 155-160. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 176-178.
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The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true science. He who knows it not, and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead. We all had this priceless talent when we were young. But as time goes by, many of us lose it. The true scientist never loses the faculty of amazement. It is the essence of his being.
Newsweek (31 Mar 1958).
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The fame of surgeons resembles the fame of actors, who live only during their lifetime and whose talent is no longer appreciable once they have disappeared.
The Atheist's Mass. In Wallace Fowlie (ed.), French Stories (1990), 47.
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The great rule: If the little bit you have is nothing special in itself, at least find a way of saying it that is a little bit special.
Aphorism 55 in Notebook E, as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990).
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The growth of a naturalist is like the growth of a musician or athlete: excellence for the talented, lifelong enjoyment for the rest, benefit for humanity.
In The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (2010), 147.
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The labor of love aspect is important. The most successful scientists are not the most talented. But they are the ones who are impelled by curiosity. They’ve got to know what the answer is.
As quoted in Andrew Grant and Gaia Grant, Who Killed Creativity?: ...And How Do We Get It Back? (2012).
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The mathematical talent of Cayley was characterized by clearness and extreme elegance of analytical form; it was re-enforced by an incomparable capacity for work which has caused the distinguished scholar to be compared with Cauchy.
In Comptes Rendus (1895), 120, 234.
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The most important distinction between the two qualities [talent and genius] is this: one, in conception, follows mechanical processes; the other, vital. Talent feebly conceives objects with the senses and understanding; genius, fusing all its powers together in the alembic of an impassioned imagination, clutches every thing in the concrete, conceives objects as living realities, gives body to spiritual abstractions, and spirit to bodily appearances, and like
“A gate of steel
Fronting the sun, receives and renders back
His figure and his heat!”
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203. The quotation at the end is from Wiliam Shakespeare, Tr. & Cress. iii, 3.
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The need to make music, and to listen to it, is universally expressed by human beings. I cannot imagine, even in our most primitive times, the emergence of talented painters to make cave paintings without there having been, near at hand, equally creative people making song. It is, like speech, a dominant aspect of human biology.
In 'The Music of This Sphere', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 25.
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The observer is not he who merely sees the thing which is before his eyes, but he who sees what parts the thing is composed of. To do this well is a rare talent. One person, from inattention, or attending only in the wrong place, overlooks half of what he sees; another sets down much more than he sees, confounding it with what he imagines, or with what he infers; another takes note of the kind of all the circumstances, but being inexpert in estimating their degree, leaves the quantity of each vague and uncertain; another sees indeed the whole, but makes such an awkward division of it into parts, throwing into one mass things which require to be separated, and separating others which might more conveniently be considered as one, that the result is much the same, sometimes even worse than if no analysis had been attempted at all.
In A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive (1858), 216.
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The one who stays in my mind as the ideal man of science is, not Huxley or Tyndall, Hooker or Lubbock, still less my friend, philosopher and guide Herbert Spencer, but Francis Galton, whom I used to observe and listen to—I regret to add, without the least reciprocity—with rapt attention. Even to-day. I can conjure up, from memory’s misty deep, that tall figure with its attitude of perfect physical and mental poise; the clean-shaven face, the thin, compressed mouth with its enigmatical smile; the long upper lip and firm chin, and, as if presiding over the whole personality of the man, the prominent dark eyebrows from beneath which gleamed, with penetrating humour, contemplative grey eyes. Fascinating to me was Francis Galton’s all-embracing but apparently impersonal beneficence. But, to a recent and enthusiastic convert to the scientific method, the most relevant of Galton’s many gifts was the unique contribution of three separate and distinct processes of the intellect; a continuous curiosity about, and rapid apprehension of individual facts, whether common or uncommon; the faculty for ingenious trains of reasoning; and, more admirable than either of these, because the talent was wholly beyond my reach, the capacity for correcting and verifying his own hypotheses, by the statistical handling of masses of data, whether collected by himself or supplied by other students of the problem.
In My Apprenticeship (1926), 134-135.
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The progress of science depends less than is usually believed on the efforts and performance of the individual genius ... many important discoveries have been made by men of ordinary talents, simply because chance had made them, at the proper time and in the proper place and circumstances, recipients of a body of doctrines, facts and techniques that rendered almost inevitable the recognition of an important phenomenon. It is surprising that some historian has not taken malicious pleasure in writing an anthology of 'one discovery' scientists. Many exciting facts have been discovered as a result of loose thinking and unimaginative experimentation, and described in wrappings of empty words. One great discovery does not betoken a great scientist; science now and then selects insignificant standard bearers to display its banners.
Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science (1986), 368
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The sciences are monuments devoted to the public good; each citizen owes to them a tribute proportional to his talents. While the great men, carried to the summit of the edifice, draw and put up the higher floors, the ordinary artists scattered in the lower floors, or hidden in the obscurity of the foundations, must only seek to improve what cleverer hands have created.
From Mémoires présentés par divers Savants à l'Académie des Sciences (1776), Introduction, 4. As translated in Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800-1840: From the Calculus and Mechanics to Mathematical Analysis and Mathematical Physics (1990), Vol. 1, 533.
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The study of economics does not seem to require any specialised gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy and pure science? Yet good, or even competent, economists are the rarest of birds. An easy subject, at which very few excel! The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher—in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man's nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician.
'Alfred Marshall: 1842-1924' (1924). In Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Essays in Biography (1933), 170.
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The world of mathematics and theoretical physics is hierarchical. That was my first exposure to it. There's a limit beyond which one cannot progress. The differences between the limiting abilities of those on successively higher steps of the pyramid are enormous. I have not seen described anywhere the shock a talented man experiences when he finds, late in his academic life, that there are others enormously more talented than he. I have personally seen more tears shed by grown men and women over this discovery than I would have believed possible. Most of those men and women shift to fields where they can compete on more equal terms
Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist (1987), 20.
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There are people who possess not so much genius as a certain talent for perceiving the desires of the century, or even of the decade, before it has done so itself.
Aphorism 70 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 55.
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There is hardly a more common error than that of taking the man who has but one talent for a genius.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 105.
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This is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
[Welcoming Nobel Prize winners as his guests at a White House dinner.]
Remarks at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere (29 Apr 1962).
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This quality of genius is, sometimes, difficult to be distinguished from talent, because high genius includes talent. It is talent, and something more. The usual distinction between genius and talent is, that one represents creative thought, the other practical skill: one invents, the other applies. But the truth is, that high genius applies its own inventions better than talent alone can do. A man who has mastered the higher mathematics, does not, on that account, lose his knowledge of arithmetic. Hannibal, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Newton, Scott, Burke, Arkwright, were they not men of talent as well as men of genius?
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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This [discovery of a cell-free yeast extract] will make him famous, even though he has no talent for chemistry.
Baeyer to Willstatter. Quoted in R. Willstatter, From My Life (1965), trans. J. S. Froton.
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To be a scholar of mathematics you must be born with talent, insight, concentration, taste, luck, drive and the ability to visualize and guess.
In I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography (1985), 400.
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To do easily what is difficult for others is the mark of talent. To do what is impossible for talent is the mark of genius.
Entry for 17 Dec 1856 in Amiel’s Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, trans. Humphry Ward (1893), 60.
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Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, “to be free from freedom.”
In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951), 30.
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We are in the presence of a recruiting drive systematically and deliberately undertaken by American business, by American universities, and to a lesser extent, American government, often initiated by talent scouts specially sent over here to buy British brains and preempt them for service of the U.S.A. … I look forward earnestly to the day when some reform of the American system of school education enables them to produce their own scientists so that, in an amiable free trade of talent, there may be adequate interchange between our country and theirs, and not a one-way traffic.
Speaking as Britain's Minister of Science in the House of Lords (27 Feb 1963). In 'The Manhunters: British Minister Blames American Recruiters for Emigration of Scientists', Science Magazine (8 Mar 1963), 893. See also the reply from the leader of the Labour Party, Harold Wilson, by using the link below.
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We are placed here with certain talents and capabilities. It is up to each of us to use those talents and capabilities as best you can. If you do that, I think there is a power greater than any of us that will place the opportunities in our way, and if we use our talents properly, we will be living the kind of life we should live.
At NASA press conference (9 Apr 1959) to introduce the Mercury 7 astronauts. As quoted in Joseph N. Bell, Seven Into Space: The Story of the Mercury Astronauts (1960), 69.
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We don’t understand electricity. We use it. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it. … I think talent is like that.
In Maya Angelo and Joanne M. Braxon (ed.), 'An interview with Claudia Tate', I Know why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook (1999), 154. Also seen paraphrased as, “Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.…”. [Many thanks to P.D. for locating the citation, previously unverified here.]
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We have before us the restoration of that ancient land whose name was a synonym for abundance, prosperity, and grandeur for many generations. Records as old as those of Egypt and as well attested tell of fertile lands and teeming populations, mighty kings and warriors, sages and wise men, over periods of thousands of years. ... A land such as this is worth resuscitating. Once we have apprehended the true cause of its present desolate and abandoned condition, we are on our way to restoring it to its ancient fertility. A land which so readily responded to ancient science, and gave a return which sufficed for the maintenance of a Persian Court in all its splendor, will surely respond to the efforts of modern science and return manifold the money and talent spent on its regeneration.
From The Restoration of the Ancient Irrigation Works on the Tigris: or, The Re-creation of Chaldea (1903), 30.
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We live in a capitalist economy, and I have no particular objection to honorable self-interest. We cannot hope to make the needed, drastic improvement in primary and secondary education without a dramatic restructuring of salaries. In my opinion, you cannot pay a good teacher enough money to recompense the value of talent applied to the education of young children. I teach an hour or two a day to tolerably well-behaved near-adults–and I come home exhausted. By what possible argument are my services worth more in salary than those of a secondary-school teacher with six classes a day, little prestige, less support, massive problems of discipline, and a fundamental role in shaping minds. (In comparison, I only tinker with intellects already largely formed.)
…...
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We pass with admiration along the great series of mathematicians, by whom the science of theoretical mechanics has been cultivated, from the time of Newton to our own. There is no group of men of science whose fame is higher or brighter. The great discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, had fixed all eyes on those portions of human knowledge on which their successors employed their labors. The certainty belonging to this line of speculation seemed to elevate mathematicians above the students of other subjects; and the beauty of mathematical relations and the subtlety of intellect which may be shown in dealing with them, were fitted to win unbounded applause. The successors of Newton and the Bernoullis, as Euler, Clairaut, D’Alembert, Lagrange, Laplace, not to introduce living names, have been some of the most remarkable men of talent which the world has seen.
In History of the Inductive Sciences, Vol. 1, Bk. 4, chap. 6, sect. 6.
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What I especially admire about you [Arnold Sommerfeld] is the way. at a stamp of your foot, a great number of talented young theorists spring up out of the ground.
As quoted in Paul Forman and Armin Hermann, 'Sommerfeld, Arnold (Johannes Wilhelm)', Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975), Vol. 12, 529. Cited from Armin Herman (ed.), Albert Einstein/Arnold Sommerfeld. Briefwechsel: Sechzig Briefe aus dem goldenen Zeitalter der modernen Physik (1968, German), 98.
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When first I applied my mind to Mathematics I read straight away most of what is usually given by the mathematical writers, and I paid special attention to Arithmetic and Geometry because they were said to be the simplest and so to speak the way to all the rest. But in neither case did I then meet with authors who fully satisfied me. I did indeed learn in their works many propositions about numbers which I found on calculation to be true. As to figures, they in a sense exhibited to my eyes a great number of truths and drew conclusions from certain consequences. But they did not seem to make it sufficiently plain to the mind itself why these things are so, and how they discovered them. Consequently I was not surprised that many people, even of talent and scholarship, should, after glancing at these sciences, have either given them up as being empty and childish or, taking them to be very difficult and intricate, been deterred at the very outset from learning them. … But when I afterwards bethought myself how it could be that the earliest pioneers of Philosophy in bygone ages refused to admit to the study of wisdom any one who was not versed in Mathematics … I was confirmed in my suspicion that they had knowledge of a species of Mathematics very different from that which passes current in our time.
In Elizabeth S. Haldane (trans.) and G.R.T. Ross (trans.), 'Rules for the Direction of the Mind', The Philosophical Works of Descartes (1911, 1973), Vol. 1, Rule 4, 11.
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When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me that my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
…...
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When you stay awake in class, you tend to learn more. (Unless you have an uncanny talent of learning through osmosis.)
Advertisement by SmithKline Beecham for Vivarin caffeine tablets, student newspaper, Columbia Daily Spectator (3 May 1995), Vol. 119, No. 64, 6.
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Who in the same given time can produce more than others has vigour; who can produce more and better, has talents; who can produce what none else can, has genius.
Aphorism 23 (1787), in Aphorisms on Man. Translated from the original manuscript of the Rev. John Caspar Lavater (3rd ed. 1790), 11-12.
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Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term. One of the criteria for national leadership should therefore be a talent for understanding, encouraging, and making constructive use of vigorous criticism.
Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millenium (1998), 189.
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With whom [do] the adherents of historicism actually empathize[?] The answer is inevitable: with the victor. And all rulers are the heirs of those who conquered before them. Hence, empathy with the victor invariably benefits the rulers. Historical materialists know what that means. Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried along in the procession. They are called cultural treasures, and a historical materialist views them with cautious detachment. For without exception the cultural treasures he surveys have an origin which he cannot contemplate without horror. They owe their existence not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.
'Theses on the Philosophy of History' (completed 1940, first published 1950). In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt and trans. Harry Zohn (1970), 258.
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With your talents and industry, with science, and that steadfast honesty which eternally pursues right, regardless of consequences, you may promise yourself every thing—but health, without which there is no happiness. An attention to health then should take place of evey other object. The time necessary to secure this by active exercises, should be devoted to it in preference to every other pursuit.
Letter to Tomas Mann Randolph, Jr., (6 Jul 1787), In Thomas Jefferson and Paul Leicester Ford (ed.) The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1904), Vol. 5, 300. Julian P. Boyd (Ed.), The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955), Vol. 11, 558.
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[In the case of research director, Willis R. Whitney, whose style was to give talented investigators as much freedom as possible, you may define “serendipity” as] the art of profiting from unexpected occurrences. When you do things in that way you get unexpected results. Then you do something else and you get unexpected results in another line, and you do that on a third line and then all of a sudden you see that one of these lines has something to do with the other. Then you make a discovery that you never could have made by going on a direct road.
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 355.
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[There is no shortage of scientific talent.] But [I am] much less optimistic about the managerial vision [of the pharmaceutical industry] to catalyse these talents to deliver the results we all want.
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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[To Margaret Ruxton] Too many men have often seen
Their talents underrated;
But Davy knows that his have been
Duly Appreeciated.
Mrs Apreece, a rich widow, married Davy in 1812.
Quoted in T. E. Thorpe, Humphry Davy, Poet and Philosopher (1896), 165.
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[While in school, before university,] I, like almost all chemists I know, was also attracted by the smells and bangs that endowed chemistry with that slight but charismatic element of danger which is now banned from the classroom. I agree with those of us who feel that the wimpish chemistry training that schools are now forced to adopt is one possible reason that chemistry is no longer attracting as many talented and adventurous youngsters as it once did. If the decline in hands-on science education is not redressed, I doubt that we shall survive the 21st century.
Nobel laureate autobiography in Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1996 (1997), 191.
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“Talent is a long patience.” We must look on what we wish to express long enough and with enough attention to discover an aspect that has not been seen and portrayed by another. There is, in everything, something unexplored, because we always use our eyes only with the recollection of what has been thought before on the subject we are contemplating.
From Pierre et Jean (1888), as translated by Alexina Loranger in 'Introduction', Pierre et Jean (Peter and John) (1890), 38-39. The opening words are quoted from Gustave Flaubert. From the original French, “Le talent est une longue patience. — Il s’agit de regarder tout ce qu’on veut exprimer assez longtemps et avec assez d’attention pour en découvrir un aspect qui n’ait été vu et dit par personne. Il y a, dans tout, de l’inexploré, parce que nous sommes habitués à ne nous servir de nos yeux qu’avec le souvenir de ce qu’on a pensé avant nous sur ce que nous contemplons.”
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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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