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A first step in the study of civilization is to dissect it into details, and to classify these in their proper groups. Thus, in examining weapons, they are to be classed under spear, club, sling, bow and arrow, and so forth; among textile arts are to be ranged matting, netting, and several grades of making and weaving threads; myths are divided under such headings as myths of sunrise and sunset, eclipse-myths, earthquake-myths, local myths which account for the names of places by some fanciful tale, eponymic myths which account for the parentage of a tribe by turning its name into the name of an imaginary ancestor; under rites and ceremonies occur such practices as the various kinds of sacrifice to the ghosts of the dead and to other spiritual beings, the turning to the east in worship, the purification of ceremonial or moral uncleanness by means of water or fire. Such are a few miscellaneous examples from a list of hundreds … To the ethnographer, the bow and arrow is the species, the habit of flattening children’s skulls is a species, the practice of reckoning numbers by tens is a species. The geographical distribution of these things, and their transmission from region to region, have to be studied as the naturalist studies the geography of his botanical and zoological species.
In Primitive Culture (1871), Vol. 1, 7.
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All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands.
In Lecture, second in a series given at Freeman Place Chapel, Boston (Mar 1859), 'Quotation and Originality', Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1917), 178.
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As every circumstance relating to so capital a discovery as this (the greatest, perhaps, that has been made in the whole compass of philosophy, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton) cannot but give pleasure to all my readers, I shall endeavour to gratify them with the communication of a few particulars which I have from the best authority. The Doctor [Benjamin Franklin], after having published his method of verifying his hypothesis concerning the sameness of electricity with the matter lightning, was waiting for the erection of a spire in Philadelphia to carry his views into execution; not imagining that a pointed rod, of a moderate height, could answer the purpose; when it occurred to him, that, by means of a common kite, he could have a readier and better access to the regions of thunder than by any spire whatever. Preparing, therefore, a large silk handkerchief, and two cross sticks, of a proper length, on which to extend it, he took the opportunity of the first approaching thunder storm to take a walk into a field, in which there was a shed convenient for his purpose. But dreading the ridicule which too commonly attends unsuccessful attempts in science, he communicated his intended experiment to no body but his son, who assisted him in raising the kite.
The kite being raised, a considerable time elapsed before there was any appearance of its being electrified. One very promising cloud passed over it without any effect; when, at length, just as he was beginning to despair of his contrivance, he observed some loose threads of the hempen string to stand erect, and to avoid one another, just as if they had been suspended on a common conductor. Struck with this promising appearance, he inmmediately presented his knuckle to the key, and (let the reader judge of the exquisite pleasure he must have felt at that moment) the discovery was complete. He perceived a very evident electric spark. Others succeeded, even before the string was wet, so as to put the matter past all dispute, and when the rain had wetted the string, he collected electric fire very copiously. This happened in June 1752, a month after the electricians in France had verified the same theory, but before he had heard of any thing that they had done.
The History and Present State of Electricity, with Original Experiments (1767, 3rd ed. 1775), Vol. 1, 216-7.
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Every bird which flies has the thread of the infinite in its claw. Germination includes the hatching of a meteor and the tap of a swallow's bill breaking the egg, and it leads forward the birth of an earth-worm and the advent of Socrates.
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
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Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
Address to the United Nations General Assembly, (25 Sep 1961). On U.S. Department of State website.
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Finally, two days ago, I succeeded - not on account of my hard efforts, but by the grace of the Lord. Like a sudden flash of lightning, the riddle was solved. I am unable to say what was the conducting thread that connected what I previously knew with what made my success possible.
Quoted in H. Eves, Mathematical Circles Squared, (1972).
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Fossil bones and footsteps and ruined homes are the solid facts of history, but the surest hints, the most enduring signs, lie in those miniscule genes. For a moment we protect them with our lives, then like relay runners with a baton, we pass them on to be carried by our descendents. There is a poetry in genetics which is more difficult to discern in broken bomes, and genes are the only unbroken living thread that weaves back and forth through all those boneyards.
The Self-Made Man: Human Evolution From Eden to Extinction (1996), 13.
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Further study of the division phenomena requires a brief discussion of the material which thus far I have called the stainable substance of the nucleus. Since the term nuclear substance could easily result in misinterpretation..., I shall coin the term chromatin for the time being. This does not indicate that this substance must be a chemical compound of a definite composition, remaining the same in all nuclei. Although this may be the case, we simply do not know enough about the nuclear substances to make such an assumption. Therefore, we will designate as chromatin that substance, in the nucleus, which upon treatment with dyes known as nuclear stains does absorb the dye. From my description of the results of staining resting and dividing cells... it follows that the chromatin is distributed throughout the whole resting nucleus, mostly in the nucleoli, the network, and the membrane, but also in the ground-substance. In nuclear division it accumulates exclusively in the thread figures. The term achromatin suggests itself automatically for the unstainable substance of the nucleus. The terms chromatic and achromatic which will be used henceforth are thus explained.
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I had a Meccano set with which I “played” endlessly. Meccano which was invented by Frank Hornby around 1900, is called Erector Set in the US. New toys (mainly Lego) have led to the extinction of Meccano and this has been a major disaster as far as the education of our young engineers and scientists is concerned. Lego is a technically trivial plaything and kids love it partly because it is so simple and partly because it is seductively coloured. However it is only a toy, whereas Meccano is a real engineering kit and it teaches one skill which I consider to be the most important that anyone can acquire: This is the sensitive touch needed to thread a nut on a bolt and tighten them with a screwdriver and spanner just enough that they stay locked, but not so tightly that the thread is stripped or they cannot be unscrewed. On those occasions (usually during a party at your house) when the handbasin tap is closed so tightly that you cannot turn it back on, you know the last person to use the washroom never had a Meccano set.
Nobel laureate autobiography in Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1996 (1997), 189.
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I have here only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that tied them together.
In William Hazlitt (ed.), The Works of Michael de Montaigne: His Essays, Letters, and Journey Through Germany and Italy (1849), 515. Alternate translation: “I have gathered a posy [posie] of other men's flowers and nothing but the thread which binds them is my own,” as epigraph to article 'A Country Walk With the Poets', The Victoria Magazine (May 1874), 23, 1. No citations given. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.
Attributed. Quoted in James GleickChaos (1988), 38. Contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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In every true searcher of Nature there is a kind of religious reverence, for he finds it impossible to imagine that he is the first to have thought out the exceedingly delicate threads that connect his perceptions.
1920, in Conversations with Einstein by Alexander Moszkowski (1970).
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It has been long considered possible to explain the more ancient revolutions on... [the Earth's] surface by means of these still existing causes; in the same manner as it is found easy to explain past events in political history, by an acquaintance with the passions and intrigues of the present day. But we shall presently see that unfortunately this is not the case in physical history:—the thread of operation is here broken, the march of nature is changed, and none of the agents that she now employs were sufficient for the production of her ancient works.
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 24.
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It was on the 25th November 1740 that I cut the first polyp. I put the two parts in a flat glass, which only contained water to the height of four to five lignes. It was thus easy for me to observe these portions of the polyp with a fairly powerful lens.
I shall indicate farther on the precautions I took in making my experiments on these cut polyps and the technique I adopted to cut them. It will suffice to say here that I cut the polyp concerned transversely, a little nearer the anterior than the posterior end. The first part was thus a little shorter than the second.
The instant that I cut the polyp, the two parts contracted so that at first they only appeared like two little grains of green matter at the bottom of the glass in which I put them—for green, as I have already said, is the colour of the first polyps that I possessed. The two parts expanded on the same day on which I separated them. They were very easy to distinguish from one another. The first had its anterior end adorned with the fine threads that serve the polyp as legs and arms, which the second had none.
The extensions of the first part was not the only sign of life that it gave on the same day that it was separated from the other. I saw it move its arms; and the next day, the first time I came to observe it, I found that it had changed its position; and shortly afterwards I saw it take a step. The second part was extended as on the previous day and in the same place. I shook the glass a little to see if it were still alive. This movement made it contract, from which I judged that it was alive. Shortly afterwards it extended again. On the following days I .’ saw the same thing.
Mémoires, pour servir à l'histoire d'un genre de polyps d'eau douce à bras en forme de cornes (1744), 7-16. Trans. John R. Baker, in Abraham Trembley of Geneva: Scientist and Philosopher 1710-1784 (1952), 31.
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Louis Agassiz quote: Lay aside all conceit Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have fol
Lay aside all conceit. Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have followed for years some slim thread which once in a while has broadened out and disclosed some treasure worth a life-long search.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 145.
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Man has never been a particularly modest or self-deprecatory animal, and physical theory bears witness to this no less than many other important activities. The idea that thought is the measure of all things, that there is such a thing as utter logical rigor, that conclusions can be drawn endowed with an inescapable necessity, that mathematics has an absolute validity and controls experience—these are not the ideas of a modest animal. Not only do our theories betray these somewhat bumptious traits of self-appreciation, but especially obvious through them all is the thread of incorrigible optimism so characteristic of human beings.
In The Nature of Physical Theory (1936), 135-136.
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Most writing online is devolving toward SMS and tweets that involve quick, throwaway notes with abbreviations and threaded references. This is not a form of lasting communication. In 2020 there is unlikely to be a list of classic tweets and blog posts that every student and educated citizen should have read.
Written response to the Pew Research Center and Elon University's 'Imagining the Internet' research initiative asking their survey question (2010), “Share your view of the Internet’s influence on the future of knowledge-sharing in 2020.” From 'Imagining the Internet' on elon.edu website.
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Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 34.
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Nature, displayed in its full extent, presents us with an immense tableau, in which all the order of beings are each represented by a chain which sustains a continuous series of objects, so close and so similar that their difference would be difficult to define. This chain is not a simple thread which is only extended in length, it is a large web or rather a network, which, from interval to interval, casts branches to the side in order to unite with the networks of another order.
'Les Oiseaux Qui Ne Peuvent Voler', Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux (1770), Vol. I, 394. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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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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Our ultimate task is to find interpretative procedures that will uncover each bias and discredit its claims to universality. When this is done the eighteenth century can be formally closed and a new era that has been here a long time can be officially recognised. The individual human being, stripped of his humanity, is of no use as a conceptual base from which to make a picture of human society. No human exists except steeped in the culture of his time and place. The falsely abstracted individual has been sadly misleading to Western political thought. But now we can start again at a point where major streams of thought converge, at the other end, at the making of culture. Cultural analysis sees the whole tapestry as a whole, the picture and the weaving process, before attending to the individual threads.
As co-author with Baron Isherwood, The World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption (1979, 2002), 41-42.
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Reaching the Moon by three-man vessels in one long bound from Earth is like casting a thin thread across space. The main effort, in the coming decades, will be to strengthen this thread; to make it a cord, a cable, and, finally, a broad highway.
In 'The Coming Decades in Space', Boy’s Life (Jun 1972), 8. Reprinted in The Beginning and the End (1977), 203.
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Tapestries are made by many artisans working together. The contributions of separate workers cannot be discerned in the completed work, and the loose and false threads have been covered over. So it is in our picture of particle physics.
In 'Towards a Unified Theory—Threads in a Tapestry', Nobel Lecture, 8 Dec 1979. In Nobel Lectures: Physics 1971-1980 (1992), 494. Also reproduced in Science (19 Dec 1980), New Series 210, No. 4476, 1319.
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The appearance of a disease is swift as an arrow; its disappearance slow, like a thread.
Chinese proverb.
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The difference between an ordinary mind and the mind of Newton consists principally in this, that the one is capable of a more continuous attention than the other,—that a Newton is able, without fatigue, to connect inference with inference in one long series towards a determinate end; while the man of inferior capacity is soon obliged to break or let full the thread which lie had begun to spin.
In Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1860), Vol. 1, 178.
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The quantum is that embarrassing little piece of thread that always hangs from the sweater of space-time. Pull it and the whole thing unravels.
Star Wave: Mind Consciousness of Quantum Physics, 1984
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The scientific method is only imagination set within bounds. … Facts are bridged by imagination. They are tied together by the thread of speculation. The very essence of science is to reason from the known to the unknown.
In Philip Dorf, Liberty Hyde Bailey: An Informal Biography: a Pioneer Educator in Horticulture (1956), 136.
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The skein of human continuity must often become this tenuous across the centuries (hanging by a thread, in the old cliche’), but the circle remains unbroken if I can touch the ink of Lavoisier’s own name, written by his own hand. A candle of light, nurtured by the oxygen of his greatest discovery, never burns out if we cherish the intellectual heritage of such unfractured filiation across the ages. We may also wish to contemplate the genuine physical thread of nucleic acid that ties each of us to the common bacterial ancestor of all living creatures, born on Lavoisier’s ancienne terre more than 3.5 billion years ago– and never since disrupted, not for one moment, not for one generation. Such a legacy must be worth preserving from all the guillotines of our folly.
…...
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These Disciplines [mathematics] serve to inure and corroborate the Mind to a constant Diligence in Study; to undergo the Trouble of an attentive Meditation, and cheerfully contend with such Difficulties as lie in the Way. They wholly deliver us from a credulous Simplicity, most strongly fortify us against the Vanity of Scepticism, effectually restrain from a rash Presumption, most easily incline us to a due Assent, perfectly subject us to the Government of right Reason, and inspire us with Resolution to wrestle against the unjust Tyranny of false Prejudices. If the Fancy be unstable and fluctuating, it is to be poized by this Ballast, and steadied by this Anchor, if the Wit be blunt it is sharpened upon this Whetstone; if luxuriant it is pared by this Knife; if headstrong it is restrained by this Bridle; and if dull it is rouzed by this Spur. The Steps are guided by no Lamp more clearly through the dark Mazes of Nature, by no Thread more surely through the intricate Labyrinths of Philosophy, nor lastly is the Bottom of Truth sounded more happily by any other Line. I will not mention how plentiful a Stock of Knowledge the Mind is furnished from these, with what wholesome Food it is nourished, and what sincere Pleasure it enjoys. But if I speak farther, I shall neither be the only Person, nor the first, who affirms it; that while the Mind is abstracted and elevated from sensible Matter, distinctly views pure Forms, conceives the Beauty of Ideas, and investigates the Harmony of Proportions; the Manners themselves are sensibly corrected and improved, the Affections composed and rectified, the Fancy calmed and settled, and the Understanding raised and excited to more divine Contemplations. All which I might defend by Authority, and confirm by the Suffrages of the greatest Philosophers.
Prefatory Oration in Mathematical Lectures (1734), xxxi.
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Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority.
In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951), 31-32.
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Upon the whole, Chymistry is as yet but an opening science, closely connected with the usefull and ornamental arts, and worthy the attention of the liberal mind. And it must always become more and more so: for though it is only of late, that it has been looked upon in that light, the great progress already made in Chymical knowledge, gives us a pleasant prospect of rich additions to it. The Science is now studied on solid and rational grounds. While our knowledge is imperfect, it is apt to run into error: but Experiment is the thread that will lead us out of the labyrinth.
In Alexander Law, Notes of Black's Lectures, vol. 3, 88. Cited in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography: Volumes 1-2 (1981), 181.
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Within the nucleus [of a cell] is a network of fibers, a sap fills the interstices of the network. The network resolves itself into a definite number of threads at each division of the cell. These threads we call chromosomes. Each species of animals and plants possesses a characteristic number of these threads which have definite size and sometimes a specific shape and even characteristic granules at different levels. Beyond this point our strongest microscopes fail to penetrate.
In A Critique of the Theory of Evolution (1916), 91.
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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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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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