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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index U > Category: Useful

Useful Quotes (98 quotes)

Deliberare utilia, mora est tutissima.
To deliberate about useful things, is the safest delay.
In 'Ornamenta Rationalia, or, Elegant Sentences' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), No. 6, 362.
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Engineering, too, owes its most useful materials to the achievements of chemists in identifying, separating, and transforming materials: structural steel for the framework of bridges and buildings, portland cement for roadways and aqueducts, pure copper for the electrical industries, aluminum alloys for automobiles and airplanes, porcelain for spark plugs and electrical insulators. The triumphs of engineering skill rest on a chemical foundation.
In Fundamental Chemistry, and Elementary Textbook for College Classes (1936), 8.
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Le savant n’étudie pas la nature parce que cela est utile; il l’étudie parce qu’il y prend plaisir et il y prend plaisir parce qu’elle est belle. Si la nature n’était pas belle, elle ne vaudrait pas la peine d’être connue, la vie ne vaudrait pas la peine d’être vécue.
The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.
In Science et Méthode (1920), 48, as translated by Francis Maitland, in Science and Method (1908, 1952), 15.
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L’Astronomie est utile, parce qu’elle nous élève au-dessus de nous-mêmes; elle est utile, parce qu’elle est grande; elle est utile, parce qu’elle est belle… C’est elle qui nous montre combien l’homme est petit par le corps et combien il est grand par l’esprit, puisque cette immensité éclatante où son corps n’est qu’un point obscur, son intelligence peut l’embrasser tout entière et en goûter la silencieuse harmonie.
Astronomy is useful because it raises us above ourselves; it is useful because it is grand[; it is useful because it is beautiful]… It shows us how small is man’s body, how great his mind, since his intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity, where his body is only an obscure point, and enjoy its silent harmony.
In La Valeur de la Science (1904), 276, translated by George Bruce Halsted, in The Value of Science (1907), 84. Webmaster added the meaning of “elle est utile, parce qu’elle est belle,” in brackets, which was absent in Halsted’s translation.
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Nisi utile est quod facias, stulta est gloria.
All useless science is an empty boast.
Original Latin from 'Arbores in deorum tutela', Fabulae Aesopiae, Book 3, Poem 17, line 12. Translation by Samuel Johnson, used as an epigraph for an article on the thirst for collecting scientific curiosities, 'Numb. 83, Tuesday, January 1, 1755', The Rambler (1756), Vol. 2, 149. A mechanical translation of the Latin gives “Unless it is useful for what we do, it is the glory of the foolish.” In an 1874 collection by unnamed editor J.B.R., it is given as “nothing is truly valuable that is not useful.” It is given as “Unless what we do is useful, our pride is foolish,” in The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2013), 74. Briefly summarizing, the fable is about the gods who choose trees to protect, but the wise Minerva alone picks a tree, the olive, that bears fruit which can be put to good use; moral, do what is useful. ( Webmaster found sources attributing the line in English to Shakespeare, but it cannot be found.)
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Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci.
He gains everyone’s approval who mixes the pleasant with the useful.
Horace
In Ars Poetica (c. 18 BC), line 343. As translated and cited in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 123.
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A celebrated medical lecturer began one day “Fumigations, gentlemen, are of essential importance. They make such an abominable smell that they compel you to open the window.” I wish all the disinfecting fluids invented made such an “abominable smell” that they forced you to admit fresh air. That would be a useful invention.
In Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1860), 28.
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A large part of mathematics which becomes useful developed with absolutely no desire to be useful, and in a situation where nobody could possibly know in what area it would become useful; and there were no general indications that it ever would be so.
From Address (1954) to Princeton Alumni, 'The Role of Mathematics in the Sciences and in Society', published in A.H. Taub (ed.), John von Neumann: Collected Works (1963), Vol. 6, 489. As quoted and cited in Rosemary Schmalz,Out of the Mouths of Mathematicians: A Quotation Book for Philomaths (1993), 123.
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A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
In 'Preface on Doctors', The Doctor's Dilemma (1909, 1911), lxxxv.
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A powerful telescope superior to and more powerful than any telescope ever yet made … and also, a suitable Observatory connected therewith … and shall be made useful in promoting science.
From Third Deed of Trust (1874). Excepted in 'Formal Recognition of the Transfer of the Lick Observatory to the Board of Regents of the University', Annual Report of the Secretary to the Board of Regents of the University of California For the Year Ending June 30, 1888, 125.
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A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relations.
In The Conquest of Happiness (1930), Chap. 9, 156.
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A theory is a supposition which we hope to be true, a hypothesis is a supposition which we expect to be useful; fictions belong to the realm of art; if made to intrude elsewhere, they become either make-believes or mistakes.
As quoted by William Ramsay, in 'Radium and Its Products', Harper’s Magazine (Dec 1904), 52. The first part, about suppositions, appears in a paper read by G. Johnson Stoney to the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia (3 Apr 1903), printed in 'On the Dependence of What Apparently Takes Place in Nature Upon What Actually Occurs in the Universe of Real Existences', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge (Apr-May 1903) 42, No. 173, 107. If you know a primary source for the part on fictions and mistakes, please contact Webmaster.
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Abstractness, sometimes hurled as a reproach at mathematics, is its chief glory and its surest title to practical usefulness. It is also the source of such beauty as may spring from mathematics.
In 'General Prospectus', The Development of Mathematics (1940, 2017), Chap. 1, 9.
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Abstruse mathematical researches … are … often abused for having no obvious physical application. The fact is that the most useful parts of science have been investigated for the sake of truth, and not for their usefulness. A new branch of mathematics, which has sprung up in the last twenty years, was denounced by the Astronomer Royal before the University of Cambridge as doomed to be forgotten, on account of its uselessness. Now it turns out that the reason why we cannot go further in our investigations of molecular action is that we do not know enough of this branch of mathematics.
In 'Conditions of Mental Development', Lectures and Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 115.
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All knowledge is profitable; profitable in its ennobling effect on the character, in the pleasure it imparts in its acquisition, as well as in the power it gives over the operations of mind and of matter. All knowledge is useful; every part of this complex system of nature is connected with every other. Nothing is isolated. The discovery of to-day, which appears unconnected with any useful process, may, in the course of a few years, become the fruitful source of a thousand inventions.
In 'Report of the Secretary', Sixth Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1851 (1852), 10.
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Although my Aachen colleagues and students at first regarded the “pure mathematician” with suspicion, I soon had the satisfaction of being accepted a useful member not merely in teaching but also engineering practice; thus I was requested to render expert opinions and to participate in the Ingenieurverein [engineering association].
As quoted in Paul Forman and Armin Hermann, 'Sommerfeld, Arnold (Johannes Wilhelm)', Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975), Vol. 12, 527. Cited from 'Autobiographische Skizze', Gesammelte Schriften, Vol 4, 673–682.
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Applied research generates improvements, not breakthroughs. Great scientific advances spring from pure research. Even scientists renowned for their “useful” applied discoveries often achieved success only when they abandoned their ostensible applied-science goal and allowed their minds to soar—as when Alexander Fleming, “just playing about,” refrained from throwing away green molds that had ruined his experiment, studied them, and discovered penicillin. Or when C. A. Clarke, a physician affiliated with the University of Liverpool, became intrigued in the 1950s by genetically created color patterns that emerged when he cross-bred butterflies as a hobby. His fascination led him—“by the pleasant route of pursuing idle curiosity”—to the successful idea for preventing the sometimes fatal anemia that threatened babies born of a positive-Rhesus-factor father and a negative-Rhesus-factor mother.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 214-215.
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Archimedes was not free from the prevailing notion that geometry was degraded by being employed to produce anything useful. It was with difficulty that he was induced to stoop from speculation to practice. He was half ashamed of those inventions which were the wonder of hostile nations, and always spoke of them slightingly as mere amusements, as trifles in which a mathematician might be suffered to relax his mind after intense application to the higher parts of his science.
In Lord Bacon', Edinburgh Review (Jul 1887), in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1879), Vol. 1, 395.
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As an answer to those who are in the habit of saying to every new fact, “ What is its use ?” Dr. Franklin says to such, “What is the use of an infant?” The answer of the experimentalist would be, “Endeavour to make it useful.”
From 5th Lecture in 1816, in Bence Jones, The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 1, 218.
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By and large it is uniformly true in mathematics that there is a time lapse between a mathematical discovery and the moment when it is useful; and that this lapse of time can be anything from 30 to 100 years, in some cases even more.
From Address (1954) to Princeton Alumni, 'The Role of Mathematics in the Sciences and in Society', published in A.H. Taub (ed.), John von Neumann: Collected Works (1963), Vol. 6, 489. As quoted and cited in Rosemary Schmalz,Out of the Mouths of Mathematicians: A Quotation Book for Philomaths (1993), 123.
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Chemistry is the study of the effects of heat and mixture, with a view of discovering their general and subordinate laws, and of improving the useful arts.
This is an editor’s shorter restatement of the definition given by Black in the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 11, footnote. For the definitions as given by Black, see elsewhere on this web page.
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Committees are dangerous things that need most careful watching. I believe that a research committee can do one useful thing and one only. It can find the workers best fitted to attack a particular problem, bring them together, give them the facilities they need, and leave them to get on with the work. It can review progress from time to time, and make adjustments; but if it tries to do more, it will do harm.
Attributed.
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Concepts that have proven useful in ordering thi ngs easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens.
…...
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Data isn't information. ... Information, unlike data, is useful. While there’s a gulf between data and information, there’s a wide ocean between information and knowledge. What turns the gears in our brains isn't information, but ideas, inventions, and inspiration. Knowledge—not information—implies understanding. And beyond knowledge lies what we should be seeking: wisdom.
In High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian (2000), 185-186.
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Engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and the convenience of people. In its modern form engineering involves people, money, materials, machines, and energy. It is differentiated from science because it is primarily concerned with how to direct to useful and economical ends the natural phenomena which scientists discover and formulate into acceptable theories. Engineering therefore requires above all the creative imagination to innovate useful applications of natural phenomena. It seeks newer, cheaper, better means of using natural sources of energy and materials.
In McGraw Hill, Science and Technology Encyclopedia
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For example, there are numbers of chemists who occupy themselves exclusively with the study of dyestuffs. They discover facts that are useful to scientific chemistry; but they do not rank as genuine scientific men. The genuine scientific chemist cares just as much to learn about erbium—the extreme rarity of which renders it commercially unimportant—as he does about iron. He is more eager to learn about erbium if the knowledge of it would do more to complete his conception of the Periodic Law, which expresses the mutual relations of the elements.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 20.
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For this we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague?
'The Laws of Habit', The Popular Science Monthly (Feb 1887), 434.
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Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.
…...
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Human societies increased the abundance and distribution of useful species. This can also be used to preserve the forest, I think. We can use this as an opportunity to reduce the impacts of deforestation. Now we have huge plantations of soybeans that are destroying the Amazon—while in the forest we have lots of plants that can be used while maintaining the forest as it is.
As quoted in Robinson Meyer, 'The Amazon Rainforest Was Profoundly Changed by Ancient Humans', The Atlantic (2 Mar 2017).
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Hypotheses may be useful, though involving much that is superfluous, and even erroneous: for they may supply the true bond of connexion of the facts; and the superfluity and error may afterwards be pared away.
Aphorism 11, 'Aphorisms Concerning Science', The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840), Vol. 1, xxxvi.
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I believe that the useful methods of mathematics are easily to be learned by quite young persons, just as languages are easily learned in youth. What a wondrous philosophy and history underlie the use of almost every word in every language—yet the child learns to use the word unconsciously. No doubt when such a word was first invented it was studied over and lectured upon, just as one might lecture now upon the idea of a rate, or the use of Cartesian co-ordinates, and we may depend upon it that children of the future will use the idea of the calculus, and use squared paper as readily as they now cipher. … When Egyptian and Chaldean philosophers spent years in difficult calculations, which would now be thought easy by young children, doubtless they had the same notions of the depth of their knowledge that Sir William Thomson might now have of his. How is it, then, that Thomson gained his immense knowledge in the time taken by a Chaldean philosopher to acquire a simple knowledge of arithmetic? The reason is plain. Thomson, when a child, was taught in a few years more than all that was known three thousand years ago of the properties of numbers. When it is found essential to a boy’s future that machinery should be given to his brain, it is given to him; he is taught to use it, and his bright memory makes the use of it a second nature to him; but it is not till after-life that he makes a close investigation of what there actually is in his brain which has enabled him to do so much. It is taken because the child has much faith. In after years he will accept nothing without careful consideration. The machinery given to the brain of children is getting more and more complicated as time goes on; but there is really no reason why it should not be taken in as early, and used as readily, as were the axioms of childish education in ancient Chaldea.
In Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 14.
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I confess, that after I began … to discern how useful mathematicks may be made to physicks, I have often wished that I had employed about the speculative part of geometry, and the cultivation of the specious Algebra I had been taught very young, a good part of that time and industry, that I had spent about surveying and fortification (of which I remember I once wrote an entire treatise) and other parts of practick mathematicks.
In 'The Usefulness of Mathematiks to Natural Philosophy', Works (1772), Vol. 3, 426.
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I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.
In 'The Science Of Deduction', A Study In Scarlet (1887, 1904), 15-16.
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If any student comes to me and says he wants to be useful to mankind and go into research to alleviate human suffering, I advise him to go into charity instead. Research wants real egotists who seek their own pleasure and satisfaction, but find it in solving the puzzles of nature.
In Science Today (May 1980), 35. In Vladimir Burdyuzha, The Future of Life and the Future of Our Civilization (2006), 374.
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If every drug in the world were abolished a physician would still be a useful member of society.
As quoted in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xxv.
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In destroying the predisposition to anger, science of all kind is useful; but the mathematics possess this property in the most eminent degree.
Quoted in Day, Collacon (no date).
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In Japan, an exceptional dexterity that comes from eating with chopsticks … is especially useful in micro-assembly. (This … brings smiles from my colleagues, but I stand by it. Much of modern assembly is fine tweezer work, and nothing prepares for it better than eating with chopsticks from early childhood.)
In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (1998, 1999), 475.
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In working out physical problems there should be, in the first place, no pretence of rigorous formalism. The physics will guide the physicist along somehow to useful and important results, by the constant union of physical and geometrical or analytical ideas. The practice of eliminating the physics by reducing a problem to a purely mathematical exercise should be avoided as much as possible. The physics should be carried on right through, to give life and reality to the problem, and to obtain the great assistance which the physics gives to the mathematics.
In Electromagnetic Theory (1892), Vol. 2, 5.
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Instrumental or mechanical science is the noblest and above all others, the most useful.
(Sul volo degli Uccelli, 3 r.) In Edward McCurdy (ed., trans.), Leonardo da Vinci’s Note-Books: Arranged and Rendered into English (1908), 47.
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It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them.
Epigraph in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), 11.
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It is folly to use as one's guide in the selection of fundamental science the criterion of utility. Not because (scientists)... despise utility. But because. .. useful outcomes are best identified after the making of discoveries, rather than before.
Concerning the allocation of research funds.
Speech to the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science, Toronto (2 Jun 1996)
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It is like the difference between a specialist and a philosopher. A specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less until at last he knows everything about nothing. A philosopher is someone who knows less and less about more and more until at last he knows nothing about everything. Physics is now too philosophical. In my work I would like to reverse the process, and to try to limit the things to be found out and to make some modest discoveries which may later be useful.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 74.
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It is not enough to teach man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine, but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he—with his specialized knowledge—more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person.
From interview with Benjamin Fine, 'Einstein Stresses Critical Thinking', New York Times (5 Oct 1952), 37.
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It is the function of notions in science to be useful, to be interesting, to be verifiable and to acquire value from anyone of these qualities. Scientific notions have little to gain as science from being forced into relation with that formidable abstraction, “general truth.”
In paper delivered before the Royal College of Surgeons of England (15 Feb 1932), in 'The Commemoration of Great Men', British Medical Journal (1932), 1, 32. Collected in The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 29.
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It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas … If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you … On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.
In 'The Burden of Skepticism', Skeptical Inquirer (Fall 1987), 12, No. 1.
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Kepler’s discovery would not have been possible without the doctrine of conics. Now contemporaries of Kepler—such penetrating minds as Descartes and Pascal—were abandoning the study of geometry ... because they said it was so UTTERLY USELESS. There was the future of the human race almost trembling in the balance; for had not the geometry of conic sections already been worked out in large measure, and had their opinion that only sciences apparently useful ought to be pursued, the nineteenth century would have had none of those characters which distinguish it from the ancien régime.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 32.
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Man does not live by bread alone, there are other wants to be supplied, and even in a practical point of view, a single thought may be fraught with a thousand useful inventions.
Presidential Address (Aug 1853) to the American Association for the Advancement of Education, in Proceedings of the Third Session of the American Association for the Advancement of Education (1854), 29.
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Models so constructed, though of no practical value, serve a useful academic function. The oldest problem in economic education is how to exclude the incompetent. The requirement that there be an ability to master difficult models, including ones for which mathematical competence is required, is a highly useful screening device.
In Economics, Peace, and Laughter (1981), 40-41.
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No body can desire more ardently than myself to concur in whatever may promote useful science, and I view no science with more partiality than Natural history.
Letter (24 May 1807) from Jefferson in Washington to G.C. de la Coste.
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No more impressive warning can be given to those who would confine knowledge and research to what is apparently useful, than the reflection that conic sections were studied for eighteen hundred years merely as an abstract science, without regard to any utility other than to satisfy the craving for knowledge on the part of mathematicians, and that then at the end of this long period of abstract study, they were found to be the necessary key with which to attain the knowledge of the most important laws of nature.
In Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 136-137.
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Objections … inspired Kronecker and others to attack Weierstrass’ “sequential” definition of irrationals. Nevertheless, right or wrong, Weierstrass and his school made the theory work. The most useful results they obtained have not yet been questioned, at least on the ground of their great utility in mathematical analysis and its implications, by any competent judge in his right mind. This does not mean that objections cannot be well taken: it merely calls attention to the fact that in mathematics, as in everything else, this earth is not yet to be confused with the Kingdom of Heaven, that perfection is a chimaera, and that, in the words of Crelle, we can only hope for closer and closer approximations to mathematical truth—whatever that may be, if anything—precisely as in the Weierstrassian theory of convergent sequences of rationals defining irrationals.
In Men of Mathematics (1937), 431-432.
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One might describe the mathematical quality in Nature by saying that the universe is so constituted that mathematics is a useful tool in its description. However, recent advances in physical science show that this statement of the case is too trivial. The connection between mathematics and the description of the universe goes far deeper than this, and one can get an appreciation of it only from a thorough examination of the various facts that make it up.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 122.
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Only the applied scientist sets out to find a “useful” pot of gold. The pure scientist sets out to find nothing. Anything. Everything. The applied scientist is a prospector. The pure scientist is an explorer.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 181.
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Quite distinct from the theoretical question of the manner in which mathematics will rescue itself from the perils to which it is exposed by its own prolific nature is the practical problem of finding means of rendering available for the student the results which have been already accumulated, and making it possible for the learner to obtain some idea of the present state of the various departments of mathematics. … The great mass of mathematical literature will be always contained in Journals and Transactions, but there is no reason why it should not be rendered far more useful and accessible than at present by means of treatises or higher text-books. The whole science suffers from want of avenues of approach, and many beautiful branches of mathematics are regarded as difficult and technical merely because they are not easily accessible. … I feel very strongly that any introduction to a new subject written by a competent person confers a real benefit on the whole science. The number of excellent text-books of an elementary kind that are published in this country makes it all the more to be regretted that we have so few that are intended for the advanced student. As an example of the higher kind of text-book, the want of which is so badly felt in many subjects, I may mention the second part of Prof. Chrystal’s Algebra published last year, which in a small compass gives a great mass of valuable and fundamental knowledge that has hitherto been beyond the reach of an ordinary student, though in reality lying so close at hand. I may add that in any treatise or higher text-book it is always desirable that references to the original memoirs should be given, and, if possible, short historic notices also. I am sure that no subject loses more than mathematics by any attempt to dissociate it from its history.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Section A (1890), Nature, 42, 466.
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George E.P. Box quote: Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not
[Co-author with Norman R. Draper] (source)
Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful. [Co-author with Norman R. Draper]
In George E.P. Box and Norman R. Draper, Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces (1987), 74.
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Science by itself produces a very badly deformed man who becomes rounded out into a useful creative being only with great difficulty and large expenditure of time. … It is a much smaller matter to both teach and learn pure science than it is to intelligently apply this science to the solution of problems as they arise in daily life.
As quoted in Gary W. Matkin, Technology Transfer and the University (1990), 24.
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Science is like sex: sometimes something useful comes out, but that is not the reason we are doing it.
Anonymous
This, and variations, appear in various places attributed (highly likely incorrectly) to Richard Feynman, but without any primary source citation. For example, see John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People? : Smart Quotes for Dumb Times (2009), 274. It is also very suspicious that no example, readily found on the internet, is dated earlier than 2000, yet such a salacious remark surely would have seen the light of day long before that! Also seen worded beginning with: "Physics is….” If you know any instance of this quote published before 2000, please contact Webmaster.
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Scientific knowledge is the most reliable and useful knowledge that human beings possess.
Anonymous
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Skepticism is a useful tool of the inquisitive mind, but it is scarcely a method of investigation.
(1928). As quoted, without source, in James P. Vanyo, 'The Legal System: Can it be Analyzed to Suit the Scientist?', Jurimetric Journal (Winter 1973), 14, No. 2, 106.
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Sometimes a hunch, right or wrong, is sufficient theory to lead to a useful observation.
In On the Management of Statistical Techniques for Quality and Productivity (1981), 86.
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Starting from statistical observations, it is possible to arrive at conclusions which not less reliable or useful than those obtained in any other exact science. It is only necessary to apply a clear and precise concept of probability to such observations.
In Probability, Statistics, and Truth (1939), 1. In the 1957 edition, this was rewritten as, “Starting from statistical observations and applying to them a clear and precise concept of probability it is possible to arrive at conclusions which are just as reliable and “truth-full” and quite as practically useful as those obtained in any other exact science.”
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Such explosives [atomic bombs] in men’s hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope ‘this will ensure peace’.
From Letter (No. 102) to Christopher Tolkien (9 Aug 1945). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 116, Letter No. 102.
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That form of popular science which merely recites the results of investigations, which merely communicates useful knowledge, is from this standpoint bad science, or no science at all. … Apply this test to every work professing to give a popular account of any branch of science. If any such work gives a description of phenomena that appeals to his imagination rather than to his reason, then it is bad science.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 12.
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That mathematics “do not cultivate the power of generalization,”; … will be admitted by no person of competent knowledge, except in a very qualified sense. The generalizations of mathematics, are, no doubt, a different thing from the generalizations of physical science; but in the difficulty of seizing them, and the mental tension they require, they are no contemptible preparation for the most arduous efforts of the scientific mind. Even the fundamental notions of the higher mathematics, from those of the differential calculus upwards are products of a very high abstraction. … To perceive the mathematical laws common to the results of many mathematical operations, even in so simple a case as that of the binomial theorem, involves a vigorous exercise of the same faculty which gave us Kepler’s laws, and rose through those laws to the theory of universal gravitation. Every process of what has been called Universal Geometry—the great creation of Descartes and his successors, in which a single train of reasoning solves whole classes of problems at once, and others common to large groups of them—is a practical lesson in the management of wide generalizations, and abstraction of the points of agreement from those of difference among objects of great and confusing diversity, to which the purely inductive sciences cannot furnish many superior. Even so elementary an operation as that of abstracting from the particular configuration of the triangles or other figures, and the relative situation of the particular lines or points, in the diagram which aids the apprehension of a common geometrical demonstration, is a very useful, and far from being always an easy, exercise of the faculty of generalization so strangely imagined to have no place or part in the processes of mathematics.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 612-13.
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That scientific work should be more useful the more it has been used, while mechanical work is expended in use, may seem strange to us.
From 'The Economy of Science' in The Science of Mechanics: A Critical and Historical Exposition of its Principles (1893), 488.
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The advancement of agriculture, commerce and manufactures, by all proper means, will not, I trust, need recommendation. But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home.
Early suggestion for awarding patent protection. In First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union (8 Jan 1790).
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The anatomist presents to the eye the most hideous and disagreeable objects, but his science is useful to the painter in delineating even a Venus or a Helen.
Inquiry Concerning the Human Understanding collected in The Philosophical Works of David Hume (1826), Vol. 4, 8.
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The examination system, and the fact that instruction is treated mainly as a training for a livelihood, leads the young to regard knowledge from a purely utilitarian point of view as the road to money, not as the gateway to wisdom.
In 'Education as a Political Institution', Atlantic Monthly, (Jun 1916), 117 755. Also in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916, 2013), 113.
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The first steps in Agriculture, Astronomy, Zoology, (those first steps which the farmer, the hunter, and the sailor take,) teach that nature's dice are always loaded; that in her heaps and rubbish are concealed sure and useful results.
In Nature (1849), 36.
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The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it so as to become habits ready on all occasions.
In The Morals of Chess. As quoted in The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle (1787), 590.
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The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture; especially, a bread grain; next in value to bread is oil.
In Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies from the Papers of T. Jefferson (1829), Vol. 1, 144.
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The hypotheses which we accept ought to explain phenomena which we have observed. But they ought to do more than this; our hypotheses ought to foretell phenomena which have not yet been observed; ... because if the rule prevails, it includes all cases; and will determine them all, if we can only calculate its real consequences. Hence it will predict the results of new combinations, as well as explain the appearances which have occurred in old ones. And that it does this with certainty and correctness, is one mode in which the hypothesis is to be verified as right and useful.
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1847), Vol. 2, 62-63.
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The powerful notion of entropy, which comes from a very special branch of physics … is certainly useful in the study of communication and quite helpful when applied in the theory of language.
From 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 67.
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The results of mathematics are seldom directly applied; it is the definitions that are really useful. Once you learn the concept of a differential equation, you see differential equations all over, no matter what you do. This you cannot see unless you take a course in abstract differential equations. What applies is the cultural background you get from a course in differential equations, not the specific theorems. If you want to learn French, you have to live the life of France, not just memorize thousands of words. If you want to apply mathematics, you have to live the life of differential equations. When you live this life, you can then go back to molecular biology with a new set of eyes that will see things you could not otherwise see.
In 'A Mathematician's Gossip', Indiscrete Thoughts (2008), 213.
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The seemingly useless or trivial observation made by one worker leads on to a useful observation by another: and so science advances, “creeping on from point to point.”
Lecture 6, collected in Light Visible and Invisible: A Series of Lectures Delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, at Christmas, 1896 (1897), 276.
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The wise man, however, will avoid partial views of things. He will not, with the miser, look to gold and silver as the only blessings of life; nor will he, with the cynic, snarl at mankind for preferring them to copper and iron. … That which is convenient is that which is useful, and that which is useful is that which is valuable.
From 13th Lecture in 1818, in Bence Jones, The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 1, 255.
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This is the geologist—this works with the scalpel—and this is a mathematician.
, Gentlemen! to you the first honors always:
Your facts are useful and real—and yet they are not my dwelling;
(I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.)
In Leaves of Grass (1867), 49.
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Those who are fruitful in useful inventions and discoveries, in the practical mechanical arts, are men, not only of the greatest utility, but possess an understanding, which should be most highly estimated.
From 'Artist and Mechanic', The artist & Tradesman’s Guide: embracing some leading facts & principles of science, and a variety of matter adapted to the wants of the artist, mechanic, manufacturer, and mercantile community (1827), 143.
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Though we must not without further consideration condemn a body of reasoning merely because it is easy, nevertheless we must not allow ourselves to be lured on merely by easiness; and we should take care that every problem which we choose for attack, whether it be easy or difficult, shall have a useful purpose, that it shall contribute in some measure to the up-building of the great edifice.
From 'On Some Recent Tendencies in Geometric Investigation', Rivista di Matematica (1891), 63. In Bulletin American Mathematical Society (1904), 465.
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To some men knowledge of the universe has been an end possessing in itself a value that is absolute: to others it has seemed a means of useful applications.
In The Structure of Physical Chemistry (1951, 2005), 2.
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To the manufacturer, chemistry has lately become fruitful of instruction and assistance. In the arts of brewing, tanning, dying, and bleaching, its doctrines are important guides. In making soap, glass, pottery, and all metallic wares, its principles are daily applied, and are capable of a still more useful application, as they become better understood.
From 'Artist and Mechanic', The artist & Tradesman’s Guide: embracing some leading facts & principles of science, and a variety of matter adapted to the wants of the artist, mechanic, manufacturer, and mercantile community (1827), 9.
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True science is distinctively the study of useless things. For the useful things will get studied without the aid of scientific men. To employ these rare minds on such work is like running a steam engine by burning diamonds.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 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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We are a spectacular, splendid manifestation of life. We have language… We have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a “common goal” for all of nature as I can guess at.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1995), 16-17.
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We cannot get more out of the mathematical mill than we put into it, though we may get it in a form infinitely more useful for our purpose.
In James Forrest Lecture (1894).
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We have no organ at all for knowledge, for ‘truth’: we ‘know’ (or believe or imagine) precisely as much as may be useful in the interest of the human herd, the species: and even what is here called ‘usefulness’ is in the end only a belief, something imagined and perhaps precisely that most fatal piece of stupidity by which we shall one day perish.
Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. 3, p. 593, eds. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin, de Gruyter (1980). The Gay Science, second edition, 'Fifth Book: We Fearless Ones,' section 354 (1887).
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Well, there’s no doubt about the fact that, that higher energy prices lead to greater conservation, greater energy efficiency, and they also, of course, play a useful role on the supply side.
John Snow
…...
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What Art was to the ancient world, Science is to the modern: the distinctive faculty. In the minds of men the useful has succeeded to the beautiful. … There are great truths to tell, if we had either the courage to announce them or the temper to receive them.
In Coningsby: or the New Generation (1844), Vol. 2, Book 4, Chap. 1, 2.
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What science can there be more noble, more excellent, more useful for men, more admirably high and demonstrative, than this of the mathematics?
In 'On the Usefulness of Mathematics', Works (1840), Vol. 2, 69.
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When you are identifying science of the motion of water, remember to include under each subject its application and use, so that the science will be useful.
…...
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William Blake called division the sin of man; Faraday was a great man because he was utterly undivided. His whole, very harmonious, very well balanced, … and used the brain in the limited way in which it is useful…. [H]e built up his few but precious speculations. Their simplicity rivals with their forcefulness.
In 'The Scientific Grammar of Michael Faraday’s Diaries', Part I, 'The Classic of Science', A Classic and a Founder (1937), collected in Rosenstock-Huessy Papers (1981), Vol. 1, 7.
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You may perceive something of the distinction which I think necessary to keep in view between art and science, between the artist and the man of knowledge, or the philosopher. The man of knowledge, the philosopher, is he who studies and acquires knowledge in order to improve his own mind; and with a desire of extending the department of knowledge to which he turns his attention, or to render it useful to the world, by discoveries, or by inventions, which may be the foundation of new arts, or of improvements in those already established. Excited by one or more of these motives, the philosopher employs himself in acquiring knowledge and in communicating it. The artist only executes and practises what the philosopher or man of invention has discovered or contrived, while the business of the trader is to retail the productions of the artist, exchange some of them for others, and transport them to distant places for that purpose.
From the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 3.
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[About the mechanical properties of the molecules of a chemical substance being studied:] They could be measured, but that would have taken several months. So someone said, ‘Let’s get Teller in and make him guess the data.’ We got him into a room and locked the door, so no one else could get at him, and he asked questions and did some figuring at the blackboard. He got the answers in about two hours, not entirely accurately, of course, but—as we found out when we got around to verifying them—close enough for the purpose.
Recalls the first time she was ever really awed by mental abilities of Edward Teller. She had joined the Manhattan Project, and needed data on the physical properties of molecules of a certain substance to get started on her assigned task of calculating its chemical properties. As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 61.
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[Charles Kettering] is unique in that he combines in one individual the interest in pure science with the practical ability to apply knowledge in useful devices.
As quoted in book review, T.A. Boyd, 'Charles F. Kettering: Prophet of Progress', Science (30 Jan 1959), 256.
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[For the] increase of knowledge and … the useful application of the knowledge gained, … there never is a sudden beginning; even the cloud change which portends the thunderstorm begins slowly.
From address, 'A Medical Retrospect'. Published in Yale Medical Journal (Oct 1910), 17, No. 2, 59.
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[In mathematics] There are two kinds of mistakes. There are fatal mistakes that destroy a theory, but there are also contingent ones, which are useful in testing the stability of a theory.
In 'Ten Lessons I Wish I Had Been Taught', Indiscrete Thoughts (2008), 202.
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[On gold, silver, mercury, platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium:] As in their physical properties so in their chemical properties. Their affinities being weaker, (the noble metals) do not present that variety of combinations, belonging to the more common metals, which renders them so extensively useful in the arts; nor are they, in consequence, so necessary and important in the operations of nature. They do not assist in her hands in breaking down rocks and strata into soil, nor do they help man to make that soil productive or to collect for him its products.
From 13th Lecture in 1818, in Bence Jones, The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 1, 254.
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“That’s another thing we’ve learned from your Nation,” said Mein Herr, “map-making. But we’ve carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?”
“About six inches to the mile.”
“Only six inches!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!
“Have you used it much?” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”
From Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), 169.
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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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