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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index V > Category: Vital

Vital Quotes (85 quotes)

... the cooperative forces are biologically the more important and vital. The balance between the cooperative and altruistic tendencies and those which are disoperative and egoistic is relatively close. Under many conditions the cooperative forces lose, In the long run, however, the group centered, more altruistic drives are slightly stronger. ... human altruistic drives are as firmly based on an animal ancestry as is man himself. Our tendencies toward goodness... are as innate as our tendencies toward intelligence; we could do well with more of both.
Where Angels Fear to Tread: A contribution from general sociology to human ethics, Science, vol 97, 1943, p.521
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A physician’s subject of study is necessarily the patient, and his first field for observation is the hospital. But if clinical observation teaches him to know the form and course of diseases, it cannot suffice to make him understand their nature; to this end he must penetrate into the body to find which of the internal parts are injured in their functions. That is why dissection of cadavers and microscopic study of diseases were soon added to clinical observation. But to-day these various methods no longer suffice; we must push investigation further and, in analyzing the elementary phenomena of organic bodies, must compare normal with abnormal states. We showed elsewhere how incapable is anatomy alone to take account of vital phenenoma, and we saw that we must add study of all physico-chemical conditions which contribute necessary elements to normal or pathological manifestations of life. This simple suggestion already makes us feel that the laboratory of a physiologist-physician must be the most complicated of all laboratories, because he has to experiment with phenomena of life which are the most complex of all natural phenomena.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 140-141.
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A vital phenomenon can only be regarded as explained if it has been proven that it appears as the result of the material components of living organisms interacting according to the laws which those same components follow in their interactions outside of living systems.
Gesammelte Schriften (1904), Vol. 3, 767. Trans. Paul F. Cranefield, 'The Organic Physics of 1847 and the Biophysics of Today', Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1957, 12, 410.
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Among natural bodies some have, and some have not, life; and by life we mean the faculties of self-nourishment, self-growth and self-decay. Thus every natural body partaking of life may be regarded as an essential existence; … but then it is an existence only in combination. … And since the organism is such a combination, being possessed of life, it cannot be the Vital Principle. Therefore it follows that the Vital Principle most be an essence, as being the form of a natural body, holding life in potentiality; but essence is a reality (entetechie). The Vital Principle is the original reality of a natural body endowed with potential life; this, however, is to be understood only of a body which may be organized. Thus the parts even of plants are organs, but they are organs that are altogether simple; as the leaf which is the covering of the pericarp, the pericarp of the fruit. If, then, there be any general formula for every kind of Vital Principle, it is—tthe primary reality of an organism.
Aristotle
In George Henry Lewes, Aristotle (1864), 231.
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An animal might be frozen to death in the midst of summer by repeatedly sprinkling ether upon him, for its evaporation would shortly carry off the whole of his vital heat.
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), 12.
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And why does England thus persecute the votaries of her science? Why does she depress them to the level of her hewers of wood and her drawers of water? Is it because science flatters no courtier, mingles in no political strife? … Can we behold unmoved the science of England, the vital principle of her arts, struggling for existence, the meek and unarmed victim of political strife?
From his review of the book by Charles Babbage, Reflections on the Decline of Science in England(1830). In Quarterly Review, 1830, 43, 323-4.
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Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally good mastery of one’s native tongue is the most vital asset of a competent programmer.
…...
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Built up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, together with traces of a few other elements, yet of a complexity of structure that has hitherto resisted all attempts at complete analysis, protoplasm is at once the most enduring and the most easily destroyed of substances; its molecules are constantly breaking down to furnish the power for the manifestations of vital phenomena, and yet, through its remarkable property of assimilation, a power possessed by nothing else upon earth, it constantly builds up its substance anew from the surrounding medium.
In History of the Human Body (1919), 1.
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But science is the great instrument of social change, all the greater because its object is not change but knowledge, and its silent appropriation of this dominant function, amid the din of political and religious strife, is the most vital of all the revolutions which have marked the development of modern civilisation.
Decadence: Henry Sidgwick Memorial Lecture (1908), 55-6.
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But the whole vital process of the earth takes place so gradually and in periods of time which are so immense compared with the length of our life, that these changes are not observed, and before their course can be recorded from beginning to end whole nations perish and are destroyed.
Aristotle
Meteorology, 351b, 8-13. In Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. I, 573.
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Dr. M.L. von Franz has explained the circle (or sphere) as a symbol of Self. It expresses the totality of the psyche in all its aspects, including the relationship between man and the whole of nature. It always points to the single most vital aspect of life, its ultimate wholeness.
In Aniela Jaffé, 'Symbolism in the Visual Arts', collected in Carl Jung (ed.), Man and His Symbols (1964, 1968), 266.
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Effects vary with the conditions which bring them to pass, but laws do not vary. Physiological and pathological states are ruled by the same forces; they differ only because of the special conditions under which the vital laws manifest themselves.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957),10.
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Eskimos living in a world of ice have no word at all for that substance—and this has been cited as evidence of their primitive mentality. But ice as such is of no interest to an Eskimo; what is of interest, indeed of vital importance, are the different kinds of ice with which he must deal virtually every day of his life.
As co-author with Floyd W. Matson, in The Human Connection (1979), 174. More often seen without explanatory context, as “The Eskimos live among ice all their lives but have no single word for ice,” for example, in Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, and In Watermelon Sugar (1989), 111.
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Faith is a permanent and vital endowment of the human mind—a part of reason itself. The insane alone are without it.
A Shadow Passes (1919), 62.
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Fields of learning are surrounded ultimately only by illusory boundaries—like the “rooms” in a hall of mirrors.
It is when the illusion is penetrated that progress takes place. … Likewise science cannot be regarded as a thing apart, to be studied, admired or ignored. It is a vital part of our culture, our culture is part of it, it permeates our thinking, and its continued separateness from what is fondly called “the humanities” is a preposterous practical joke on all thinking men.
In Modern Science and the Nature of Life (1957).
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For if medicine is really to accomplish its great task, it must intervene in political and social life. It must point out the hindrances that impede the normal social functioning of vital processes, and effect their removal.
In Die einheitsrebungen in der wissenschaftlichen medicin (1849), 48. As quoted and citefd in Paul Farmer, Pathologies of Power (2004), 323.
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For the first time there was constructed with this machine [locomotive engine] a self-acting mechanism in which the interplay of forces took shape transparently enough to discern the connection between the heat generated and the motion produced. The great puzzle of the vital force was also immediately solved for the physiologist in that it became evident that it is more than a mere poetic comparison when one conceives of the coal as the food of the locomotive and the combustion as the basis for its life.
'Leid und Freude in der Naturforschung', Die Gartenlaube (1870), 359. Trans. Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 145.
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For truly in nature there are many operations that are far more than mechanical. Nature is not simply an organic body like a clock, which has no vital principle of motion in it; but it is a living body which has life and perception, which are much more exalted than a mere mechanism or a mechanical motion.
The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (1692), trans. and ed. Allison Coudert and Taylor Corse (1996), 64.
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Gifford Pinchot is the man to whom the nation owes most for what has been accomplished as regards the preservation of the natural resources of our country. He led, and indeed during its most vital period embodied, the fight for the preservation through use of our forests … He was the foremost leader in the great struggle to coordinate all our social and governmental forces in the effort to secure the adoption of a rational and far-seeing policy for securing the conservation of all our national resources. … I believe it is but just to say that among the many, many public officials who under my administration rendered literally invaluable service to the people of the United States, he, on the whole, stood first.
'The Natural Resources of the Nation' Autobiography (1913), ch. 11. Quoted in Douglas M. Johnston, The International Law of Fisheries (1987), 44
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Hence, wherever we meet with vital phenomena that present the two aspects, physical and psychical there naturally arises a question as to the relations in which these aspects stand to each other.
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I am an organic chemist, albeit one who adheres to the definition of organic chemistry given by the great Swedish chemist Berzelius, namely, the chemistry of substances found in living matter, and my science is one of the more abstruse insofar as it rests on concepts and employs a jargon neither of which is a part of everyday experience. Nevertheless, organic chemistry deals with matters of truly vital Importance and in some of its aspects with which I myself have been particularly concerned it may prove to hold the keys to Life itself.
In 'Synthesis in the Study of Nucleotides', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1957. In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1942-1962 (1964), 522.
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I do not find that any one has doubted that there are four elements. The highest of these is supposed to be fire, and hence proceed the eyes of so many glittering stars. The next is that spirit, which both the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air. It is by the force of this vital principle, pervading all things and mingling with all, that the earth, together with the fourth element, water, is balanced in the middle of space.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 18.
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I have always assumed, and I now assume, that he [Robert Oppenheimer] is loyal to the United States. I believe this, and I shall believe it until I see very conclusive proof to the opposite. … [But] I thoroughly disagreed with him in numerous issues and his actions frankly appeared to me confused and complicated. To this extent I feel that I would like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better, and therefore trust more.
After Teller paid tribute to Oppenheimer’s talents, especially his “very outstanding achievement” as the wartime organizer and director of Los Alamos, Teller continued his testimony to the Gray board hearings (28 Apr 1954) in the Atomic Energy Commission building, “In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer.” The subject quotes were excerpted from Teller’s answers to their questions. As given in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 72-74.
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I have repeatedly had cause to refer to certain resemblances between the phenomena of irritability in the vegetable kingdom and those of the animal body, thus touching a province of investigation which has hitherto been far too little cultivated. In the last instance, indeed, I might say animal and vegetable life must of necessity agree in all essential points, including the phenomena of irritability also, since it is established that the animal organism is constructed entirely and simply from the properties of these substances that all vital movements both of plants and animals are to be explained.
Lectures on the Physiology of Plants (1887), 600.
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I spend a great deal of the hours that I’m awake within myself. You never want to stop doing it, especially when it’s a pleasure. It’s vital to my existence and I couldn’t live if I wasn’t an inventor.
Quoted in Timothy L. O’Brien, 'Not Invented here: Are U.S. Innovators Losing Their Competitive Edge?', New York Times (13 Nov 2005), B6.
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I use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines and the application of poultices. It ought to signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet, and the proper selection and administration of diet—all at the least expense of vital power to the patient.
Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not (1860), 2.
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If sleeping and dreaming do not perform vital biological functions, then they must represent nature's most stupid blunder and most colossal waste of time.
Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming (1995, 1997), 91.
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In Aristotle the mind, regarded as the principle of life, divides into nutrition, sensation, and faculty of thought, corresponding to the inner most important stages in the succession of vital phenomena.
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In our day grand generalizations have been reached. The theory of the origin of species is but one of them. Another, of still wider grasp and more radical significance, is the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy, the ultimate philosophical issues of which are as yet but dimly seem-that doctrine which “binds nature fast in fate” to an extent not hitherto recognized, exacting from every antecedent its equivalent consequent, and bringing vital as well as physical phenomena under the dominion of that law of causal connexion which, so far as the human understanding has yet pierced, asserts itself everywhere in nature.
'Address Delivered Before The British Association Assembled at Belfast', (19 Aug 1874). Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Lectures, and Reviews (1892), Vol. 2, 1801.
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In the last analysis the best guarantee that a thing should happen is that it appears to us as vitally necessary.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Sara Appleton-Weber (trans.), The Human Phenomenon (1999, 2003), 163. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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It did not cause anxiety that Maxwell’s equations did not apply to gravitation, since nobody expected to find any link between electricity and gravitation at that particular level. But now physics was faced with an entirely new situation. The same entity, light, was at once a wave and a particle. How could one possibly imagine its proper size and shape? To produce interference it must be spread out, but to bounce off electrons it must be minutely localized. This was a fundamental dilemma, and the stalemate in the wave-photon battle meant that it must remain an enigma to trouble the soul of every true physicist. It was intolerable that light should be two such contradictory things. It was against all the ideals and traditions of science to harbor such an unresolved dualism gnawing at its vital parts. Yet the evidence on either side could not be denied, and much water was to flow beneath the bridges before a way out of the quandary was to be found. The way out came as a result of a brilliant counterattack initiated by the wave theory, but to tell of this now would spoil the whole story. It is well that the reader should appreciate through personal experience the agony of the physicists of the period. They could but make the best of it, and went around with woebegone faces sadly complaining that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they must look on light as a wave; on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, as a particle. On Sundays they simply prayed.
The Strange Story of the Quantum (1947), 42.
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It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening with too much and too varied subjects. Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality.
From interview with Benjamin Fine, 'Einstein Stresses Critical Thinking', New York Times (5 Oct 1952), 37. [Here, “superficiality” has been inserted as a correction for a typo, “superciality”, in the original text. —Webmaster]
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It is they who hold the secret of the mysterious property of the mind by which error ministers to truth, and truth slowly but irrevocably prevails. Theirs is the logic of discovery, the demonstration of the advance of knowledge and the development of ideas, which as the earthly wants and passions of men remain almost unchanged, are the charter of progress, and the vital spark in history.
Lecture, 'The Study of History' (11 Jun 1895) delivered at Cambridge, published as A Lecture on The Study of History (1895), 54-55.
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It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with science. This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which be long in the domain of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of the religious aims.
…...
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Just as a tree constitutes a mass arranged in a definite manner, in which, in every single part, in the leaves as in the root, in the trunk as in the blossom, cells are discovered to be the ultimate elements, so is it also with the forms of animal life. Every animal presents itself as a sum of vital unities, every one of which manifests all the characteristics of life. The characteristics and unity of life cannot be limited to anyone particular spot in a highly developed organism (for example, to the brain of man), but are to be found only in the definite, constantly recurring structure, which every individual element displays. Hence it follows that the structural composition of a body of considerable size, a so-called individual, always represents a kind of social arrangement of parts, an arrangement of a social kind, in which a number of individual existences are mutually dependent, but in such a way, that every element has its own special action, and, even though it derive its stimulus to activity from other parts, yet alone effects the actual performance of its duties.
In Lecture I, 'Cells and the Cellular Theory' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Frank Chance (trans.) ,Cellular Pathology (1860), 13-14.
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Krill, a vital food sources for sea life, is being snatched in vast quantities, with trawlers traveling halfway around the globe, generating ruinous carbon emissions in the form of global supply chains.
In 'Can We Stop Killing Our Oceans Now, Please?', Huffington Post (14 Aug 2013).
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Logic issues in tautologies, mathematics in identities, philosophy in definitions; all trivial, but all part of the vital work of clarifying and organising our thought.
'Last Papers: Philosophy' (1929), in The Foundations of Mathematics and Other Logical Essays (1931), 264.
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Medical statistics are like a bikini bathing suit: what they reveal is interesting; what they conceal is vital.
Anonymous
'Shoot Out in Marlboro Country', Mother Jones Magazine (Jan 1979), 36.
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Metaphysical ghosts cannot be killed, because they cannot be touched; but they may be dispelled by dispelling the twilight in which shadows and solidities are easily confounded. The Vital Principle is an entity of this ghostly kind; and although the daylight has dissipated it, and positive Biology is no longer vexed with its visitations, it nevertheless reappears in another shape in the shadowy region of mystery which surrounds biological and all other questions.
The History of Philosophy from Thales to Comte (1867), lxxxiv.
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My present and most fixed opinion regarding the nature of alcoholic fermentation is this: The chemical act of fermentation is essentially a phenomenon correlative with a vital act, beginning and ending with the latter. I believe that there is never any alcoholic fermentation without their being simultaneously the organization, development, multiplication of the globules, or the pursued, continued life of globules which are already formed.
In 'Memoire sur la fermentation alcoolique', Annales de Chemie et de Physique (1860), 58:3, 359-360, as translated in Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 137.
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Nature is the system of laws established by the Creator for the existence of things and for the succession of creatures. Nature is not a thing, because this thing would be everything. Nature is not a creature, because this creature would be God. But one can consider it as an immense vital power, which encompasses all, which animates all, and which, subordinated to the power of the first Being, has begun to act only by his order, and still acts only by his concourse or consent ... Time, space and matter are its means, the universe its object, motion and life its goal.
'De la Nature: Premiere Vue', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1764), Vol. 12, iii-iv. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
Carl Jung
From The Gifted Child collected in Collected Works (1954, 1971), Vol. 17, 144. Translated from 'Der Begabt', Psychologie und Erziehung (1946).
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One of the greatest experimental scientists of the time who was really doing something, William Harvey, said that what Bacon said science was, was the science that a lord-chancellor would do. He [Bacon] spoke of making observations, but omitted the vital factor of judgment about what to observe and what to pay attention to.
From address (1966) at the 14th Annual Convention of the National Science Teachers Association, New York City, printed in 'What is science?', The Physics Teacher (1969), 7, No. 6, 321.
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Physiology and psychology cover, between them, the field of vital phenomena; they deal with the facts of life at large, and in particular with the facts of human life.
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Reproduction is so primitive and fundamental a function of vital organisms that the mechanism by which it is assured is highly complex and not yet clearly understood. It is not necessarily connected with sex, nor is sex necessarily connected with reproduction.
Psychology of Sex (1933), 7.
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Richard Drew embodied the essential spirit of the inventor, a person of vision and unrelenting persistence who refused to give in to adversity. He made an enormous contribution, not only to the growth of 3M, but also to advancement of many modern industries vital to worldwide economic growth.
Speaking at Drew's posthumous induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Akron, Ohio (4 May 2007). From Press Release (7 May 2007) on 3M Company website.
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Science is the only truth and it is the great lie. It knows nothing, and people think it knows everything. It is misrepresented. People think that science is electricity, automobilism, and dirigible balloons. It is something very different. It is life devouring itself. It is the sensibility transformed into intelligence. It is the need to know stifling the need to live. It is the genius of knowledge vivisecting the vital genius.
repr. In Selected Writings, ed. and trans. by Glen S. Burne (1966). 'Art and Science,' Promenades Philosophiques (1905-1909).
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Since the seventeenth century, physical intuition has served as a vital source for mathematical porblems and methods. Recent trends and fashions have, however, weakened the connection between mathematics and physics; mathematicians, turning away from their roots of mathematics in intuition, have concentrated on refinement and emphasized the postulated side of mathematics, and at other times have overlooked the unity of their science with physics and other fields. In many cases, physicists have ceased to appreciate the attitudes of mathematicians. This rift is unquestionably a serious threat to science as a whole; the broad stream of scientific development may split into smaller and smaller rivulets and dry out. It seems therefore important to direct our efforts towards reuniting divergent trends by classifying the common features and interconnections of many distinct and diverse scientific facts.
As co-author with David Hilbert, in Methods of Mathematical Physics (1937, 1989), Preface, v.
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Something is as little explained by means of a distinctive vital force as the attraction between iron and magnet is explained by means of the name magnetism. We must therefore firmly insist that in the organic natural sciences, and thus also in botany, absolutely nothing has yet been explained and the entire field is still open to investigation as long as we have not succeeded in reducing the phenomena to physical and chemical laws.
Grundzüge der Wissenschaftlichen Botanik nebst einer Methodologischen Einleitung als Anleitung zum Studium der Planze [Principles of Scientific Botany] (1842-3), Vol. 1, 49. Trans. Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 108.
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Statistics are like a bikini: what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital.
Attributed, for example, in Peter’s Quotations (1977, 1978), 477. Also seen attributed to Arthur Koestler.
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Take the sum of human achievement in action, in science, in art, in literature—subtract the work of the men above forty, and while we should miss great treasures, even priceless treasures, we would practically be where we are today. … The effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of twenty-five and forty.
In farewell address, Johns Hopkins University, 'The Fixed Period', as quoted in Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osier (1925), vol. 1, 666.
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That small word “Force,” they make a barber's block,
Ready to put on
Meanings most strange and various, fit to shock
Pupils of Newton....
The phrases of last century in this
Linger to play tricks—
Vis viva and Vis Mortua and Vis Acceleratrix:
Those long-nebbed words that to our text books still
Cling by their titles,
And from them creep, as entozoa will,
Into our vitals.
But see! Tait writes in lucid symbols clear
One small equation;
And Force becomes of Energy a mere
Space-variation.
'Report on Tait's Lecture on Force:— B.A., 1876', reproduced in Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (2001), 19. Maxwell's verse was inspired by a paper delivered at the British Association (B.A.. He was satirizing a “considerable cofusion of nomenclature” at the time, and supported his friend Tait's desire to establish a redefinition of energy on a thermnodynamic basis.
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The Atomic Age was born in secrecy, and for two decades after Hiroshima, the high priests of the cult of the atom concealed vital information about the risks to human health posed by radiation. Dr. Alice Stewart, an audacious and insightful medical researcher, was one of the first experts to alert the world to the dangers of low-level radiation.
(Udeall is a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior.)
Quoted in Gayle Jacoba Greene, The Woman Who Knew Too Much (1999), back cover.
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The blood corpuscles take up the atmospheric oxygen in the lungs, and the vital chemical process accordingly depends essentially on the combination of oxygen absorbed by blood corpuscles with the combustible constituents of the blood to form carbonic acid and water.
Quoted in Joseph Stewart Fruton Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 240.
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The blood, the fountain whence the spirits flow,
The generous stream that waters every part,
And motion, vigour, and warm life conveys
To every Particle that moves or lives;
This vital fluid, thro' unnumber'd tubes
Pour'd by the heart, and to the heart again
Refunded; scourg'd forever round and round;
Enrag'd with heat and toil, at last forgets
Its balmy nature; virulent and thin
It grows; and now, but that a thousand gates
Are open to its flight, it would destroy
The parts it cherish' d and repair'd before.
Besides, the flexible and tender tubes
Melt in the mildest, most nectareous tide
That ripening Nature rolls; as in the stream
Its crumbling banks; but what the vital force
Of plastic fluids hourly batters down,
That very force, those plastic particles
Rebuild: so mutable the state of man.
For this the watchful appetite was given,
Daily with fresh materials to repair
This unavoidable expense of life,
This necessary waste of flesh and blood.
Hence the concoctive powers, with various art,
Subdue the cruder aliments to chyle;
The chyle to blood; the foamy purple tide
To liquors, which through finer arteries
To different parts their winding course pursue;
To try new changes, and new forms put on,
Or for the public, or some private use.
The Art of Preserving Health (1744), book 2, I. 12-23, p.15-16.
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The development of abstract methods during the past few years has given mathematics a new and vital principle which furnishes the most powerful instrument for exhibiting the essential unity of all its branches.
In Lectures on Fundamental Concepts of Algebra and Geometry (1911), 225.
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The discovery of an interaction among the four hemes made it obvious that they must be touching, but in science what is obvious is not necessarily true. When the structure of hemoglobin was finally solved, the hemes were found to lie in isolated pockets on the surface of the subunits. Without contact between them how could one of them sense whether the others had combined with oxygen? And how could as heterogeneous a collection of chemical agents as protons, chloride ions, carbon dioxide, and diphosphoglycerate influence the oxygen equilibrium curve in a similar way? It did not seem plausible that any of them could bind directly to the hemes or that all of them could bind at any other common site, although there again it turned out we were wrong. To add to the mystery, none of these agents affected the oxygen equilibrium of myoglobin or of isolated subunits of hemoglobin. We now know that all the cooperative effects disappear if the hemoglobin molecule is merely split in half, but this vital clue was missed. Like Agatha Christie, Nature kept it to the last to make the story more exciting. There are two ways out of an impasse in science: to experiment or to think. By temperament, perhaps, I experimented, whereas Jacques Monod thought.
From essay 'The Second Secret of Life', collected in I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998), 263-5.
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The doctor knows that it is the prescription slip itself, even more than what is written on it, that is often the vital ingredient for enabling a patient to get rid of whatever is ailing him.
Anatomy of an Illness As Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing (2005), 55.
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The first entirely vital action, so termed because it is not effected outside the influence of life, consists in the creation of the glycogenic material in the living hepatic tissue. The second entirely chemical action, which can be effected outside the influence of life, consists in the transformation of the glycogenic material into sugar by means of a ferment.
Sur le Méchanisme de la Fonction du Sucre dans Ie Foie (1857), 583. Translated in Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 340.
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The first nonabsolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.
The second nonabsolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of the most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexcluson, a number whose existence can only be defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusons now play a vital part in many branches of math, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else’s Problem field.
The third and most mysterious piece of nonabsoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the check [bill], the cost of each item, the number of people at the table and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a subphenomenon of this field.)
Life, the Universe and Everything (1982, 1995), 47-48.
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The function of ignoring, of inattention, is as vital a factor in mental progress as the function of attention itself.
In The Principles of Psychology (1918), Vol. 2, 371.
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The invertebrated classes include the most numerous and diversified forms of the Animal Kingdom. At the very beginning of our inquiries into their vital powers and acts we are impressed with their important relations to the maintenance of life and organization on this planet, and their influence in purifying the sea and augmenting and enriching the land—relations of which the physiologist conversant only with the vertebrated animals must have remained ignorant.
In Lecture, delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons, collected in Lecture 24, 'Cephalopoda', Lectures on the Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Invertebrate Animals (1843), Vol. 1, 362.
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The man in the street will, therefore, twist the statement that the scientist has come to the end of meaning into the statement that the scientist has penetrated as far as he can with the tools at his command, and that there is something beyond the ken of the scientist. This imagined beyond, which the scientist has proved he cannot penetrate, will become the playground of the imagination of every mystic and dreamer. The existence of such a domain will be made the basis of an orgy of rationalizing. It will be made the substance of the soul; the spirits of the dead will populate it; God will lurk in its shadows; the principle of vital processes will have its seat here; and it will be the medium of telepathic communication. One group will find in the failure of the physical law of cause and effect the solution of the age-long problem of the freedom of the will; and on the other hand the atheist will find the justification of his contention that chance rules the universe.
Reflections of a Physicist (1950),102-3.
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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 only part of evolution in which any considerable interest is felt is evolution applied to man. A hypothesis in regard to the rocks and plant life does not affect the philosophy upon which one's life is built. Evolution applied to fish, birds and beasts would not materially affect man's view of his own responsibilities except as the acceptance of an unsupported hypothesis as to these would be used to support a similar hypothesis as to man. The evolution that is harmful—distinctly so—is the evolution that destroys man’s family tree as taught by the Bible and makes him a descendant of the lower forms of life. This … is a very vital matter.
'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.
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The physiological combustion theory takes as its starting point the fundamental principle that the amount of heat that arises from the combustion of a given substance is an invariable quantity–i.e., one independent of the circumstances accompanying the combustion–from which it is more specifically concluded that the chemical effect of the combustible materials undergoes no quantitative change even as a result of the vital process, or that the living organism, with all its mysteries and marvels, is not capable of generating heat out of nothing.
Bemerkungen über das mechanische Aequivalent der Wärme [Remarks on the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat] (1851), 17-9. Trans. Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 240.
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The point [is] largely scientific in character …[concerning] the methods which can be invented or adopted or discovered to enable the Earth to control the Air, to enable defence from the ground to exercise control—indeed dominance—upon aeroplanes high above its surface. … science is always able to provide something. We were told that it was impossible to grapple with submarines, but methods were found … Many things were adopted in war which we were told were technically impossible, but patience, perseverance, and above all the spur of necessity under war conditions, made men’s brains act with greater vigour, and science responded to the demands.
[Remarks made in the House of Commons on 7 June 1935. His speculation was later proved correct with the subsequent development of radar during World War II, which was vital in the air defence of Britain.]
Quoting himself in The Second World War: The Gathering Storm (1948, 1986), Vol. 1, 134.
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The special vital forces that distinguish living things from the nonliving are emergent, holistic properties, not properties of their physiochemical components. Nor can they be explained in mechanistic terms.
Interview in 'Vital Holistic Phenomena and Properties of Living', The World & I (1986), 1, No. 5-6, 265.
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The vital act is the act of participation. “Participator” is the incontrovertible new concept given by quantum mechanics. It strikes down the term “observer” of classical theory, the man who stands safely behind the thick glass wall and watches what goes on without taking part. It can’t be done, quantum mechanics says.
In Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, John Archibald Wheeler, 'Beyond the Edge of Time', Gravitation (1973), Part 3, 1217.
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There are various causes for the generation of force: a tensed spring, an air current, a falling mass of water, fire burning under a boiler, a metal that dissolves in an acid—one and the same effect can be produced by means of all these various causes. But in the animal body we recognise only one cause as the ultimate cause of all generation of force, and that is the reciprocal interaction exerted on one another by the constituents of the food and the oxygen of the air. The only known and ultimate cause of the vital activity in the animal as well as in the plant is a chemical process.
'Der Lebensprocess im Thiere und die Atmosphare', Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie (1841), 41, 215-7. Trans. Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mo.yer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 78.
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There is no force inherent in living matter, no vital force independent of and differing from the cosmic forces; the energy which living matter gives off is counterbalanced by the energy which it receives.
In Disease and its Causes (1913), 10-11.
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There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be.
Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking (1997), 266.
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Through the discovery of Buchner, Biology was relieved of another fragment of mysticism. The splitting up of sugar into CO2 and alcohol is no more the effect of a 'vital principle' than the splitting up of cane sugar by invertase. The history of this problem is instructive, as it warns us against considering problems as beyond our reach because they have not yet found their solution.
The Dynamics of Living Matter (1906), 22.
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Thus identified with astronomy, in proclaiming truths supposed to be hostile to Scripture, Geology has been denounced as the enemy of religion. The twin sisters of terrestrial and celestial physics have thus been joint-heirs of intolerance and persecution—unresisting victims in the crusade which ignorance and fanaticism are ever waging against science. When great truths are driven to make an appeal to reason, knowledge becomes criminal, and philosophers martyrs. Truth, however, like all moral powers, can neither be checked nor extinguished. When compressed, it but reacts the more. It crushes where it cannot expand—it burns where it is not allowed to shine. Human when originally divulged, it becomes divine when finally established. At first, the breath of a rage—at last it is the edict of a god. Endowed with such vital energy, astronomical truth has cut its way through the thick darkness of superstitious times, and, cheered by its conquests, Geology will find the same open path when it has triumphed over the less formidable obstacles of a civilized age.
More Worlds than One: The Creed of the Philosopher and the Hope of the Christian (1854), 42.
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We are once for all adapted to the military status. A millennium of peace would not breed the fighting disposition out of our bone and marrow, and a function so ingrained and vital will never consent to die without resistance, and will always find impassioned apologists and idealizers.
From 'Remarks at The Peace Banquet' (7 Oct 1904), Boston, on the closing day of the World’s Peace Congress. Printed in Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1904), 845-846. Collected in Essays in Religion and Morality (1982), Vol. 9, 121.
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We are sorry to confess that biological hypotheses have not yet completely got out of the second phase, and that ghost of ‘vital force’ still haunts many wise heads.
From Force and Matter: Or, Principles of the Natural Order of the Universe (15th ed. 1884), 13.
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We must somehow keep the dreams of space exploration alive, for in the long run they will prove to be of far more importance to the human race than the attainment of material benefits. Like Darwin, we have set sail upon an ocean: the cosmic sea of the Universe. There can be no turning back. To do so could well prove to be a guarantee of extinction. When a nation, or a race or a planet turns its back on the future, to concentrate on the present, it cannot see what lies ahead. It can neither plan nor prepare for the future, and thus discards the vital opportunity for determining its evolutionary heritage and perhaps its survival.
…...
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We used to be a source of fuel; we are increasingly becoming a sink. These supplies of foreign liquid fuel are no doubt vital to our industry, but our ever-increasing dependence upon them ought to arouse serious and timely reflection. The scientific utilisation, by liquefaction, pulverisation and other processes, or our vast and magnificent deposits of coal, constitutes a national object of prime importance.
Parliamentary Debate (24 Apr 1928). Quoted in Winston Churchill and Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008), 469.
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Whatever State of the Human Body doth disorder the Vital, the natural, or even the Animal Functions of the same is call’d a Disease.
Aphorism No. 1 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 1
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With advancing years new impressions do not enter so rapidly, nor are they so hospitably received… There is a gradual diminution of the opportunities for age to acquire fresh knowledge. A tree grows old not by loss of the vitality of the cambium, but by the gradual increase of the wood, the non-vital tissue, which so easily falls a prey to decay.
From address, 'A Medical Retrospect'. Published in Yale Medical Journal (Oct 1910), 17, No. 2, 59. The context is that he is reflecting on how in later years of life, a person tends to give priority to long-learned experience, rather than give attention to new points of view.
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Without an acquaintance with chemistry, the statesman must remain a stranger to the true vital interests of the state, to the means of its organic development and improvement; ... The highest economic or material interests of a country, the increased and more profitable production of food for man and animals, ... are most closely linked with the advancement and diffusion of the natural sciences, especially of chemistry.
Familiar Letters on Chemistry (1851), 3rd edn., 19.
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[Davy's] March of Glory, which he has run for the last six weeks—within which time by the aid and application of his own great discovery, of the identity of electricity and chemical attractions, he has placed all the elements and all their inanimate combinations in the power of man; having decomposed both the Alkalies, and three of the Earths, discovered as the base of the Alkalies a new metal... Davy supposes there is only one power in the world of the senses; which in particles acts as chemical attractions, in specific masses as electricity, & on matter in general, as planetary Gravitation... when this has been proved, it will then only remain to resolve this into some Law of vital Intellect—and all human knowledge will be Science and Metaphysics the only Science.
In November 1807 Davy gave his famous Second Bakerian Lecture at the Royal Society, in which he used Voltaic batteries to “decompose, isolate and name” several new chemical elements, notably sodium and potassium.
Letter to Dorothy Wordsworth, 24 November 1807. In Earl Leslie Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1956), Vol. 3, 38.
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[My friends and I studied science to get away from] the stench of Fascist truths which tainted the sky. ... [T]he chemistry and physics on which we fed, besides being nourishment vital in themselves, were an antidote to Fascism. ... [T]hey were clear and distinct and verifiable at every step, and not a tissue of lies and emptiness like the radio and the newspapers.
The Periodic Table, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (1986), 42. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 170.
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[The surplus of basic knowledge of the atomic nucleus was] largely used up [during the war with the atomic bomb as the dividend.] We must, without further delay restore this surplus in preparation for the important peacetime job for the nucleus - power production. ... Many of the proposed applications of atomic power - even for interplanetary rockets - seem to be within the realm of possibility provided the economic factor is ruled out completely, and the doubtful physical and chemical factors are weighted heavily on the optimistic side. ... The development of economic atomic power is not a simple extrapolation of knowledge gained during the bomb work. It is a new and difficult project to reach a satisfactory answer. Needless to say, it is vital that the atomic policy legislation now being considered by the congress recognizes the essential nature of this peacetime job, and that it not only permits but encourages the cooperative research-engineering effort of industrial, government and university laboratories for the task. ... We must learn how to generate the still higher energy particles of the cosmic rays - up to 1,000,000,000 volts, for they will unlock new domains in the nucleus.
Addressing the American Institute of Electrical Engineering, in New York (24 Jan 1946). In Schenectady Gazette (25 Jan 1946),
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[T]he idea of protoplasm, which was really a name for our ignorance, [is] only a little less misleading than the expression “Vital force”.
Adventures of a Biologist (1940), 118.
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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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