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War Quotes (116 quotes)

“I'm not so sure he's wrong about automobiles,” he said, “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward for civilization—that is, spiritual civilization ... But automobiles have come, and they bring a greater change in our life than most of us expect. They are here, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace.”
Spoken by character Eugene, in the novel, The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), 275
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... in time of war, soldiers, however sensible, care a great deal more on some occasions about slaking their thirst than about the danger of enteric fever.
[Better known as typhoid, the disease is often spread by drinking contaminated water.]
Parliamentaray Debate (21 Mar 1902). Quoted in Winston Churchill and Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008), 469.
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Air Chief Marshal Harris [objecting to a change in strategy recommended by statisticians]: Are we fighting this war with weapons or the slide rule?
Churchill [after puffing on his cigar]: That's a good idea. Let's try the slide rule.
During World War II, Britain lost the advantage when enemy U-boats began listening in to the aircraft radar, were forewarned, and would dive. U-boat sinkings fell to zero. Physicist Patrick S. Blackett with his Operational Research colleagues came up with a solution. Concentrate sufficient aircraft in certain areas, causing the subs to dive so frequently their air supply and batteries were exhausted, forcing them to remain on the surface and be vulnerable to attack. The strategy required diverting several squadrons from Bomber Command to Coastal Command. “Bomber” Harris voiced his objection to Churchill, who made the right choice, proved by successful results. As described by R.V. Jones, 'Churchill and Science', in Robert Blake and Wm. Roger Louis (eds.), Churchill (1996), 437.
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A prolonged war in which a nation takes part is bound to impoverish the breed, since the character of the breed depends on the men who are left.
As given in David Starr Jordan, War and the Breed: The Relation of War to the Downfall of Nations (1915), 178.
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Carl Sagan quote Advances in medicine and agriculture
A bean farmer checks her crop in Congo. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT). CC2.0 (source)
Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996), 11.
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All war is murder, robbery, trickery, and no nation ever escaped losses of men, prosperity and virility. War knows no victor.
From his last public address in Palo Alto, California (30 July 1928), as quoted in 'David Starr Jordan Dies at Age of 80', New York Times (20 Sep 1931), N6.
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An inventive age
Has wrought, if not with speed of magic, yet
To most strange issues. I have lived to mark
A new and unforeseen creation rise
From out the labours of a peaceful Land:
Wielding her potent enginery to frame
And to produce, with appetite as keen
As that of war, which rests not night or day.
In The Excursion (1814). In The Works of William: Wordsworth (1994), Book 8, 875.
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And I believe that the Binomial Theorem and a Bach Fugue are, in the long run, more important than all the battles of history.
This Week Magazine (1937).
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Anyone who thinks we can continue to have world wars but make them nice polite affairs by outlawing this weapon or that should meditate upon the outlawing of the cross-bow by Papal authority. Setting up the machinery for international law and order must surely precede disarmament. The Wild West did not abandon its shooting irons till after sheriffs and courts were established.
Speech, American Library Assiciation Conference (3 Jul 1947), as quoted by Lawrence E. Davies in 'Army's Atomic Bid Viewed in Making', New York Times (4 Jul 1947), 11.
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Anyway, I'm sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war. I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.
Spoken by fictional character Holden Caulfield, in Catcher in the Rye (1951), 183.
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Before a war military science seems a real science, like astronomy; but after a war it seems more like astrology.
As quoted in B. H. Liddell Hart, Europe in Arms (1937), 199. In Alfred F. Hurley, Robert C. Ehrhart, Air Power and Warfare: The Proceedings of the 8th Military History Symposium (1979), 47, and citation in footnote, 49.
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Beggars in the streets of London were at that time leading the lives of princes, compared to the life of our soldiers in the Crimea when I arrived on the scene with thirty-six nurses.
As quoted in ‘Little Chats With Big People’, The Scrap Book (Jan 1908), 5, No. 1, 43.
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Blood mixture and the result drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but by the loss of that force of resistance which is continued only in pure blood. All who are not of good race in this world are chaff.
Mein Kampf (1925-26), American Edition (1943), 296. In William Lawrence Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1990), 88.
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But however secure and well-regulated civilized life may become, bacteria, Protozoa, viruses, infected fleas, lice, ticks, mosquitoes, and bedbugs will always lurk in the shadows ready to pounce when neglect, poverty, famine, or war lets down the defenses.
Rats, Lice and History (1934), 13-4.
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But if the two countries or governments are at war, the men of science are not. That would, indeed be a civil war of the worst description: we should rather, through the instrumentality of the men of science soften the asperities of national hostility.
Davy's remarks to Thomas Poole on accepting Napoleon's prize for the best experiment on Galvanism.
Quoted in Gavin de Beer, The Sciences were Never at War (1960), 204.

Carl Sagan quote A Subject Called Chemistry
Wellington College. CC by-NC 2.0 (source)
Chlorine is a deadly poison gas employed on European battlefields in World War I. Sodium is a corrosive metal which burns upon contact with water. Together they make a placid and unpoisonous material, table salt. Why each of these substances has the properties it does is a subject called chemistry.
Broca's Brain: The Romance of Science (1979), footnote. Excerpt reprinted as 'Can We Know the Universe? Reflections on a Grain of Salt,' in John Carey, Eyewitness to Science (1997), 437.
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Despite the vision and the far-seeing wisdom of our wartime heads of state, the physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons. Nor can we forget that these weapons, as they were in fact used, dramatized so mercilessly the inhumanity and evil of modern war. In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
The Open Mind (1955), 88.
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During the war years I worked on the development of radar and other radio systems for the R.A.F. and, though gaining much in engineering experience and in understanding people, rapidly forgot most of the physics I had learned.
From Autobiography in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1974/Nobel Lectures (1975)
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Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
Address to the United Nations General Assembly, (25 Sep 1961). On U.S. Department of State website.
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Thomas Robert Malthus quote Famine … the most dreadful resource of nature.
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Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), 140, and in new enlarged edition (1803), 350.
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Fleets are not confined to the ocean, but now sail over the land. … All the power of the British Navy has not been able to prevent Zeppelins from reaching England and attacking London, the very heart of the British Empire. Navies do not protect against aerial attack. … Heavier-than-air flying machines of the aeroplane type have crossed right over the heads of armies, of million of men, armed with the most modern weapons of destruction, and have raided places in the rear. Armies do not protect against aerial war.
In 'Preparedness for Aerial Defense', Addresses Before the Eleventh Annual Convention of the Navy League of the United States, Washington, D.C., April 10-13, 1916 (1916), 70.
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For centuries we have dreamt of flying; recently we made that come true: we have always hankered for speed; now we have speeds greater than we can stand: we wanted to speak to far parts of the Earth; we can: we wanted to explore the sea bottom; we have: and so on, and so on. And, too, we wanted the power to smash our enemies utterly; we have it. If we had truly wanted peace, we should have had that as well. But true peace has never been one of the genuine dreams—we have got little further than preaching against war in order to appease out consciences.
The Outward Urge (1959)

Four hundred thousand South Africans are dying of AIDS every year. This makes the war on Iraq look like a birthday party.
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From Avarice thus, from Luxury and War
Sprang heavenly Science;
and from Science Freedom.
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From the time of Aristotle it had been said that man is a social animal: that human beings naturally form communities. I couldn’t accept it. The whole of history and pre-history is against it. The two dreadful world wars we have recently been through, and the gearing of our entire economy today for defensive war belie it. Man's loathsome cruelty to man is his most outstanding characteristic; it is explicable only in terms of his carnivorous and cannibalistic origin. Robert Hartmann pointed out that both rude and civilised peoples show unspeakable cruelty to one another. We call it inhuman cruelty; but these dreadful things are unhappily truly human, because there is nothing like them in the animal world. A lion or tiger kills to eat, but the indiscriminate slaughter and calculated cruelty of human beings is quite unexampled in nature, especially among the apes. They display no hostility to man or other animals unless attacked. Even then their first reaction is to run away.
In Africa's Place In the Emergence of Civilisation (1959), 41.
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Global nuclear war could have a major impact on climate—manifested by significant surface darkening over many weeks, subfreezing land temperatures persisting for up to several months, large perturbations in global circulation patterns, and dramatic changes in local weather and precipitation rates—a harsh “nuclear winter” in any season. [Co-author with Carl Sagan]
In 'Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions', Science (1983), 222, 1290.
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I do not think words alone will solve humanity’s present problems. The sound of bombs drowns out men’s voices. In times of peace I have great faith in the communication of ideas among thinking men, but today, with brute force dominating so many millions of lives, I fear that the appeal to man’s intellect is fast becoming virtually meaningless.
In 'I Am an American' (22 Jun 1940), Einstein Archives 29-092. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 470. It was during a radio broadcast for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, interviewed by a State Department Official. Einstein spoke following an examination on his application for American citizenship in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war on Japan was still over a year in the future.
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I heard Professor Cannon lecture last night, going partly on your account. His subject was a physiological substitute for war—which is international sports and I suppose motorcycle races—to encourage the secretion of the adrenal glands!
Letter from James McKeen Cattell to his son, McKeen. In S. Benison, A. C. Barger and E. L. Wolfe, Walter B Cannon: The Life and Times of a Young Scientist (1987), 319.
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I suspect that the most important effect of World War II on physical science lay in the change in the attitude of people to science. The politicians and the public were convinced that science was useful and were in no position to argue about the details. A professor of physics might be more sinister than he was in the 1930s, but he was no longer an old fool with a beard in a comic-strip. The scientists or at any rate the physicists, had changed their attitude. They not only believed in the interest of science for themselves, they had acquired also a belief that the tax-payer should and would pay for it and would, in some unspecified length of run, benefit by it.
'The Effect of World War II on the Development of Knowledge in the Physical Sciences', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1975, Series A, 342, 532.
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If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people must unite, or they will perish.
Speech at Fuller Lodge when the U.S. Army was honouring the work at Los Alamos. (16 Oct 1945). Quoted in Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer‎ (2005), 323.
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If we are correct in understanding how evolution actually works, and provided we can survive the complications of war, environmental degradation, and possible contact with interstellar planetary travelers, we will look exactly the same as we do now. We won’t change at all. The species is now so widely dispersed that it is not going to evolve, except by gradualism.
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 75.
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If we consider our earth as a spaceship and the earthly astronauts as the crew of that spaceship, I would say wars can be analogous to mutinies aboard the ship.
From Testimony to Third Plenary Session (28 Jan 1971). In Panel on Science and Technology, Twelfth Meeting, International Science Policy, Proceedings before the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives, Jan. 26, 27, and 28, 1971. No. 1 (1971), 330.
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If we justify war, it is because all peoples always justify the traits of which they find themselves possessed, not because war will bear an objective examination of its merits.
In 'The Diversity of Cultures', Patterns of Culture (1934, 2005), 31.
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If we were bees, ants, or Lacedaemonian warriors, to whom personal fear does not exist and cowardice is the most shameful thing in the world, warring would go on forever. But luckily we are only men—and cowards.
In first Tarner Lecture, at Trinity College, Cambridge (Oct 1956), 'The Physical Basis of Consciousness', printed in Mind and Matter (1958), 14. Also collected in What is Life?: With Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches (1992, 2012), 102.
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If, as I have reason to believe, I have disintegrated the nucleus of the atom, this is of greater significance than the war.
[Apology to the international anti-submarine committee for being absent from several meetings during World War I.]
(Jun 1919). Quoted in D. Wilson, Rutherford: Simple Genius (1983), 405, as cited in Laurie M. Brown, Abraham Pais, Brian Pippard, Twentieth Century Physics (1995), Vol. 1, 113.
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In discussing the state of the atmosphere following a nuclear exchange, we point especially to the effects of the many fires that would be ignited by the thousands of nuclear explosions in cities, forests, agricultural fields, and oil and gas fields. As a result of these fires, the loading of the atmosphere with strongly light absorbing particles in the submicron size range (1 micron = 10-6 m) would increase so much that at noon solar radiation at the ground would be reduced by at least a factor of two and possibly a factor of greater than one hundred.
Paul J. Crutzen -and John W. Birks (1946-, American chemist), 'The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon', Ambio, 1982, 11, 115.
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In my opinion there is no other salvation for civilization and even for the human race than the creation of a world government with security on the basis of law. As long as there are sovereign states with their separate armaments and armament secrets, new world wars cannot be avoided.
Interview comment reported in 'For a World Government: Einstein Says This is Only Way to Save Mankind', New York Times (15 Sep 1945), 11.
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In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane—the earth’s surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times as bloody as it was before; but science does not teach brotherly love. Science has made war so hellish that civilization was about to commit suicide; and now we are told that newly discovered instruments of destruction will make the cruelties of the late war seem trivial in comparison with the cruelties of wars that may come in the future.
Proposed summation written for the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925), in Genevieve Forbes Herrick and John Origen Herrick, The Life of William Jennings Bryan (1925), 405. This speech was prepared for delivery at the trial, but was never heard there, as both sides mutually agreed to forego arguments to the jury.
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It can even be thought that radium could become very dangerous in criminal hands, and here the question can be raised whether mankind benefits from knowing the secrets of Nature, whether it is ready to profit from it or whether this knowledge will not be harmful for it. The example of the discoveries of Nobel is characteristic, as powerful explosives have enabled man to do wonderful work. They are also a terrible means of destruction in the hands of great criminals who lead the peoples towards war. I am one of those who believe with Nobel that mankind will derive more good than harm from the new discoveries.
Nobel Lecture (6 June 1905), 'Radioactive Substances, Especially Radium', collected in Stig Lundqvist (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1901-1921 (1998), 78.
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It did not take atomic weapons to make man want peace. But the atomic bomb was the turn of the screw. The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.
Commencement address (1946), as quoted in book review, William J. Broad, ‘The Men Who Made the Sun Rise', New York Times Book Review (8 Feb 1987), 39. The book that Broad reviewed was Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, from which the quote may have been taken. Please contact Webmaster if you have located it.
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It is a very strange thing to reflect that but for the invention of Professor Haber the Germans could not have continued the War after their original stack of nitrates was exhausted. The invention of this single man has enabled them, utilising the interval in which their accumulations were used up, not only to maintain an almost unlimited supply of explosives for all purposes, but to provide amply for the needs of agriculture in chemical manures. It is a remarkable fact, and shows on what obscure and accidental incidents the fortunes of possible the whole world may turn in these days of scientific discovery.
[During World War I, Fritz Haber and Karl Bosch invented a large scale process to cause the direct combination of hydrogen and nitrogen gases to chemically synthesize ammonia, thus providing a replacement for sodium nitrate in the manufacture of explosives and fertilizers.]
Parliamentary debate (25 Apr 1918). In Winston Churchill, Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations‎ (2008), 469. by Winston Churchill, Richard Langworth
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It is arguable whether the human race have been gainers by the march of science beyond the steam engine. Electricity opens a field of infinite conveniences to ever greater numbers, but they may well have to pay dearly for them. But anyhow in my thought I stop short of the internal combustion engine which has made the world so much smaller. Still more must we fear the consequences of entrusting a human race so little different from their predecessors of the so-called barbarous ages such awful agencies as the atomic bomb. Give me the horse.
Address to the Royal College of Surgeons (10 Jul 1951). Collected in Stemming the Tide: Speeches 1951 and 1952 (1953), 91.
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It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of missiles and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings. This last I regard as the most criminal artifice that has been devised by the human mind; for, as if to bring death upon man with still greater rapidity, we have given wings to iron and taught it to fly. ... Nature, in conformity with her usual benevolence, has limited the power of iron, by inflicting upon it the punishment of rust; and has thus displayed her usual foresight in rendering nothing in existence more perishable, than the substance which brings the greatest dangers upon perishable mortality.
Natural History of Pliny, translation (1857, 1898) by John Bostock and H. T. Riley, 205-6.
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It is hard to think of fissionable materials when fashioned into bombs as being a source of happiness. However this may be, if with such destructive weapons men are to survive, they must grow rapidly in human greatness. A new level of human understanding is needed. The reward for using the atom’s power towards man’s welfare is great and sure. The punishment for its misuse would seem to be death and the destruction of the civilization that has been growing for a thousand years. These are the alternatives that atomic power, as the steel of Daedalus, presents to mankind. We are forced to grow to greater manhood.
Atomic Quest: A Personal Narrative (1956), xix.
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It is hardly possible to maintain seriously that the evil done by science is not altogether outweighed by the good. For example, if ten million lives were lost in every war, the net effect of science would still have been to increase the average length of life.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 65.
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It seems to me, that if statesmen had a little more arithmetic, or were accustomed to calculation, wars would be much less frequent.
Letter to his sister, Mrs. Jane Mecom (1787) just after the close of the Constitutional Convention. In Jared Sparks (ed.) The Works of Benjamin Franklin (1840), Vol. 10, 445.
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It was strangely like war. They attacked the forest as if it were an enemy to be pushed back from the beachheads, driven into the hills, broken into patches, and wiped out. Many operators thought they were not only making lumber but liberating the land from the trees...
[On the first logging of the U.S. Olympic Peninsula.]
The Last Wilderness (1955). In William Dietrich, The Final Forest: the Battle for the Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest (1992), 21.
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It were indeed to be wish'd that our art had been less ingenious, in contriving means destructive to mankind; we mean those instruments of war, which were unknown to the ancients, and have made such havoc among the moderns. But as men have always been bent on seeking each other's destruction by continual wars; and as force, when brought against us, can only be repelled by force; the chief support of war, must, after money, be now sought in chemistry.
A New Method of Chemistry, 3rd edition (1753), Vol. I, trans. P. Shaw, 189-90.
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John Dalton's records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war.
In Anu Garg, Another Word a Day (2005), 210. If you know a primary print source, please contact Webmaster.
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LEAD, n. A heavy blue-gray metal much used ... as a counterpoise to an argument of such weight that it turns the scale of debate the wrong way. An interesting fact in the chemistry of international controversy is that at the point of contact of two patriotisms lead is precipitated in great quantities.
[Referring to bullets.]
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  187.
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May there not be methods of using explosive energy incomparably more intense than anything heretofore discovered? Might not a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess a secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings—nay, to concentrate the force of a thousand tons of cordite and blast a township at a stroke? Could not explosives even of the existing type be guided automatically in flying machines by wireless or other rays, without a human pilot, in ceaseless procession upon a hostile city, arsenal, camp or dockyard?
'Shall We All Commit Suicide?' Pall Mall (Sep 1924). Reprinted in Thoughts and Adventures (1932), 250.
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Men should stop fighting among themselves and start fighting insects.
In George Seldes, The Great Quotations (1960), 125.
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Modern war, even from the consideration of physical welfare, is not creative. Soldiers and civilians alike are supposed to put on mental khaki. … War means the death of that fertile war which consists of the free, restless conflict of ideas. The war which matters is that of the scientist with nature; of the farmer with the tawny desert; of … philosopher against … mob stupidity. Such war is creative. … Inventions that further life and joy; freedom; new knowledge, whether Luther Burbank’s about the breeding of fruits or Einstein's about relativity; great cathedrals and Beethoven's music: these modern mechanical war can destroy but never produce. At its most inventive height, war creates the Maxim gun, the submarine, disseminable germs of disease, life-blasting gases. Spiritually and intellectually, modern war is not creative.
From ‘The Stagnation of War’, in Allen D. Hole (ed.) The Messenger of Peace (Nov 1924), 49, No. 11, 162-163.
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Modern warfare is in every respect so horrifying, that scientific people will only regret that it draws its means from the progress of the sciences. I hope that the present war [World War I] will teach the peoples of Europe a lasting lesson and bring the friends of peace into power. Otherwise the present ruling classes will really deserve to be swept away by socialism.
Fischer to Margaret Oppenheim, 14 Dec 1917. Fischer Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California. Quotation supplied by W. H. Brock.

Most of the scientists in their twenties and thirties who went in 1939 to work on wartime problems were profoundly affected by their experience. The belief that Rutherford's boys were the best boys, that we could do anything that was do-able and could master any subject in a few days was of enormous value.
'The Effect of World War II on the Development of Knowledge in the Physical Sciences', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1975, Series A, 342, 531.
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My decision to begin research in radio astronomy was influenced both by my wartime experience with electronics and antennas and by one of my teachers, Jack Ratcliffe, who had given an excellent course on electromagnetic theory during my final undergraduate year.
From Autobiography in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1974/Nobel Lectures (1975)
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Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education... no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.
Universities: American, English, German (1930), qMU2AAAAIAAJ&q
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Nature's stern discipline enjoins mutual help at least as often as warfare. The fittest may also be the gentlest.
Mankind Evolving (1962), 134.
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New frontiers of the mind are before us, and if they are pioneered with the same vision, boldness, and drive with which we have waged this war we can create a fuller and more fruitful employment and a fuller and more fruitful life.
Letter to Vannevar Bush (17 Nov 1944). As printed in Vannevar Bush, Science, the Endless Frontier: A report to the President (1945), viii.
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Not to destroy but to construct,
I hold the unconquerable belief
that science and peace will triumph over ignorance and war
that nations will come together
not to destroy but to construct
and that the future belongs to those
who accomplish most for humanity.
[His 1956 Christmas card.]
In Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1980), 366-367. The card used a variant of Louis Pasteur's earlier remark in 1892 (q.v.)
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One must expect a war between U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. which will begin with the total destruction of London. I think the war will last 30 years, and leave a world without civilised people, from which everything will have to build afresh—a process taking (say) 500 years.
Stated just one month after the Hiroshima atomic explosion. Russell became one of the best-known antinuclear activists of his era.
Letter to Gamel Brenan (1 Sep 1945). In Nicholas Griffin (Ed.), The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell (2002), 410.
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Our country is now at war and the only way out is forward. I would not change one word I have spoken against war but that is no longer the issue. We must now stand together.
As quoted in 'David Starr Jordan Dies at Age of 80', New York Times (20 Sep 1931), N6.
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Our factories may well put an end to war sooner than your (peace) congresses. The day when two army corps can annihilate one another in one second, all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war and discharge their troops.
As quoted by Linus Pauling in Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (10 Dec 1963). Pauling in his speech said it was from a statement by Nobel “in 1892, as reported by Bertha von Sutter.” Printed in Göran Liljestrand (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1963, (1964).
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Our highest claim to respect, as a nation, rests not in the gold, nor in the iron and the coal, nor in inventions and discoveries, nor in agricultural productions, nor in our wealth, grown so great that a war debt of billions fades out under ministrations of the revenue collector without fretting the people; nor, indeed, in all these combined. That claim finds its true elements in our systems of education and of unconstrained religious worship; in our wise and just laws, and the purity of their administration; in the conservative spirit with which the minority submits to defeat in a hotly-contested election; in a free press; in that broad humanity which builds hospitals and asylums for the poor, sick, and insane on the confines of every city; in the robust, manly, buoyant spirit of a people competent to admonish others and to rule themselves; and in the achievements of that people in every department of thought and learning.
From his opening address at an annual exhibition of the Brooklyn Industrial Institute. As quoted in biographical preface by T. Bigelow to Austin Abbott (ed.), Official Report of the Trial of Henry Ward Beecher (1875), Vol. 1, xiv.
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Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.
In 'The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External', The Nation (12 May 2014).
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Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
Commenting on the way the Vietnam War was being conducted by the U.S.
'The Man Who Was a Fool', Strength To Love (1963, 1981), 76.
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Paris ... On this side of the ocean it is difficult to understand the susceptibility of American citizens on the subject and precisely why they should so stubbornly cling to the biblical version. It is said in Genesis the first man came from mud and mud is not anything very clean. In any case if the Darwinian hypothesis should irritate any one it should only be the monkey. The monkey is an innocent animal—a vegetarian by birth. He never placed God on a cross, knows nothing of the art of war, does not practice lynch law and never dreams of assassinating his fellow beings. The day when science definitely recognizes him as the father of the human race the monkey will have no occasion to be proud of his descendants. That is why it must be concluded that the American Association which is prosecuting the teacher of evolution can be no other than the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
[A cynical article in the French press on the Scopes Monkey Trial, whether it will decide “a monkey or Adam was the grandfather of Uncle Sam.”]
Article from a French daily newspaper on the day hearings at the Scopes Monkey Trial began, Paris Soir (13 Jul 1925), quoted in 'French Satirize the Case', New York Times (14 Jul 1925), 3.
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Primitiveness and civilization are degrees of the same thing. If civilization has an opposite, it is war.
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
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PROJECTILE, n. The final arbiter in international disputes. Formerly these disputes were settled by physical contact of the disputants, with such simple arguments as the rudimentary logic of the times could supply —the sword, the spear, and so forth. With the growth of prudence in military affairs the projectile came more and more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the most courageous. Its capital defect is that it requires personal attendance at the point of propulsion.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  268.
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Science is wonderful: for years uranium cost only a few dollars a ton until scientists discovered you could kill people with it.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 703.
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Science unfolded her treasures and her secrets to the desperate demands of men, and placed in their hands agencies and apparatus almost decisive in their character.
Reflecting on the outcome of World War I, and an ominous future.
The Second World War: The Gathering Storm (1948, 1986), Vol. 1, 35. Quoting himself from his earlier book, The Aftermath: Being a Sequel to The World Crisis‎ (1929).
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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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The conflict that exists today is no more than an old-style struggle for power, once again presented to mankind in semireligious trappings. The difference is that, this time, the development of atomic power has imbued the struggle with a ghostly character; for both parties know and admit that, should the quarrel deteriorate into actual war, mankind is doomed.
Address he was writing, left unfinished when he died (Apr 1955).
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The determining cause of most wars in the past has been, and probably will be of all wars in the future, the uncertainty of the result; war is acknowledged to be a challenge to the Unknown, it is often spoken of as an appeal to the God of Battles. The province of science is to foretell; this is true of every department of science. And the time must come—how soon we do not know—when the real science of war, something quite different from the application of science to the means of war, will make it possible to foresee with certainty the issue of a projected war. That will mark the end of battles; for however strong the spirit of contention, no nation will spend its money in a fight in which it knows it must lose.
Times Literary Supplement (28 Nov 1902), 353-4.

The events of the past few years have led to a critical examination of the function of science in society. It used to be believed that the results of scientific investigation would lead to continuous progressive improvements in conditions of life; but first the War and then the economic crisis have shown that science can be used as easily for destructive and wasteful purposes, and voices have been raised demanding the cessation of scientific research as the only means of preserving a tolerable civilization. Scientists themselves, faced with these criticisms, have been forced to consider, effectively for the first time, how the work they are doing is connected around them. This book is an attempt to analyse this connection; to investigate how far scientists, individually and collectively, are responsible for this state of affairs, and to suggest what possible steps could be taken which would lead to a fruitful and not to a destructive utilization of science.
The Social Function of Science (1939), xlii.

The last few centuries have seen the world freed from several scourges—slavery, for example; death by torture for heretics; and, most recently, smallpox. I am optimistic enough to believe that the next scourge to disappear will be large-scale warfare—killed by the existence and nonuse of nuclear weapons.
Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist (1987), 152.

The nation that prepares for war will sooner or later have war. We get just anything we prepare for, and we get nothing else. Everything that happens is a sequence: this happened today because you did that yesterday.
Aphorism in The Philistine (Apr 1905), 20, No. 5, 160.
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The new naval treaty permits the United States to spend a billion dollars on warships—a sum greater than has been accumulated by all our endowed institutions of learning in their entire history. Unintelligence could go no further! ... [In Great Britain, the situation is similar.] ... Until the figures are reversed, ... nations deceive themselves as to what they care about most.
Universities: American, English, German (1930), qMU2AAAAIAAJ&q
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The news today about ‘Atomic bombs’ is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world!
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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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 ponderous instrument of synthesis, so effective in his [Newton’s] hands, has never since been grasped by one who could use it for such purposes; and we gaze at it with admiring curiosity, as on some gigantic implement of war, which stands idle among the memorials of ancient days, and makes us wonder what manner of man he was who could wield as a weapon what we can hardly lift as a burden.
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1857), Vol. 2, 128.
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The prediction of nuclear winter is drawn not, of course, from any direct experience with the consequences of global nuclear war, but rather from an investigation of the governing physics. (The problem does not lend itself to full experimental verification—at least not more than once.)[co-author with American atmospheric chemist Richard P. Turco (1943- )]
A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (1990), 26.
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The problem of values arises only when men try to fit together their need to be social animals with their need to be free men. There is no problem, and there are no values, until men want to do both. If an anarchist wants only freedom, whatever the cost, he will prefer the jungle of man at war with man. And if a tyrant wants only social order, he will create the totalitarian state.
Science and Human Values (1961), 63.
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The problems of analyzing war operations are … rather nearer, in general, to many problems, say of biology or of economics, than to most problems of physics, where usually a great deal of numerical data are ascertainable about relatively simple phenomena.
In report at the British Association Annual Meeting, Dundee (30 Aug 1947), published in 'Operational Research in War and Peace', The Advancement of Science (1948), 17, 320-332. Collected in P.M.S. Blackett, Studies of War: Nuclear and Conventional (1962), 177.
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The refuge of the morally, intellectually, artistically and economically bankrupt is war.
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The rocks have a history; gray and weatherworn, they are veterans of many battles; they have most of them marched in the ranks of vast stone brigades during the ice age; they have been torn from the hills, recruited from the mountaintops, and marshaled on the plains and in the valleys; and now the elemental war is over, there they lie waging a gentle but incessant warfare with time and slowly, oh, so slowly, yielding to its attacks!
Under the Apple-Trees (1916), 42.
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The science of government is my duty. ... I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
Letter to Abigail Adams, (1780). In John Adams and Charles Francis Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife (1841), 68.
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The science of weapons and war has made us all one world and one human race with one common destiny.
Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations, 20 Sep 1963. In Edward C. Luck, Mixed Messages: American Politics and International Organization, 1919-1999 (1999), 41.
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The Secretary of the Navy [Josephus Daniels] has decided that the science of aerial navigation has reached that point where aircraft must form a large part of our naval force for offensive and defensive operations. Nearly all countries having a Navy are giving attention to this subject. This country has not fully realized the value of aeronautics in preparation for war, but it is believed we should take our proper place.
Statement on the future of U.S. Naval Aviation made on the eve of World War I.
News release, U.S. Navy Department, 10 Jan 1914. In Aviation in the United States Navy (1965), 5. In Kevin L. Falk, Why Nations Put to Sea (2000), 48.
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The struggle between the unitary and dualistic theories of chemical affinity, which raged for nearly a century, was a form of civil war between inorganic and organic chemists.
Comment made on a postcard sent to Robin O. Gandy. Reproduced in Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983), 513.
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The student of biology is often struck with the feeling that historians, when dealing with the rise and fall of nations, do not generally view the phenomena from a sufficiently high biological standpoint. To me, at least, they seem to attach too much importance to individual rulers and soldiers, and to particular wars, policies, religions, and customs; while at the same time they make little attempt to extract the fundamental causes of national success or failure.
Introduction written by Ross for William Henry Samuel Jones, Malaria, a Neglected Factor in the History of Greece and Rome (1907), 1.
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The terror created by weaponry has never stopped men from employing them.
Speech to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (14 Jun 1946). In Alfred J. Kolatch, Great Jewish Quotations (1996), 39.
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The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living.
Speech on Armistice Day (11 Nov 1948), Collected Writings (1967), Vol. 1. Cited in Robert Andrews Famous Lines: a Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations (1997), 340. Longer quote in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists(Apr 1952), 8, No. 4, 114.
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There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth: the first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors—this is robbery; the second by commerce, which is generally cheating; the third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.
In 'Positions to be Examined', The Works of Benjamin Franklin Consisting of Essays, Humorous, Moral and Literary (1824), 241.
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They are a doomed race. Wars, smallpox, gross immorality, a change from old ways to new ways their fate is the common fate of the American, whether he sails the sea in the North, gallops over the plain in the West, or sleeps in his hammock in the forests of Brazil.
From Lecture on the Haida Indian Nation, delivered at the Field Columbian Museum (6 Nov 1897). Reproduced in 'A Cruise among Haida and Tlingit Villages About Dixon’s Entrance', Popular Science Monthly (Jun 1898), 164.

This weapon [the atomic bomb] has added an additional responsibility—or, better, an additional incentive—to find a sound basis for lasting peace. It provides an overwhelming inducement for the avoidance of war. It emphasizes the crisis we face in international matters and strengthens the conviction that adequate safeguards for peace must be found.
Opening address (7 Nov 1945) of Town Hall’s annual lecture series, as quoted in 'Gen. Groves Warns on Atom ‘Suicide’', New York Times (8 Nov 1945), 4. (Just three months before he spoke, two atom bombs dropped on Japan in Aug 1945 effectively ended WW II.)
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To wage war with Marchand or anyone else again will benefit nobody and bring little profit to science. You consume yourself in this way, you ruin your liver and eventually your nerves with Morrison pills. Imagine the year 1900 when we have disintegrated into carbonic acid, ammonia and water and our bone substance is perhaps once more a constituent of the bones of the dog who defiles our graves. Who will then worry his head as to whether we have lived in peace or anger, who then will know about your scientific disputes and of your sacrifice of health and peace of mind for science? Nobody. But your good ideas and the discoveries you have made, cleansed of all that is extraneous to the subject, will still be known and appreciated for many years to come. But why am I trying to advise the lion to eat sugar.
Letter from Wohler to Liebig (9 Mar 1843). In A. W. Hofmann (ed.), Aus Justus Liebigs und Friedrich Wohlers Briefwechsel (1888), Vol. 1, 224. Trans. Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 205.
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Unless we choose to decentralize and to use applied science, not as the end to which human beings are to be made the means, but as the means to producing a race of free individuals, we have only two alternatives to choose from: either a number of national
Brave New World (1932, 1998), Preface, xvii.
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War and the steam engine joined forces and forged what was to become one of the most delicate of concepts. Sadi Carnot … formed the opinion that one cause of France’s defeat had been her industrial inferiority. … Carnot saw steam power as a universal motor. … Carnot was a visionary and sharp analyst of what was needed to improve the steam engine. … Carnot’s work … laid the foundations of [thermodynamics].
In The Second Law (1984), 1-2.
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War rages on the teeming earth;
The hot and sanguinary fight
Begins with each new creature's birth:
A dreadful war where might is right;
Where still the strongest slay and win,
Where weakness is the only sin.
The Ascent of Man (1889), 13.
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War should mean research.
In Letter (1917) to Vary T. Hutchinson, in GEH Papers, Box 23. As quoted an cited in Daniel J. Kevles, The Physicists (1977, 1995), 116. (Hale was Chairman of the National Research Council, 1916–1919.)
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We are living in a world in which all wars are wars of defense.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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We seem ambitious God's whole work to undo.
...With new diseases on ourselves we war,
And with new physic, a worse engine far.
'An Anatomy of the World' (1611), collected in The Poetical Works of Dr. John Donne (1864), 83.
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We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.
Address at Rice University in Houston (12 Sep 1962). On website of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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We will be misguided in our intentions if we point at one single thing and say that it will prevent war, unless, of course, that thing happens to be the will, the determination, and the resolve of people everywhere that nations will never again clash on the battlefield.
Opening address (7 Nov 1945) of Town Hall’s annual lecture series, as quoted in 'Gen. Groves Warns on Atom ‘Suicide’', New York Times (8 Nov 1945), 4. (Just three months before he spoke, two atom bombs dropped on Japan in Aug 1945 effectively ended WW II.)
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We will not act prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of world­wide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth. But neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.
(1962) From address televised during the Cuban missile crisis (22 Oct 1962). As quoted in The Uncommon Wisdom of JFK: A Portrait in His Own Words 92003), 89.
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Well the first War of the Machines seems to be drawing to its final inconclusive chapter—leaving, alas, everyone the poorer, many bereaved or maimed and millions dead, and only one thing triumphant: the Machines. As the servants of the Machines are becoming a privileged class, the Machines are going to be enormously more powerful. What’s their next move?
Concluding remarks from Letter to his son Christopher (30 Jan 1945). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 112, Letter No. 96.
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Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.
Leviathan (1651), ed. C. B. Macpherson (1968), Part 1, Chapter 13, 186.

When I received the Nobel Prize, the only big lump sum of money I have ever seen, I had to do something with it. The easiest way to drop this hot potato was to invest it, to buy shares. I knew that World War II was coming and I was afraid that if I had shares which rise in case of war, I would wish for war. So I asked my agent to buy shares which go down in the event of war. This he did. I lost my money and saved my soul.
In The Crazy Ape (1970), 21.
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When men are engaged in war and conquest, the tools of science become as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a child of three. We must not condemn man because his inventiveness and patient conquest of the forces of nature are being exploited for false and destructive purposes. Rather, we should remember that the fate of mankind hinges entirely upon man’s moral development.
In 'I Am an American' (22 Jun 1940), Einstein Archives 29-092. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 470. The British Library Sound Archive holds a recording of this statement by Einstein. It was during a radio broadcast for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, interviewed by a State Department Official. Einstein spoke following an examination on his application for American citizenship in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war on Japan was still over a year in the future.
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When not protected by law, by popular favor or superstition, or by other special circumstances, [birds] yield very readily to the influences of civilization, and, though the first operations of the settler are favorable to the increase of many species, the great extension of rural and of mechanical industry is, in a variety of ways, destructive even to tribes not directly warred upon by man.
In Man and Nature, (1864), 93-93.
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You bring me the deepest joy that can be felt by a man [Pasteur himself] whose invincible belief is that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War, that nations will unite, not to destroy, but to build, and that the future will belong to those who will have done most for suffering humanity. But whether our efforts are or are not favored by life, let us be able to say, when we come near to the great goal, “I have done what I could.”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France (27 Dec 1892) where his 70th birth was recognized. His son presented the speech due to the weakness of Pastuer's voice. In René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, R. L. Devonshire (trans.) (1902), Vol. 2, 297.
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You must not blame us scientists for the use which war technicians have put our discoveries.
From interview, 'Is the Atom Terror Exaggerated?', Saturday Evening Post (1946). As cited in Patricia Rife, Lise Meitner and the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (1999), 255.
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[Joseph Rotblat] was a towering figure in the search for peace in the world, who dedicated his life to trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and ultimately to rid the world of war itself.
Speaking as president of the Pugwash Conferences. As quoted in Associated Press syndicated to newspapers, for example in, 'Joseph Rotblat, Scientist Against Nuclear Arms, Dies', Sun Journal (2 Sep 2005), A5.
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[On mediocrity] What we have today is a retreat into low-level goodness. Men are all working hard building barbecues, being devoted to their wives and spending time with their children. Many of us feel, “We never had it so good!” After three wars and a depression, we’re impressed by the rising curve. All we want is it not to blow up.
As quoted in Frances Glennon, 'Student and Teacher of Human Ways', Life (14 Sep 1959), 147.
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…resort to science has rendered modern war so destructive of life and property that it presents a new problem to mankind, such, that unless our civilization shall find some means of making an end to war, war will make an end to our civilization.
America and World Peace (1925), 37. In Edward C. Luck, Mixed Messages: American Politics and International Organization, 1919-1999 (1999), 143.

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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