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Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index W > Category: Wilderness

Wilderness Quotes (45 quotes)


A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of idea within a wall of words.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 221.
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A small cabin stands in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, about a hundred yards off a trail that crosses the Cascade Range. In midsummer, the cabin looked strange in the forest. It was only twelve feet square, but it rose fully two stories and then had a high and steeply peaked roof. From the ridge of the roof, moreover, a ten-foot pole stuck straight up. Tied to the top of the pole was a shovel. To hikers shedding their backpacks at the door of the cabin on a cold summer evening—as the five of us did—it was somewhat unnerving to look up and think of people walking around in snow perhaps thirty-five feet above, hunting for that shovel, then digging their way down to the threshold.
In Encounters with the Archdruid (1971), 3.
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A terrible wilderness of mountainous country constitutes the immediate environment of St. Paul's. It is a precipitous cliff into the abyss, a gate of hell, more horrible than the fantasy of Dante could express it.
St. Paul's Monastery is located 300-km southeast of Cairo, on the southern edge of a desert mountain range, adjacent to the Gulf of Suez
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An author has always great difficulty in avoiding unnecessary and tedious detail on the one hand; while, on the other, he must notice such a number of facts as may convince a student, that he is not wandering in a wilderness of crude hypotheses or unsupported assumptions.
In A Geological Manual (1832), Preface, iii.
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An ecologist is a voice crying over the wilderness.
Anonymous
…...
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An undertaking of great magnitude and importance, the successful accomplishment of which, in so comparatively short a period, notwithstanding the unheard of unestimable difficulties and impediments which had to be encountered and surmounted, in an almost unexplored and uninhabited wilderness … evinced on your part a moral courage and an undaunted spirit and combination of science and management equally exciting our admiration and deserving our praise.
(In recognition of his achievement building the Rideau Canal.)
John By
Address by the Montreal Committee of Trade. Quoted in 'John By', University of Toronto Press, Dictionary of Canadian Biography (1966), vol.7, 130.
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Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs,—
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress
Its music.
Poem, 'The Invitation' (1822), collected in The Poetical Works (1844), 306.
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But as the wilderness areas are progressively exploited or “improve”, as the jeeps and bulldozers of uranium prospectors scar up the deserts and the roads are cut into the alpine timberlands, and as the remnants of the unspoiled and natural world are progressively eroded, every such loss is a little death in me. In us.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 150.
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Civilization no longer needs to open up wilderness; it needs wilderness to help open up the still largely unexplored human mind.
In The Dark Range: a Naturalist's Night Notebook (1978), 113.
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For mathematics, in a wilderness of tragedy and change, is a creature of the mind, born to the cry of humanity in search of an invariant reality, immutable in substance, unalterable with time.
In The American Mathematical Monthly (1949), 56, 19. Excerpted in John Ewing (ed,), A Century of Mathematics: Through the Eyes of the Monthly (1996), 186.
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I should like to urge some arguments for wilderness preservation that involve recreation,…. Hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain-climbing, camping, photography, and the enjoyment of natural scenery will all, surely, figure in your report. So will the wilderness as a genetic reserve, a scientific yardstick by which we may measure the world in its natural balance against the world in its man-made imbalance.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 145-146.
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I think the light of science is so dazzling that it can be evaluated only by studying its reflection from the absorbing mirror of life; and life brings one back to wildness.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 8.
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I trust ... I have succeeded in convincing you that modern chemistry is not, as it has so long appeared, an ever-growing accumulation of isolated facts, as impossible for a single intellect to co-ordinate as for a single memory to grasp.
The intricate formulae that hang upon these walls, and the boundless variety of phenomena they illustrate, are beginning to be for us as a labyrinth once impassable, but to which we have at length discovered the clue. A sense of mastery and power succeeds in our minds to the sort of weary despair with which we at first contemplated their formidable array. For now, by the aid of a few general principles, we find ourselves able to unravel the complexities of these formulae, to marshal the compounds which they represent in orderly series; nay, even to multiply their numbers at our will, and in a great measure to forecast their nature ere we have called them into existence. It is the great movement of modern chemistry that we have thus, for an hour, seen passing before us. It is a movement as of light spreading itself over a waste of obscurity, as of law diffusing order throughout a wilderness of confusion, and there is surely in its contemplation something of the pleasure which attends the spectacle of a beautiful daybreak, something of the grandeur belonging to the conception of a world created out of chaos.
Concluding remark for paper presented at the Friday Discourse of the the Royal Institution (7 Apr 1865). 'On the Combining Power of Atoms', Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1865), 4, No. 42, 416.
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If I were entering adulthood now instead of in the environment of fifty years ago, I would choose a career that kept me in touch with nature more than science. … Too few natural areas remain; both by intent and by indifference we have insulated ourselves from the wilderness that produced us.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 10.
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If the national park idea is, as Lord Bryce suggested, the best idea America ever had, wilderness preservation is the highest refinement of that idea.
In magazine article, 'It All Began with Conservation', Smithsonian (Apr 1990), 21, No. 1, 34-43. Collected in Wallace Stegner and Page Stegner (ed.), Marking the Sparrow’s Fall: The Making of the American West (1998, 1999), 131.
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In the wilderness, people think of danger from Indians, alligators, and jaguars. They are not the things you mind. It is the mosquitoes, the poisonous ants, the maribondo wasps that are perfectly awful. It is the borrachudos and plum flies—like the black flies of the north woods, only worse … The day after I threw away my spare clothing ants ate up all my underwear. These were white ants. The driver ants try to eat the man instead of his clothes.
In National Geographic, Great Adventures with National Geographic: Exploring Land, Sea, and Sk (1963), 109. The last sentences about the white and driver ants, with slightly different wording, also appear in Theodore Roosevelt, 'A Journey in Central Brazil', The Geographical Journey (Feb 1915), 45, No. 2, 104, previously read to the Royal Geographic Society (16 Jun 1914).
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In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.
Declaring a preference for contact with nature rather than with technology. In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 10.
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It has never been man’s gift to make wildernesses. But he can make deserts, and has.
Last line of article, 'The War Between the Rough Riders and the Bird Watchers', Sierra Club Bulletin (May 1959). Quoted in Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work (2009), 231.
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It is a lovely and terrible wilderness, such as wilderness as Christ and the prophets went out into; harshly and beautifully colored, broken and worn until its bones are exposed, its great sky without a smudge of taint from Technocracy, and in hidden corners and pockets under its cliffs the sudden poetry of springs.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 153.
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Mastering the lawless science of our law,—
That codeless myriad of precedent,
That wilderness of single instances.
'Aylmer’s Field.' The Poetical Works of Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate (1869), 341.
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Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost. Rigour should be a signal to the historian that the maps have been made, and the real explorers have gone elsewhere.
'Mathematics and History', Mathematical Intelligencer (1992), 4, No. 4, 10.
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My own thinking (and that of many of my colleagues) is based on two general principles, which I shall call the Sequence Hypothesis and the Central Dogma. The direct evidence for both of them is negligible, but I have found them to be of great help in getting to grips with these very complex problems. I present them here in the hope that others can make similar use of them. Their speculative nature is emphasized by their names. It is an instructive exercise to attempt to build a useful theory without using them. One generally ends in the wilderness.
The Sequence Hypothesis
This has already been referred to a number of times. In its simplest form it assumes that the specificity of a piece of nucleic acid is expressed solely by the sequence of its bases, and that this sequence is a (simple) code for the amino acid sequence of a particular protein...
The Central Dogma
This states that once 'information' has passed into protein it cannot get out again. In more detail, the transfer of information from nucleic acid to nucleic acid, or from nucleic acid to protein may be possible, but transfer from protein to protein, or from protein to nucleic acid is impossible. Information means here the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or of amino acid residues in the protein. This is by no means universally held—Sir Macfarlane Burnet, for example, does not subscribe to it—but many workers now think along these lines. As far as I know it has not been explicitly stated before.
'On Protein Synthesis', Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology: The Biological Replication of Macromolecules, 1958, 12, 152-3.
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Nowadays the field naturalist—who is usually at all points superior to the mere closet naturalist—follows a profession as full of hazard and interest as that of the explorer or of the big-game hunter in the remote wilderness.
African Game Trails (1910), 414-415.
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Physical investigation, more than anything besides, helps to teach us the actual value and right use of the Imagination—of that wondrous faculty, which, left to ramble uncontrolled, leads us astray into a wilderness of perplexities and errors, a land of mists and shadows; but which, properly controlled by experience and reflection, becomes the noblest attribute of man; the source of poetic genius, the instrument of discovery in Science, without the aid of which Newton would never have invented fluxions, nor Davy have decomposed the earths and alkalies, nor would Columbus have found another Continent.
Presidential Address to Anniversary meeting of the Royal Society (30 Nov 1859), Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1860), 10, 165.
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Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.
…...
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Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clean air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 146.
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The Arctic has a call that is compelling. The distant mountains [of the Brooks Range in Alaska] make one want to go on and on over the next ridge and over the one beyond. The call is that of a wilderness known only to a few…. This last American wilderness must remain sacrosanct.
…...
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The ecologist cannot remain a voice crying in the wilderness—if he is to be heard and understood.
In M.W. Holdgate and M.J. Woodman (eds.) The Breakdown and Restoration of Ecosystems: Proceedings of the Conference (2012), 478. This is part of a final Conclusions. Hildgate as editor summarized the remarks of Talbot and Nicholson.
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Edward Abbey quote: The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.
https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=46191&picture=rocky-desert-landscape (source)
The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.
In 'Shadows from the Big Woods', The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West (1977), 229.
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The oceans are the planet’s last great living wilderness, man’s only remaining frontier on Earth, and perhaps his last chance to prove himself as a rational species.
The Forests of the Sea
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The preservation of a few samples of undeveloped territory is one of the most clamant issues before us today. Just a few more years of hesitation and the only trace of that wilderness which has exerted such a fundamental influence in molding American character will lie in the musty pages of pioneer books. … To avoid this catastrophe demands immediate action.
…...
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Havelock Ellis quote: The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.
Background image cc by-sa 4.0 credit copyright Andrew Shiva (source)
The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.
In The Dance of Life (1923), 236.
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The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. … It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wilderness lies in wait.
In Orthodoxy (1908), 148.
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The swift metamorphosis and the onward march of civilization, sweeping ever westward and transforming and taming our wilderness, fills us with a strange regret, and we rejoice that parts of that wilderness will yet remain to us unchanged
…...
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The unquiet republic of the maze
Of Planets, struggling fierce towards heaven's free wilderness.
Prometheus Unbound (1820). In Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979, 1986), 240.
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There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.
African Game Trails (1910), ix. This is one of the quotations inscribed in the Roosevelt Memorial rotunda at the American Museum of Natural History.
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There is probably no other science which presents such different appearances to one who cultivates it and to one who does not, as mathematics. To this person it is ancient, venerable, and complete; a body of dry, irrefutable, unambiguous reasoning. To the mathematician, on the other hand, his science is yet in the purple bloom of vigorous youth, everywhere stretching out after the “attainable but unattained” and full of the excitement of nascent thoughts; its logic is beset with ambiguities, and its analytic processes, like Bunyan’s road, have a quagmire on one side and a deep ditch on the other and branch off into innumerable by-paths that end in a wilderness.
In 'The Theory of Transformation Groups', (A review of Erster Abschnitt, Theorie der Transformationsgruppen (1888)), Bulletin New York Mathematical Society (1893), 2 (First series), 61.
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These are some of the things wilderness can do for us. That is the reason we need to put into effect, for its preservation, some other principle that the principles of exploitation or “usefulness” or even recreation. We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 153.
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We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.
…...
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What would the world be, once bereft
Of Wet and Wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wilderness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
'Inversnaid' (1881), reprinted in Gerard Manley Hopkins and Michael White (ed.) Some Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, (1945), 16, stanza 4.
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When I first ventured into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1950s, the sea appeared to be a blue infinity too large, too wild to be harmed by anything that people could do. I explored powder white beaches, dense marshes, mangrove forests, and miles of sea grass meadows alive with pink sea urchins, tiny shrimps, and seahorses half the size of my little finger. … Then, in mere decades, not millennia, the blue wilderness of my childhood disappeared: biologic change in the space of a lifetime.
From 'My Blue Wilderness', National Geographic Magazine (Oct 2010), 76.
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When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe ... The whole wilderness is unity and interrelation, is alive and familiar, full of humanity. The very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly.
John Muir
In My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), 211 and 319. Based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the Sierra.
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Wherever we seek to find constancy we discover change. Having looked at the old woodlands in Hutcheson Forest, at Isle Royale, and in the wilderness of the boundary waters, in the land of the moose and the wolf, and having uncovered the histories hidden within the trees and within the muds, we find that nature undisturbed is not constant in form, structure, or proportion, but changes at every scale of time and space. The old idea of a static landscape, like a single musical chord sounded forever, must be abandoned, for such a landscape never existed except in our imagination. Nature undisturbed by human influence seems more like a symphony whose harmonies arise from variation and change over many scales of time and space, changing with individual births and deaths, local disruptions and recoveries, larger scale responses to climate from one glacial age to another, and to the slower alterations of soils, and yet larger variations between glacial ages.
Discordant Harmonies (1990), 62.
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Wilderness is an anchor to windward. Knowing it is there, we can also know that we are still a rich nation, tending our resources as we should—not a people in despair searching every last nook and cranny of our land for a board of lumber, a barrel of oil, a blade of grass, or a tank of water.
…...
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Without any remaining wilderness we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite-life, the Brave New World of a completely man-controlled environment. We need wilderness preserved—as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds—because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 147.
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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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