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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index W > Category: Wish

Wish Quotes (40 quotes)

Ac astronomye is an hard thyng,
And yvel for to knowe;
Geometrie and geomesie,
So gynful of speche,
Who so thynketh werche with tho two
Thryveth ful late,
For sorcerie is the sovereyn book
That to tho sciences bilongeth.

Now, astronomy is a difficult discipline, and the devil to learn;
And geometry and geomancy have confusing terminology:
If you wish to work in these two, you will not succeed quickly.
For sorcery is the chief study that these sciences entail.
In William Langland and B. Thomas Wright (ed.) The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman (1842), 186. Modern translation by Terrence Tiller in Piers Plowman (1981, 1999), 94.
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A patient pursuit of facts, and cautious combination and comparison of them, is the drudgery to which man is subjected by his Maker, if he wishes to attain sure knowledge.
In 'Productions Mineral, Vegetable and Animal', Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), 112.
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And how admirable and rare an ornament, O good God, is mildenesse in a divine? And how much is it to be wished in this age, that all divines were mathematicians? that is men gentle and meeke.
Trigonometria (1595), trans. R. Handson (1614), Epistle Dedicatorie.
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As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
From The Art of Living, Day by Day 91972), 77. Frequently misattributed to Henry David Thoreau.
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As for France and England, with all their pre-eminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, and the other of pirates. If science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine, and destitution of national morality, I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest, and estimable as our neighboring savages are.
Letter (21 Jan 1812) to John Adams. Collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph (ed.), Memoirs, Correspondence and Private Papers (1829), Vol. 4, 173.
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Early in my school days a boy had a copy of the “Wonders of the World,” which I often read, and disputed with other boys about the veracity of some of the statements; and I believe that this book first gave me a wish to travel in remote countries, which was ultimately fulfilled by the voyage of the Beagle.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), 'Autobiography', The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887, 1896), Vol. 1, 31.
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From the rocket we can see the huge sphere of the planet in one or another phase of the Moon. We can see how the sphere rotates, and how within a few hours it shows all its sides successively ... and we shall observe various points on the surface of the Earth for several minutes and from different sides very closely. This picture is so majestic, attractive and infinitely varied that I wish with all my soul that you and I could see it. (1911)
As translated in William E. Burrows, The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth (2007), 147. From Tsiolkovsky's 'The Investigation of Universal Space by Means of Reactive Devices', translated in K.E. Tsiolkovsky, Works on Rocket Technology (NASA, NASATT F-243, n.d.), 76-77.
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However, all scientific statements and laws have one characteristic in common: they are “true or false” (adequate or inadequate). Roughly speaking, our reaction to them is “yes” or “no.” The scientific way of thinking has a further characteristic. The concepts which it uses to build up its coherent systems are not expressing emotions. For the scientist, there is only “being,” but no wishing, no valuing, no good, no evil; no goal. As long as we remain within the realm of science proper, we can never meet with a sentence of the type: “Thou shalt not lie.” There is something like a Puritan's restraint in the scientist who seeks truth: he keeps away from everything voluntaristic or emotional.
Essays in Physics (1950), 68.
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I am a firm believer in the theory that you can do or be anything that you wish in this world, within reason, if you are prepared to make the sacrifices, think and work hard enough and long enough.
From Cameron Prize Lecture (1928), delivered before the University of Edinburgh. As quoted and cited in Editorial Section, 'Sir Frederick Banting', Canadian Public Health Journal (May 1941), 32, No. 5, 266-267.
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I can certainly wish for new, large, and properly constructed instruments, and enough of them, but to state where and by what means they are to be procured, this I cannot do. Tycho Brahe has given Mastlin an instrument of metal as a present, which would be very useful if Mastlin could afford the cost of transporting it from the Baltic, and if he could hope that it would travel such a long way undamaged… . One can really ask for nothing better for the observation of the sun than an opening in a tower and a protected place underneath.
As quoted in James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin, The Portable Renaissance Reader (1968), 605.
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I took biology in high school and didn't like it at all. It was focused on memorization. ... I didn't appreciate that biology also had principles and logic ... [rather than dealing with a] messy thing called life. It just wasn't organized, and I wanted to stick with the nice pristine sciences of chemistry and physics, where everything made sense. I wish I had learned sooner that biology could be fun as well.
Interview (23 May 1998), 'Creating the Code to Life', Academy of Achievement web site.
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I wish I had my beta-blockers handy.
[Comment when told that he had won a Nobel prize, referring to the drug he discovered for the treatment of heart disease.]
As quoted in Obituary, The Times (24 Mar 2010)
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I wish I were a glow-worm.
A glow-worm’s never glum.
How can you be unhappy,
When a light shines out your bum.
Anonymous
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I wish, my dear Kepler, that we could have a good laugh together at the extraordinary stupidity of the mob. What do you think of the foremost philosophers of this University? In spite of my oft-repeated efforts and invitations, they have refused, with the obstinacy of a glutted adder, to look at the planets or the Moon or my glass [telescope].
Opere ed Nas. X, 423. As cited in Alan Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 99. Galileo wished others to use his telescope to see for themselves the moons of Jupiter which he had himself first seen in Jan 1610. If you have a primary source for this letter giving the date it was written, please contact Webmaster.
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If you wish to die young, make your physician your heir.
In H. Pullar-Strecker, Proverbs for Pleasure (1954), 193.
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If you wish to learn from the theoretical physicist anything about the methods which he uses, I would give you the following piece of advice: Don’t listen to his words, examine his achievements. For to the discoverer in that field, the constructions of his imagination appear so necessary and so natural that he is apt to treat them not as the creations of his thoughts but as given realities.
In Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford (10 Jun 1933), 'On the Methods of Theoretical Physics'. Printed inPhilosophy of Science (Apr 1934), 1, No. 2, 163.
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In an examination those who do not wish to know ask questions of those who cannot tell.
'Some Thoughts on Examinations', inLaughter from a Cloud (1923), 120.
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It is a great folly to wish to be exclusively wise.
In Moral Reflections, Sentences and Maxims (1851), 72.
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It was not until 1901 that humanity knew that nuclear energy existed. It is understandable now—but useless—to wish that we still lived in the ignorance of 1900.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 176.
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Knowing how contented, free and joyful is life in the realms of science, one fervently wishes that many would enter their portals.
In The Principles of Chemistry (1891), Vol. 1, preface, footnote, ix, as translated from the Russian 5th edition by George Kamensky, edited by A. J. Greenaway.
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Men who have excessive faith in their theories … make poor observations, because they choose among the results of their experiments only what suits their object, neglecting whatever is unrelated to it and carefully setting aside everything which might tend toward the idea they wish to combat
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 38.
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Oh! But I have better news for you, Madam, if you have any patriotism as citizen of this world and wish its longevity. Mr. Herschel has found out that our globe is a comely middle-aged personage, and has not so many wrinkles as seven stars, who are evidently our seniors. Nay, he has discovered that the Milky Way is not only a mob of stars, but that there is another dairy of them still farther off, whence, I conclude, comets are nothing but pails returning from milking, instead of balloons filled with inflammable air.
Letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory (4 Jul 1785) in W. S. Lewis (ed.), Horace Walpole's Correspondence with the Countess of Upper Ossory (1965), Vol. 33, 474.
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Oh, my dear Kepler, how I wish that we could have one hearty laugh together. Here, at Padua, is the principal professor of philosophy, whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested to look at the moon and planets through my glass, [telescope] which he pertinaciously refuses to do. Why are you not here? what shouts of laughter we should have at this glorious folly! and to hear the professor of philosophy at Pisa laboring before the grand duke with logical arguments, as if with magical incantations, to charm the new planets out of the sky.
From Letter to Johannes Kepler. As translated in John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, Life of Galileo Galilei: With Illustrations of the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy (1832), 92-93.
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Science in England, in America, is jealous of theory, hates the name of love and moral purpose. There's revenge for this humanity. What manner of man does science make? The boy is not attracted. He says, I do not wish to be such a kind of man as my professor is.
In essay. 'Beauty', collected in The Conduct of Life (1860), 250.
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The advanced course in physics began with Rutherford’s lectures. I was the only woman student who attended them and the regulations required that women should sit by themselves in the front row. There had been a time when a chaperone was necessary but mercifully that day was past. At every lecture Rutherford would gaze at me pointedly, as I sat by myself under his very nose, and would begin in his stentorian voice: “Ladies and Gentlemen”. All the boys regularly greeted this witticism with thunderous applause, stamping with their feet in the traditional manner, and at every lecture I wished I could sink into the earth. To this day I instinctively take my place as far back as possible in a lecture room.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 118.
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The most important and urgent problems of the technology of today are no longer the satisfactions of the primary needs or of archetypal wishes, but the reparation of the evils and damages by technology of yesterday.
Innovations: Scientific Technological and Social (1970), 9.
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The psychiatric interviewer is supposed to be doing three things: considering what the patient could mean by what he says; considering how he himself can best phrase what he wishes to communicate to the patient; and, at the same time, observing the general pattern of the events being communicated. In addition to that, to make notes which will be of more than evocative value, or come anywhere near being a verbatim record of what is said, in my opinion is beyond the capacity of most human beings.
From The Psychiatric Interview (1954, 1970), 48.
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The symptoms of neurosis, as we have learnt, are essentially substitute gratifications for unfulfilled sexual wishes.
In Sigmund Freud and Joan Riviere (trans.), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930, 1994), 65.
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The wish to believe, even against evidence, fuels all the pseudosciences from astrology to creationism.
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Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.
Cosmos (1985), 275.
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Those who take refuge behind theological barbed wire fences, quite often wish they could have more freedom of thought, but fear the change to the great ocean of truth as they would a cold bath.
Quoted in Dr. D. M. Brooks, The Necessity of Atheism (1933), 341.
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To say that, a scientific man puts forth a theory and, supports it and adheres to it, not because he thinks it true, but because he wishes it to be true, is the same thing as saying that he is not a seeker after truth at all, and is therefore a traitor to his profession.
In Reason and Belief (1910), 136.
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We have reason not to be afraid of the machine, for there is always constructive change, the enemy of machines, making them change to fit new conditions.
We suffer not from overproduction but from undercirculation. You have heard of technocracy. I wish I had those fellows for my competitors. I'd like to take the automobile it is said they predicted could be made now that would last fifty years. Even if never used, this automobile would not be worth anything except to a junkman in ten years, because of the changes in men's tastes and ideas. This desire for change is an inherent quality in human nature, so that the present generation must not try to crystallize the needs of the future ones.
We have been measuring too much in terms of the dollar. What we should do is think in terms of useful materials—things that will be of value to us in our daily life.
In 'Quotation Marks: Against Technocracy', New York Times (1 Han 1933), E4.
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We need go back only a few centuries to find the great mass of people depending on religion for the satisfaction of practically all their wishes. From rain out of the sky to good health on earth, they sought their desires at the altars of their gods. Whether they wanted large families, good crops, freedom from pestilence, or peace of mind, they conceived themselves as dependent on the favor of heaven. Then science came with its alternative, competitive method of getting what we want. That is science’s most important attribute. As an intellectual influence it is powerful enough, but as a practical way of achieving man’s desires it is overwhelming.
In 'The Real Point of Conflict between Science and Religion', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 140-141.
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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 I saw the alpha-helix and saw what a beautiful, elegant structure it was, I was thunderstruck and was furious with myself for not having built this, but on the other hand, I wondered, was it really right?
So I cycled home for lunch and was so preoccupied with the turmoil in my mind that didn’t respond to anything. Then I had an idea, so I cycled back to the lab. I realized that I had a horse hair in a drawer. I set it up on the X-ray camera and gave it a two hour exposure, then took the film to the dark room with my heart in my mouth, wondering what it showed, and when I developed it, there was the 1.5 angstrom reflection which I had predicted and which excluded all structures other than the alpha-helix.
So on Monday morning I stormed into my professor’s office, into Bragg’s office and showed him this, and Bragg said, 'Whatever made you think of that?' And I said, 'Because I was so furious with myself for having missed that beautiful structure.' To which Bragg replied coldly, 'I wish I had made you angry earlier.'
From transcript of audio of Max Perutz in BBC programme, 'Lifestory: Linus Pauling' (1997). On 'Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA' webpage 'I Wish I Had Made You Angry Earlier.'
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Why does man behave like perfect idiot? This is the problem I wish to deal with.
The Crazy Ape (1970), 11.
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William James used to preach the “will to believe.” For my part, I should wish to preach the “will to doubt.” … What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.
From Conway Memorial Lecture, South Place Institute, London (24 Mar 1922), printed as Free Thought and Official Propaganda (1922), 14. Collected in Sceptical Essays (1928, 2004), 129.
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[In] the realm of science, ... what we have achieved will be obsolete in ten, twenty or fifty years. That is the fate, indeed, that is the very meaning of scientific work. ... Every scientific “fulfillment” raises new “questions” and cries out to be surpassed rendered obsolete. Everyone who wishes to serve science has to resign himself to this.
Max Weber
The Vocation Lectures: Science as a Vocation, translated by Rodney Livingstone (2004), xxviii.
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[Professor Pauling] confesses that he had harboured the feeling that sooner or later he would be the one to get the DNA structure; and although he was pleased with the double-helix, he ‘rather wished the idea had been his’.
‘The Need to Understand’, New Scientist (1971), 50, 755.
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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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