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Wonder Quotes (165 quotes)


πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀνθρώπου δεινότερον πέλει.
Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, translated by R.C. Jebb (1891). This may not be the closest translation of ambiguous words. Walter Arnold Kaufmann suggests a closer meaning would be “Much is awesome, but nothing more awesome than man” in Tragedy and Philosophy (1992), 237. Alternate word translations could be terrors, danger, misfortune or distress. Hence the variation in other standard translations on this web page.
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Boss: I just heard that light travels faster than sound. I'm wondering if I should shout when I speak, just so my lips appear to sync-up with my words.
Dilbert (thought): A little knowledge can be a ridiculous thing.
Dilbert comic strip (10 Sep 1992).
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Ce grand ouvrage, toujours plus merveilleux à mesure qu’il est plus connu, nous donne une si grande idée de son ouvrier, que nous en sentons notre esprit accablé d’admiration et de respect.
[The Universe] This great work, always more amazing in proportion as it is better known, raises in us so grand an idea of its Maker, that we find our mind overwhelmed with feelings of wonder and adoration.
Original French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage (ed.) Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 119-120.
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Ce qui est admirable, ce n'est pas que le champ des étoiles soit si vaste, c'est que l'homme l'ait mesuré.
The wonder is, not that the field of the stars is so vast, but that man has measured it.
The Garden of Epicurus (1894) translated by Alfred Allinson, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 16.
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Dilbert: It took weeks but I’ve calculated a new theory about the origin of the universe. According to my calculations it didn’t start with a “Big Bang” at all—it was more of “Phhbwt” sound. You may be wondering about the practical applications of the “Little Phhbwt” theory.
Dogbert: I was wondering when you’ll go away.
Dilbert comic strip (1 Jan 1993)
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Il est impossible de contempler le spectacle de l’univers étoilé sans se demander comment il s’est formé: nous devions peut-être attendre pour chercher une solution que nous ayons patiemment rassemblé les éléments …mais si nous étions si raisonnables, si nous étions curieux sans impatience, il est probable que nous n’avions jamais créé la Science et que nous nous serions toujours contentés de vivre notre petite vie. Notre esprit a donc reclamé impérieusement cette solution bien avant qu’elle fut mûre, et alors qu’il ne possédait que de vagues lueurs, lui permettant de la deviner plutôt que de l’attendre.
It is impossible to contemplate the spectacle of the starry universe without wondering how it was formed: perhaps we ought to wait, and not look for a solution until have patiently assembled the elements … but if we were so reasonable, if we were curious without impatience, it is probable we would never have created Science and we would always have been content with a trivial existence. Thus the mind has imperiously laid claim to this solution long before it was ripe, even while perceived in only faint glimmers—allowing us to guess a solution rather than wait for it.
From Leçons sur les Hypothèses Consmogoniques (1913) as cited in D. Ter Haar and A.G.W. Cameron, 'Historical Review of Theories of the Origin of the Solar System', collected in Robert Jastrow and A. G. W. Cameron (eds.), Origin of the Solar System: Proceedings of a Conference Held at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, January 23-24, 1962, (1963), 3. 'Cosmogonical Hypotheses' (1913), collected in Harlow Shapley, Source Book in Astronomy, 1900-1950 (1960), 347.
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CALPURNIA: When beggars die there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
CAESAR: Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Julius Caesar (1599), II, ii.
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A common fallacy in much of the adverse criticism to which science is subjected today is that it claims certainty, infallibility and complete emotional objectivity. It would be more nearly true to say that it is based upon wonder, adventure and hope.
Quoted in E. J. Bowen's obituary of Hinshelwood, Chemistry in Britain (1967), Vol. 3, 536.
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A discovery is like falling in love and reaching the top of a mountain after a hard climb all in one, an ecstasy not induced by drugs but by the revelation of a face of nature that no one has seen before and that often turns out to be more subtle and wonderful than anyone had imagined.
'True Science', review of Peter Medawar, Advice to a Young Scientist (1980). In The London Review of Books (Mar 1981), 6.
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A lodestone is a wonderful thing in very many experiments, and like living things. And one of its remarkable virtues in that which the ancients considered to be a living soul in the sky, in the globes and in the stars, in the sun and in the moon.
In De Magnete. Cited in Gerrit L. Verschuur, Hidden Attraction (1996), 19.
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A wonder then it must needs be,—that there should be any Man found so stupid and forsaken of reason as to persuade himself, that this most beautiful and adorned world was or could be produced by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.
John Ray
The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691), 21-2.
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All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.
From website for PBS program, Stephen Hawking's Universe (1997).
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All over the world there lingers on the memory of a giant tree, the primal tree, rising up from the centre of the Earth to the heavens and ordering the universe around it. It united the three worlds: its roots plunged down into subterranean abysses, Its loftiest branches touched the empyrean. Thanks to the Tree, it became possible to breathe the air; to all the creatures that then appeared on Earth it dispensed its fruit, ripened by the sun and nourished by the water which it drew from the soil. From the sky it attracted the lightning from which man made fire and, beckoning skyward, where clouds gathered around its fall. The Tree was the source of all life, and of all regeneration. Small wonder then that tree-worship was so prevalent in ancient times.
From 'L'Arbre Sacre' ('The Sacred Tree'), UNESCO Courier (Jan 1989), 4. Epigraph to Chap 1, in Kenton Miller and Laura Tangley, Trees of Life: Saving Tropical Forests and Their Biological Wealt (1991), 1.
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An evolution is a series of events that in itself as series is purely physical, — a set of necessary occurrences in the world of space and time. An egg develops into a chick; … a planet condenses from the fluid state, and develops the life that for millions of years makes it so wondrous a place. Look upon all these things descriptively, and you shall see nothing but matter moving instant after instant, each instant containing in its full description the necessity of passing over into the next. … But look at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically, as a musician listens to a symphony, as a spectator watches a drama. Now you shall seem to have seen, in phenomenal form, a story.
In The Spirit of Modern Philosophy: An Essay in the Form of Lectures (1892), 425.
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Analogy is a wonderful, useful and most important form of thinking, and biology is saturated with it. Nothing is worse than a horrible mass of undigested facts, and facts are indigestible unless there is some rhyme or reason to them. The physicist, with his facts, seeks reason; the biologist seeks something very much like rhyme, and rhyme is a kind of analogy.... This analogizing, this fine sweeping ability to see likenesses in the midst of differences is the great glory of biology, but biologists don't know it.... They have always been so fascinated and overawed by the superior prestige of exact physical science that they feel they have to imitate it.... In its central content, biology is not accurate thinking, but accurate observation and imaginative thinking, with great sweeping generalizations.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 98-100.
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And still they gazed and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
The Deserted Village: A Poem (1809), 11.
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Arts and sciences in one and the same century have arrived at great perfection; and no wonder, since every age has a kind of universal genius, which inclines those that live in it to some particular studies; the work then, being pushed on by many hands, must go forward.
In Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1880), 45.
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As soon as I hear the phrase “everybody knows,” I start to wonder. I start asking, “Does everybody know this? And how do they know it?”
As quoted in interview about earthquake predictions for magazine article in Joshua Fischman, 'Falling Into the Gap', Discover (Oct 1992), 13, No. 10, 58. The article writer appears to be quoting, but throughout the article has used no double quote marks. The article is also online.
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Because a fact seems strange to you, you conclude that it is not one. ... All science, however, commences by being strange. Science is successive. It goes from one wonder to another. It mounts by a ladder. The science of to-day would seem extravagant to the science of a former time. Ptolemy would believe Newton mad.
In Victor Hugo and Lorenzo O'Rourke (trans.) Victor Hugo's Intellectual Autobiography: (Postscriptum de ma vie) (1907), 322.
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Bertrand Russell had given a talk on the then new quantum mechanics, of whose wonders he was most appreciative. He spoke hard and earnestly in the New Lecture Hall. And when he was done, Professor Whitehead, who presided, thanked him for his efforts, and not least for “leaving the vast darkness of the subject unobscured.”
Quoted in Robert Oppenheimer, The Open Mind (1955), 102.
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Between men of different studies and professions, may be observed a constant reciprocation of reproaches. The collector of shells and stones derides the folly of him who pastes leaves and flowers upon paper, pleases himself with colours that are perceptibly fading, and amasses with care what cannot be preserved. The hunter of insects stands amazed that any man can waste his short time upon lifeless matter, while many tribes of animals yet want their history. Every one is inclined not only to promote his own study, but to exclude all others from regard, and having heated his imagination with some favourite pursuit, wonders that the rest of mankind are not seized with the same passion.
From 'Numb. 83, Tuesday, January 1, 1750', The Rambler (1756), Vol. 2, 150.
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Bread has been made (indifferent) from potatoes;
And galvanism has set some corpses grinning,
But has not answer'd like the apparatus
Of the Humane Society's beginning,
By which men are unsuffocated gratis:
What wondrous new machines have late been spinning.
Don Juan (1819, 1858), Canto I, CXXX, 35. Aware of scientific experiments, the poet refers to the animating effects of electrical current on nerves of human corpses investigated by Professor Aldini (nephew of Galvani) on the body of Forster, a murderer (Jan-Feb 1803). Potato flour can be made by grinding dried grated potatoes.
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Curiosity that inborn property of man, daughter of ignorance and mother of knowledge when wonder wakens our minds, has the habit, wherever it sees some extraordinary phenomenon of nature, a comet for example, a sun-dog, or a midday star, of asking straightway what it means.
In The New Science (3rd ed., 1744), Book 1, Para. 189, as translated by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch, The New Science of Giambattista Vico (1948), 64.
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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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Elaborate apparatus plays an important part in the science of to-day, but I sometimes wonder if we are not inclined to forget that the most important instrument in research must always be the mind of man.
The Art of Scientific Investigation (1951), ix.
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Ere long intelligence—transmitted without wires—will throb through the earth like a pulse through a living organism. The wonder is that, with the present state of knowledge and the experiences gained, no attempt is being made to disturb the electrostatic or magnetic condition of the earth, and transmit, if nothing else, intelligence.
Electrical Engineer (24 Jun 1892), 11, 609.
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Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.
Quoted in interview with magazine staff, Psychology Today (Jan 1996).
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Everything around us is filled with mystery and magic. I find this no cause for despair, no reason to turn for solace to esoteric formulae or chariots of gods. On the contrary, our inability to find easy answers fills me with a fierce pride in our ambivalent biology ... with a constant sense of wonder and delight that we should be part of anything so profound.
…...
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Exits sun; enters moon.
This moon is never alone.
Stars are seen all around.
These twinklers do not make a sound.
The tiny ones shine from their place.
Mother moon watches with a smiling face.
Its light is soothing to the eyes.
Night’s darkness hides its face.
Cool and calm is its light.
Heat and sweat are never felt.
Some days, moon is not seen.
Makes kids wonder, where had it been?
Partial eclipse shades the moon.
In summers it does not arrive soon.
Beautiful is this milky ball.
It is the love of one and all.
…...
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Faith is a wondrous thing; it is not only capable of moving mountains, but also of making you believe that a herring is a race horse.
In Andre Gide et al., "The God That Failed" (1952), 39
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For all these years you were merely
A smear of light through our telescopes
On the clearest, coldest night; a hint
Of a glint, just a few pixels wide
On even your most perfectly-framed portraits.
But now, now we see you!
Swimming out of the dark - a great
Stone shark, your star-tanned skin pitted
And pocked, scarred after eons of drifting
Silently through the endless ocean of space.
Here on Earth our faces lit up as we saw
You clearly for the first time; eyes wide
With wonder we traced the strangely familiar
Grooves raked across your sides,
Wondering if Rosetta had doubled back to Mars
And raced past Phobos by mistake –
Then you were gone, falling back into the black,
Not to be seen by human eyes again for a thousand
Blue Moons or more. But we know you now,
We know you; you’ll never be just a speck of light again.
…...
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Forty years as an astronomer have not quelled my enthusiasm for lying outside after dark, staring up at the stars. It isn’t only the beauty of the night sky that thrills me. It’s the sense I have that some of those points of light are the home stars of beings not so different from us, daily cares and all, who look across space and wonder, just as we do.
…...
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Given angel’s wings, where might you fly?
In what sweet heaven might you find your love?
Unwilling to be bound, where might you move,
Lost between the wonder and the why?...
…...
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Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the Sun.
In An Essay on Man (1736), Epistle II, lines 19-22, 10.
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God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 11
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Hast thou ever raised thy mind to the consideration of existence, in and by itself, as the mere act of existing?
Hast thou ever said to thyself thoughtfully it is! heedless, in that moment, whether it were a man before thee, or a flower, or a grain of sand;—without reference, in short, to this or that particular mode or form of existence? If thou hast, indeed, attained to this, thou wilt have felt the presence of a mystery, which must have fixed thy spirit in awe and wonder.
In 'Essay IX', The Friend: A Series of Essays (1818), Vol. 3, 250.
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Having someone wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night is a very old human need.
As quoted, without citation, in New Woman (1983), 13, 90.
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He saw virus particles shaped like snakes, in negative images. They were white cobras tangled among themselves, like the hair of Medusa. They were the face of nature herself, the obscene goddess revealed naked. This life form thing was breathtakingly beautiful. As he stared at it, he found himself being pulled out of the human world into a world where moral boundaries blur and finally dissolve completely. He was lost in wonder and admiration, even though he knew that he was the prey.
The Hot Zone
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He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.
In M.C. Escher: The Graphic Work (1978), 8.
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He [a student] liked to look at the … remains of queer animals: funny little skulls and bones and disjointed skeletons of strange monsters that must have been remarkable when they were alive … [he] wondered if the long one with the flat, triangular head used to crawl, or hop, or what.
In 'The Great Paste-pot Handicap' Maroon Tales: University of Chicago Stories (1910), 289. Note: the fictional student is in the University of Chicago’s Walker Museum.
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His spiritual insights were in three major areas: First, he has inspired mankind to see the world anew as the ultimate reality. Second, he perceived and described the physical universe itself as immanently divine. And finally, he challenged us to accept the ultimate demands of modern science which assign humanity no real or ultimate importance in the universe while also aspiring us to lives of spiritual celebration attuned to the awe, beauty and wonder about us.
…...
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How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders. I am reminded of the Isaac Asimov story “Nightfall,” about the planet where the stars were visible only once in a thousand years. So awesome was the sight that it drove men mad. We who can see the stars every night glance up casually at the cosmos and then quickly down again, searching for a Dairy Queen.
…...
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I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can.
Letter to Asa Gray (22 May 1860). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 236.
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I feel a desperation to make people see what we are doing to the environment, what a mess we are making of our world. At this point, the more people I reach, the more I accomplish. … I miss Gombe and my wonderful years in the forest But if I were to go back to that, I wouldn’t feel I was doing what I should be doing.
Answering the question, “Why have you transferred your energies from animal research to activism?” From interview by Tamar Lewin, 'Wildlife to Tireless Crusader, See Jane Run', New York Times (20 Nov 2000), F35.
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I have long recognized the theory and aesthetic of such comprehensive display: show everything and incite wonder by sheer variety. But I had never realized how power fully the decor of a cabinet museum can promote this goal until I saw the Dublin [Natural History Museum] fixtures redone right ... The exuberance is all of one piece–organic and architectural. I write this essay to offer my warmest congratulations to the Dublin Museum for choosing preservation–a decision not only scientifically right, but also ethically sound and decidedly courageous. The avant-garde is not an exclusive locus of courage; a principled stand within a reconstituted rear unit may call down just as much ridicule and demand equal fortitude. Crowds do not always rush off in admirable or defendable directions.
…...
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I have not yet lost a feeling of wonder, and of delight, that this delicate motion should reside in all the things around us, revealing itself only to him who looks for it. I remember, in the winter of our first experiments, just seven years ago, looking on snow with new eyes. There the snow lay around my doorstep—great heaps of protons quietly precessing in the earth's magnetic field. To see the world for a moment as something rich and strange is the private reward of many a discovery.
Opening remark, Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1952).
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I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.
Concluding remarks of keynote address at CSICOP conference, Pasadena, California (3 Apr 1987). Printed in 'The Burden of Skepticism', Skeptical Inquirer (1987), 12, No. 1. Collected in Kendrick Frazier (ed.), The Hundredth Monkey: And Other Paradigms of the Paranormal (1991), 9.
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I read in the proof sheets of Hardy on Ramanujan: “As someone said, each of the positive integers was one of his personal friends.” My reaction was, “I wonder who said that; I wish I had.” In the next proof-sheets I read (what now stands), “It was Littlewood who said…”. What had happened was that Hardy had received the remark in silence and with poker face, and I wrote it off as a dud.
In Béla Bollobás (ed.), Littlewood’s Miscellany, (1986), 61.
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I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about the problem of space and time. These are things which he has thought of as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up.
In Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times (1971), 10.
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I sometimes wonder how we spent leisure time before satellite television and Internet came along…and then I realise that I have spent more than half of my life in the ‘dark ages’!
From interview (5 Dec 2003) days before his 86th birthday with Nalaka Gunawardene, published on the internet sites http://southasia.oneworld.net and arthurcclarke.net.
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I would... establish the conviction that Chemistry, as an independent science, offers one of the most powerful means towards the attainment of a higher mental cultivation; that the study of Chemistry is profitable, not only inasmuch as it promotes the material interests of mankind, but also because it furnishes us with insight into those wonders of creation which immediately surround us, and with which our existence, life, and development, are most closely connected.
Familiar Letters on Chemistry (1859), 4th edn., 1.
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I … share an excitement and a certain pride in the wonders opened up by scientific investigation …, and also a recognition of the value in scientific method of keeping the hypotheses as simple as possible—my Oxford tutor gave me a great respect for Occam’s razor.
In Letter to periodical, Chemistry and Industry (17 Feb 1997).
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If a man will comprehend the richness and variety of the universe, and inspire his mind with a due measure of wonder and awe, he must contemplate the human intellect not only on its heights of genius but in its abysses of ineptitude...
M. Manilii Astronomicon. Liber Primus Recensuit et enarravit A.E. Housman. Editio Altera (1937), i, xix. Quoted in David Womersley, 'Dulness and Pope', British Academy, 2004 Lectures, (2005), 233.
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If feeling be not a property of matter, but owing to a superior principle, it must follow, that the motions of the heart, and other muscles of animals, after being separated from their bodies, are to be ascribed to this principle; and that any difficulties which may appear in this matter are owing to our ignorance of the nature of the soul, of the manner of its existence, and of its wonderful union with, and action upon the body.
In An Essay on the Vital and Other Involuntary Motions of Animals (1751), 389-390.
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In a lot of scientists, the ratio of wonder to skepticism declines in time. That may be connected with the fact that in some fields—mathematics, physics, some others—the great discoveries are almost entirely made by youngsters.
Quoted in interview with magazine staff, Psychology Today (Jan 1996).
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In earlier times they had no statistics and so they had to fall back on lies. Hence the huge exaggerations of primitive literature, giants, miracles, wonders! It's the size that counts. They did it with lies and we do it with statistics: but it's all the same.
In Model Memoirs and Other Sketches from Simple to Serious (1971), 265.
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In mathematics as in other fields, to find one self lost in wonder at some manifestation is frequently the half of a new discovery.
In Werke, Bd. 8 (1897), 233.
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In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth … Which beginning of time, according to our Cronologie, fell upon the entrance of the night preceding the twenty third day of Octob. in the year of the Julian Calendar, 710 [or 4004 B.C.]. Upon the first day therefore of the world, or Octob. 23. being our Sunday, God, together with the highest Heaven, created the Angels. Then having finished, as it were, the roofe of this building, he fell in hand with the foundation of this wonderfull Fabrick of the World, he fashioned this lowermost Globe, consisting of the Deep, and of the Earth; all the Quire of Angels singing together and magnifying his name therefore … And when the Earth was void and without forme, and darknesse covered the face of the Deepe, on the very middle of the first day, the light was created; which God severing from the darknesses, called the one day, and the other night.
In 'Annals of the Old Testament', The Annals of the World (1658), excerpted in Louis A. Ruprecht, God Gardened East: A Gardener's Meditation on the Dynamics of Genesis (2008), 53-54.
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In the beginning was the book of Nature. For eon after eon, the pages of the book turned with no human to read them. No eye wondered at the ignition of the sun, the coagulation of the earth, the birth of the moon, the solidification of a terrestrial continent, or the filling of the seas. Yet when the first primitive algae evolved to float on the waters of this ocean, a promise was born—a hope that someday all the richness and variety of the phenomena of the universe would be read with appreciative eyes.
Opening paragraph in Gary G. Tibbetts, How the Great Scientists Reasoned: The Scientific Method in Action (2012), 1.
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In the end, science as we know it has two basic types of practitioners. One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail’s eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle, to intangibles not worth troubling one’s head about.
Science and the Sense of the Holy The Star Trowner
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Indeed, while Nature is wonderfully inventive of new structures, her conservatism in holding on to old ones is still more remarkable. In the ascending line of development she tries an experiment once exceedingly thorough, and then the question is solved for all time. For she always takes time enough to try the experiment exhaustively. It took ages to find how to build a spinal column or brain, but when the experiment was finished she had reason to be, and was, satisfied.
In The Whence and Whither of Man; a Brief History of his Origin and Development through Conformity to Environment; being the Morse Lectures of 1895. (1896), 173. The Morse lectureship was founded by Prof. Samuel F.B. Morse in 1865 at Union Theological Seminary, the lectures to deal with “the relation of the Bible to any of the sciences.”
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It is a substance called Chlorophyll, the most wonderful substance in our world. A world without chlorophyll would be a world without the higher forms of life, and in such a world no life, save perhaps that of the lowest bacteria, could possibly endure. In fact, without this remarkable pigment the living world as at present constituted could not exist.
In Life: A Book for Elementary Students (1925, 2013), 28.
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It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.
In 'The Exceeding Beauty of the Earth', This Week Magazine (1952). As cited in Karen F. Stein, Rachel Carson: Challenging Authors (2013), 55.
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It is not for us to say whether Inspiration revealed to the Psalmist the wonders of the modern astronomy. But even though the mind be a perfect stranger to the science of these enlightened times, the heavens present a great and an elevating spectacle—an immense concave reposing on the circular boundary of the world, and the innumerable lights which are suspended from on high, moving with solemn regularity along its surface.
From Discourse, 'A Sketch of Modern Astronomy', in The Works of Thomas Chalmers (1830), 69.
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It is tempting to wonder if our present universe, large as it is and complex though it seems, might not be merely the result of a very slight random increase in order over a very small portion of an unbelievably colossal universe which is virtually entirely in heat-death. Perhaps we are merely sliding down a gentle ripple that has been set up, accidently and very temporarily, in a quiet pond, and it is only the limitation of our own infinitesimal range of viewpoint in space and time that makes it seem to ourselves that we are hurtling down a cosmic waterfall of increasing entropy, a waterfall of colossal size and duration.
(1976). In Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 331.
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Just as knowing how a magic trick is done spoils its wonder, so let us be grateful that wherever science and reason turn they finally plunge into darkness.
John Mitchinson and John Lloyd, If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times (2009), 274.
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Knowledge and wonder are the dyad of our worthy lives as intellectual beings. Voyager did wonders for our knowledge, but performed just as mightily in the service of wonder–and the two elements are complementary, not independent or opposed. The thought fills me with awe–a mechanical contraption that could fit in the back of a pickup truck, traveling through space for twelve years, dodging around four giant bodies and their associated moons, and finally sending exquisite photos across more than four light-hours of space from the farthest planet in our solar system.
…...
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Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.
From Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961). As quoted in Elizabeth Sirimarco, The Cold War (2005), 45.
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Let me arrest thy thoughts; wonder with me, why plowing, building, ruling and the rest, or most of those arts, whence our lives are blest, by cursed Cain’s race invented be, and blest Seth vexed us with Astronomy.
…...
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Life through many long periods has been manifested in a countless host of varying structures, all circumscribed by one general plan, each appointed to a definite place, and limited to an appointed duration. On the whole the earth has been thus more and more covered by the associated life of plants and animals, filling all habitable space with beings capable of enjoying their own existence or ministering to the enjoyment of others; till finally, after long preparation, a being was created capable of the wonderful power of measuring and weighing all the world of matter and space which surrounds him, of treasuring up the past history of all the forms of life, and considering his own relation to the whole. When he surveys this vast and co-ordinated system, and inquires into its history and origin, can he be at a loss to decide whether it be a work of Divine thought and wisdom, or the fortunate offspring of a few atoms of matter, warmed by the anima mundi, a spark of electricity, or an accidental ray of sunshine?
Life on the Earth: Its Origin and Succession (1860), 216-7.
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Like almost every subject of human interest, this one [mathematics] is just as easy or as difficult as we choose to make it. A lifetime may be spent by a philosopher in discussing the truth of the simplest axiom. The simplest fact as to our existence may fill us with such wonder that our minds will remain overwhelmed with wonder all the time. A Scotch ploughman makes a working religion out of a system which appalls a mental philosopher. Some boys of ten years of age study the methods of the differential calculus; other much cleverer boys working at mathematics to the age of nineteen have a difficulty in comprehending the fundamental ideas of the calculus.
In Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 19-20.
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Like other departments of philosophy, medicine began with an age of wonder. The accidents of disease and the features of death aroused surprise and stimulated interest, and a beginning was made when man first asked in astonishment, Why should these things be?
In 'The Evolution of Internal Medicine', Modern Medicine: Its Theory and Practice, (1907), Vol. 1, xvi.
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Man has to awaken to wonder—and so perhaps do peoples. Science is a way of sending him to sleep again.
in Culture and Value (1984), 5e.
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Man is a small thing, and the night is large and full of wonder.
In Plays of Gods and Men (1917), 102.
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Many the wonders but nothing walks stranger than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff (1954) in David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (eds.)The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles (1957), Vol. 2, 170.
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Many things cause terror and wonder, yet nothing
is more terrifying and wonderful than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated by M. Blake Tyrrell and Larry J. Bennett. One of several variations given in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3, (2010), 237.
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Mathematics—a wonderful science, but it hasn't yet come up with a way to divide one tricycle between three small boys.
In Bob Phillips, Phillips' Treasury of Humorous Quotations (2004), 171.
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Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of our science.
From 'Works and Days' in Society and Solitude (1870). Collected in Emerson's Complete Works (1883), Vol. 7, 152.
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Modern science is necessarily a double-edged tool, a tool that cuts both ways. ... There is no doubt that a Zeppelin is a wonderful thing; but that did not prevent it from becoming a horrible thing.
'The Efficiency of the Police', Illustrated London News (1 Apr 1922). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 314.
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Molecular genetics, our latest wonder, has taught us to spell out the connectivity of the tree of life in such palpable detail that we may say in plain words, “This riddle of life has been solved.”
From Nobel Lecture (10 Dec 1969), 'A Physicist's Renewed Look at Biology – Twenty Years Later.' in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1963-1970 (1972), 405.
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Most of us have had moments in childhood when we touched the divine presence. We did not think it extraordinary because it wasn’t; it was just a beautiful moment filled with love. In those simple moments our hearts were alive, and we saw the poignant beauty of life vividly with wonder and appreciation.
David McArthur and Bruce McArthur
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Most students treat knowledge as a liquid to be swallowed rather than as a solid to be chewed, and then wonder why it provides so little nourishment.
Seen around the web, but without citation. Webmaster has so far been unable to authenticate. Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.
…...
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Nature when more shy in one, hath more freely confest and shewn herself in another; and a Fly sometimes hath given greater light towards the true knowledge of the structure and the uses of the Parts in Humane Bodies, than an often repeated dissection of the same might have done … We must not therefore think the meanest of the Creation vile or useless, since that in them in lively Characters (if we can but read) we may find the knowledge of a Deity and ourselves … In every Animal there is a world of wonders; each is a Microcosme or a world in it self.
Phocrena, or the Anatomy of a Porpess, dissected at Gresham College: With a Prreliminary Discourse Concerning Anatomy, and a Natural History of Animals (1680), 2-3.
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Night after night, among the gabled roofs,
Climbing and creeping through a world unknown
Save to the roosting stork, he learned to find
The constellations, Cassiopeia’s throne,
The Plough still pointing to the Polar Star,
The movements of the planets, hours and hours,
And wondered at the mystery of it all.
In 'Tycho Brahe', The Torch-Bearers: Watchers of the Sky (1922), Vol. 1, 40.
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Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature.
Laboratory notebook (19 Mar 1850), while musing on the possible relation of gravity to electricy. In Michael Faraday and Bence Jones (ed.), The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), 253
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Numbers … were his friends. In the simplest array of digits [Ramanujan] detected wonderful properties: congruences, symmetries and relationships which had escaped the notice of even the outstandingly gifted theoreticians.
In James R. Newman (ed.), 'Commentary on Srinivasa Ramanujan', The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 1, 367.
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Observation by means of the microscope will reveal more wonderful things than those viewed in regard to mere structure and connection: for while the heart is still beating the contrary (i.e., in opposite directions in the different vessels) movement of the blood is observed in the vessels—though with difficulty—so that the circulation of the blood is clearly exposed.
De Pulmonibus (1661), trans. James Young, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (1929-30), 23, 8.
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Once early in the morning, at two or three in the morning, when the master was asleep, the books in the library began to quarrel with each other as to which was the king of the library. The dictionary contended quite angrily that he was the master of the library because without words there would be no communication at all. The book of science argued stridently that he was the master of the library for without science there would have been no printing press or any of the other wonders of the world. The book of poetry claimed that he was the king, the master of the library, because he gave surcease and calm to his master when he was troubled. The books of philosophy, the economic books, all put in their claims, and the clamor was great and the noise at its height when a small low voice was heard from an old brown book lying in the center of the table and the voice said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And all of the noise and the clamor in the library ceased, and there was a hush in the library, for all of the books knew who the real master of the library was.
'Ministers of Justice', address delivered to the Eighty-Second Annual Convention of the Tennessee Bar Association at Gatlinburg (5 Jun 1963). In Tennessee Law Review (Fall 1963), 31, No. 1, 19.
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One of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural, and it was a lesson that my father passed on to me, that knowledge liberates mankind from superstition. We can live our lives without the constant fear that we have offended this or that deity who must be placated by incantation or sacrifice, or that we are at the mercy of devils or the Fates. With increasing knowledge, the intellectual darkness that surrounds us is illuminated and we learn more of the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
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One ought to be ashamed to make use of the wonders of science embodied in a radio set, while appreciating them as little as a cow appreciates the botanical marvels in the plant she munches.
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One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world’s problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive - it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 38.
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One wonders whether the rare ability to be completely attentive to, and to profit by, Nature’s slightest deviation from the conduct expected of her is not the secret of the best research minds and one that explains why some men turn to most remarkably good advantage seemingly trivial accidents. Behind such attention lies an unremitting sensitivity.
In The Furtherance of Medical Research (1941), 98.
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Part of the appeal was that Medawar was not only a Nobel Laureate, but he seemed like a Nobel Laureate; he was everything one thought a Nobel Laureate ought to be. If you have ever wondered why scientists like Popper, try Medawar's exposition. Actually most Popperian scientists have probably never tried reading anything but Medawar's exposition.
'The Art of the Developable', New York Review of Books (Oct 1983). The first two sentences, slightly edited, were reprinted in A Devil's Chaplain (2004), 196.
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People have been looking up at the skies for 10,000 years, wondering and dreaming. I hope we always do.
As quoted by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002)
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People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
In Circulations: Webster's Quotations, Facts and Phrases, 1.
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People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. … In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written “to be continued in our next.”
'On Certain Modern Writers and the institution of the Family' Heretics (1903). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 82.
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Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains. There have been added, however, some grasp of the immensity of things, some purification of emotion by understanding.
In Modes of Thought: Six Lectures Delivered in Wellesley College, Massachusetts, and Two Lectures in the University of Chicago (1908, 1938), 168
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Philosophy, and science, and the springs
Of wonder, and th wisdom of the world,
I have essayed; and in my mind there is
A power to make these subject to itself...
From poem 'Manfred'.
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Pumbaa: “Timon, ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?”
Timon: “Pumbaa, I don’t wonder; I know.”
Pumbaa: “Oh. What are they?”
Timon: “They’re fireflies that got stuck up in that bluish-black thing”.
Pumbaa: “Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.”
Timon: “Pumbaa, with you, everything’s gas.”
Lion King
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Quietly, like a night bird, floating, soaring, wingless.
We glide from shore to shore, curving and falling
but not quite touching;
Earth: a distant memory seen in an instant of repose,
crescent shaped, ethereal, beautiful,
I wonder which part is home, but I know it doesn’t matter . . .
the bond is there in my mind and memory;
Earth: a small, bubbly balloon hanging delicately
in the nothingness of space.
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Science arouses a soaring sense of wonder. But so does pseudoscience. Sparse and poor popularizations of science abandon ecological niches that pseudoscience promptly fills. If it were widely understood that claims to knowledge require adequate evidence before they can be accepted, there would be no room for pseudoscience.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996), 6.
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Science helps us before all things in this, that it somewhat lightens the feeling of wonder with which Nature fills us; then, however, as life becomes more and more complex, it creates new facilities for the avoidance of what would do us harm and the promotion of what will do us good.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 203.
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Science is not about control. It is about cultivating a perpetual sense of wonder in the face of something that forever grows one step richer and subtler than our latest theory about it. It is about reverence, not mastery.
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Science makes people reach selflessly for truth and objectivity; it teaches people to accept reality, with wonder and admiration, not to mention the deep awe and joy that the natural order of things brings to the true scientist.
Lecture, Austrian UNESCO Commision (30 Mar 1953), in Atomenergie und Frieden: Lise Meitner und Otto Hahn (1953), 23-4. Trans. Ruth Sime, Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics (1996), 375.
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Somebody once observed to the eminent philosopher Wittgenstein how stupid medieval Europeans living before the time of Copernicus must have been that they could have looked at the sky and thought that the sun was circling the earth. Surely a modicum of astronomical good sense would have told them that the reverse was true. Wittgenstein is said to have replied: “I agree. But I wonder what it would have looked like if the sun had been circling the earth.”
In Day the Universe Changed (1985), 11.
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Strange as it may sound, the power of mathematics rests on its evasion of all unnecessary thought and on its wonderful saving of mental operations.
As quoted, without source, in E.T. Bell, Men of Mathematics (1937), Vol. 1, l (Roman numeral 'l').
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Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know—and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know—even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction—than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.
Widely seen on the Web, but always without citation, so regard attribution as uncertain. Webmaster has not yet found reliable verification. Contact Webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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That’s the whole problem with science. You’ve got a bunch of empiricists trying to describe things of unimaginable wonder.
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The experience was more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I have a newfound sense of wonder seeing the Earth and stars from such an incredible perspective. Certainly, through my training I was prepared for the technical aspects, but I had no idea that I would be flooded with such amazement and joy after seeing my first sunrise and sunset from space.
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The experiences are so innumerable and varied, that the journey appears to be interminable and the Destination is ever out of sight. But the wonder of it is, when at last you reach your Destination you find that you had never travelled at all! It was a journey from here to Here.
Meher Bab
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The fact that death from cancer is on the increase is not only a problem of medicine, but its at the same time testifies to the wonderful efficiency of medical science... [as it] enables more persons top live long enough to develop some kind of cancer in old and less resistant tissues.
Charles H. Mayo and William A. Hendricks, 'Carcinoma of the Right Segment of the Colon', presented to Southern Surgical Assoc. (15 Dec 1925). In Annals of Surgery (Mar 1926), 83, 357.
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The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true science. He who knows it not, and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead. We all had this priceless talent when we were young. But as time goes by, many of us lose it. The true scientist never loses the faculty of amazement. It is the essence of his being.
Newsweek (31 Mar 1958).
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The ideas that are basic to [my work] often bear witness to my amazement and wonder at the laws of nature which operate in the world around us.
In M.C. Escher: The Graphic Work (1978), 8.
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The main duty of the historian of mathematics, as well as his fondest privilege, is to explain the humanity of mathematics, to illustrate its greatness, beauty and dignity, and to describe how the incessant efforts and accumulated genius of many generations have built up that magnificent monument, the object of our most legitimate pride as men, and of our wonder, humility and thankfulness, as individuals.
In The Study of the History of Mathematics (1936), 28.
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The mighty edifice of Government science dominated the scene in the middle of the 20th century as a Gothic cathedral dominated a 13th century landscape. The work of many hands over many years, it universally inspired admiration, wonder and fear.
In Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities (1957, 1964), 375.
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The moon landing will, no doubt, be an epoch-making event—a phenomena of awe, unrestrained excitement and sensation. But, the most wondrous event would be if man could relinquish all the stains and defilements of the untamed mind and progress toward achieving the real mental peace and satisfaction when he reaches the moon.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.
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The more we know about this universe, the more mysterious it is. The old world that Job knew was marvelous enough, and his description of its wonders is among the noblest poetry of the race, but today the new science has opened to our eyes vistas of mystery that transcend in their inexplicable marvel anything the ancients ever dreamed.
In 'What Keeps Religion Going?', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 53.
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The more we learn of science, the more we see that its wonderful mysteries are all explained by a few simple laws so connected together and so dependent upon each other, that we see the same mind animating them all.
Sermon (c. 13 Jan. 1895), Mukwonago, Wisconsin, published in Olympia Brown and Gwendolen B. Willis (ed.), Olympia Brown, An Autobiography (1960). Reprinted in Annual Journal of the Universalist Historical Society (1963), vol. 4, 103.
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The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms — this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.
As quoted in Philip Frank, Einstein: His Life and Times (1947), chap. 12, sec. 5 - “Einstein’s Attitude Toward Religion.”
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The national park idea, the best idea we ever had, was inevitable as soon as Americans learned to confront the wild continent not with fear and cupidity but with delight, wonder, and awe.
In Wallace Stegner and Page Stegner (ed.), 'The Best Idea We Ever Had', Marking the Sparrow’s Fall: The Making of the American West (1998, 1999), 137.
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The nervous system is the most complex and delicate instrument on our planet, by means of which relations, connections are established between the numerous parts of the organism, as well as between the organism, as a highly complex system, and the innumerable, external influences. If the closing and opening of electric current is now regarded as an ordinary technical device, why should there be any objection to the idea that the same principle acts in this wonderful instrument? On this basis the constant connection between the external agent and the response of the organism, which it evokes, can be rightly called an unconditioned reflex, and the temporary connection—a conditioned reflex.
The Conditioned Reflex (1935), 249.
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The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder.
…...
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The process of self-estrangement and its removal underlies all education. The mind must fix its attention upon what is alien to it and penetrate its disguise, making it become familiar. … Wonder is only the first stage of this estrangement. It must be followed by recognition.
In Psychologic Foundations of Education: An Attempt to Show the Genesis of the Higher Faculties of the Mind (1907), 289.
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The reason Dick's [Richard Feynman] physics was so hard for ordinary people to grasp was that he did not use equations. The usual theoretical physics was done since the time of Newton was to begin by writing down some equations and then to work hard calculating solutions of the equations. This was the way Hans [Bethe] and Oppy [Oppenheimer] and Julian Schwinger did physics. Dick just wrote down the solutions out of his head without ever writing down the equations. He had a physical picture of the way things happen, and the picture gave him the solutions directly with a minimum of calculation. It was no wonder that people who had spent their lives solving equations were baffled by him. Their minds were analytical; his was pictorial.
Quoted in Michio Kaku and Jennifer Trainer Thompson, Beyond Einstein: the Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe (1987, 1999), 56-57, citing Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe (1979, 1981), 55-56.
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The roads by which men arrive at their insights into celestial matters seem to me almost as worthy of wonder as those matters themselves.
Quoted in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Feb 1959), 59, citing tr. Arthur Koestler, in Encounter (Dec 1958). Also in The Watershed: A Biography of Johannes Kepler (1960), 59.
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The routine produces. But each day, nevertheless, when you try to get started you have to transmogrify, transpose yourself; you have to go through some kind of change from being a normal human being, into becoming some kind of slave.
I simply don’t want to break through that membrane. I’d do anything to avoid it. You have to get there and you don’t want to go there because there’s so much pressure and so much strain and you just want to stay on the outside and be yourself. And so the day is a constant struggle to get going.
And if somebody says to me, You’re a prolific writer—it seems so odd. It’s like the difference between geological time and human time. On a certain scale, it does look like I do a lot. But that’s my day, all day long, sitting there wondering when I’m going to be able to get started. And the routine of doing this six days a week puts a little drop in a bucket each day, and that’s the key. Because if you put a drop in a bucket every day, after three hundred and sixty-five days, the bucket’s going to have some water in it.
https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5997/john-mcphee-the-art-of-nonfiction-no-3-john-mcphee
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The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
In Life and Death in a Coral Sea (1971), 13.
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The vast spread
Of darkness
That speaks of mystery
The darkness that reveals
The beauty that lies beneath
In the form of glittering
Stars, a countless beauty
That seemed to conceal
A million stories
That can make the mankind
Take a new look at life
And the majestic moon
That silently looks at mankind
Wondering how its serenity
Was disturbed by the little steps
Of a man from the beautiful earth
Yet softly smiling back
And let the world sleep
In its magical glow
A glow that soothes
The world’s senses
And forget the pain of reality
…...
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The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.
Address upon receiving National Book Award at reception, Hotel Commodore, New York (27 Jan 1952). As cited in Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997), 219. She was referring to her book being recognized, The Sea Around Us.
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The world will never starve for want of wonders but only for the want of wonder.
In Tremendous Trifles (1909), 7.
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There is an influence which is getting strong and stronger day by day, which shows itself more and more in all departments of human activity, and influence most fruitful and beneficial—the influence of the artist. It was a happy day for the mass of humanity when the artist felt the desire of becoming a physician, an electrician, an engineer or mechanician or—whatnot—a mathematician or a financier; for it was he who wrought all these wonders and grandeur we are witnessing. It was he who abolished that small, pedantic, narrow-grooved school teaching which made of an aspiring student a galley-slave, and he who allowed freedom in the choice of subject of study according to one's pleasure and inclination, and so facilitated development.
'Roentgen Rays or Streams', Electrical Review (12 Aug 1896). Reprinted in The Nikola Tesla Treasury (2007), 307. By Nikola Tesla
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There is no end to the wonders of the sea.
…...
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There is not so contemptible a Plant or Animal that does not confound the most enlarged Understanding. Though the familiar use of Things, take off our Wonder; yet it cures not our Ignorance.
In An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (1690), 211.
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There is, I think, no more wonderful and illuminating spectacle than that of an osmotic growth,—a crude lump of brute inanimate matter germinating before our very eyes, putting forth bud and stem and root and branch and leaf and fruit, with no stimulus from germ or seed, without even the presence of organic matter. For these mineral growths are not mere crystallizations as many suppose … They imitate the forms, the colour, the texture, and even the microscopical structure of organic growth so closely as to deceive the very elect.
In the Preface of his translation of Stéphane Leduc, The Mechanism of Life (1911), vii-viii.
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There’s a touch of the priesthood in the academic world, a sense that a scholar should not be distracted by the mundane tasks of day-to-day living. I used to have great stretches of time to work. Now I have research thoughts while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sure it’s impossible to write down ideas while reading “Curious George” to a two-year-old. On the other hand, as my husband was leaving graduate school for his first job, his thesis advisor told him, “You may wonder how a professor gets any research done when one has to teach, advise students, serve on committees, referee papers, write letters of recommendation, interview prospective faculty. Well, I take long showers.”
In 'In Her Own Words: Six Mathematicians Comment on Their Lives and Careers: Susan Landau', Notices of the AMS (Sep 1991), 38, No. 7, 704.
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These days at ten o’clock at night a most alarming wonder has manifested itself in the skies. The firmament was rent asunder and through this gap one could distinguish chariots and armies, riders with yellow, white, red and black standards, though to do battle against each other. This awesome and unusual vision continued from ten at night till about two of the morning, and was witnessed with alarm and dismay by many honest and trustworthy people. The significance thereof is known but to God Almighty, Who may graciously prevent the shedding of innocent blood.
Anonymous
'Frightful Apparition in the Sky at Vienna. From Vienna, the 11th day of August 1590'. As quoted in George Tennyson Matthews (ed.) News and Rumor in Renaissance Europe: The Fugger Newsletters (1959), 188. A handwritten collection of news reports (1568-1604) by the powerful banking and merchant house of Fugger in Ausburg.
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These were moments of exhilaration and ecstasy! A glimpse of this wonder can be the reward of a lifetime. Could it be that excitement and ennobling feelings like these have kept us scientists marching forward forever?
Referring to her landmark parity conservation experiment. As quoted in Benjamin F. Shearer, Barbara Smith Shearer, Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary (1997), 428.
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To communicate wonder, we must have a spirit of wonder. A leader who’s filled with wonder, joy and love for the natural world draws these good feelings out of others.
Sharing the Joy of Nature
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Tonight, the moon came out, it was nearly full.
Way down here on earth, I could feel it’s pull.
The weight of gravity or just the lure of life,
Made me want to leave my only home tonight.
I’m just wondering how we know where we belong
Is it in the arc of the moon, leaving shadows on the lawn
In the path of fireflies and a single bird at dawn
Singing in between here and gone
…...
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Twinkle, twinkle, quasi-star
Biggest puzzle from afar
How unlike the other ones
Brighter than a billion suns
Twinkle, twinkle, quasi-star
How I wonder what you are.
In Matter, Earth, and Sky (1965), 568. Quoted earlier in Newsweek (25 May 1964), 63, Pt 2, 63.
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President Clinton at podium + Quote “We are here to celebrate…entire human genome…most wondrous map ever produced by human kind”
President Clinton at the Human Genome Announcement at the White House (20 Jun 2000), with Francis S. Collins (left) and Craig Ventner. (source)
We are here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome. Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by human kind.
From White House Announcement of the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project, broadcast on the day of the publication of the first draft of the human genome. Quoted in transcript on the National Archives, Clinton White House web site, 'Text of Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project' (26 Jun 2000).
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We cannot see how the evidence afforded by the unquestioned progressive development of organised existence—crowned as it has been by the recent creation of the earth's greatest wonder, MAN, can be set aside, or its seemingly necessary result withheld for a moment. When Mr. Lyell finds, as a witty friend lately reported that there had been found, a silver-spoon in grauwacke, or a locomotive engine in mica-schist, then, but not sooner, shall we enrol ourselves disciples of the Cyclical Theory of Geological formations.
Review of Murchison's Silurian System, Quarterly Review (1839), 64, 112-3.
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We claim to be more moral than other nations, and to conquer and govern and tax and plunder weaker peoples for their good! While robbing them we actually claim to be benefactors! And then we wonder, or profess to wonder, why other Governments hate us! Are they not fully justified in hating us? Is it surprising that they seek every means to annoy us, that they struggle to get navies to compete with us, and look forward to a time when some two or three of them may combine together and thoroughly humble and cripple us? And who can deny that any just Being, looking at all the nations of the earth with impartiality and thorough knowledge, would decide that we deserve to be humbled, and that it might do us good?
In 'Practical Politics', The Clarion (30 Sep 1904), 1.
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We do not associate the idea of antiquity with the ocean, nor wonder how it looked a thousand years ago, as we do of the land, for it was equally wild and unfathomable always.
…...
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We live in a glass-soaked civilization, but as for the bird in the Chinese proverb who finds it so difficult to discover air, the substance is almost invisible to us. To use a metaphor drawn from glass, it may be revealing for us to re-focus, to stop looking through glass, and let our eyes dwell on it for a moment to contemplate its wonder. [Co-author with Gerry Martin.]
Glass: A World History (2002), 4.
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We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.
From First Inaugural Address (20 Jan 2009)
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What about the magical number seven? What about the seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the seven deadly sins, the seven daughters of Atlas in the Pleiades, the seven ages of man, the seven levels of hell, the seven primary colors, the seven notes of the musical scale, and the seven days of the week? What about the seven-point rating scale, the seven categories for absolute judgment, the seven objects in the span of attention, and the seven digits in the span of immediate memory? For the present I propose to withhold judgment. Perhaps there is something deep and profound behind all these sevens, something just calling out for us to discover it. But I suspect that it is only a pernicious, Pythagorean coincidence.
The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two (1956), 42-3.
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When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 165
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When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the World, and all the wonders that would be.
'Locksley Hall' (1842), collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 93.
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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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While it is never safe to affirm that the future of Physical Science has no marvels in store even more astonishing than those of the past, it seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established and that further advances are to be sought chiefly in the rigorous application of these principles to all the phenomena which come under our notice.
'Spectroscopy, Molecular Orbitals, and Chemical Bonding', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1966). In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1963-1970 (1972), 159.
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Who vagrant transitory comets sees,
Wonders because they’re rare; but a new star
Whose motion with the firmament agrees,
Is miracle; for there no new things are.
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Wisdom begins in wonder
Socrates
…...
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Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.
Plato
…...
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Wonder [admiratio astonishment, marvel] is a kind of desire for knowledge. The situation arises when one sees an effect and does not know its cause, or when the cause of the particular effect is one that exceeds his power of understanding. Hence, wonder is a cause of pleasure insofar as there is annexed the hope of attaining understanding of that which one wants to know. ... For desire is especially aroused by the awareness of ignorance, and consequently a man takes the greatest pleasure in those things which he discovers for himself or learns from the ground up.
From Summa Theologiae Question 32, 'The Causes of Pleasure,' Article 8, 'Is Pleasure Caused by Wondering.'(1a2ae 32.8). As translated in James Vincent Cunningham, Tragic Effect and Tragic Process in Some Plays of Shakespeare (1945). Also in The Collected Essays of J.V. Cunningham (1976), 72-73.
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Wouldst thou enjoy a long Life, a healthy Body, and a vigorous Mind, and be acquainted also with the wonderful Works of God? labour in the first place to bring thy Appetite into Subjection to Reason.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1742).
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Yet as I cast my eye over the whole course of science I behold instances of false science, even more pretentious and popular than that of Einstein gradually fading into ineptitude under the searchlight; and I have no doubt that there will arise a new generation who will look with a wonder and amazement, deeper than now accompany Einstein, at our galaxy of thinkers, men of science, popular critics, authoritative professors and witty dramatists, who have been satisfied to waive their common sense in view of Einstein's absurdities.
In Elizabeth Dilling, A "Who's Who" and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots (1934), 49.
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You know we’re constantly taking. We don’t make most of the food we eat, we don’t grow it, anyway. We wear clothes other people make, we speak a language other people developed, we use a mathematics other people evolved and spent their lives building. I mean we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful ecstatic feeling to create something and put it into the pool of human experience and knowledge.
Expressing the driving force behind his passion. Interview with Rolling Stone writer, Steven Levy (late Nov 1983). As quoted in Nick Bilton, 'The 30-Year-Old Macintosh and a Lost Conversation With Steve Jobs' (24 Jan 2014), on New York Times blog web page. Levy appended a transcript of the interview to an updated Kindle version of his book, Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything.
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You speak to me, in your own fashion, of a strange psychology which is able to reconcile the wonders of a master craftsmanship with aberrations due to unfathomable stupidity.
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You will be astonished when I tell you what this curious play of carbon amounts to. A candle will burn some four, five, six, or seven hours. What, then, must be the daily amount of carbon going up into the air in the way of carbonic acid! ... Then what becomes of it? Wonderful is it to find that the change produced by respiration ... is the very life and support of plants and vegetables that grow upon the surface of the earth.
In A Course of Six Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle (1861), 117.
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[W]hen Galileo discovered he could use the tools of mathematics and mechanics to understand the motion of celestial bodies, he felt, in the words of one imminent researcher, that he had learned the language in which God recreated the universe. Today we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, the wonder of God's most devine and sacred gift.
From White House Announcement of the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project, broadcast on the day of the publication of the first draft of the human genome. Quoted in transcript on the National Archives, Clinton White House web site, 'Text of Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project' (26 Jun 2000).
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~~[Attributed]~~ Some of you may have met mathematicians and wondered how they got that way.
Webmaster has not yet been able to find verification in a primary print source. (Can you help?)
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…comparing the capacity of computers to the capacity of the human brain, I’ve often wondered, where does our success come from? The answer is synthesis, the ability to combine creativity and calculation, art and science, into whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.
In How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom (2007), 4.
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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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- 90 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 40 -
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