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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index W > Category: Work

Work Quotes (1402 quotes)

... [I]nfectious disease is merely a disagreeable instance of a widely prevalent tendency of all living creatures to save themselves the bother of building, by their own efforts, the things they require. Whenever they find it possible to take advantage of the constructive labors of others, this is the path of least resistance. The plant does the work with its roots and its green leaves. The cow eats the plant. Man eats both of them; and bacteria (or investment bankers) eat the man. ...
Rats, Lice and History (1935).
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... I left Caen, where I was living, to go on a geologic excursion under the auspices of the School of Mines. The incidents of the travel made me forget my mathematical work. Having reached Coutances, we entered an omnibus to go to some place or other. At the moment when I put my foot on the step, the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, that the transformations I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Eudidean geometry. I did not verify the idea; I should not have had time, as upon taking my seat in the omnibus, I went on with a conversation already commenced, but I felt a perfect certainty. On my return to Caen, for convenience sake, I verified the result at my leisure.
Quoted in Sir Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (1990), 541. Science and Method (1908) 51-52, 392.
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...great difficulties are felt at first and these cannot be overcome except by starting from experiments .. and then be conceiving certain hypotheses ... But even so, very much hard work remains to be done and one needs not only great perspicacity but often a degree of good fortune.
Letter to Tschirnhaus (1687). Quoted in Archana Srinivasan, Great Inventors (2007), 37-38.
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...I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think there is an eminently important difference.
letter cit. R. Pearson (1914-1930) in The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton
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...I may perhaps venture a short word on the question much discussed in certain quarters, whether in the work of excavation it is a good thing to have cooperation between men and women ... Of a mixed dig ... I have seen something, and it is an experiment that I would be reluctant to try again. I would grant if need be that women are admirable fitted for the work, yet I would uphold that they should undertake it by themselves ... the work of an excavator on the dig and off it lays on those who share it a bond of closer daily intercourse than is conceivable ... between men and women, except in chance cases, I do not believe that such close and unavoidable companionship can ever be other than a source of irritation; at any rate, I believe that however it may affect women, the ordinary male at least cannot stand it ... A minor ... objection lies in one particular form of contraint ... moments will occur on the best regulated dig when you want to say just what you think without translation, which before the ladies, whatever their feelings about it, cannot be done.
Archaeological Excavation (1915), 63-64. In Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky Breaking Ground (2006), 557-558. By (), 163-164.
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…The present revolution of scientific thought follows in natural sequence on the great revolutions at earlier epochs in the history of science. Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which explains the indeterminateness of the frame of space and time, crowns the work of Copernicus who first led us to give up our insistence on a geocentric outlook on nature; Einstein's general theory of relativity, which reveals the curvature or non-Euclidean geometry of space and time, carries forward the rudimentary thought of those earlier astronomers who first contemplated the possibility that their existence lay on something which was not flat. These earlier revolutions are still a source of perplexity in childhood, which we soon outgrow; and a time will come when Einstein’s amazing revelations have likewise sunk into the commonplaces of educated thought.
In The Theory of Relativity and its Influence on Scientific Thought (1922), 31-32
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…there is no prescribed route to follow to arrive at a new idea. You have to make the intuitive leap. But the difference is that once you’ve made the intuitive leap you have to justify it by filling in the intermediate steps. In my case, it often happens that I have an idea, but then I try to fill in the intermediate steps and find that they don’t work, so I have to give it up.
In Michael Harwood, 'The Universe and Dr. Hawking', New York Times Magazine (23 Jan 1983), 53.
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...those who sit at their work and are therefore called 'chair workers,' such as cobblers and tailors, suffer from their own particular diseases ... [T]hese workers ... suffer from general ill-health and an excessive accumulation of unwholesome humors caused by their sedentary life ... so to some extent counteract the harm done by many days of sedentary life.
On the association between chronic inactivity and poor health. Ramazzini urged that workers should at least exercise on holidays
'Sedentary Workers and Their Diseases', Diseases of Workers (1713) Translated by WC Wright (1964),281-285). Quoted in Physical Activity and Health: a Report of the Surgeon General (1996).
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“I think you’re begging the question,” said Haydock, “and I can see looming ahead one of those terrible exercises in probability where six men have white hats and six men have black hats and you have to work it out by mathematics how likely it is that the hats will get mixed up and in what proportion. If you start thinking about things like that, you would go round the bend. Let me assure you of that!”
In The Mirror Crack’d (1962), 190.
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“Logic” proved that airplanes can’t fly and that H-bombs won’t work and that stones don’t fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
In Glory Road (1963, 1981), 54.
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“Progress” was synonymous with distance from nature. The adults, who set the pace of progress from nature, were so absorbed by their own ability to invent and to alter the existing world, that they hurried headlong, with no design for the ultimate structure. A man-made environment was the obvious goal, but who was the responsible architect? No one in my country. Not even the king of Great Britain or the president of America. Each inventor and producer who worked on building tomorrow’s world just threw in a brick or a cogwheel wherever he cared to, and it was up to us of the next generation to find out what the result would be.
In Ch. 1, 'Farewell to Civilization', Fatu-Hiva (1974), 4.
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“They were apes only yesterday. Give them time.”
“Once an ape—always an ape.”…
“No, it will be different. … Come back here in an age or so and you shall see. …”
[The gods, discussing the Earth, in the movie version of Wells’ The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936).]
The Man Who Could Work Miracles: a film by H.G. Wells based on the short story (1936), 105-106. Quoted in Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain (1979, 1986), 3.
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(1) I have told you more than I know about osteoporosis. (2) What I have told you is subject to change without notice. (3) I hope I raised more questions than I have given answers. (4) In any case, as usual, a lot more work is necessary.
Conclusion of one of his papers.
In Barry G. Firkin, Judith A. Whitworth, Dictionary of Medical Eponyms (1996), 5.
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[About a conference on Systematic Biology] Many interesting statements were made that apply directly to the work of taxonomists. In some cases the interest lay in the value of the suggestion and sometimes in the obvious need for rebuttal.
In 'Illogicality in Criticism', Systematic Zoology (Dec 1969), 18, No. 4, 470.
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[At DuPont,] I was very fortunate that I worked under men who were very much interested in making discoveries and inventions. They were very much interested in what they were doing, and they left me alone. And I was able to experiment on my own, and I found this very stimulating. It appealed to the creative person in me.
From transcript for video interview (2007, published Aug 2012), 'Stephanie Kwolek: Curiosity and the Discovery of Kevlar', in the series Women in Chemistry, on Chemical Heritage Foundation website.
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[At high school in Cape Town] my interests outside my academic work were debating, tennis, and to a lesser extent, acting. I became intensely interested in astronomy and devoured the popular works of astronomers such as Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans, from which I learnt that a knowledge of mathematics and physics was essential to the pursuit of astronomy. This increased my fondness for those subjects.
'Autobiography of Allan M. Cormack,' Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1979, editted by Wilhelm Odelberg.
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[Audubon’s works are] the most splendid monuments which art has erected in honor of ornithology.
Introduction by Jas. Grant Wilson's to John James Audubon and Lucy Audubon (editor), The Life of John James Audubon: the Naturalist (1869), iv.
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[Benjamin Peirce's] lectures were not easy to follow. They were never carefully prepared. The work with which he rapidly covered the blackboard was very illegible, marred with frequent erasures, and not infrequent mistakes (he worked too fast for accuracy). He was always ready to digress from the straight path and explore some sidetrack that had suddenly attracted his attention, but which was likely to have led nowhere when the college bell announced the close of the hour and we filed out, leaving him abstractedly staring at his work, still with chalk and eraser in his hands, entirely oblivious of his departing class.
Writing as a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a former student of Peirce, in 'Benjamin Peirce: II. Reminiscences', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jan 1925), 32, No. 1, 6.
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[Beyond natural history] Other biological sciences take up the study at other levels of organization: dissecting the individual into organs and tissues and seeing how these work together, as in physiology; reaching down still further to the level of cells, as in cytology; and reaching the final biological level with the study of living molecules and their interactions, as in biochemistry. No one of these levels can be considered as more important than any other.
In The Nature of Natural History (1961, 2014), 7.
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[Chemistry] laboratory work was my first challenge. ... I still carry the scars of my first discovery—that test-tubes are fragile.
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 42.
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[First use of the term science fiction:] We hope it will not be long before we may have other works of Science-Fiction [like Richard Henry Horne's The Poor Artist], as we believe such books likely to fulfil a good purpose, and create an interest, where, unhappily, science alone might fail.
[Thomas] Campbell says, that “Fiction in Poetry is not the reverse of truth, but her soft and enchanting resemblance.” Now this applies especially to Science-Fiction, in which the revealed truths of Science may be given interwoven with a pleasing story which may itself be poetical and true—thus circulating a knowledge of Poetry of Science, clothed in a garb of the Poetry of life.
In A Little Earnest Book Upon a Great Old Subject (1851), 137.
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[For equal opportunity and recognition, women in science] must be prepared to work hard for the work’s sake, without thought of what it may bring to them in the way of personal acclaim and emolument. While scientific research is exciting it has its dull and plodding moments. One may delve and delve and analyze and analyze for months, and even years, without seeing anything. Then suddenly, through accumulative observation, the idea comes!”
In Genevieve Parkhurst, 'Dr. Sabin, Scientist: Winner Of Pictorial Review’s Achievement Award', Pictorial Review (Jan 1930), 70.
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[Fritz Haber's] greatness lies in his scientific ideas and in the depth of his searching. The thought, the plan, and the process are more important to him than the completion. The creative process gives him more pleasure than the yield, the finished piece. Success is immaterial. “Doing it was wonderful.” His work is nearly always uneconomical, with the wastefulness of the rich.
In Richard Willstätter, Arthur Stoll (ed. of the original German) and Lilli S. Hornig (trans.), From My Life: The Memoirs of Richard Willstätter (1958), 268.
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[Great scientists] are men of bold ideas, but highly critical of their own ideas: they try to find whether their ideas are right by trying first to find whether they are not perhaps wrong. They work with bold conjectures and severe attempts at refuting their own conjectures.
'The Problem of Demarcation' (1974). Collected in David Miller (ed.) Popper Selections (1985), 118-119.
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[I have seen] workers in whom certain morbid affections gradually arise from some particular posture of the limbs or unnatural movements of the body called for while they work. Such are the workers who all day stand or sit, stoop or are bent double, who run or ride or exercise their bodies in all sorts of [excess] ways. ... the harvest of diseases reaped by certain workers ... [from] irregular motions in unnatural postures of the body.
translation published by the University of Chicago Press, 1940
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[I was advised] to read Jordan's 'Cours d'analyse'; and I shall never forget the astonishment with which I read that remarkable work, the first inspiration for so many mathematicians of my generation, and learnt for the first time as I read it what mathematics really meant.
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 23.
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[I]magine you want to know the sex of your unborn child. There are several approaches. You could, for example, do what the late film star ... Cary Grant did before he was an actor: In a carnival or fair or consulting room, you suspend a watch or a plumb bob above the abdomen of the expectant mother; if it swings left-right it's a boy, and if it swings forward-back it's a girl. The method works one time in two. Of course he was out of there before the baby was born, so he never heard from customers who complained he got it wrong. ... But if you really want to know, then you go to amniocentesis, or to sonograms; and there your chance of being right is 99 out of 100. ... If you really want to know, you go to science.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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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 and rendered obsolete. Everyone who wishes to serve science has to resign himself to this.
Max Weber
From a Speech (1918) presented at Munich University, published in 1919, and collected in 'Wissenschaft als Beruf', Gessammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre (1922), 524-525. As translated by Rodney Livingstone in David Owen (ed.), The Vocation Lectures: Science as a Vocation: Politics as a Vocation (2004), 11. A different translation of a longer excerpt for this quote, beginning “In science, each of us knows …”, is also on the Max Weber Quotes web page on this site.
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[It has been ascertained by statistical observation that in engineering enterprises one man is killed for every million francs that is spent on the works.] Supposing you have to build a bridge at an expense of one hundred million francs, you must be prepared for the death of one hundred men. In building the Eiffel Tower, which was a construction costing six million and a half, we only lost four men, thus remaining below the average. In the construction of the Forth Bridge, 55 men were lost in over 45,000,000 francs’ worth of work. That would appear to be a large number according to the general rule, but when the special risks are remembered, this number shows as a very small one.
As quoted in 'M. Eiffel and the Forth Bridge', The Tablet (15 Mar 1890), 75, 400. Similarly quoted in Robert Harborough Sherard, Twenty Years in Paris: Being Some Recollections of a Literary Life (1905), 169, which adds to the end “, and reflects very great credit on the engineers for the precautions which they took on behalf of their men.” Sherard gave the context that Eiffel was at the inauguration [4 Mar 1890] of the Forth Bridge, and gave this compliment when conversing there with the Prince of Wales.
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[It] is not the nature of things for any one man to make a sudden, violent discovery; science goes step by step and every man depends on the work of his predecessors. When you hear of a sudden unexpected discovery—a bolt from the blue—you can always be sure that it has grown up by the influence of one man or another, and it is the mutual influence which makes the enormous possibility of scientific advance. Scientists are not dependent on the ideas of a single man, but on the combined wisdom of thousands of men, all thinking of the same problem and each doing his little bit to add to the great structure of knowledge which is gradually being erected.
Concluding remark in Lecture ii (1936) on 'Forty Years of Physics', revised and prepared for publication by J.A. Ratcliffe, collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.), Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 73-74. Note that the words as prepared for publication may not be verbatim as spoken in the original lecture by the then late Lord Rutherford.
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[J.J.] Sylvester’s methods! He had none. “Three lectures will be delivered on a New Universal Algebra,” he would say; then, “The course must be extended to twelve.” It did last all the rest of that year. The following year the course was to be Substitutions-Théorie, by Netto. We all got the text. He lectured about three times, following the text closely and stopping sharp at the end of the hour. Then he began to think about matrices again. “I must give one lecture a week on those,” he said. He could not confine himself to the hour, nor to the one lecture a week. Two weeks were passed, and Netto was forgotten entirely and never mentioned again. Statements like the following were not unfrequent in his lectures: “I haven’t proved this, but I am as sure as I can be of anything that it must be so. From this it will follow, etc.” At the next lecture it turned out that what he was so sure of was false. Never mind, he kept on forever guessing and trying, and presently a wonderful discovery followed, then another and another. Afterward he would go back and work it all over again, and surprise us with all sorts of side lights. He then made another leap in the dark, more treasures were discovered, and so on forever.
As quoted by Florian Cajori, in Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890), 265-266.
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[John Scott Haldane] preferred to work on himself or other human beings who were sufficiently interested in the work to ignore pain or fear … [His] object was not to achieve this state of [pain or fear] but to achieve knowledge which could save other men's lives. His attitute was much more like a good soldier who will risk his life and endure wounds in order to gain victory than that of an ascetic who deliberately undergoes pain. The soldier does not get himself wounded deliberately, and my father did not seek pain in his work though he greeted pain which would have made some people writhe or groan, with laughter.
In R.W. Clark, JBS: The Life and Work of J.B.S. Haldane (1968), quoted in Lawrence K. Altman, Who Goes First? (1986), 215.
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[Kepler] had to realize clearly that logical-mathematical theoretizing, no matter how lucid, could not guarantee truth by itself; that the most beautiful logical theory means nothing in natural science without comparison with the exactest experience. Without this philosophic attitude, his work would not have been possible.
From Introduction that Einstein wrote for Carola Baumgardt and Jamie Callan, Johannes Kepler Life and Letters (1953), 13.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. … On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller’s works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
In Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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[Louis Rendu, Bishop of Annecy] collects observations, makes experiments, and tries to obtain numerical results; always taking care, however, so to state his premises and qualify his conclusions that nobody shall be led to ascribe to his numbers a greater accuracy than they merit. It is impossible to read his work, and not feel that he was a man of essentially truthful mind and that science missed an ornament when he was appropriated by the Church.
In The Glaciers of the Alps (1860), 299.
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[M]y work, which I’ve done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof.
Letter (27 Jun 1716) thanking the University of Louvain for ending him a medal designed in honour of his research. (Leeuwenhoek was then in his 84th year.) As cited by Charles-Edward Amory Winslow in The Conquest of Epidemic Disease: A Chapter in the History of Ideas (), 156.
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[My favourite fellow of the Royal Society is the Reverend Thomas Bayes, an obscure 18th-century Kent clergyman and a brilliant mathematician who] devised a complex equation known as the Bayes theorem, which can be used to work out probability distributions. It had no practical application in his lifetime, but today, thanks to computers, is routinely used in the modelling of climate change, astrophysics and stock-market analysis.
Quoted in Max Davidson, 'Bill Bryson: Have faith, science can solve our problems', Daily Telegraph (26 Sep 2010)
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[My work as a photographer is a] mission to document endangered species and landscapes in order to show a world worth saving.
On the 'About' page of his web site.
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[N]o scientist likes to be criticized. … But you don’t reply to critics: “Wait a minute, wait a minute; this is a really good idea. I’m very fond of it. It’s done you no harm. Please don’t attack it.” That's not the way it goes. The hard but just rule is that if the ideas don't work, you must throw them away. Don't waste any neurons on what doesn’t work. Devote those neurons to new ideas that better explain the data. Valid criticism is doing you a favor.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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[Newton wrote to Halley … that he would not give Hooke any credit] That, alas, is vanity. You find it in so many scientists. You know, it has always hurt me to think that Galileo did not acknowledge the work of Kepler.
In I. Bernard Cohen, 'An Interview with Einstein', in Anthony Philip French (ed.), Einstein: A Centenary Volume (1979), 41. Cited in Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way (2003), 94-95.
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[On research] It’s got to be fun. I don't think anybody should tell you that he’s slogged his way through 25 years on a problem and there's only one reward at the end, and that's the value of the Hubble constant. That’s a bunch of hooey. The reward is learning all the wonderful properties of the things that don’t work.
As quoted in Obituary, 'Allan Sandage, 84, Astronomer, Dies; Charted Cosmos’s Age and Expansion', New York Times (17 Nov 2010), B19.
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[Otto Struve] made the remark once that he never looked at the spectrum of a star, any star, where he didn’t find something important to work on.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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[Our work on the structure of DNA] was fairly fast, but you know, we were lucky. One must remember, it was based on the X-ray work done here in London started off by Morris Wilkins and carried on by Rosalind Franklin, and we wouldn’t have got to the stage of at least having a molecular model, if it hadn't been for their work.
Quoted and cited from BBC radio (1999) in transcript of Australian ABC radio program PM (30 Jul 2004) on the ABC website.
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[Radius]: You will work. You will build ... You will serve them... Robots of the world... The power of man has fallen... A new world has arisen. The rule of the Robots... March!
The word 'robot' was coined in this play for a new working class of automatons (from the Czech word robota meaning compulsory labour)
R.U.R. (1920), 89-90 in 1961 ed.
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[Resist the temptation to] work so hard that there is no time left for serious thinking …[Scientists] should heed the saying, “A busy life is a wasted life.”
As quoted in J. Michael Bishop, How to Win the Nobel Prize: An Unexpected Life in Science (2009), 59. Citing What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 145.
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[T]he rapt philosopher, and he who contemplates a work of art, inhabit a world with an intense and peculiar significance of its own; that significance is unrelated to the significance of life.
In Art (1913), 26.
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[T]he yeoman’s work in any science, and especially physics, is done by the experimentalist, who must keep the theoreticians honest.
In Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and The Tenth Dimension (1994), 314.
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[T]here are some common animal behaviors that seem to favor the development of intelligence, behaviors that might lead to brainy beasts on many worlds. Social interaction is one of them. If you're an animal that hangs out with others, then there's clearly an advantage in being smart enough to work out the intentions of the guy sitting next to you (before he takes your mate or your meal). And if you're clever enough to outwit the other members of your social circle, you'll probably have enhanced opportunity to breed..., thus passing on your superior intelligence. ... Nature—whether on our planet or some alien world—will stumble into increased IQ sooner or later.
Seth Shostak, Alex Barnett, Cosmic Company: the Search for Life in the Universe (2003), 62 & 67.
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[The blame for the future 'plight of civilization] must rest on scientific men, equally with others, for being incapable of accepting the responsibility for the profound social upheavals which their own work primarily has brought about in human relationships.
Quoted in Thaddeus Trenn, 'The Central Role of Energy in Soddy's Holistic and Critical Approach to Nuclear Science, Economics, and Social Responsibility', British Journal for the History of Science (1979), 42, 261.
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[The famous attack of Sir William Hamilton on the tendency of mathematical studies] affords the most express evidence of those fatal lacunae in the circle of his knowledge, which unfitted him for taking a comprehensive or even an accurate view of the processes of the human mind in the establishment of truth. If there is any pre-requisite which all must see to be indispensable in one who attempts to give laws to the human intellect, it is a thorough acquaintance with the modes by which human intellect has proceeded, in the case where, by universal acknowledgment, grounded on subsequent direct verification, it has succeeded in ascertaining the greatest number of important and recondite truths. This requisite Sir W. Hamilton had not, in any tolerable degree, fulfilled. Even of pure mathematics he apparently knew little but the rudiments. Of mathematics as applied to investigating the laws of physical nature; of the mode in which the properties of number, extension, and figure, are made instrumental to the ascertainment of truths other than arithmetical or geometrical—it is too much to say that he had even a superficial knowledge: there is not a line in his works which shows him to have had any knowledge at all.
In Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1878), 607.
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[The octopus has] an amazing skin, because there are up to 20 million of these chromatophore pigment cells and to control 20 million of anything is going to take a lot of processing power. ... These animals have extraordinarily large, complicated brains to make all this work. ... And what does this mean about the universe and other intelligent life? The building blocks are potentially there and complexity will arise. Evolution is the force that's pushing that. I would expect, personally, a lot of diversity and a lot of complicated structures. It may not look like us, but my personal view is that there is intelligent life out there.
From transcript of PBS TV program Nova episode 'Origins: Where are the Aliens?' (2004).
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[The surplus of basic knowledge of the atomic nucleus was] largely used up [during the war with the atomic bomb as the dividend.] We must, without further delay restore this surplus in preparation for the important peacetime job for the nucleus - power production. ... Many of the proposed applications of atomic power - even for interplanetary rockets - seem to be within the realm of possibility provided the economic factor is ruled out completely, and the doubtful physical and chemical factors are weighted heavily on the optimistic side. ... The development of economic atomic power is not a simple extrapolation of knowledge gained during the bomb work. It is a new and difficult project to reach a satisfactory answer. Needless to say, it is vital that the atomic policy legislation now being considered by the congress recognizes the essential nature of this peacetime job, and that it not only permits but encourages the cooperative research-engineering effort of industrial, government and university laboratories for the task. ... We must learn how to generate the still higher energy particles of the cosmic rays - up to 1,000,000,000 volts, for they will unlock new domains in the nucleus.
Addressing the American Institute of Electrical Engineering, in New York (24 Jan 1946). In Schenectady Gazette (25 Jan 1946),
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[The] complex pattern of the misallocation of credit for scientific work must quite evidently be described as “the Matthew effect,” for, as will be remembered, the Gospel According to St. Matthew puts it this way: For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Put in less stately language, the Matthew effect consists of the accruing of greater increments of recognition for particular scientific contributions to scientists of considerable repute and the withholding of such recognition from scientists who have not yet made their mark.
'The Matthew Effect in Science', Science (1968), 159, 58.
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[The] weakness of biological balance studies has aptly been illustrated by comparison with the working of a slot machine. A penny brings forth one package of chewing gum; two pennies bring forth two. Interpreted according to the reasoning of balance physiology, the first observation is an indication of the conversion of copper into gum; the second constitutes proof.
[Co-author with David Rittenberg (1906-70).]
'The Application of Isotopes to the Study of Intermediary Metabolism', Science (1938), 87, 222.
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[There was] in some of the intellectual leaders a great aspiration to demonstrate that the universe ran like a piece of clock-work, but this was was itself initially a religious aspiration. It was felt that there would be something defective in Creation itself—something not quite worthy of God—unless the whole system of the universe could be shown to be interlocking, so that it carried the pattern of reasonableness and orderliness. Kepler, inaugurating the scientist’s quest for a mechanistic universe in the seventeenth century, is significant here—his mysticism, his music of the spheres, his rational deity demand a system which has the beauty of a piece of mathematics.
In The Origins of Modern Science (1950), 105.
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[To a man expecting a scientific proof of the impossibility of flying saucers] I might have said to him: “Listen, I mean that from my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence.” It is just more likely, that is all. It is a good guess. And we always try to guess the most likely explanation, keeping in the back of the mind the fact that if it does not work we must discuss the other possibilities.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 166.
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[To identify ancient sites] The primary requirement is a human skeleton or artifacts that are clearly the work of humans. Next, this evidence must lie in situ within undisturbed geological deposits. The artifacts should be directly associated with stratigraphy. Finally, the minimum age of the site must be determined by a direct link with fossils of known age or with material that has been reliably dated.
As quoted in Sharman Apt Russell, When the Land Was Young: Reflections on American Archaeology (2001), 22.
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[Vikram Sarabhai] informed the whole of his team about any new project and started working on it only after having discussed it with everyone.
As given in narrative form by Mahesh Sharma, P. Bhalla and P.K. Das, in 'Prof. Vikram Sarabhai in the Opinion of Dr. Kalam', Pride Of The Nation: Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (2004), 46.
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[Werhner von Braun] is a human leader whose eyes and thoughts have always been turned toward the stars. It would be foolish to assign rocketry success to one person totally. Components must necessarily be the work of many minds; so must successive stages of development. But because Wernher von Braun joins technical ability, passionate optimism, immense experience and uncanny organizing ability in the elusive power to create a team, he is the greatest human element behind today’s rocketry success
Quoted in 'Reach For The Stars', Time (17 Feb 1958), 71, 25.
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[When his physician father died of a heart attack:] It was then and there that I gave myself to medicine the way a monk gives himself to God. Not to have done so would have seemed an act of filial impiety. Since I could not find him in the flesh, I would find him in the work he did.
In Down From Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age (1992), 136.
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“The Universe repeats itself, with the possible exception of history.” Of all earthly studies history is the only one that does not repeat itself. ... Astronomy repeats itself; botany repeats itself; trigonometry repeats itself; mechanics repeats itself; compound long division repeats itself. Every sum if worked out in the same way at any time will bring out the same answer. ... A great many moderns say that history is a science; if so it occupies a solitary and splendid elevation among the sciences; it is the only science the conclusions of which are always wrong.
In 'A Much Repeated Repetition', Daily News (26 Mar 1904). 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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[On seeing the marsupials in Australia for the first time and comparing them to placental mammals:] An unbeliever … might exclaim “Surely two distinct Creators must have been at work.”
In Diary (19 Jan 1836). In Richard D. Keynes (ed.), The Beagle Record: Selections from the Original Pictorial Records and Written Accounts of the Voyage of HMS Beagle (1979), 345.
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[Recalling Professor Ira Remsen's remarks (1895) to a group of his graduate students about to go out with their degrees into the world beyond the university:]
He talked to us for an hour on what was ahead of us; cautioned us against giving up the desire to push ahead by continued study and work. He warned us against allowing our present accomplishments to be the high spot in our lives. He urged us not to wait for a brilliant idea before beginning independent research, and emphasized the fact the Lavoisier's first contribution to chemistry was the analysis of a sample of gypsum. He told us that the fields in which the great masters had worked were still fruitful; the ground had only been scratched and the gleaner could be sure of ample reward.
Quoted in Frederick Hutton Getman, The Life of Ira Remsen (1980), 73.
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[When recording electrical impulses from a frog nerve-muscle preparation seemed to show a tiresomely oscillating electrical artefact—but only when the muscle was hanging unsupported.] The explanation suddenly dawned on me ... a muscle hanging under its own weight ought, if you come to think of it, to be sending sensory impulses up the nerves coming from the muscle spindles ... That particular day’s work, I think, had all the elements that one could wish for. The new apparatus seemed to be misbehaving very badly indeed, and I suddenly found it was behaving so well that it was opening up an entire new range of data ... it didn’t involve any particular hard work, or any particular intelligence on my part. It was just one of those things which sometimes happens in a laboratory if you stick apparatus together and see what results you get.
From 'Memorable experiences in research', Diabetes (1954), 3, 17-18. As cited in Alan McComa, Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse (2011), 102-103.
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Aber das Leben ist kurz und die Wahrheit wirkt ferne und lebt lange: sagen wir die Wahrheit.
Life is short and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.
Concluding remark in Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xvi. As translated by Richard Burton Haldane and John Kemp in The World as Will and Representation (1883, 1907), Vol. 1, xv.
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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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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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Die Wissenschaft ist ein Land, welches die Eigenschaft hat, um so mehr Menschen beherbergen zu können, je mehr Bewohner sich darin sammeln; sie ist ein Schatz, der um so grösser wird, je mehr man ihn teilt. Darum kann jeder von uns in seiner Art seine Arbeit tun, und die Gemeinsamkeit bedeutet nicht Gleichförmigkeit.
Science is one land, having the ability to accommodate even more people, as more residents gather in it; it is a treasure that is the greater the more it is shared. Because of that, each of us can do his work in his own way, and the common ground does not mean conformity.
Speaking (in German) at the Banquet to Past Presidents, the Chemical Society, as published in William Crookes (ed.) The Chemical News (16 Dec 1898), 78, 298. Also used as epigraph, in Paul Walden, Wilhelm Ostwald (1904), 1. Translation by Webmaster.
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Epitaph of John Hunter
The Royal College of Surgeons of England have placed this tablet over the grave of Hunter, to record their admiration of his genius as a gifted interpreter of the Divine Power and Wisdom at work in the Laws of Organic Life, and their grateful veneration for his services to mankind as the Founder of Scientific Surgery.
Memorial brass in the floor of north aisle of Westminster Abbey, placed when Hunter's remains were reinterred there (28 Mar 1859). In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1972), Vol. 6, 568.
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Ihre Arbeit ist gekrönt worden mit dem Nobel Preis für Otto Hahn.
Her work has been crowned by the Nobel Prize for Otto Hahn.
Anonymous
Said to observe that she did not herself receive recognition of her research.
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In artibus et scientiis, tanquam in metalli fodinis, omnia novis operibus et ulterioribus progressibus circumstrepere debent
But arts and sciences should be like mines, where the noise of new works and further advances is heard on every side.
Original Latin as in Novum Organum, Book 1, XC, collected in The Works of Francis Bacon (1826), Vol. 8, 50-51. As translated by James Spedding and Robert Leslie Ellis in The Works of Francis Bacon (1863), 127.
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L’oeuvre de Pasteur est admirable; elle montre son génie, mais it faut avoir vécu dans son intimité pour connaître toute la bonté de son coeur.
The work of Pasteur is admirable; it shows his genius, but it must have been experienced intimately to know all the goodness of his heart.
Epigraph in René Vallery-Radot, La Vie de Pasteur (1900), title page. English by Google translation, tweaked by Webmaster. Pierre Paul Émile Roux had indeed known Pasteur well, as one of his closest collaborators.
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La chaleur pénètre, comme la gravité, toutes les substances de l’univers, ses rayons occupent toutes les parties de l’espace. Le but de notre ouvrage est d’exposer les lois mathématiques que suit cet élément. Cette théorie formera désormais une des branches les plus importantes de la physique générale.
Heat, like gravity, penetrates every substance of the universe, its rays occupy all parts of space. The object of our work is to set forth the mathematical laws which this element obeys. The theory of heat will hereafter form one of the most important branches of general physics.
From 'Discours Préliminaire' to Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), i, translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 1.
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Les faits scientifiques, et à fortiori, les lois sont l’œuvre artificielle du savant ; la science ne peut donc rien nous apprendre de la vérité, elle ne peut nous servir que de règle d’action.
The facts of science and, à fortiori, its laws are the artificial work of the scientist; science therefore can teach us nothing of the truth; it can only serve us as rule of action.
In La Valeur de la Science (1904), 214, translated by George Bruce Halsted, in The Value of Science (1907), 112.
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Magna opera Domini exquisita in omnes voluntates eius.
The works of the Lord are great; sought out of all those that have pleasure therein.
Anonymous
Over the entrance to the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.
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Nature and nurture are an inseparable blend of influences that work together to produce our behavior. A growing band of researchers are demonstrating that the bedrock of behaviors that make up the concerns of everyday life, such as sex, language, cooperation, and violence have been carved out by evolution over the eons, and this Stone Age legacy continues to influence modern life today.
In Stone Age Present: How Evolution Has Shaped Modern Life: From Sex, Violence and Language to Emotions, Morals and Communities, (1995), 25-26.
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Nicht Kunst und Wissenschaft allein,
Geduld will bei dem Werke sein.

Not Art and Science serve alone; Patience must in the work be shown.
Lines for character Mephistopheles in Faust I. As translated by Bayard Taylor in Lilian Dalbiac, Dictionary of Quotations (German) (1909, 256. Also translated as “Not art and science only, but patience will be required for the work”, in James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 298, No. 11.
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Omnes scientiae sunt connexae et fovent auxiliis sicut partes ejusdem totius, quarum quaelibet opus suum peragit non propter se sed pro aliis.
All sciences are connected; they lend each other material aid as parts of one great whole, each doing its own work, not for itself alone, but for the other parts; as the eye guides the body and the foot sustains it and leads it from place to place.
Opus Tertium [1266- 1268], chapter 4, Latin text quoted in J. B. Bury, The Idea of Progress (1920), 355 (footnote to page 25). In J. S. Brewer (ed.), Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera ... inedita (1859), 18.
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Parkinson's First Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Parkinson's Law or the Pursuit of Progress1 (1958), 4.
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SCIENCE: a way of finding things out and then making them work. Science explains what is happening around us the whole time. So does RELIGION, but science is better because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it’s wrong.
In Wings (1990, 2007), 147.
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~~[Misattributed - NOT by Jefferson]~~ I am a great believer in Luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.
This wording of the quote was written down by Coleman Cox in Listen to This (1922), VII. The quote is often seen, despite having no known source, attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Also seen as “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Historians of Jefferson have stated that neither these words nor variants exist in his written works. Included here to provide it together the notice of misattribution. Also see the Coleman Cox Quotes page on this website.
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~~[No known source]~~ The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.
Webmaster has as yet found no primary source, and strongly doubts the authenticity of this quote. Can you help? For such an early author, evidence of this quote should abound, but it does not. It is viral on the web, but Webmaster has so far found no instance with a valid citation. This dubious quote is included here to associate with this caution.
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~~[No known source]~~ There is no substitute for hard work.
One of those scurrilous Edison-sounding quotes in common circulation, but no source has been identified for this wording. It might be a writer’s summary of Edison’s other known comments on work ethic. Webmaster believes it is proverbial, in general circulation before Edison’s time, and should be better attributed to “Anonymous” and not to Edison. The aphorism was used in 1882 by John S. Kennedy in a letter to George Stephen, quoted in Joseph Gilpin Pyle, 'James J. Hill’s Rules of Business Success', The World's Work: A History of Our Time (1917), 33, 281.
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~~[Unverified]~~ Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it.
Webmaster has thus far found no primary source for verification. (Can you help?)
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80% of your work is done with 20% of your tools.
An expression of Pareto’s Principal, also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity. It is stated in various ways for various situations.
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A “critic” is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased—he hates all creative people equally.
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 365.
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A body of work such as Pasteur’s is inconceivable in our time: no man would be given a chance to create a whole science. Nowadays a path is scarcely opened up when the crowd begins to pour in.
Pensées d’un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), Chap. 6.
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A considerable number of persons are able to protect themselves against the outbreak of serious neurotic phenomena only through intense work.
From Observations on Ferenczi's paper on 'Sunday Neuroses' (1918). Quoted in Peter Bryan Warr, Work, Happiness, and Unhappiness (2007), 161.
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A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.
The Use of Life (1895), 212.
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A doctor must work eighteen hours a day and seven days a week. If you cannot console yourself to this, get out of the profession
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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A first-rate laboratory is one in which mediocre scientists can produce outstanding work.
Quoted by M. G. K. Menon in his commemoration lecture on H. J. Bhabba, Royal Institution 1967.
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A fossil hunter needs sharp eyes and a keen search image, a mental template that subconsciously evaluates everything he sees in his search for telltale clues. A kind of mental radar works even if he isn’t concentrating hard. A fossil mollusk expert has a mollusk search image. A fossil antelope expert has an antelope search image. … Yet even when one has a good internal radar, the search is incredibly more difficult than it sounds. Not only are fossils often the same color as the rocks among which they are found, so they blend in with the background; they are also usually broken into odd-shaped fragments. … In our business, we don’t expect to find a whole skull lying on the surface staring up at us. The typical find is a small piece of petrified bone. The fossil hunter’s search therefore has to have an infinite number of dimensions, matching every conceivable angle of every shape of fragment of every bone on the human body.
Describing the skill of his co-worker, Kamoya Kimeu, who discovered the Turkana Boy, the most complete specimen of Homo erectus, on a slope covered with black lava pebbles.
Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human (1992), 26.
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A good deal of my research in physics has consisted in not setting out to solve some particular problem, but simply examining mathematical quantities of a kind that physicists use and trying to fit them together in an interesting way, regardless of any application that the work may have. It is simply a search for pretty mathematics. It may turn out later to have an application. Then one has good luck. At age 78.
International Journal of Theoretical Physics (1982), 21, 603. In A. Pais, 'Playing With Equations, the Dirac Way'. Behram N. Kursunoglu (Ed.) and Eugene Paul Wigner (Ed.), Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac: Reminiscences about a Great Physicist (1990), 110.
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A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?
The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture (1959), 15-6.
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A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.
In Disturbing the Universe (1979), 114.
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A good work of visual art carries a person who is capable of appreciating it out of life into ecstasy.
In Art (1913), 29-30
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A graduate with a science degree asks: 'Why does it work?'
A graduate with an engineering degree asks: 'How does it work?'
A graduate with an accounting degree asks: 'How much will it cost?'
A graduate with an arts degree asks: 'Do you want fries with that?'
Anonymous
In Geoff Tibballs, The Mammoth Book of Humor (2000), 83.
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A great deal of my work is just playing with equations and seeing what they give.
Quoted in Frank Wilczek, ',The Dirac Equation'. Proceedings of the Dirac Centennial Symposium (2003), 45.
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A hundred years ago … an engineer, Herbert Spencer, was willing to expound every aspect of life, with an effect on his admiring readers which has not worn off today.
Things do not happen quite in this way nowadays. This, we are told, is an age of specialists. The pursuit of knowledge has become a profession. The time when a man could master several sciences is past. He must now, they say, put all his efforts into one subject. And presumably, he must get all his ideas from this one subject. The world, to be sure, needs men who will follow such a rule with enthusiasm. It needs the greatest numbers of the ablest technicians. But apart from them it also needs men who will converse and think and even work in more than one science and know how to combine or connect them. Such men, I believe, are still to be found today. They are still as glad to exchange ideas as they have been in the past. But we cannot say that our way of life is well-fitted to help them. Why is this?
In 'The Unification of Biology', New Scientist (11 Jan 1962), 13, No. 269, 72.
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A life that stood out as a gospel of self-forgetting service.
He could have added fortune to fame but caring for neither he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.
The centre of his world was the south where he was born in slavery some 79 years ago and where he did his work as a creative scientist.
Epitaph on tombstone at Tuskegee University Campus Cemetery, Alabama.
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A machine is not a genie, it does not work by magic, it does not possess a will, and … nothing comes out which has not been put in, barring of course, an infrequent case of malfunctioning. … The “intentions” which the machine seems to manifest are the intentions of the human programmer, as specified in advance, or they are subsidiary intentions derived from these, following rules specified by the programmer. … The machine will not and cannot do any of these things until it has been instructed as to how to proceed. ... To believe otherwise is either to believe in magic or to believe that the existence of man’s will is an illusion and that man’s actions are as mechanical as the machine’s.
In Science, September 16, 1960.
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Louis Agassiz quote: A man cannot be professor of zoölogy on one day and of chemistry on the next, and do good work in both. As
A man cannot be professor of zoölogy on one day and of chemistry on the next, and do good work in both. As in a concert all are musicians,—one plays one instrument, and one another, but none all in perfection.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 146.
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A man of very moderate ability may be a good physician, if he devotes himself faithfully to the work.
…...
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A man who cannot work without his hypodermic needle is a poor doctor. The amount of narcotic you use is inversely proportional to your skill.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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A man who keeps company with glaciers comes to feel tolerably insignificiant by and by. The Alps and the glaciers together are able to take every bit of conceit out of a man and reduce his self-importance to zero if he will only remain within the influence of their sublime presence long enough to give it a fair and reasonable chance to do its work.
In A Tramp Abroad (1880), 466.
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A man who sets out to justify his existence and his activities has to distinguish two different questions. The first is whether the work which he does is worth doing; and the second is why he does it (whatever its value may be).
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 66.
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A mathematical argument is, after all, only organized common sense, and it is well that men of science should not always expound their work to the few behind a veil of technical language, but should from time to time explain to a larger public the reasoning which lies behind their mathematical notation.
In The Tides and Kindred Phenomena in the Solar System: The Substance of Lectures Delivered in 1897 at the Lowell Institute, Boston, Massachusetts (1898), Preface, v. Preface
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A mathematician … has no material to work with but ideas, and so his patterns are likely to last longer, since ideas wear less with time than words.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 84.
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A mathematician of the first rank, Laplace quickly revealed himself as only a mediocre administrator; from his first work we saw that we had been deceived. Laplace saw no question from its true point of view; he sought subtleties everywhere; had only doubtful ideas, and finally carried the spirit of the infinitely small into administration.
As quoted in E.T. Bell, Men of Mathematics (1937, 1965), 182. Without citation, except, “As it is often quoted as … Napoleon’s famous estimate of Laplace, of which he is reported to have delivered himself while he was a prisoner at St. Helena.” Laplace had a six-week tenure in the Ministry of the Interior.
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A mathematician’s work is mostly a tangle of guesswork, analogy, wishful thinking and frustration, and proof, far from being the core of discovery, is more often than not a way of making sure that our minds are not playing tricks.
In Rota's 'Introduction' written (1980) to preface Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh, The Mathematical Experience (1981, 2012), xxii.
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A New Arithmetic: “I am not much of a mathematician,” said the cigarette, “but I can add nervous troubles to a boy, I can subtract from his physical energy, I can multiply his aches and pains, I can divide his mental powers, I can take interest from his work and discount his chances for success.”
Anonymous
In Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver (1914), Vol. 3, 40.
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A painter makes patterns with shapes and colours, a poet with words. A painting may embody an “idea,” but the idea is usually commonplace and unimportant. In poetry, ideas count for a good deal more; but, as Housman insisted, the importance of ideas in poetry is habitually exaggerated. … The poverty of ideas seems hardly to affect the beauty of the verbal pattern. A mathematician, on the other hand, has no material to work with but ideas, and so his patterns are likely to last longer, since ideas wear less with time than words.
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 2012), 84-85.
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A perfect thermo-dynamic engine is such that, whatever amount of mechanical effect it can derive from a certain thermal agency; if an equal amount be spent in working it backwards, an equal reverse thermal effect will be produced.
'Thomson on Carnot’s Motive Power of Heat' (appended to 'Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu' (1824) translated by R.H. Thurston) in Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, and on Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1890), 139.
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A poem in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth.
'Letter to B——— ———', in Southern Literary Messenger (Jul 1836). Quoted in Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1917), 169, and Appendix, 311. According to different commentators, B——— may be merely a fictional character, or Bulwer-Lyton, or the publisher Elam Bliss.
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A professor … may be to produce a perfect mathematical work of art, having every axiom stated, every conclusion drawn with flawless logic, the whole syllabus covered. This sounds excellent, but in practice the result is often that the class does not have the faintest idea of what is going on. … The framework is lacking; students do not know where the subject fits in, and this has a paralyzing effect on the mind.
In A Concrete Approach to Abstract Algebra (1959), 1-2.
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A research laboratory jealous of its reputation has to develop less formal, more intimate ways of forming a corporate judgment of the work its people do. The best laboratories in university departments are well known for their searching, mutual questioning.
In Editorial, 'Is Science Really a Pack of Lies', Nature (1983), 303, 1257. As quoted and cited in Bradley P. Fuhrman, Jerry J. Zimmerman, Pediatric Critical Care (2011).
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A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.
In Since Cezanne (1922), 40.
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A scientific writer can scarcely encounter anything more undesirable than, after completing a work, to have one of the foundations shaken. I became aware of this situation through a letter from Mr. Bertrand Russell as the printing of this volume neared completion.
In Epilog, Grundgestze der Arithmetic (1903), Vol. 2, 253. Russell wrote in 1901, just as Frege was about to publish Volume 2 of his last major work. English translation by Webmaster using Google translate and online dictionaries, from the original German: “Einem wissenschaftlichen Schriftsteller kann kaum etwas Unerwünschteres begegnen, als dass ihm nach Vollendung einer Arbeit eine der Grundlagen seines Baues erschüttert wird. In diese Lage wurde ich durch einen Brief des Herrn Bertrand Russell versetzt, als der Druck dieses Bandes sich seinem Ende näherte.” The translation in John E. Hopcroft, 'Turing Machines', Scientific American (May 1984), 250, No. 5, 95, gives: “A scientist can hardly meet with anything more undesirable than to have the foundations give way just as the work is finished. I was put in this position by a letter from Mr. Bertrand Russell when the work was nearly through the press.”
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A scientist can be productive in various ways. One is having the ability to plan and carry out experiments, but the other is having the ability to formulate new ideas, which can be about what experiments can be carried out … by making [the] proper calculations. Individual scientists who are successful in their work are successful for different reasons.
Interview with George B. Kauffman and Laurie M. Kauffman, in 'Linus Pauling: Reflections', American Scientist (Nov-Dec 1994), 82, No. 6, 522.
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A scientist strives to understand the work of Nature. But with our insufficient talents as scientists, we do not hit upon the truth all at once. We must content ourselves with tracking it down, enveloped in considerable darkness, which leads us to make new mistakes and errors. By diligent examination, we may at length little by little peel off the thickest layers, but we seldom get the core quite free, so that finally we have to be satisfied with a little incomplete knowledge.
Lecture to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, 23 May 1764. Quoted in J. A. Schufle 'Torbern Bergman, Earth Scientist', Chymia, 1967, 12, 78.
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A scientist works largely by intuition. Given enough experience, a scientist examining a problem can leap to an intuition as to what the solution ‘should look like.’ ... Science is ultimately based on insight, not logic.
…...
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A scientist worthy of the name, above all a mathematician, experiences in his work the same impression as an artist; his pleasure is as great and of the same Nature.
…...
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A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relations.
In The Conquest of Happiness (1930), Chap. 9, 156.
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A statistician is one who has learned how to get valid evidence from statistics and how (usually) to avoid being misled by irrelevant facts. It’s too bad that we apply the same name to this kind of person that we use for those who only tabulate. It’s as if we had the same name for barbers and brain surgeons because they both work on the head.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 1.
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A strong feeling of adventure is animating those who are working on bacterial viruses, a feeling that they have a small part in the great drive towards a fundamental problem in biology.
From 'Experiments with Bacterial Viruses (Bacteriophages)', Harvey Lecture (1946), 41, 187. As cited in Robert Olby, The Path of the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1974, 1994), 238.
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A superficial knowledge of mathematics may lead to the belief that this subject can be taught incidentally, and that exercises akin to counting the petals of flowers or the legs of a grasshopper are mathematical. Such work ignores the fundamental idea out of which quantitative reasoning grows—the equality of magnitudes. It leaves the pupil unaware of that relativity which is the essence of mathematical science. Numerical statements are frequently required in the study of natural history, but to repeat these as a drill upon numbers will scarcely lend charm to these studies, and certainly will not result in mathematical knowledge.
In Primary Arithmetic: First Year, for the Use of Teachers (1897), 26-27.
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A superficial knowledge of mathematics may lead to the belief that this subject can be taught incidentally, and that exercises akin to counting the petals of flowers or the legs of a grasshopper are mathematical. Such work ignores the fundamental idea out of which quantitative reasoning grows—the equality of magnitudes. It leaves the pupil unaware of that relativity which is the essence of mathematical science. Numerical statements are frequently required in the study of natural history, but to repeat these as a drill upon numbers will scarcely lend charm to these studies, and certainly will not result in mathematical knowledge.
In Primary Arithmetic: First Year, for the Use of Teachers (1897), 26-27.
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A taxonomy of abilities, like a taxonomy anywhere else in science, is apt to strike a certain type of impatient student as a gratuitous orgy of pedantry. Doubtless, compulsions to intellectual tidiness express themselves prematurely at times, and excessively at others, but a good descriptive taxonomy, as Darwin found in developing his theory, and as Newton found in the work of Kepler, is the mother of laws and theories.
From Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth and Action: Its Structure, Growth and Action (1987), 61.
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A theoretical physicist can spend his entire lifetime missing the intellectual challenge of experimental work, experiencing none of the thrills and dangers — the overhead crane with its ten-ton load, the flashing skull and crossbones and danger, radioactivity signs. A theorist’s only real hazard is stabbing himself with a pencil while attacking a bug that crawls out of his calculations.
In Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi, The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question (1993), 15.
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A wonderful exhilaration comes from holding in the mind the deepest questions we can ask. Such questions animate all scientists. Many students of science were first attracted to the field as children by popular accounts of important unsolved problems. They have been waiting ever since to begin working on a mystery. [With co-author Arthur Zajonc]
In George Greenstein and Arthur Zajonc, The Quantum Challenge: Modern Research on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (2006), xii.
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A work of genius is something like the pie in the nursery song, in which the four and twenty blackbirds are baked. When the pie is opened, the birds begin to sing. Hereupon three fourths of the company run away in a fright; and then after a time, feeling ashamed, they would fain excuse themselves by declaring, the pie stank so, they could not sit near it. Those who stay behind, the men of taste and epicures, say one to another, We came here to eat. What business have birds, after they have been baked, to be alive and singing? This will never do. We must put a stop to so dangerous an innovation: for who will send a pie to an oven, if the birds come to life there? We must stand up to defend the rights of all the ovens in England. Let us have dead birds..dead birds for our money. So each sticks his fork into a bird, and hacks and mangles it a while, and then holds it up and cries, Who will dare assert that there is any music in this bird’s song?
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 86. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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A work of morality, politics, criticism will be more elegant, other things being equal, if it is shaped by the hand of geometry.
From Préface sur l'Utilité des Mathématiques et de la Physique (1729), as translated in Florian Cajori, Mathematics in Liberal Education (1928), 61.
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About the year 1821, I undertook to superintend, for the Government, the construction of an engine for calculating and printing mathematical and astronomical tables. Early in the year 1833, a small portion of the machine was put together, and was found to perform its work with all the precision which had been anticipated. At that period circumstances, which I could not control, caused what I then considered a temporary suspension of its progress; and the Government, on whose decision the continuance or discontinuance of the work depended, have not yet communicated to me their wishes on the question.
In The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise: A Fragment (1838), 186.
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According to Gandhi, the seven sins are wealth without works, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle. Well, Hubert Humphrey may have sinned in the eyes of God, as we all do, but according to those definitions of Gandhi’s, it was Hubert Humphrey without sin.
Eulogy at funeral of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, St. Paul, Minnesota (16 Jan 1978). In Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter (1978), Vol. 1, 82.
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According to their [Newton and his followers] doctrine, God Almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. Nay, the machine of God's making, so imperfect, according to these gentlemen; that he is obliged to clean it now and then by an extraordinary concourse, and even to mend it, as clockmaker mends his work.
'Mr. Leibniz's First Paper' (1715). In H. G. Alexander (ed.), The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (1956), 11-2.
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Accountants and second-rate business school jargon are in the ascendant. Costs, which rise rapidly, and are easily ascertained and comprehensible, now weigh more heavily in the scales than the unquantifiable and unpredictable values and future material progress. Perhaps science will only regain its lost primacy as peoples and government begin to recognize that sound scientific work is the only secure basis for the construction of policies to ensure the survival of Mankind without irreversible damage to Planet Earth.
In New Scientist, March 3, 1990.
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Accurate and minute measurement seems to the non-scientific imagination, a less lofty and dignified work than looking for something new. But nearly all the grandest discoveries of science have been but the rewards of accurate measurement and patient long-continued labour in the minute sifting of numerical results.
Presidential inaugural address, to the General Meeting of the British Association, Edinburgh (2 Aug 1871). In Report of the Forty-First Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1872), xci.
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Adam is fading out. It is on account of Darwin and that crowd. I can see that he is not going to last much longer. There's a plenty of signs. He is getting belittled to a germ—a little bit of a speck that you can't see without a microscope powerful enough to raise a gnat to the size of a church. They take that speck and breed from it: first a flea; then a fly, then a bug, then cross these and get a fish, then a raft of fishes, all kinds, then cross the whole lot and get a reptile, then work up the reptiles till you've got a supply of lizards and spiders and toads and alligators and Congressmen and so on, then cross the entire lot again and get a plant of amphibiums, which are half-breeds and do business both wet and dry, such as turtles and frogs and ornithorhyncuses and so on, and cross-up again and get a mongrel bird, sired by a snake and dam'd by a bat, resulting in a pterodactyl, then they develop him, and water his stock till they've got the air filled with a million things that wear feathers, then they cross-up all the accumulated animal life to date and fetch out a mammal, and start-in diluting again till there's cows and tigers and rats and elephants and monkeys and everything you want down to the Missing Link, and out of him and a mermaid they propagate Man, and there you are! Everything ship-shape and finished-up, and nothing to do but lay low and wait and see if it was worth the time and expense.
'The Refuge of the Derelicts' collected in Mark Twain and John Sutton Tuckey, The Devil's Race-Track: Mark Twain's Great Dark Writings (1980), 340-41. - 1980
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After an honest day’s work a mathematician goes off duty. Mathematics is very hard work, and dons tend to be above average in health and vigor. Below a certain threshold a man cracks up; but above it, hard mental work makes for health and vigor (also—on much historical evidence throughout the ages—for longevity). I have noticed lately that when I am working really hard I wake around 5.30 a.m. ready and eager to start; if I am slack, I sleep till I am called.
In 'The Mathematician’s Art of Work' (1967), collected in Béla Bollobás (ed.), Littlewood’s Miscellany (1986), 195.
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After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 9.
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All sensitive people agree that there is a peculiar emotion provoked by works of art.
In Art (1913), 6.
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All statements about the hydrides of boron earlier than 1912, when Stock began to work upon them, are untrue.
Quoted in N. V. Sidgwick, The Chemical Elements and their Compounds (1950), Vol. 1, 338.
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All successful people are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose.
…...
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All that concerns the Mediterranean is of the deepest interest to civilized man, for the history of its progress is the history of the development of the world; the memory of the great men who have lived and died around its banks; the recollection of the undying works that have come thence to delight us for ever; the story of patient research and brilliant discoveries connected with every physical phenomenon presented by its waves and currents, and with every order of creatures dwelling in and around its waters.
From Literary Papers (1855), 106. As quoted in On Early Explorations in the Mediterranean.In George Wilson and Archibald Geikie, Memoir of Edward Forbes F.R.S. (1861), 279. Geike introduces the Forbes quote as “the recollection of these, his earliest explorations in the Mediterranean,” as written down years later.
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All that we can hope from these inspirations, which are the fruits of unconscious work, is to obtain points of departure for such calculations. As for the calculations themselves, they must be made in the second period of conscious work which follows the inspiration, and in which the results of the inspiration are verified and the consequences deduced.
Science and Method (1914, 2003), 62.
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All the more recent work on alkaptonuria has... strengthened the belief that the homogentisic acid excreted is derived from tyrosin, but why alkaptonuric individuals pass the benzene ring of their tyrosin unbroken and how and where the peculiar chemical change from tyrosin to homogentisic acid is brought about, remain unsolved problems.
'The Incidence of Alkaptonuria: A Study in Chemical Individuality', The Lancet, 1902, 2, 1616.
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All the properties that we designate as activity of the soul, are only the functions of the cerebral substance, and to express ourselves in a coarser way, thought is just about to the brain what bile is to the liver and urine to the kidney. It is absurd to admit an independent soul who uses the cerebellum as an instrument with which he would work as he pleases.
Carl Vogt
As quoted in William Vogt, La Vie d'un Homme, Carl Vogt (1896), 48. Translated by Webmaster, from the original French, “Toutes les propriétés que nous designons sous le nom d’activité de l’âme, ne sont que les fonctions de la substance cérébrale, et pour nous exprimer d’ une façon plus grossière, la pensée est à peu près au cerveau ce que la bile est au foie et l’urine au rein. Il est absurde d’ admettre une âme indépendante qui se serve du cervelet comme d’un instrument avec lequelle travaillerait comme il lui plait.”
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All the work of the crystallographers serves only to demonstrate that there is only variety everywhere where they suppose uniformity … that in nature there is nothing absolute, nothing perfectly regular.
In Histoire Naturelle des Minéraux (1783-88), Vol. 3, 433.
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All things are easy, that are done willingly.
No. 561 in Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings (1732), 21.
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Already the steam-engine works our mines, impels our ships, excavates our ports and our rivers, forges iron, fashions wood, grinds grain, spins and weaves our cloths, transports the heaviest burdens, etc. It appears that it must some day serve as a universal motor, and be substituted for animal power, waterfalls, and air currents.
'Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu' (1824) translated by R.H. Thurston in Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, and on Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1890), 38.
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Although I must say that research problems I worked on were frequently the result of serendipity and often grew out of my interest in some species or some environment which I found to be particularly appealing—marine birds and tropical islands for example.
Bartholomew, April 1993, unpublished remarks when receiving the Miller Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society.
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Although the works of the Creator may be in themselves all equally perfect, the animal is, as I see it, the most complete work of nature, and man is her masterpiece.
'Histoire des Animaux', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. 2, 2. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth -Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 437.
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Aluminum is at once as white as silver, as incorrodible as gold, as tenacious as iron, as fusible as copper, and as light as glass. It is easily worked; it is widely spread in nature, alumina forming the bases of most rocks; it is three times lighter than iron; in short, it seems to have been created expressly to furnish material for our projectile!
Planning a spacecraft to be fired from a cannon to the moon. In From the Earth to the Moon (1865, 1890), 38.
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America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain. Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade.
From State of the Union Address (25 Jan 1984).
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Among innumerable footsteps of divine providence to be found in the works of nature, there is a very remarkable one to be observed in the exact balance that is maintained, between the numbers of men and women; for by this means is provided, that the species never may fail, nor perish, since every male may have its female, and of proportionable age. This equality of males and females is not the effect of chance but divine providence, working for a good end, which I thus demonstrate.
'An Argument for Divine Providence, taken from the Constant Regularity observ’d in the Births of both Sexes', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1710-12, 27, 186. This has been regarded as the origin of mathematical statistics
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Among people I have met, the few whom I would term “great” all share a kind of unquestioned, fierce dedication; an utter lack of doubt about the value of their activities (or at least an internal impulse that drives through any such angst); and above all, a capacity to work (or at least to be mentally alert for unexpected insights) at every available moment of every day of their lives.
From The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History (2000), 76.
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An engineer [is] one of those people who make things work without even understanding how they function. … Today I would add: one of those people who are unable to make anything work, but think they know why it doesn’t function!
In 'Sundays in a Quantum Engineer’s Life', collected in Reinhold A. Bertlmann, A. Zeilinger (eds.),Quantum (Un)speakables: From Bell to Quantum Information (2002), 199.
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An enthusiasm about psychiatry is preposterous—it shows one just hasn’t grown up; but at the same time, for the psychiatrist to be indifferent toward his work is fatal.
The Psychiatric Interview (1954, 1970), 10.
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An error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat.
In Letter, Westminster Gazette (14 Mar 1909). As cited in Joan Mason, 'Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923) and the Admission of Women to the Royal Society of London', Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London (Jul 1991), 45, No. 2, 201-220. Ayrton wrote so that Marie Curie should be recognized for the discovery of radium, rather than being attributed to Pierre Curie.
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An important fact, an ingenious aperçu, occupies a very great number of men, at first only to make acquaintance with it; then to understand it; and afterwards to work it out and carry it further.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 189.
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An Individual, whatever species it might be, is nothing in the Universe. A hundred, a thousand individuals are still nothing. The species are the only creatures of Nature, perpetual creatures, as old and as permanent as it. In order to judge it better, we no longer consider the species as a collection or as a series of similar individuals, but as a whole independent of number, independent of time, a whole always living, always the same, a whole which has been counted as one in the works of creation, and which, as a consequence, makes only a unity in Nature.
'De la Nature: Seconde Vue', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1765), Vol. 13, i. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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An inventor is an opportunist, one who takes occasion by the hand; who, having seen where some want exists, successfully applies the right means to attain the desired end. The means may be largely, or even wholly, something already known, or there may be a certain originality or discovery in the means employed. But in every case the inventor uses the work of others. If I may use a metaphor, I should liken him to the man who essays the conquest of some virgin alp. At the outset he uses the beaten track, and, as he progresses in the ascent, he uses the steps made by those who have preceded him, whenever they lead in the right direction; and it is only after the last footprints have died out that he takes ice-axe in hand and cuts the remaining steps, few or many, that lift him to the crowning height which is his goal.
In Kenneth Raydon Swan, Sir Joseph Swan (1946), 44.
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An inventor is simply a fellow who doesn’t take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is six years old until he graduates form college he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. It he succeeds once then he’s in. These two things are diametrically opposite. We often say that the biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work.
In 'How Can We Develop Inventors?' presented to the Annual meeting of the American Society of Society Engineers. Reprinted in Mechanical Engineering (Apr 1944). Collected in Prophet of Progress: Selections from the Speeches of Charles F. Kettering (1961), 108.
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And as for other men, who worked in tank-rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,—sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out into the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard! This contributed to the passing of the Pure Food Act of 1906.
The Jungle (1906), 117.
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And from this such small difference of eight minutes [of arc] it is clear why Ptolemy, since he was working with bisection [of the linear eccentricity], accepted a fixed equant point… . For Ptolemy set out that he actually did not get below ten minutes [of arc], that is a sixth of a degree, in making observations. To us, on whom Divine benevolence has bestowed the most diligent of observers, Tycho Brahe, from whose observations this eight-minute error of Ptolemy’s in regard to Mars is deduced, it is fitting that we accept with grateful minds this gift from God, and both acknowledge and build upon it. So let us work upon it so as to at last track down the real form of celestial motions (these arguments giving support to our belief that the assumptions are incorrect). This is the path I shall, in my own way, strike out in what follows. For if I thought the eight minutes in [ecliptic] longitude were unimportant, I could make a sufficient correction (by bisecting the [linear] eccentricity) to the hypothesis found in Chapter 16. Now, because they could not be disregarded, these eight minutes alone will lead us along a path to the reform of the whole of Astronomy, and they are the matter for a great part of this work.
Astronomia Nova, New Astronomy (1609), ch. 19, 113-4, Johannes Kepler Gesammelte Werke (1937-), Vol. 3, 177-8.
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And when with excellent Microscopes I discern in otherwise invisible Objects the Inimitable Subtlety of Nature’s Curious Workmanship; And when, in a word, by the help of Anatomicall Knives, and the light of Chymicall Furnaces, I study the Book of Nature, and consult the Glosses of Aristotle, Epicurus, Paracelsus, Harvey, Helmont, and other learn'd Expositors of that instructive Volumne; I find my self oftentimes reduc’d to exclaim with the Psalmist, How manifold are thy works, O Lord? In wisdom hast thou made them all.
Some Motives and Incentives to the Love of God (1659), 56-7.
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André Weil suggested that there is a logarithmic law at work: first-rate people attract other first-rate people, but second-rate people tend to hire third-raters, and third-rate people hire fifth-raters. If a dean or a president is genuinely interested in building and maintaining a high-quality university (and some of them are), then he must not grant complete self-determination to a second-rate department; he must, instead, use his administrative powers to intervene and set things right. That’s one of the proper functions of deans and presidents, and pity the poor university in which a large proportion of both the faculty and the administration are second-raters; it is doomed to diverge to minus infinity.
In I Want to be a Mathematician: an Automathography (1985), 123.
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Anthropologists are highly individual and specialized people. Each of them is marked by the kind of work he or she prefers and has done, which in time becomes an aspect of that individual’s personality.
In Margaret Mead and Rhoda Bubendey Métraux (ed.), Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views (1979), 258.
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Any chemist reading this book can see, in some detail, how I have spent most of my mature life. They can become familiar with the quality of my mind and imagination. They can make judgements about my research abilities. They can tell how well I have documented my claims of experimental results. Any scientist can redo my experiments to see if they still work—and this has happened! I know of no other field in which contributions to world culture are so clearly on exhibit, so cumulative, and so subject to verification.
From Design to Discovery (1990), 119-20.
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Any country that wants to make full use of all its potential scientists and technologists … must not expect to get the women quite so simply as it gets the men. It seems to me that marriage and motherhood are at least as socially important as military service. Government regulations are framed to ensure (in the United Kingdom) that a man returning to work from military service is not penalized by his absence. Is it utopian, then, to suggest that any country that really wants a woman to return to a scientific career when her children no longer need her physical presence should make special arrangements to encourage her to do so?
In Impact of Science on Society (1970), 20 58. Commenting how for men who went to war, their jobs were held for them pending their return.
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Any demanding high technology tends to develop influential and dedicated constituencies of those who link its commercial success with both the public welfare and their own. Such sincerely held beliefs, peer pressures, and the harsh demands that the work i
Foreign Affairs (Oct 1976).
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Any one who is practically acquainted with scientific work is aware that those who refuse to go beyond fact, rarely get as far as fact.
In 'The Progress of Science 1837-1887' (1887), Collected Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 62.
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Any work of science, no matter what its point of departure, cannot become fully convincing until it crosses the boundary between the theoretical and the experimental: Experimentation must give way to argument, and argument must have recourse to experimentation.
The New Scientific Spirit (1934), trans. A. Goldhammer (1984), 3-4.
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Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 214.
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Anyone who has had actual contact with the making of the inventions that built the radio art knows that these inventions have been the product of experiment and work based on physical reasoning, rather than on the mathematicians' calculations and formulae. Precisely the opposite impression is obtained from many of our present day text books and publications.
Attributed.
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Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.
[In reference to concentration and hard work.]
Quoted in New York Times (2 Mar 1991), 29.
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Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life; ...
'So careful of the type', but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, 'A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go' ...
Man, her last work, who seemed so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who rolled the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law—
Tho’ Nature red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed...
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850), Cantos 56-57. Collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 176.
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Art and science work in quite different ways: agreed. But, bad as it may sound, I have to admit that I cannot get along as an artist without the use of one or two sciences. ... In my view, the great and complicated things that go on in the world cannot be adequately recognized by people who do not use every possible aid to understanding.
Bertolt Brecht, John Willett (trans.), Brecht on Theatre (1964), 73.
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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 a result of the phenomenally rapid change and growth of physics, the men and women who did their great work one or two generations ago may be our distant predecessors in terms of the state of the field, but they are our close neighbors in terms of time and tastes. This may be an unprecedented state of affairs among professionals; one can perhaps be forgiven if one characterizes it epigrammatically with a disastrously mixed metaphor; in the sciences, we are now uniquely privileged to sit side-by-side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
In 'On the Recent Past of Physics', American Journal of Physics (1961), 29, 807.
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As a rule, software systems do not work well until they have been used, and have failed repeatedly, in real applications.
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As an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents … I congratulate you [Nikola Tesla] on the great successes of your life’s work.
…...
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As experimentalists, we always can find something to do, even if we have to work with string and sealing wax.
As quoted in T.W. Hänsch, 'From (Incr)edible Lasers to New Spectroscopy', collected in William M. Yen and Marc D. Levenson (eds.), Lasers, Spectroscopy and New Ideas: A Tribute to Arthur L. Schawlow (2013), 6.
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As for me ... I would much rather be a perfected ape than a degraded Adam. Yes, if it is shown to me that my humble ancestors were quadrupedal animals, arboreal herbivores, brothers or cousins of those who were also the ancestors of monkeys and apes, far from blushing in shame for my species because of its genealogy and parentage, I will be proud of all that evolution has accomplished, of the continuous improvement which takes us up to the highest order, of the successive triumphs that have made us superior to all of the other species ... the splendid work of progress.
I will conclude in saying: the fixity of species is almost impossible, it contradicts the mode of succession and of the distribution of species in the sequence of extant and extinct creatures. It is therefore extremely likely that species are variable and are subject to evolution. But the causes, the mechanisms of this evolution are still unknown.
'Discussion sur la Machoire Humaine de la Naulette (Belgique)', Bulletin de la Societé d'Anthropologie de Paris, 2nd Series, I (1866), 595. Trans. Erik Trinkaus and Pat Shipman, The Neanderthals: Changing the Image of Mankind (1993), 103-4.
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As he [Clifford] spoke he appeared not to be working out a question, but simply telling what he saw. Without any diagram or symbolic aid he described the geometrical conditions on which the solution depended, and they seemed to stand out visibly in space. There were no longer consequences to be deduced, but real and evident facts which only required to be seen. … So whole and complete was his vision that for the time the only strange thing was that anybody should fail to see it in the same way. When one endeavored to call it up again, and not till then, it became clear that the magic of genius had been at work, and that the common sight had been raised to that higher perception by the power that makes and transforms ideas, the conquering and masterful quality of the human mind which Goethe called in one word das Dämonische.
In Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays by William Kingdon Clifford(1879), Vol. 1, Introduction, 4-5.
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As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1866), 577.
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As never before, the work of the engineer is basic to the kind of society to which our best efforts are committed. Whether it be city planning, improved health care in modern facilities, safer and more efficient transportation, new techniques of communication, or better ways to control pollution and dispose of wastes, the role of the engineer—his initiative, creative ability, and hard work—is at the root of social progress.
Remarks for National Engineers Week (1971). As quoted in Consulting Engineer (1971), 36, 18.
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As pure truth is the polar star of our science [mathematics], so it is the great advantage of our science over others that it awakens more easily the love of truth in our pupils. … If Hegel justly said, “Whoever does not know the works of the ancients, has lived without knowing beauty,” Schellbach responds with equal right, “Who does not know mathematics, and the results of recent scientific investigation, dies without knowing truth.”
Max Simon
From Didaktik und Methodik des Rechnens und der Mathematik (1908), 37. As quoted and translated in J.W.A. Young, Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1907), 44. From the original German, “Wenn Hegel mit Recht sagt: ‘Wer die Werke der Alten nicht kennt, der hat gelebt, ohne die Schönheit gekannt zu haben’, so erwidert Schellbach mit nicht minderem Recht: ‘Wer die Math. und die Resultate der neueren Naturforschung nicht gekannt hat, der stirbt, ohne die Wahrheit zu kennen.’”
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As scientific men we have all, no doubt, felt that our fellow men have become more and more satisfying as fish have taken up their work which has been put often to base uses, which must lead to disaster. But what sin is to the moralist and crime to the jurist so to the scientific man is ignorance. On our plane, knowledge and ignorance are the immemorial adversaries. Scientific men can hardly escape the charge of ignorance with regard to the precise effect of the impact of modern science upon the mode of living of the people and upon their civilisation. For them, such a charge is worse than that of crime.
From Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1922), Nobel Prize in Chemistry, collected in Carl Gustaf Santesson (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1921-1922 (1923).
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As scientists the two men were contrasting types—Einstein all calculation, Rutherford all experiment ... There was no doubt that as an experimenter Rutherford was a genius, one of the greatest. He worked by intuition and everything he touched turned to gold. He had a sixth sense.
(Reminiscence comparing his friend, Ernest Rutherford, with Albert Einstein, whom he also knew.)
Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizman (1949), 118. Quoted in A Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford (2007), 65-66.
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As the Director of the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos, I participated at the most senior level in the World War II Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic weapons.
Now, at age 88, I am one of the few remaining such senior persons alive. Looking back at the half century since that time, I feel the most intense relief that these weapons have not been used since World War II, mixed with the horror that tens of thousands of such weapons have been built since that time—one hundred times more than any of us at Los Alamos could ever have imagined.
Today we are rightly in an era of disarmament and dismantlement of nuclear weapons. But in some countries nuclear weapons development still continues. Whether and when the various Nations of the World can agree to stop this is uncertain. But individual scientists can still influence this process by withholding their skills.
Accordingly, I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons - and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.
[On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Hiroshima.]
Letter, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Nov 1995), 51:6, 3.
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As we conquer peak after peak we see in front of us regions full of interest and beauty, but we do not see our goal, we do not see the horizon; in the distance tower still higher peaks, which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects, and deepen the feeling, the truth of which is emphasised by every advance in science, that “Great are the Works of the Lord.”
In Presidential Address to the British Association, as quoted in Arthur L. Foley, 'Recent Developments in Physical Science, The Popular Science Monthly (1910), 456.
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As we look out into the Universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.
In The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler (1986).
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Astronomers and physicists, dealing habitually with objects and quantities far beyond the reach of the senses, even with the aid of the most powerful aids that ingenuity has been able to devise, tend almost inevitably to fall into the ways of thinking of men dealing with objects and quantities that do not exist at all, e.g., theologians and metaphysicians. Thus their speculations tend almost inevitably to depart from the field of true science, which is that of precise observation, and to become mere soaring in the empyrean. The process works backward, too. That is to say, their reports of what they pretend actually to see are often very unreliable. It is thus no wonder that, of all men of science, they are the most given to flirting with theology. Nor is it remarkable that, in the popular belief, most astronomers end by losing their minds.
Minority Report: H. L. Mencken’s Notebooks (1956), Sample 74, 60.
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Astronomers work always with the past; because light takes time to move from one place to another, they see things as they were, not as they are.
The Telescope Handbook and Star Atlas (1967), 33.
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At present good work in science pays less well very often than mediocrity in other subjects. This, as was pointed out by Sir Lyon Playfair in his Presidential Address to the British Association in 1885 helps to arrest progress in science teaching.
In Sir Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Physical Science and the Woolwich Examinations', Nature (23 Feb 1888), 37, 386. Webmaster has assumed this unsigned lead article (editorial?) should be attributed to the Editor.
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At the end of 1854 … the aggregate length of railways opened in Great Britain and Ireland at that time measured about 8,054 miles,—about the diameter of the globe, and nearly 500 miles more than the united lengths of the Thames, the Seine, the Rhone, the Ebro, the Tagus, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Vistula, the Dnieper, and the Danube, or the ten chief rivers of Europe. … the work of only twenty-five years.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 511-512.
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At the present time it is of course quite customary for physicists to trespass on chemical ground, for mathematicians to do excellent work in physics, and for physicists to develop new mathematical procedures. … Trespassing is one of the most successful techniques in science.
In Dynamics in Psychology (1940, 1973), 116.
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AZT stood up and said, 'Stop your pessimism. Stop your sense of futility. Go back to the lab. Go back to development. Go back to clinical trials. Things will work.'
[On the impact of AZT emerging as the long-sought first significant AIDS drug.]
As quoted in Emily Langer, 'Researcher Jerome P. Horwitz, 93, created AZT, the first approved treatment for HIV/AIDS' Washington Post (19 Sep 2012). The article was excerpted on blogs, sometimes referring to this quote by saying "AZT was more a cure for fatalism than for AIDS."
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Bacteria represent the world’s greatest success story. They are today and have always been the modal organisms on earth; they cannot be nuked to oblivion and will outlive us all. This time is their time, not the ‘age of mammals’ as our textbooks chauvinistically proclaim. But their price for such success is permanent relegation to a microworld, and they cannot know the joy and pain of consciousness. We live in a universe of trade-offs; complexity and persistence do not work well as partners.
…...
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Basic research may seem very expensive. I am a well-paid scientist. My hourly wage is equal to that of a plumber, but sometimes my research remains barren of results for weeks, months or years and my conscience begins to bother me for wasting the taxpayer’s money. But in reviewing my life’s work, I have to think that the expense was not wasted.
Basic research, to which we owe everything, is relatively very cheap when compared with other outlays of modern society. The other day I made a rough calculation which led me to the conclusion that if one were to add up all the money ever spent by man on basic research, one would find it to be just about equal to the money spent by the Pentagon this past year.
In The Crazy Ape (1971).
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Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.
…...
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Being also in accord with Goethe that discoveries are made by the age and not by the individual, I should consider the instances to be exceedingly rare of men who can be said to be living before their age, and to be the repository of knowledge quite foreign to the thought of the time. The rule is that a number of persons are employed at a particular piece of work, but one being a few steps in advance of the others is able to crown the edifice with his name, or, having the ability to generalise already known facts, may become in time to be regarded as their originator. Therefore it is that one name is remembered whilst those of coequals have long been buried in obscurity.
In Historical Notes on Bright's Disease, Addison's Disease, and Hodgkin's Disease', Guy's Hospital Reports (1877), 22, 259-260.
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Bertrand, Darboux, and Glaisher have compared Cayley to Euler, alike for his range, his analytical power, and, not least, for his prolific production of new views and fertile theories. There is hardly a subject in the whole of pure mathematics at which he has not worked.
In Proceedings of London Royal Society (1895), 58, 21.
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Better to hunt in fields, for health unbought, Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught, The wise, for cure, on exercise depend; God never made his work for man to mend.
'To my Honoured Kinsman, John Dryden', The English Poets (1901), Vol. 2, 491.
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Biological disciplines tend to guide research into certain channels. One consequence is that disciplines are apt to become parochial, or at least to develop blind spots, for example, to treat some questions as “interesting” and to dismiss others as “uninteresting.” As a consequence, readily accessible but unworked areas of genuine biological interest often lie in plain sight but untouched within one discipline while being heavily worked in another. For example, historically insect physiologists have paid relatively little attention to the behavioral and physiological control of body temperature and its energetic and ecological consequences, whereas many students of the comparative physiology of terrestrial vertebrates have been virtually fixated on that topic. For the past 10 years, several of my students and I have exploited this situation by taking the standard questions and techniques from comparative vertebrate physiology and applying them to insects. It is surprising that this pattern of innovation is not more deliberately employed.
In 'Scientific innovation and creativity: a zoologist’s point of view', American Zoologist (1982), 22, 233.
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Biology as a discipline would benefit enormously if we could bring together the scientists working at the opposite ends of the biological spectrum. Students of organisms who know natural history have abundant questions to offer the students of molecules and cells. And molecular and cellular biologists with their armory of techniques and special insights have much to offer students of organisms and ecology.
In 'The role of natural history in contemporary biology', BioScience (1986), 36, 328-329.
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Büchsel in his reminiscences from the life of a country parson relates that he sought his recreation in Lacroix’s Differential Calculus and thus found intellectual refreshment for his calling. Instances like this make manifest the great advantage which occupation with mathematics affords to one who lives remote from the city and is compelled to forego the pleasures of art. The entrancing charm of mathematics, which captivates every one who devotes himself to it, and which is comparable to the fine frenzy under whose ban the poet completes his work, has ever been incomprehensible to the spectator and has often caused the enthusiastic mathematician to be held in derision. A classic illustration is the example of Archimedes….
From Die Entwickelung der Mathematik im Zusammenhange mit der Ausbreitung der Kultur (1893), 22. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 186. From the original German, “Wenn Büchsel in seinen Erinnerungen aus dem Leben eines Landgeistlichen erzählt, dass er in der Differentialrechnung von Lacroix Erholung gesucht und geistige Erfrischung ftir seinen Beruf gefunden habe, so erkennen wir darin den grossen Vorzug, den die Beschaftigung mit der Mathematik für jemanden hat, der fern von einer Stadt lebt und auf ihre Kunstgenüsse verzichten muss. Der berückende Zauber der Mathematik, dem jeder unterliegt, der sich ihr ergiebt, und der dem holden Wahnsinn vergleichbar ist, unter dessen Bann der Dichter sein Work vollendet, ist dem betrachtenden Mitmenschen immer unbegreiflich gewesen und hat den begeisterten Mathematiker oft zum Gespött werden lassen. Als klassisches Beispiel wird jedem Schüler Archimedes…”
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But … the working scientist … is not consciously following any prescribed course of action, but feels complete freedom to utilize any method or device whatever which in the particular situation before him seems likely to yield the correct answer. … No one standing on the outside can predict what the individual scientist will do or what method he will follow.
In Reflections of a Physicist: A Collection of Essays (1955, 1980), 83.
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But as my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection, I may be permitted to remark that in the first edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most conspicuous position—namely, at the close of the Introduction—the following words: “I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.” This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure.
In The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection with additions and corrections from sixth and last English edition (1899), Vol. 2, 293.
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But for twenty years previous to 1847 a force had been at work in a little county town of Germany destined to effect the education of Christendom, and at the same time to enlarge the boundaries of human knowledge, first in chemistry and the allied branches, then in every other one of the natural sciences. The place was Giessen; the inventor Liebig; the method, a laboratory for instruction and research.
A Semi-Centennial Discourse, 1847-97' (28 Oct 1897), The Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University. Quoted in Daniel Coit Gilman, University Problems in the United States (1898), 120.
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But if we are to control evolution we shall have to find out how to influence gene reproduction in a definite direction, just as organic chemists nowadays work for definite ends. Such a possibility is at present entirely beyond our grasp, but a century hence it may not be so.
In 'The Biochemistry of the Individual' (1937), collected in Neurath Hans (ed.), Perspectives in Biochemistry (1989), 6.
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But most of us, however strict we may be, are apt to apply the epithet “beautiful” to objects that do not provoke that peculiar emotion produced by works of art.
In Art (1913), 12.
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But of all environments, that produced by man’s complex technology is perhaps the most unstable and rickety. In its present form, our society is not two centuries old, and a few nuclear bombs will do it in.
To be sure, evolution works over long periods of time and two centuries is far from sufficient to breed Homo technikos… .
The destruction of our technological society in a fit of nuclear peevishness would become disastrous even if there were many millions of immediate survivors.
The environment toward which they were fitted would be gone, and Darwin’s demon would wipe them out remorselessly and without a backward glance.
Asimov on Physics (1976), 151. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 181.
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But since the brain, as well as the cerebellum, is composed of many parts, variously figured, it is possible, that nature, which never works in vain, has destined those parts to various uses, so that the various faculties of the mind seem to require different portions of the cerebrum and cerebellum for their production.
A Dissertation on the Functions of the Nervous System (1784), trans. and ed. Thomas Laycock (1851), 446.
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But there is another alchemy, operative and practical, which teaches how to make the noble metals and colours and many other things better and more abundantly by art than they are made in nature. And science of this kind is greater than all those preceding because it produces greater utilities. For not only can it yield wealth and very many other things for the public welfare, but it also teaches how to discover such things as are capable of prolonging human life for much longer periods than can be accomplished by nature … Therefore this science has special utilities of that nature, while nevertheless it confirms theoretical alchemy through its works.
Opus Tertium [1266-1268], chapter 12, quoted in A. C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo (1959), Vol. I, 69.
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But we have reason to think that the annihilation of work is no less a physical impossibility than its creation, that is, than perpetual motion.
'On the Change of Refrangibility of Light' (1852). In Mathematical and Physical Papers (1901), Vol. 3, 397.
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But we shall not satisfy ourselves simply with improving steam and explosive engines or inventing new batteries; we have something much better to work for, a greater task to fulfill. We have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores which are forever inexhaustible, to perfect methods which do not imply consumption and waste of any material whatever.
Speech (12 Jan 1897) at a gala inaugurating power service from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, NY. Printed in 'Tesla on Electricity', The Electrical Review (27 Jan 1897), 30, No. 3, 47.
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But weightier still are the contentment which comes from work well done, the sense of the value of science for its own sake, insatiable curiosity, and, above all, the pleasure of masterly performance and of the chase. These are the effective forces which move the scientist. The first condition for the progress of science is to bring them into play.
from his preface to Claude Bernard's 'Experimental Medicine'
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But when you come right down to it, the reason that we did this job is because it was an organic necessity. If you are a scientist you cannot stop such a thing. If you are a scientist you believe that it is good to find out how the world works; that it is good to find out what the realities are; that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and values.
Regarding the atomic bomb project.
From speech at Los Alamos (17 Oct 1945). Quoted in David C. Cassidy, J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century (2009), 214.
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By relieving the brain of all unnecessary work, a good notation sets it free to concentrate on more advanced problems, and in effect increases the mental power of the race.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 59.
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By the worldly standards of public life, all scholars in their work are of course oddly virtuous. They do not make wild claims, they do not cheat, they do not try to persuade at any cost, they appeal neither to prejudice nor to authority, they are often frank about their ignorance, their disputes are fairly decorous, they do not confuse what is being argued with race, politics, sex or age, they listen patiently to the young and to the old who both know everything. These are the general virtues of scholarship, and they are peculiarly the virtues of science.
In Science and Human Values (1956).
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By these pleasures it is permitted to relax the mind with play, in turmoils of the mind, or when our labors are light, or in great tension, or as a method of passing the time. A reliable witness is Cicero, when he says (De Oratore, 2): 'men who are accustomed to hard daily toil, when by reason of the weather they are kept from their work, betake themselves to playing with a ball, or with knucklebones or with dice, or they may also contrive for themselves some new game at their leisure.'
The Book of Games of Chance (1663), final sentences, trans. Sydney Henry Gould. In Oysten Ore, The Gambling Scholar (1953), 241.
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By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.
As quoted, without citation, in U.S. Army Medical Dept, The Army Medical Bulletin (1938), 46, 38. An early instance. Webmaster has not yet been able to identify a primary source. Can you help?
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Can I pay any higher tribute to a man [George Gaylord Simpson] than to state that his work both established a profession and sowed the seeds for its own revision? If Simpson had reached final truth, he either would have been a priest or would have chosen a dull profession. The history of life cannot be a dull profession.
From 'G.G. Simpson, Paleontology, and the Modern Synthesis', collected in Ernst Mayr, William B. Provine (eds.), The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (1998), 171.
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Cayley was singularly learned in the work of other men, and catholic in his range of knowledge. Yet he did not read a memoir completely through: his custom was to read only so much as would enable him to grasp the meaning of the symbols and understand its scope. The main result would then become to him a subject of investigation: he would establish it (or test it) by algebraic analysis and, not infrequently, develop it so to obtain other results. This faculty of grasping and testing rapidly the work of others, together with his great knowledge, made him an invaluable referee; his services in this capacity were used through a long series of years by a number of societies to which he was almost in the position of standing mathematical advisor.
In Proceedings of London Royal Society (1895), 58, 11-12.
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Certain students of genetics inferred that the Mendelian units responsible for the selected character were genes producing only a single effect. This was careless logic. It took a good deal of hammering to get rid of this erroneous idea. As facts accumulated it became evident that each gene produces not a single effect, but in some cases a multitude of effects on the characters of the individual. It is true that in most genetic work only one of these character-effects is selected for study—the one that is most sharply defined and separable from its contrasted character—but in most cases minor differences also are recognizable that are just as much the product of the same gene as is the major effect.
'The Relation of Genetics to Physiology and Medicine', Nobel Lecture (4 Jun 1934). In Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 317.
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Chemistry works with an enormous number of substances, but cares only for some few of their properties; it is an extensive science. Physics on the other hand works with rather few substances, such as mercury, water, alcohol, glass, air, but analyses the experimental results very thoroughly; it is an intensive science. Physical chemistry is the child of these two sciences; it has inherited the extensive character from chemistry. Upon this depends its all-embracing feature, which has attracted so great admiration. But on the other hand it has its profound quantitative character from the science of physics.
In Theories of Solutions (1912), xix.
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Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Anonymous
Too often seen carelessly attributed to Confucius. Webmaster has searched the original writings of the disciples of Confucius who recorded his thoughts, and has seen nothing resembling this. Peasants of his era did not “choose a job”—they merely worked on raising food and providing the necessities of life for their family and community.
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Christ, it’s going to work!
Exclaimed at end of the first heart transplant operation, when an electric shock was applied to the first transplanted heart, and it jumped and started beating swiftly. As quoted in Melissa August, et al., '34 Years Ago in Time', Time (15 Dec 1967).
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Come, see the north-wind’s masonry, Out of an unseen quarry evermore Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer Curves his white bastions with projected roof Round every windward stake, or tree, or door. Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work So fanciful, so savage, naught cares he For number or proportion.
…...
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Commitment to the Space Shuttle program is the right step for America to take, in moving out from our present beach-head in the sky to achieve a real working presence in space—because the Space Shuttle will give us routine access to space by sharply reducing costs in dollars and preparation time.
Statement by President Nixon (5 Jan 1972).
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Committees are dangerous things that need most careful watching. I believe that a research committee can do one useful thing and one only. It can find the workers best fitted to attack a particular problem, bring them together, give them the facilities they need, and leave them to get on with the work. It can review progress from time to time, and make adjustments; but if it tries to do more, it will do harm.
Attributed.
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Common sense … has the very curious property of being more correct retrospectively than prospectively. It seems to me that one of the principal criteria to be applied to successful science is that its results are almost always obvious retrospectively; unfortunately, they seldom are prospectively. Common sense provides a kind of ultimate validation after science has completed its work; it seldom anticipates what science is going to discover.
Quoted in A. De Reuck, M. Goldsmith and J. Knight (eds.), Decision Making in National Science Policy (1968), 96.
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Computers may soon replace many people who work with their minds, but nothing yet can replace that finest physical tool of all, the human hand.
In Best of Sydney J. Harris (1976), 82.
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Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.
In Orison Swett Marden, 'Bell Telephone Talk: Hints on Success by Alexander G. Bell', How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men Told by Themselves (1901), 34.
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Consider the very roots of our ability to discern truth. Above all (or perhaps I should say “underneath all”), common sense is what we depend on—that crazily elusive, ubiquitous faculty we all have to some degree or other. … If we apply common sense to itself over and over again, we wind up building a skyscraper. The ground floor of the structure is the ordinary common sense we all have, and the rules for building news floors are implicit in the ground floor itself. However, working it all out is a gigantic task, and the result is a structure that transcends mere common sense.
In Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern (1985), 93–94.
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Considering it as thus established, that heat is not a substance, but a dynamical form of mechanical effect, we perceive that there must be an equivalence between mechanical work and heat, as between cause and effect.
In 'On the Dynamical Theory of Heat, with Numerical Results Deduced from Mr. Joule's Equivalent of a Thermal Unit, and M. Regnault's Observations on Steam' (1851). In Mathematical and Physical Papers (1882-1911), Vol. 1, 175.
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Copernicus, the most learned man whom we are able to name other than Atlas and Ptolemy, even though he taught in a most learned manner the demonstrations and causes of motion based on observation, nevertheless fled from the job of constructing tables, so that if anyone computes from his tables, the computation is not even in agreement with his observations on which the foundation of the work rests. Therefore first I have compared the observations of Copernicus with those of Ptolemy and others as to which are the most accurate, but besides the bare observations, I have taken from Copernicus nothing other than traces of demonstrations. As for the tables of mean motion, and of prosthaphaereses and all the rest, I have constructed these anew, following absolutely no other reasoning than that which I have judged to be of maximum harmony.
Dedication to the Duke of Prussia, Prutenicae Tabulae (1551), 1585 edition, as quoted in Owen Gingerich, The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler (1993), 227.
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Cosmology is a science which has only a few observable facts to work with. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation added one—the present radiation temperature of the universe. This, however, was a significant increase in our knowledge since it requires a cosmology with a source for the radiation at an early epoch and is a new probe of that epoch. More sensitive measurements of the background radiation in the future will allow us to discover additional facts about the universe.
'Discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background', in B. Bertotti (ed.) Modern Cosmology in Retrospect (1990), 304.
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Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.
In Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual (1988), xi.
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Despite its importance to navigation, fishing, oil and gas development, and maritime safety, our understanding of how the Gulf system works remains extremely limited.
In 'Opinion: Why we can’t forget the Gulf', CNN (16 Apr 2015).
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Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces the same effect as if you worked a love-story into the fifth proposition of Euclid.
By Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson, fictional characters in The Sign of Four (1890), 6.
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Developmental Biology, in capitals, is the wave of the future. The creeping reductionism of biochemistry and molecular biology has taken over the cell and heredity, and looks covetously toward the heights of development and evolution. Recent literature is last year. Ancient literature is a decade ago. The rest is history, doubtfully alive. There is no time and often no opportunity to find and study the work of experimental biologists of 50 or 100 years ago, yet that was a time when the world was fresh.
Developmental biology was a lowercase phrase that graduated about 1950 and had previously lived under the cloak of Experimental Zoology
In obituary by Charles R. Scriver, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Nov 1999), 45, 33.
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Dirichlet was not satisfied to study Gauss’ Disquisitiones arithmetical once or several times, but continued throughout life to keep in close touch with the wealth of deep mathematical thoughts which it contains by perusing it again and again. For this reason the book was never placed on the shelf but had an abiding place on the table at which he worked. … Dirichlet was the first one, who not only fully understood this work, but made it also accessible to others.
In Dirichlet, Werke, Bd. 2, 315. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 159.
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Distrust even Mathematics; albeit so sublime and highly perfected, we have here a machine of such delicacy it can only work in vacuo, and one grain of sand in the wheels is enough to put everything out of gear. One shudders to think to what disaster such a grain of sand may bring a Mathematical brain. Remember Pascal.
The Garden of Epicurus (1894) translated by Alfred Allinson, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 187.
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Do experimental work but keep in mind that other investigators in the same field will consider your discoveries as less than one fourth as important as they seem to you.
In Victor Shelford, The Ecology of North America (1963), v.
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Do not enter upon research unless you can not help it. Ask yourself the “why” of every statement that is made and think out your own answer. If through your thoughtful work you get a worthwhile idea, it will get you. The force of the conviction will compel you to forsake all and seek the relief of your mind in research work.
From Cameron Prize Lecture (1928), delivered before the University of Edinburgh. As quoted in J.B. Collip 'Frederick Grant Banting, Discoverer of Insulin', The Scientific Monthly (May 1941), 52, No. 5, 473.
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Do the day’s work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but don’t be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but don’t be a demagogue. Don’t hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don’t hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Don’t hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.
Speech (7 Jan 1914), to the State Senate of Massachusetts upon election as its president. Collected in Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts (1919, 2004), 7-8.
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Gertrude B. Elion quote: Nothing worthwhile comes easily
Don’t be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don’t let others discourage you or tell you that you can’t do it. In my day I was told women didn’t go into chemistry. I saw no reason why we couldn’t.
from her lecture notes
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Don’t despise empiric truth. Lots of things work in practice for which the laboratory has never found proof.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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Doubtless the reasoning faculty, the mind, is the leading and characteristic attribute of the human race. By the exercise of this, man arrives at the properties of the natural bodies. This is science, properly and emphatically so called. It is the science of pure mathematics; and in the high branches of this science lies the truly sublime of human acquisition. If any attainment deserves that epithet, it is the knowledge, which, from the mensuration of the minutest dust of the balance, proceeds on the rising scale of material bodies, everywhere weighing, everywhere measuring, everywhere detecting and explaining the laws of force and motion, penetrating into the secret principles which hold the universe of God together, and balancing worlds against worlds, and system against system. When we seek to accompany those who pursue studies at once so high, so vast, and so exact; when we arrive at the discoveries of Newton, which pour in day on the works of God, as if a second fiat had gone forth from his own mouth; when, further, we attempt to follow those who set out where Newton paused, making his goal their starting-place, and, proceeding with demonstration upon demonstration, and discovery upon discovery, bring new worlds and new systems of worlds within the limits of the known universe, failing to learn all only because all is infinite; however we may say of man, in admiration of his physical structure, that “in form and moving he is express and admirable,” it is here, and here without irreverence, we may exclaim, “In apprehension how like a god!” The study of the pure mathematics will of course not be extensively pursued in an institution, which, like this [Boston Mechanics’ Institute], has a direct practical tendency and aim. But it is still to be remembered, that pure mathematics lie at the foundation of mechanical philosophy, and that it is ignorance only which can speak or think of that sublime science as useless research or barren speculation.
In Works (1872), Vol. 1, 180.
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During Alfvén's visit he gave a lecture at the University of Chicago, which was attended by [Enrico] Fermi. As Alfvén described his work, Fermi nodded his head and said, 'Of course.' The next day the entire world of physics said. 'Oh, of course.'
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988), 195.
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Leon M. Lederman quote: During an intense period of lab work, the outside world vanishes and the obsession is total
Background: Michael Faraday in his laboratory at the Royal Institution. (source)
During an intense period of lab work, the outside world vanishes and the obsession is total. Sleep is when you can curl up on the accelerator floor for an hour.
In Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi, The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question (1993), 14-15.
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During my pre-college years I went on many trips with my father into the oil fields to visit their operations. … I puttered around the machine, electronics, and automobile shops while he carried on his business. Both of my parents are inveterate do-it-yourselfers, almost no task being beneath their dignity or beyond their ingenuity. Having picked up a keen interest in electronics from my father, I used to fix radios and later television sets for fun and spending money. I built my own hi-fi set and enjoyed helping friends with their amateur radio transmitters, but lost interest as soon as they worked.
Remarks on how his high school interests foreshadowed his career as a radio astronomer. From autobiography in Stig Lundqvist (ed.) Nobel Lectures, Physics 1971-1980 (1992).
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During my span of life science has become a matter of public concern and the l'art pour l'art standpoint of my youth is now obsolete. Science has become an integral and most important part of our civilization, and scientific work means contributing to its development. Science in our technical age has social, economic, and political functions, and however remote one's own work is from technical application it is a link in the chain of actions and decisions which determine the fate of the human race. I realized this aspect of science in its full impact only after Hiroshima.
Max Born
My Life & My Views (1968), 49.
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During the first half of the present century we had an Alexander von Humboldt, who was able to scan the scientific knowledge of his time in its details, and to bring it within one vast generalization. At the present juncture, it is obviously very doubtful whether this task could be accomplished in a similar way, even by a mind with gifts so peculiarly suited for the purpose as Humboldt's was, and if all his time and work were devoted to the purpose.
In Hermann von Helmholtz and Edmund Atkinson (trans.), 'The Aim and Progress of Physical Science', Popular Scientific Lectures on Scientific Subjects (1873), 363.
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During the school period the student has been mentally bending over his desk; at the University he should stand up and look around. For this reason it is fatal if the first year at the University be frittered away in going over the old work in the old spirit. At school the boy painfully rises from the particular towards glimpses at general ideas; at the University he should start from general ideas and study their applications to concrete cases.
In 'The Rhythm of Education', The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 26.
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During the three years which I spent at Cambridge my time was wasted, as far as the academical studies were concerned…. I attempted mathematics, … but I got on very slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being able to see any meaning in the early steps in algebra. This impatience was very foolish…
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), 'Autobiography', The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887, 1896), Vol. 1, 40.
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During the war years I worked on the development of radar and other radio systems for the R.A.F. and, though gaining much in engineering experience and in understanding people, rapidly forgot most of the physics I had learned.
From Autobiography in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1974/Nobel Lectures (1975)
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Each of us by his own work and thought, if he so choose, may enlarge the circle of his own knowledge at least, and thus make the universe more and more beautiful, to himself at all events, if not to others.
In 'Waves: Preliminary', Studies in Spectrum Analysis (1878), 1.
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Einstein uses his concept of God more often than a Catholic priest. Once I asked him:
'Tomorrow is Sunday. Do you want me to come to you, so we can work?'
'Why not?'
'Because I thought perhaps you would like to rest on Sunday.'
Einstein settled the question by saying with a loud laugh: 'God does not rest on Sunday either.'
Quest: The Evolution of a Scientist (1941), 247.
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Einstein, twenty-six years old, only three years away from crude privation, still a patent examiner, published in the Annalen der Physik in 1905 five papers on entirely different subjects. Three of them were among the greatest in the history of physics. One, very simple, gave the quantum explanation of the photoelectric effect—it was this work for which, sixteen years later, he was awarded the Nobel prize. Another dealt with the phenomenon of Brownian motion, the apparently erratic movement of tiny particles suspended in a liquid: Einstein showed that these movements satisfied a clear statistical law. This was like a conjuring trick, easy when explained: before it, decent scientists could still doubt the concrete existence of atoms and molecules: this paper was as near to a direct proof of their concreteness as a theoretician could give. The third paper was the special theory of relativity, which quietly amalgamated space, time, and matter into one fundamental unity.
This last paper contains no references and quotes no authority. All of them are written in a style unlike any other theoretical physicist’s. They contain very little mathematics. There is a good deal of verbal commentary. The conclusions, the bizarre conclusions, emerge as though with the greatest of ease: the reasoning is unbreakable. It looks as though he had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done.
In Variety of Men (1966), 100-101. First published in Commentary magazine.
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ENGINEER, in the military art, an able expert man, who, by a perfect knowledge in mathematics, delineates upon paper, or marks upon the ground, all sorts of forts, and other works proper for offence and defence. He should understand the art of fortification, so as to be able, not only to discover the defects of a place, but to find a remedy proper for them; as also how to make an attack upon, as well as to defend, the place. Engineers are extremely necessary for these purposes: wherefore it is requisite that, besides being ingenious, they should be brave in proportion. When at a siege the engineers have narrowly surveyed the place, they are to make their report to the general, by acquainting him which part they judge the weakest, and where approaches may be made with most success. Their business is also to delineate the lines of circumvallation and contravallation, taking all the advantages of the ground; to mark out the trenches, places of arms, batteries, and lodgments, taking care that none of their works be flanked or discovered from the place. After making a faithful report to the general of what is a-doing, the engineers are to demand a sufficient number of workmen and utensils, and whatever else is necessary.
In Encyclopaedia Britannica or a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1771), Vol. 2, 497.
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