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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index R > Isidor Isaac Rabi Quotes

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Isidor Isaac Rabi
(29 Jul 1898 - 11 Jan 1988)

Austrian-American physicist.


Science Quotes by Isidor Isaac Rabi (16 quotes)

As yet, if a man has no feeling for art he is considered narrow-minded, but if he has no feeling for science this is considered quite normal. This is a fundamental weakness.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
In Kermit Lansner, Second-Rate Brains: A Factual, Perceptive Report by Top Scientists, Educators, Journalists, and Their Urgent Recommendations (1958), 31. Note: Dr. I.I. Rabi was chairman of President Eisenhower's Science Advisory Committee.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (284)  |  Education (333)  |  Feeling (91)  |  Fundamental (158)  |  Man (373)  |  Narrow-Minded (5)  |  Normal (27)  |  Science And Art (181)  |  Weakness (35)

I think physicists are the Peter Pans of the human race. They never grow up, and they keep their curiosity.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
In Jeremy Bernstein, 'Rabi: The Modern Age', Experiencing Science (1978), 102. Part of Rabi’s response to Bernstein’s interview question, about at which age, in his opinion, physicists tend to run down. Previously published in 'Physicist', The New Yorker (1970).
Science quotes on:  |  Curiosity (105)  |  Grow Up (6)  |  Human Race (69)  |  Keep (100)  |  Physicist (160)  |  Think (341)

It was eerie. I saw myself in that machine. I never thought my work would come to this.
Upon seeing a distorted image of his face, reflected on the inside cylindrical surface of the bore while inside an MRI (magnetic-resonance-imaging) machine—a device made possible by his early physical researches on nuclear magnetic resonance (1938).
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
Quoted from conversation with the author, John S. Rigden, in Rabi, Scientist and Citizen (2000), xxii. Rabi was recalling having an MRI, in late 1987, a few months before his death. He had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1944, for his discovery of the magnetic resonance method.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  NMR (2)  |  Research (589)

My ideal man is Benjamin Franklin—the figure in American history most worthy of emulation ... Franklin is my ideal of a whole man. ... Where are the life-size—or even pint-size—Benjamin Franklins of today?
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
Describing his personal hero, in a lecture (1964). In Gerald James Holton, Victory and Vexation in Science: Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Others (2005), 92. In John S. Rigden,Science: The Center of Culture (1970), 111-112. In Rabi, Scientist and Citizen (2000), xxv, the author states that a portrait of Benjamin Franklin hung in Rabi's office.
Science quotes on:  |  Emulate (2)  |  Benjamin Franklin (90)  |  Hero (35)  |  History (368)  |  Ideal (69)

My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school, “So? Did you learn anything today?” But not my mother. … “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference - asking good questions - made me become a scientist.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
In letters column of New York Times (19 Jan 1988) from Donald Sheff, who quoted what his friend, Arthur Sackler, received in answer, upon asking Rabi why he became a scientist.
Science quotes on:  |  Ask (157)  |  Become (172)  |  Brooklyn (3)  |  Child (245)  |  Difference (246)  |  Good (345)  |  Intend (16)  |  Jewish (10)  |  Learn (281)  |  Mother (71)  |  Question (404)  |  Say (228)  |  School (117)  |  Scientist (519)  |  Today (117)

Science is a great game. It is inspiring and refreshing. The playing field is the universe itself.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
In 'Humanistic Scientist: Isidor Isaac Rabi', New York Times (28 Oct 1964), 38.
Science quotes on:  |  Field (170)  |  Game (61)  |  Great (524)  |  Inspire (49)  |  Play (110)  |  Refreshing (2)  |  Science (2043)  |  Universe (683)

Science itself is badly in need of integration and unification. The tendency is more and more the other way ... Only the graduate student, poor beast of burden that he is, can be expected to know a little of each. As the number of physicists increases, each specialty becomes more self-sustaining and self-contained. Such Balkanization carries physics, and indeed, every science further away, from natural philosophy, which, intellectually, is the meaning and goal of science.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
Science, The Center of Culture (1970), 92. Quoted by Victor F. Weisskopf, 'One Hundred Years of the Physical Review', in H. Henry Stroke, Physical Review: The First Hundred Years: a Selection of Seminal Papers and Commentaries, Vol. 1, 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Beast (38)  |  Expectation (54)  |  Goal (100)  |  Graduate Student (4)  |  Integration (16)  |  Intellect (188)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Meaning (111)  |  Natural Philosophy (28)  |  Need (283)  |  Physicist (160)  |  Science (2043)  |  Self-Contained (3)  |  Self-Sustaining (3)  |  Specialty (10)  |  Tendency (54)  |  Unification (9)

Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen or that I think anyone has ever seen. It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way into you. It was a vision which was seen with more than the eye. It was seen to last forever. You would wish it would stop; altogether it lasted about two seconds.
[Witnessing the first atomic bomb test explosion.]
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
Science: the Center of Culture (1970), 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Blast (10)  |  Bore (3)  |  Eye (218)  |  Forever (59)  |  Pounce (4)  |  Vision (94)

The future generation of scientists will be a sorry lot if the best teachers leave the academic circles for more lucrative positions in military or industrial laboratories.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
In 'The Physicist Returns from the War', The Atlantic Monthly (Oct 1945), 176, No. 4, 108. Collected in 'Physics: A Physicist Surveys the Scene', American Thought 1947 (1947), 326.
Science quotes on:  |  Academic (18)  |  Future (284)  |  Generation (137)  |  Industrial (12)  |  Laboratory (131)  |  Leave (127)  |  Military (29)  |  Position (75)  |  Scientist (519)  |  Sorry (16)  |  Teacher (119)

To me, science is an expression of the human spirit, which reaches every sphere of human culture. It gives an aim and meaning to existence as well as a knowledge, understanding, love, and admiration for the world. It gives a deeper meaning to morality and another dimension to esthetics.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
From a letter to his long-time associate, Jerrold Zacharias. Quoted in A tribute to I. I. Rabi, Department of Physics, Columbia University, June 1970. In John S. Rigden, in Rabi, Scientist and Citizen (2000), xxi.
Science quotes on:  |  Admiration (44)  |  Aesthetics (4)  |  Aim (88)  |  Culture (102)  |  Existence (296)  |  Expression (104)  |  Human Spirit (12)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Love (221)  |  Meaning (111)  |  Morality (42)  |  Science (2043)  |  Understanding (325)  |  World (892)

We are the inheritors of a great scientific tradition and of a beautiful structure of knowledge. It is the duty of our generation to add to the perfection of this structure and to pass on to the next generation the best traditions of our science for the edification and entertainment of all mankind.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
Concluding sentences of 'The Physicist Returns from the War', The Atlantic Monthly (Oct 1945), 176, No. 4, 114. Collected in 'Physics: A Physicist Surveys the Scene', American Thought 1947 (1947), 342.
Science quotes on:  |  Beautiful (138)  |  Duty (68)  |  Entertainment (12)  |  Generation (137)  |  Inheritor (2)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Mankind (241)  |  Perfection (88)  |  Structure (221)  |  Tradition (49)

We don’t teach our students enough of the intellectual content of experiments—their novelty and their capacity for opening new fields… . My own view is that you take these things personally. You do an experiment because your own philosophy makes you want to know the result. It’s too hard, and life is too short, to spend your time doing something because someone else has said it’s important. You must feel the thing yourself—feel that it will change your outlook and your way of life.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
In Bernstein, 'Profiles: Physicists: I', The New Yorker (13 Oct 1975), 108.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (363)  |  Content (66)  |  Experiment (600)  |  Field (170)  |  Hard (99)  |  Important (202)  |  Intellect (188)  |  Know (547)  |  Life (1124)  |  New (483)  |  Novelty (23)  |  Outlook (14)  |  Philosophy (257)  |  Result (376)  |  Science And Education (15)  |  Short (49)  |  Student (201)  |  Teach (179)  |  Want (175)

We have an A-bomb … What more do you want, mermaids?
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
From testimony on 21 Apr 1954, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Transcript of Hearing Before Personnel Security Board, Washington, D.C., April 12, 1954, through May 5, 1954 (1954), 468. Rabi was objecting to the suspension of the security clearance of Robert Oppenheimer (his friend) stressing the “real positive record” and “tremendous achievement” and more that already documented his loyalty.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Hearing (28)  |  Mermaid (4)  |  J. Robert Oppenheimer (39)  |  Security (33)  |  Want (175)

We must also teach science not as the bare body of fact, but more as human endeavor in its historic context—in the context of the effects of scientific thought on every kind of thought. We must teach it as an intellectual pursuit rather than as a body of tricks.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
In Kermit Lansner, Second-Rate Brains: A Factual, Perceptive Report by Top Scientists, Educators, Journalists, and Their Urgent Recommendations (1958), 31. Note: Dr. I.I. Rabi was chairman of President Eisenhower's Science Advisory Committee.
Science quotes on:  |  Bare (11)  |  Body (243)  |  Context (22)  |  Effect (165)  |  Endeavour (25)  |  Fact (725)  |  History (368)  |  Human (548)  |  Intellect (188)  |  Pursuit (76)  |  Science (2043)  |  Teaching (107)  |  Thought (536)  |  Trick (24)

When Bohr is about everything is somehow different. Even the dullest gets a fit of brilliancy.
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
Isidor I. Rabi in Daniel J. Kevles, The Physicists (1978), 201.
Science quotes on:  |  Niels Bohr (53)

Who ordered that?
— Isidor Isaac Rabi
Exclaimed about discovery of the muon, adding to the growing family of different entities appearing in ephemeral particle showers. As quoted in Marcia Bartusiak, 'Science & Technology; Who Ordered the Muon?', New York Times (27 Sep 1987), 42.
Science quotes on:  |  Order (239)  |  Particle (99)


See also:
  • 29 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Rabi's birth.
  • Rabi: Scientist & Citizen, by John S. Rigden. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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