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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index R > Bertrand Russell Quotes > Life

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Bertrand Russell
(18 May 1872 - 2 Feb 1970)

Welsh mathematician, logician and philosopher known for his work in mathematical logic, but was also active in social and political campaigns, advocating pacifism and nuclear disarmament.



All the conditions of happiness are realized in the life of the man of science.
— Bertrand Russell
The Conquest of Happiness (1930), 146.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Condition (357)  |  Happiness (116)  |  Life (1799)  |  Man (2249)  |  Men Of Science (143)  |  Realization (43)  |  Science (3880)

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.
— Bertrand Russell
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 23.
Science quotes on:  |  Beginning (305)  |  Conquer (38)  |  Cruelty (23)  |  Endeavour (63)  |  Fear (199)  |  Life (1799)  |  Manner (58)  |  Pursuit (121)  |  Superstition (66)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Wisdom (221)  |  Worthy (34)

I do not believe that science per se is an adequate source of happiness, nor do I think that my own scientific outlook has contributed very greatly to my own happiness, which I attribute to defecating twice a day with unfailing regularity. Science in itself appears to me neutral, that is to say, it increases men’s power whether for good or for evil. An appreciation of the ends of life is something which must be superadded to science if it is to bring happiness, but only the kind of society to which science is apt to give rise. I am afraid you may be disappointed that I am not more of an apostle of science, but as I grow older, and no doubt—as a result of the decay of my tissues, I begin to see the good life more and more as a matter of balance and to dread all over-emphasis upon anyone ingredient.
— Bertrand Russell
Letter to W. W. Norton, Publisher (27 Jan 1931). In The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 1914-1944 (1968), Vol. 2, 200.
Science quotes on:  |  Adequate (46)  |  Age (499)  |  All (4107)  |  Apostle (3)  |  Appreciation (34)  |  Attribute (61)  |  Balance (78)  |  Begin (260)  |  Belief (578)  |  Decay (53)  |  Disappoint (14)  |  Disappointment (17)  |  Do (1908)  |  Doubt (305)  |  Dread (13)  |  Emphasis (18)  |  End (590)  |  Evil (116)  |  Good (889)  |  Grow (238)  |  Happiness (116)  |  Increase (211)  |  Ingredient (15)  |  Kind (557)  |  Life (1799)  |  Mankind (340)  |  Matter (801)  |  More (2559)  |  Must (1526)  |  Neutral (13)  |  Outlook (30)  |  Power (747)  |  Regularity (40)  |  Result (678)  |  Rise (166)  |  Say (984)  |  Science (3880)  |  Scientific (940)  |  See (1082)  |  Society (325)  |  Something (719)  |  Source (93)  |  Think (1086)  |  Tissue (45)

Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoan to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoon, who gives us this assurance.
— Bertrand Russell
From Herbert Spencer lecture delivered at Oxford (1914) 'On Scientific Method in Philosophy', collected in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1919), 106.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (280)  |  Assurance (17)  |  Develop (268)  |  Development (424)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Gradually (102)  |  Life (1799)  |  Organic (158)  |  Philosopher (259)  |  Protozoan (3)  |  Unfortunately (38)

Real life is, to most men, a long second-best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible; but the world of pure reason ;knows no compromise, no practical limitations, no barrier to the creative activity.
— Bertrand Russell
Essay, 'The Study of Mathematics' (1902), collected in Philosophical Essays (1910), 73-74. Also collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1919), 60.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (210)  |  Barrier (32)  |  Best (459)  |  Compromise (10)  |  Creative (138)  |  Ideal (100)  |  Know (1519)  |  Life (1799)  |  Limitation (48)  |  Long (789)  |  Most (1729)  |  Perpetual (57)  |  Possible (554)  |  Practical (200)  |  Pure (292)  |  Real Life (7)  |  Reason (744)  |  Second Best (2)  |  World (1778)

The good life is one inspired by life and guided by knowledge.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Good (889)  |  Guide (98)  |  Inspire (52)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Life (1799)

The world of mathematics, which you condemn, is really a beautiful world; it has nothing to do with life and death and human sordidness, but is eternal, cold and passionless. To me, pure, mathematics is one of the highest forms of art; it has a sublimity quite special to itself, and an immense dignity derived, from the fact that its world is exempt I, from change and time. I am quite serious in this. The only difficulty is that none but mathematicians can enter this enchanted region, and they hardly ever have a sense of beauty. And mathematics is the only thing we know of that is capable of perfection; in thinking about it we become Gods.
— Bertrand Russell
Letter to Helen Thomas (30 Dec 1901). Quoted in Nicholas Griffin (ed.), The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell (1992), Vol. 1, 224.
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Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
— Bertrand Russell
The Autobiography of Betrand Russell (1998), 9, first sentence of the Prologue.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (242)  |  Govern (65)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Life (1799)  |  Longing (19)  |  Love (309)  |  Mankind (340)  |  Passion (114)  |  Search (162)  |  Simple (406)  |  Strong (174)  |  Suffering (67)

To think I have spent my life on absolute muck.
— Bertrand Russell
Exclaimed after Littlewood explained Eddington’s writings about relativity to Russell, who at that time knew no such physics. In John E. Littlewood and Bιla Bollobαs (ed.), A Mathematician’s Miscellany, (1953, 1986), 129.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (146)  |  Life (1799)  |  Spend (95)  |  Spent (85)  |  Think (1086)

Why the dinosaurs died out is not known, but it is supposed to be because they had minute brains and devoted themselves to the growth of weapons of offense in the shape of numerous horns. However that may be, it was not through their line that life developed.
— Bertrand Russell
In 'Men versus. Insects' (1933), collected in In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), 199.
Science quotes on:  |  Brain (270)  |  Develop (268)  |  Developed (11)  |  Devoted (59)  |  Dinosaur (26)  |  Extinction (74)  |  Growth (188)  |  Horn (18)  |  Known (454)  |  Life (1799)  |  Line (91)  |  Minute (125)  |  Numerous (68)  |  Offense (4)  |  Paleontology (31)  |  Shape (73)  |  Themselves (433)  |  Through (849)  |  Weapon (93)  |  Weapons (58)  |  Why (491)

[Man] … his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labour of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…
— Bertrand Russell
From 'A Free Man's Worship', Independent Review (Dec 1903). Collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1918), 47-48.
Science quotes on:  |  Accidental (27)  |  Achievement (180)  |  Age (499)  |  All (4107)  |  Atom (358)  |  Belief (578)  |  Beneath (64)  |  Beyond (308)  |  Brightness (12)  |  Death (391)  |  Destined (42)  |  Devotion (35)  |  Extinction (74)  |  Fear (199)  |  Feeling (252)  |  Fire (189)  |  Genius (285)  |  Grave (52)  |  Growth (188)  |  Hope (299)  |  Human (1470)  |  Individual (404)  |  Inspiration (76)  |  Intensity (34)  |  Labour (98)  |  Life (1799)  |  Love (309)  |  Man (2249)  |  Must (1526)  |  Origin (241)  |  Preserve (83)  |  Ruin (42)  |  Solar System (78)  |  System (537)  |  Temple (42)  |  Thought (954)  |  Universe (861)  |  Vast (178)  |  Whole (738)


See also:
  • 18 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Russell's birth.
  • Bertrand Russell - context of quote “A process which led from the amoeba to man” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Bertrand Russell - context of quote “A process which led from the amoeba to man” - Large image (800 x 600 px)

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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