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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index T > Edward Teller Quotes

Edward Teller
(15 Jan 1908 - 9 Sep 2003)

Hungarian-American nuclear physicist.


Science Quotes by Edward Teller (16 quotes)

A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty until found effective.
— Edward Teller
Edward Teller, Wendy Teller, Wilson Talley, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991, 2002), Footnote, 69.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (400)  |  Effective (20)  |  Everyone (20)  |  Fact (609)  |  Guilt (8)  |  Hypothesis (227)  |  Innocence (10)  |  Nobody (38)  |  Novel (16)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Statement (56)  |  Suggestion (24)  |  Want (120)

I claim that relativity and the rest of modern physics is not complicated. It can be explained very simply. It is only unusual or, put another way, it is contrary to common sense.
— Edward Teller
In Edward Teller, Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991, 2013), 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Claim (52)  |  Common Sense (69)  |  Complicated (38)  |  Contrary (22)  |  Explanation (161)  |  Modern Physics (12)  |  Relativity (50)  |  Simple (111)  |  Unusual (13)

If there ever was a misnomer, it is “exact science.” Science has always been full of mistakes. The present day is no exception. And our mistakes are good mistakes; they require a genius to correct. Of course, we do not see our own mistakes.
— Edward Teller
In Edward Teller, Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991, 2013), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Correction (28)  |  Exact Science (4)  |  Exactness (18)  |  Full (38)  |  Genius (186)  |  Good (228)  |  Mistake (107)  |  Requirement (45)  |  Seeing (48)

In our educational institutions applied science may almost be described as a “no-man's land.”
[Referring to the need to improve the quality and status of applied science.]
— Edward Teller
From his essay contributed to the National Academy of Sciences Committee Report to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics (Mar 1965). Reprinted in 'The Role of Applied Science', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Mar 1966).
Science quotes on:  |  Applied Science (28)  |  Description (72)  |  Education (280)  |  Institution (32)

In our educational institutions applied science may almost be described as a “no-man's land.”
[Referring to the need to improve the quality and status of applied science.]
— Edward Teller
From his essay contributed to the National Academy of Sciences Committee Report to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics (Mar 1965). Reprinted in 'The Role of Applied Science', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Mar 1966).

In the history of physics, there have been three great revolutions in thought that first seemed absurd yet proved to be true. The first proposed that the earth, instead of being stationary, was moving around at a great and variable speed in a universe that is much bigger than it appears to our immediate perception. That proposal, I believe, was first made by Aristarchos two millenia ago ... Remarkably enough, the name Aristarchos in Greek means best beginning.
[The next two revolutions occurred ... in the early part of the twentieth century: the theory of relativity and the science of quantum mechanics...]
— Edward Teller
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 562.
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (591)  |  Quantum Theory (55)  |  Relativity (50)

It is often claimed that knowledge multiplies so rapidly that nobody can follow it. I believe this is incorrect. At least in science it is not true. The main purpose of science is simplicity and as we understand more things, everything is becoming simpler. This, of course, goes contrary to what everyone accepts.
— Edward Teller
Edward Teller, Wendy Teller, Wilson Talley, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991, 2002), 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Acceptance (41)  |  Becoming (13)  |  Belief (400)  |  Claim (52)  |  Contrary (22)  |  Everyone (20)  |  Everything (120)  |  Following (16)  |  Incorrect (6)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Main (16)  |  Multiplication (14)  |  Nobody (38)  |  Purpose (138)  |  Purpose Of Science (4)  |  Rapidity (14)  |  Science (1699)  |  Simpler (5)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Thing (37)  |  Truth (750)  |  Understanding (317)

Knowing he [Bob Serber] was going to the [first atom bomb] test, I asked him how he planned to deal with the danger of rattlesnakes. He said, 'I'll take along a bottle of whiskey.' … I ended by asking, 'What would you do about those possibilities [of what unknown phenomena might cause a nuclear explosion to propagate in the atmosphere]?' Bob replied, 'Take a second bottle of whiskey.'
— Edward Teller
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 211.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (101)

One may say that predictions are dangerous particularly for the future. If the danger involved in a prediction is not incurred, no consequence follows and the uncertainty principle is not violated.
— Edward Teller
Edward Teller , Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Conversations from the Dark Side of Physics (1991, 2002), 235.
Science quotes on:  |  Consequence (76)  |  Danger (62)  |  Future (229)  |  Prediction (67)  |  Uncertainty Principle (7)  |  Violation (6)

Physics without mathematics is meaningless.
— Edward Teller
In Edward Teller, Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991, 2013), 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Meaningless (15)  |  Physics (301)

Science attempts to find logic and simplicity in nature. Mathematics attempts to establish order and simplicity in human thought.
— Edward Teller
The Pursuit of Simplicity (1980), 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Attempt (94)  |  Logic (187)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Science (1699)  |  Simplicity (126)

The science of today is the technology of tomorrow.
— Edward Teller
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Science (1699)  |  Technology (199)  |  Today (86)  |  Tomorrow (29)

The scientist is not responsible for the laws of nature. It is his job to find out how these laws operate. It is the scientist’s job to find the ways in which these laws can serve the human will. However, it is not the scientist’s job to determine whether a hydrogen bomb should be constructed, whether it should be used, or how it should be used. This responsibility rests with the American people and with their chosen representatives.
— Edward Teller
In 'Back to the Laboratories', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Mar 1950), 6, No. 3, 71. Quoted in L. Wolpert and A. Richards (eds.), A Passion for Science (1988), 9, but incorrectly attributed to Robert Oppenheimer.
Science quotes on:  |  American (34)  |  Choice (64)  |  Find (248)  |  Hydrogen Bomb (7)  |  Job (33)  |  Law Of Nature (52)  |  People (269)  |  Representative (9)  |  Responsibility (47)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Serve (34)  |  Use (70)  |  Will (29)

Today's science is tomorrow's technology.
— Edward Teller
The Legacy of Hiroshima (1962), 146.
Science quotes on:  |  Science (1699)  |  Technology (199)

Today, nothing is unusual about a scientific discovery's being followed soon after by a technical application: The discovery of electrons led to electronics; fission led to nuclear energy. But before the 1880's, science played almost no role in the advances of technology. For example, James Watt developed the first efficient steam engine long before science established the equivalence between mechanical heat and energy.
— Edward Teller
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 42.
Science quotes on:  |  Science (1699)  |  Technology (199)

[Chemistry] laboratory work was my first challenge. ... I still carry the scars of my first discovery—that test-tubes are fragile.
— Edward Teller
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 42.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (227)  |  Chemistry (239)  |  Laboratory (120)  |  Test Tube (7)



Quotes by others about Edward Teller (2)

Von Theorie wild man nicht heller.
Gott geb' tδglich unsern Teller.

When theory's light is less than stellar.
Give us, O Lord, our daily Teller.
This rhyme from an alphabet ditty describing various physicists was written for a party at Gφttingen.
Quoted in Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 75. The first clause, translated more literally than poetically, is given as, 'When theory does not enlighten us,' in Nina Byers and Gary Williams, Out of the Shadows (2006),130.
Science quotes on:  |  Theory (582)

Well beyond the tropostrata
There is a region stark and stellar
Where, on a streak of anti-matter
Lived Dr. Edward anti-Teller.

Remote from Fusion’s origin,

He lived unguessed and unawares
With all his antikith and kin,
And kept macassars on his chairs.

One morning, idling by the sea,
He spied a tin of monstrous girth
That bore three letters: A. E. C.
Out stepped a visitor from Earth.

Then, shouting gladly o’er the sands,
Met two who in their alien ways
Were like as lentils. Their right hands
Clasped, and the rest was gamma rays.
In 'Perils of Modern Living', The New Yorker (10 Nov 1956), 56. Reprinted in Edward Teller with Judith Schoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth Century Journey in Science and Politics (2002), 428. Webmaster supposes the initials 'A.E.C.' might be for the Atomic Energy Commission.
Science quotes on:  |  Anti-Matter (4)  |  Fusion (9)  |  Gamma Ray (3)


See also:
  • 15 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Teller's birth.

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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