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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index T > Count Leo Tolstoy Quotes

 Count Leo Tolstoy (9 Sep 1828 - 20 Nov 1910) Russian writer whose major works include War and Peace (1863-69) and Anna Karenina (1875-77).

Science Quotes by Count Leo Tolstoy (14 quotes)

A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator the smaller the fraction.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
Quoted, without citation, in Howard Whitley Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles (1988), 81.
Science quotes on:  |  Fraction (13)  |  Himself (461)  |  Large (394)  |  Man (2249)  |  Small (479)  |  Think (1086)

A modern branch of mathematics, having achieved the art of dealing with the infinitely small, can now yield solutions in other more complex problems of motion, which used to appear insoluble. This modern branch of mathematics, unknown to the ancients, when dealing with problems of motion, admits the conception of the infinitely small, and so conforms to the chief condition of motion (absolute continuity) and thereby corrects the inevitable error which the human mind cannot avoid when dealing with separate elements of motion instead of examining continuous motion. In seeking the laws of historical movement just the same thing happens. The movement of humanity, arising as it does from innumerable human wills, is continuous. To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history. … Only by taking an infinitesimally small unit for observation (the differential of history, that is, the individual tendencies of man) and attaining to the art of integrating them (that is, finding the sum of these infinitesimals) can we hope to arrive at the laws of history.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace (1869), Book 11, Chap. 1.
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A plain, reasonable working man supposes, in the old way which is also the common-sense way, that if there are people who spend their lives in study, whom he feeds and keeps while they think for him—then no doubt these men are engaged in studying things men need to know; and he expects of science that it will solve for him the questions on which his welfare, and that of all men, depends. He expects science to tell him how he ought to live: how to treat his family, his neighbours and the men of other tribes, how to restrain his passions, what to believe in and what not to believe in, and much else. And what does our science say to him on these matters?
It triumphantly tells him: how many million miles it is from the earth to the sun; at what rate light travels through space; how many million vibrations of ether per second are caused by light, and how many vibrations of air by sound; it tells of the chemical components of the Milky Way, of a new element—helium—of micro-organisms and their excrements, of the points on the hand at which electricity collects, of X rays, and similar things.
“But I don't want any of those things,” says a plain and reasonable man—“I want to know how to live.”
— Count Leo Tolstoy
In 'Modern Science', Essays and Letters (1903), 221-222.
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Distinguished from all the rest by its nearness to the earth, and by its white light, and by its long, curling tail, stood the tremendous brilliant comet of 1812,—the same which men thought presaged all manner of woes and the end of the world. … this glorious star which seemed…to have come flying with inconceivable swiftness through measureless space, straight toward the earth, there to strike like an enormous arrow, and remain in that one fate-designated spot upon the dark sky; and, pausing, raise aloft with monstrous force its curling tail, flashing and playing with white light, amid the countless other stars doomed to perish.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
In Leo Tolstoy and Nathan Haskell Dole (trans.), War and Peace (1889), Vol. 2, 392. Also translated as “The radiant star which, after travelling in its orbit with inconceivable velocity through infinite space, seemed suddenly—like an arrow piercing the earth—to remain fast in one chosen spot in the black firmament, vigorously tossing up its tail, shining and playing with its white light and the countless other scintillating stars,” in Leo Tolstoy and ‎Louise Shanks Maude, War and Peace: A Novel (1941), 252.
Science quotes on:  |  Brilliance (14)  |  Comet (61)  |  Star (430)

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Change (595)  |  Everyone (34)  |  Himself (461)  |  Think (1086)  |  World (1778)

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
Attributed. Quoted in James GleickChaos (1988), 38. Contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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If the arrangement of society is bad (as ours is), and a small number of people have power over the majority and oppress it, every victory over Nature will inevitably serve only to increase that power and that oppression.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
In Science, Liberty and Peace by Aldous Huxley (1947).
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Life is everything. Life is God. Everything changes and moves and that movement is God. And while there is life there is joy in consciousness of the divine. To love life is to love God.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 154
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Religion reveals the meaning of life, and science only applies this meaning to the course of circumstances.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
My Religion, translated by Huntington Smith (3rd Ed., 1885), 121.
Science quotes on:  |  Circumstance (136)  |  Circumstances (108)  |  Course (408)  |  Life (1799)  |  Meaning (235)  |  Religion (363)  |  Reveal (148)  |  Science (3880)  |  Science And Religion (310)

True science investigates and brings to human perception such truths and such knowledge as the people of a given time and society consider most important. Art transmits these truths from the region of perception to the region of emotion.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
…...
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What is called science today consists of a haphazard heap of information, united by nothing, often utterly unnecessary, and not only failing to present one unquestionable truth, but as often as not containing the grossest errors, today put forward as truths, and tomorrow overthrown.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
In Leo Tolstoy and Charles R. Joy (ed.), Lyof Tolstoy: An Anthology (1958), 34.
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Whatever answers faith gives.. .such answers always give an infinite meaning to the finite existence of man; a meaning that is not destroyed by suffering, deprivation or death. This means only in faith can we find the meaning and possibility of life.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 19
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[Science] … gives us no answer to our question, what shall we do and how shall we live?
— Count Leo Tolstoy
In What Is Art? (1898).
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (366)  |  Do (1908)  |  Live (629)  |  Question (622)  |  Science (3880)

“Science studies everything,” say the scientists. But, really, everything is too much. Everything is an infinite quantity of objects; it is impossible at one and the same time to study all. As a lantern cannot light up everything, but only lights up the place on which it is turned or the direction in which the man carrying it is walking, so also science cannot study everything, but inevitably only studies that to which its attention is directed. And as a lantern lights up most strongly the place nearest to it, and less and less strongly objects that are more and more remote from it, and does not at all light up those things its light does not reach, so also human science, of whatever kind, has always studied and still studies most carefully what seems most important to the investigators, less carefully what seems to them less important, and quite neglects the whole remaining infinite quantity of objects. ... But men of science to-day ... have formed for themselves a theory of “science for science's sake,” according to which science is to study not what mankind needs, but everything.
— Count Leo Tolstoy
In 'Modern Science', Essays and Letters (1903), 223.
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Quotes by others about Count Leo Tolstoy (3)

Tolstoi explains somewhere in his writings why, in his opinion, “Science for Science's sake” is an absurd conception. We cannot know all the facts since they are infinite in number. We must make a selection ... guided by utility ... Have we not some better occupation than counting the number of lady-birds in existence on this planet?
In Science and Method (1914, 2003), 15
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One day at Fenner's (the university cricket ground at Cambridge), just before the last war, G. H. Hardy and I were talking about Einstein. Hardy had met him several times, and I had recently returned from visiting him. Hardy was saying that in his lifetime there had only been two men in the world, in all the fields of human achievement, science, literature, politics, anything you like, who qualified for the Bradman class. For those not familiar with cricket, or with Hardy's personal idiom, I ought to mention that “the Bradman class” denoted the highest kind of excellence: it would include Shakespeare, Tolstoi, Newton, Archimedes, and maybe a dozen others. Well, said Hardy, there had only been two additions in his lifetime. One was Lenin and the other Einstein.
Variety of Men (1966), 87.
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Einstein’s space is no closer to reality than Van Gogh’s sky. The glory of science is not in a truth more absolute than the truth of Bach or Tolstoy, but in the act of creation itself. The scientist’s discoveries impose his own order on chaos, as the composer or painter imposes his; an order that always refers to limited aspects of reality, and is based on the observer's frame of reference, which differs from period to period as a Rembrandt nude differs from a nude by Manet.
In The Act of Creation (1964), 252.
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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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