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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index T > Wilfred Trotter Quotes

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Wilfred Trotter
(3 Nov 1872 - 25 Nov 1939)

English surgeon who was an authority on cancers of the neck and head and recognized as a pioneer in neurosurgery. He took an interest in sociology and originated the term 'herd instinct' in his book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1914).


Science Quotes by Wilfred Trotter (14 quotes)

An event experienced is an event perceived, digested, and assimilated into the substance of our being, and the ratio between the number of cases seen and the number of cases assimilated is the measure of experience.
— Wilfred Trotter
Address, opening of 1932-3 session of U.C.H. Medical School (4 Oct 1932), 'Art and Science in medicine', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Assimilation (9)  |  Being (39)  |  Case (64)  |  Digestion (23)  |  Event (97)  |  Experience (268)  |  Measure (70)  |  Perception (53)  |  Ratio (15)  |  See (197)  |  Substance (73)

If mankind is to profit freely from the small and sporadic crop of the heroically gifted it produces, it will have to cultivate the delicate art of handling ideas. Psychology is now able to tell us with reasonable assurance that the most influential obstacle to freedom of thought and to new ideas is fear; and fear which can with inimitable art disguise itself as caution, or sanity, or reasoned skepticism, or on occasion even as courage.
— Wilfred Trotter
'The Commemoration of Great Men', Hunterian Oration, Royal College of Surgeons (15 Feb 1952) British Medical Journal (20 Feb 1932), 1, 317-20. The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 30.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (205)  |  Assurance (8)  |  Caution (15)  |  Courage (39)  |  Crop (16)  |  Cultivation (23)  |  Delicacy (2)  |  Disguise (8)  |  Fear (113)  |  Freedom (76)  |  Gifted (5)  |  Handle (6)  |  Hero (29)  |  Idea (440)  |  Influence (110)  |  Inimitable (2)  |  Innovation (38)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Obstacle (21)  |  Product (72)  |  Profit (28)  |  Reason (330)  |  Reasonable (18)  |  Sanity (7)  |  Skepticism (18)  |  Thought (374)

In science the primary duty of ideas is to be useful and interesting even more than to be “true.”
— Wilfred Trotter
Lecture delivered to Anthropological Society of University College, London (25 Jan 1929). Published in 'The Functions of the Human Skull', Nature (6 Apr 1929), 123, No. 3101, 533-537. Collected in The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 73.
Science quotes on:  |  Duty (51)  |  Hypothesis (227)  |  Idea (440)  |  Interesting (38)  |  Primary (29)  |  Science (1699)  |  True (120)  |  Usefulness (70)

It is sometimes asserted that a surgical operation is or should be a work of art … fit to rank with those of the painter or sculptor. … That proposition does not admit of discussion. It is a product of the intellectual innocence which I think we surgeons may fairly claim to possess, and which is happily not inconsistent with a quite adequate worldly wisdom.
— Wilfred Trotter
Address, opening of 1932-3 session of U.C.H. Medical School (4 Oct 1932), 'Art and Science in Medicine', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 93.
Science quotes on:  |  Adequacy (6)  |  Admission (10)  |  Art (205)  |  Assertion (23)  |  Claim (52)  |  Discussion (37)  |  Happiness (82)  |  Inconsistency (4)  |  Innocence (10)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Operation (96)  |  Painter (15)  |  Possession (37)  |  Product (72)  |  Proposition (47)  |  Rank (19)  |  Sculptor (8)  |  Surgeon (43)  |  Surgery (39)  |  Wisdom (151)

It is the function of notions in science to be useful, to be interesting, to be verifiable and to acquire value from anyone of these qualities. Scientific notions have little to gain as science from being forced into relation with that formidable abstraction, “general truth.”
— Wilfred Trotter
In paper delivered before the Royal College of Surgeons of England (15 Feb 1932), in 'The Commemoration of Great Men', British Medical Journal (1932), 1, 32. Collected in The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 29.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstraction (29)  |  Acquire (19)  |  Anyone (26)  |  Forced (3)  |  Formidable (6)  |  Function (90)  |  Gain (48)  |  General (92)  |  Interesting (38)  |  Little (126)  |  Notion (32)  |  Quality (65)  |  Relation (96)  |  Science (1699)  |  Truth (750)  |  Useful (66)  |  Value (180)  |  Verifiable (5)

It was not noisy prejudice that caused the work of Mendel to lie dead for thirty years, but the sheer inability of contemporary opinion to distinguish between a new idea and nonsense.
— Wilfred Trotter
In 'The Commemoration of Great Men', British Medical Journal (20 Feb 1932). In The Adelphi (1932), 4, 480, and in The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 27.
Science quotes on:  |  Cause (231)  |  Contemporary (22)  |  Death (270)  |  Distinguishing (14)  |  Idea (440)  |  Inability (4)  |  Gregor Mendel (20)  |  New (340)  |  Noise (24)  |  Nonsense (32)  |  Opinion (146)  |  Prejudice (58)  |  Sheer (6)  |  Work (457)

Nothing is more flatly contradicted by experience than the belief that a man, distinguished in one of the departments of science is more likely to think sensibly about ordinary affairs than anyone else.
— Wilfred Trotter
In 'Has the Intellect A Function?', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 181.
Science quotes on:  |  Scientist (447)

The air of caricature never fails to show itself in the products of reason applied relentlessly and without correction. The observation of clinical facts would seem to be a pursuit of the physician as harmless as it is indispensable. [But] it seemed irresistibly rational to certain minds that diseases should be as fully classifiable as are beetles and butterflies. This doctrine … bore perhaps its richest fruit in the hands of Boissier de Sauvauges. In his Nosologia Methodica published in 1768 … this Linnaeus of the bedside grouped diseases into ten classes, 295 genera, and 2400 species.
— Wilfred Trotter
In 'General Ideas in Medicine', The Lloyd Roberts lecture at House of the Royal Society of Medicine (30 Sep 1935), British Medical Journal (5 Oct 1935), 2, 609. In The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 151.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (151)  |  Application (117)  |  Bedside (2)  |  Butterfly (19)  |  Caricature (6)  |  Class (64)  |  Classification (79)  |  Clinical (2)  |  Correction (28)  |  Disease (257)  |  Doctrine (53)  |  Fact (609)  |  Failure (118)  |  Fruit (63)  |  Genus (16)  |  Harmless (6)  |  Indispensable (8)  |  Irresistible (6)  |  Observation (418)  |  Physician (232)  |  Product (72)  |  Pursuit (55)  |  Rationality (11)  |  Reason (330)  |  Relentless (5)  |  Richness (14)  |  Seem (89)  |  Show (55)  |  Species (181)

The first [quality] to be named must always be the power of attention, of giving one's whole mind to the patient without the interposition of anything of oneself. It sounds simple but only the very greatest doctors ever fully attain it. … The second thing to be striven for is intuition. This sounds an impossibility, for who can control that small quiet monitor? But intuition is only interference from experience stored and not actively recalled. … The last aptitude I shall mention that must be attained by the good physician is that of handling the sick man's mind.
— Wilfred Trotter
In 'Art and Science in Medicine', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (97)  |  Aptitude (10)  |  Attainment (35)  |  Attention (76)  |  Control (93)  |  Doctor (100)  |  Experience (268)  |  Greatness (34)  |  Handling (7)  |  Impossibility (50)  |  Interference (12)  |  Interposition (2)  |  Intuition (39)  |  Mention (12)  |  Mind (544)  |  Monitor (5)  |  Oneself (3)  |  Patient (116)  |  Physician (232)  |  Quality (65)  |  Recall (7)  |  Sickness (20)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Store (17)  |  Strive (35)

The fundamental activity of medical science is to determine the ultimate causation of disease.
— Wilfred Trotter
Speech, Guild of Public Pharmacists (18 Jan 1933), 'De Minimis', The Lancet (1933), 1, 287-90. As cited in Edward J. Huth and T. J. Murray, Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2006), 247 and 512.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (97)  |  Causation (6)  |  Determination (53)  |  Disease (257)  |  Fundamental (122)  |  Medical Science (4)  |  Ultimate (61)

The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated.
— Wilfred Trotter
In The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 186. This is seen in several places attributed to W.I.B. Beveridge. However,it appears in his The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950), 109, where it is clearly shown as a quote from Wilfred Trotter, with a footnote citing the source as Collected Papers. (The quote has been removed from the Beveridge page on this web site 29 Jun 2015.)
Science quotes on:  |  Idea (440)

The ordinary patient goes to his doctor because he is in pain or some other discomfort and wants to be comfortable again; he is not in pursuit of the ideal of health in any direct sense. The doctor on the other hand wants to discover the pathological condition and control it if he can. The two are thus to some degree at cross purposes from the first, and unless the affair is brought to an early and happy conclusion this diversion of aims is likely to become more and more serious as the case goes on.
— Wilfred Trotter
Address, opening of 1932-3 session of U.C.H. Medical School (4 Oct 1932), 'Art and Science in Medicine', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Affair (24)  |  Aim (58)  |  Case (64)  |  Comfort (42)  |  Conclusion (120)  |  Condition (119)  |  Control (93)  |  Discomfort (2)  |  Discover (115)  |  Diversion (7)  |  Doctor (100)  |  Early (39)  |  Happiness (82)  |  Health (136)  |  Ideal (52)  |  Other Hand (2)  |  Pain (82)  |  Pathology (11)  |  Patient (116)  |  Pursuit (55)  |  Sense (240)  |  Seriousness (9)  |  Want (120)

The truly scientific mind is altogether unafraid of the new, and while having no mercy for ideas which have served their turn or shown their uselessness, it will not grudge to any unfamiliar conception its moment of full and friendly attention, hoping to expand rather than to minimize what small core of usefulness it may happen to contain.
— Wilfred Trotter
In 'Observation and Experiment and Their Use in the Medical Sciences', British Medical Journal (1930), 2, 129-34. As cited in Edward J. Huth and T.J. Murray, Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2006), 357 and 512.
Science quotes on:  |  Attention (76)  |  Conception (63)  |  Content (39)  |  Core (11)  |  Expansion (25)  |  Friend (63)  |  Happening (32)  |  Hope (129)  |  Idea (440)  |  Mercy (9)  |  Moment (61)  |  New (340)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Service (54)  |  Show (55)  |  Time (439)  |  Truth (750)  |  Unfamiliarity (4)  |  Usefulness (70)  |  Uselessness (21)

The various systems of doctrine that have held dominion over man have been demonstrated to be true beyond all question by rationalists of such power—to name only a few—as Aquinas and Calvin and Hegel and Marx. Guided by these master hands the intellect has shown itself more deadly than cholera or bubonic plague and far more cruel. The incompatibility with one another of all the great systems of doctrine might surely be have expected to provoke some curiosity about their nature.
— Wilfred Trotter
In 'Has the Intellect A Function?', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 167.
Science quotes on:  |  Intellect (157)


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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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