Celebrating 20 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”
more quiz questions >>
Thumbnail of John Tyndall (source)
John Tyndall
(2 Aug 1820 - 4 Dec 1893)

Irish physicist who demonstrated why the sky is blue. He wrote on diverse topics, including crystals, glaciers and radiation. His studies also included spontaneous generation, the germ theory of disease and ozone.


John Tyndall
“The First Experiment a Child Makes”

Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 250 px)

“The first experiment a child makes is a physical experiment: the suction-pump is but an imitation of the first act of every new-born infant.”
— John Tyndall
Lecture, 'On the Study of Physics' (1854).

More John Tyndall quotes on science >>

More quotes on Experiment >>

This quote was given by John Tyndall in his lecture 'On the Study of Physics', which he delivered to the Royal Institution of Great Britain in the Spring of 1854. He gave his talk a longer title, “On the Importance of the Study of Physics as a Branch of Education,” and for the purpose of the lecture, he defined Physics as “that portion of natural science which lies midway between astronomy and chemistry.” The former, he said was “applied to ‘masses of enormous weight’ while the latter is Physics applied to atoms and molecules.”

As Tyndall laid out the process of exploring the world, he explained experimentation was natural from birth:

The first experiment a child makes is a physical experiment: the suction-pump is but an imitation of the first act of every new-born infant. … The child grows, but is still an experimenter: he grasps at the moon, and his failure teaches him to respect distance. At length his little fingers acquire sufficient mechanical tact to lay hold of a spoon. He thrusts the instrument into his mouth, hurts his gums, and thus learns the impenetrability of matter. He lets the spoon fall, and jumps with delight to hear it rattle against the table. The experiment made by accident is repeated with intention, and thus the young student receives his first lessons upon sound and gravitation.”

The child he describes gradually grows until an older boy, then

“As thought ripens, he desires to know the character and causes of the phenomena presented to his observation; … we may fairly claim for the study of Physics the recognition that it answers to an impulse implanted by nature in the constitution of man.”

Text by Webmaster, with quotes from 'On the Study of Physics', a Lecture delivered in the Royal Institution of Great Britain in the Spring of 1854. Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Lectures, and Reviews (1892), Vol. 1, 280-284. (source)


See also:
  • Science Quotes by John Tyndall.
  • 2 Aug - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Tyndall's birth.
  • John Tyndall - context of quote “Fatal…to blink facts” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • John Tyndall - context of quote “Fatal…to blink facts” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • John Tyndall - context of quote “The First Experiment a Child Makes” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • On Matter and Force - John Tyndall’s Lecture to general public at Dublin (1867).
  • A Vision of Modern Science: John Tyndall and the Role of the Scientist in Victorian Culture, by Ursula DeYoung. - book suggestion.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: 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) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton


by Ian Ellis
who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.