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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
“Fatal…to blink facts”

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“It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our taste.”
— John Tyndall

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This statement by the 19th century physicist, John Tyndall, would be very applicable in the present time to the denial of climage change. It appears in the chapter 'Science and Man' in a collection of his essays, Fragments of Science published in 1879. The chapter comes (footnoted as “with additions”) from his Presidential Address to the Birmingham and Midland Institute on 1 Oct 18777.

The quote above appears as part of a rather philosophical discussion, but a little later, Tyndall gives an example relevant in his time (and sadly still reverberating today):

“Most of you have been forced to listen to the outcries and denunciations which rang discordant through the land for some years after the publication of Mr. Darwin's ‘Origin of Species.’ Well, the world—even the clerical world—has for the most part settled down in the belief that Mr. Darwin's book simply reflects the truth of nature.”

It should be noted that several other examples of the use of the expression to “blink facts” can be found in books through the period about 1850-1930. It means “to refuse to recognize or face facts.”

A similar idea was expressed by the editor in his 'Foreword' to Sinclair's Magazine (1918) when he wrote:1

“To blink facts is as safe as to fight blindfolded.”

1 By Glen B. Winship, editor, in 'Foreword', Sinclair’s Magazine (Sep 1918), 2, No. 2, 1.

Text by Webmaster, with quotes from John Tyndall, 'Science and Man', Fragments of Science (1879), Vol. 2, 360 & 380. (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 “The First Experiment a Child Makes” - Medium image (500 x 250 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)
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