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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index V > Rudolf Virchow Quotes > Science

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Rudolf Virchow
(13 Oct 1821 - 5 Sep 1902)

German pathologist and statesman who originated the concept that disease arises in the individual cells of a tissue and, with publication of his Cellular Pathology (1858), founded the science of cellular pathology.


Rudolf Virchow Quotes on Science (16 quotes)

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“Science for its own sake” usually means nothing more than science for the sake of the people who happen to be pursuing it.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Standpoints in Scientific Medicine', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 42.
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“Science in itself” is nothing, for it exists only in the human beings who are its bearers.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Standpoints in Scientific Medicine', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 42.
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Ueber den Glauben lässt sich wissenschaftlich nicht rechten, denn die Wissenschaft und der Glaube schliessen sich aus. Nicht so, dass der eine die andere unmöglich machte oder umgekehrt, sondern so, dass, soweit die Wissenschaft reicht, kein Glaube existirt und der Glaube erst da anfangen darf, wo die Wissenschaft aufhört. Es lässt „sich nicht läugnen, dass, wenn diese Grenze eingehalten wird, der Glaube wirklich reale Objekte haben kann. Die Aufgabe der Wissenschaft ist es daher nicht, die Gegenstände des Glaubens anzugreifen, sondern nur die Grenzen zu stecken, welche die Erkenntniss erreichen kann, und innerhalb derselben das einheitliche Selbstbewusstsein zu begründen.
There is no scientific justification for faith, for science and faith are mutually exclusive. Not that one made the other impossible, or vice versa, but that, as far as science goes, there is no faith, and faith can only begin where science ends. It can not be denied that, if this limit is adhered to, faith can really have real objects. The task of science, therefore, is not to attack the objects of faith, but merely to set the limits which knowledge can attain and to establish within it the unified self-esteem.
— Rudolf Virchow
Original German from 'Der Mensch' (1849), collected in Gesammelte abhandlungen zur wissenschaftlichen medicin (1856), 6. Webmaster used Google translate for the English version. This longer quote unites the shorter quotes from within it shown separately on the Rudolf Virchow quotations page, with alternative translations, which begin: “There can be no scientific dispute…”, “Belief has no place…”, and “The task of science…”.
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As long as vitalism and spiritualism are open questions so long will the gateway of science be open to mysticism.
— Rudolf Virchow
Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine (1928), 4, 994.
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Belief begins where science leaves off and ends where science begins.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 14.
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Belief cannot be reckoned with in terms of science, for science and faith are mutually exclusive.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 576.
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Belief has no place as far as science reaches, and may be first permitted to take root where science stops.
— Rudolf Virchow
Translation of the original German: “Soweit die Wissenschaft reicht, kein Glaube existirt und der Glaube erst da anfangen darf, wo die Wissenschaft aufhört”, from 'Der Mensch' (1849), collected in Gesammelte abhandlungen zur wissenschaftlichen medicin (1856), 6. As translated in Lelland J. Rather (ed.), 'On Man', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 83. Google translate gives “As far as science goes, no faith exists and faith can only begin where science ends.”
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Every progress that a church makes in the construction of its dogmas leads to a further taming of the free spirit; every new dogma … narrows the circle of free thought. … Science, on the other hand, liberates with every step of its development, it opens up new paths to thought … In other words, it allows the individual to be truly free.
— Rudolf Virchow
Translated from the original German, “Jeder Fortschritt, den eine Kirche in dem Aufbau ihrer Dogmen macht, führt zu einer weiter gehenden Bändigung des freien Geistes; jedes neue Dogma … verengt den Kreis des freien Denkens. … Die Naturwissenschaft umgekehrt befreit mit jedem Schritte ihrer Entwicklung, sie eröffnet dem Gedanken neue Bahnen … Sie gestattet, mit anderen Worten, dem Einzelnen in vollem Masse wahr zu sein.” In Speech to the 24th meeting of the German Naturalists and Physicians at Rostock 'Ueber die Aufgaben der Naturwissenschaften in dem neuen nationalen Leben Deutschlands', (On the tasks of the natural sciences in the new national life of Germany), published in Chemisches Zentralblatt (11 Oct 1871), No. 41, 654-655. English version by Webmaster using Google translate.
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I uphold my own rights, and therefore I also recognize the rights of others. This is the principle I act upon in life, in politics and in science. We owe it to ourselves to defend our rights, for it is the only guarantee for our individual development, and for our influence upon the community at large. Such a defence is no act of vain ambition, and it involves no renunciation of purely scientific aims. For, if we would serve science, we must extend her limits, not only as far as our own knowledge is concerned, but in the estimation of others.
— Rudolf Virchow
Cellular Pathology, translated by Frank Chance (1860), x.
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If the man of science chose to follow the example of historians and pulpit-orators, and to obscure strange and peculiar phenomena by employing a hollow pomp of big and sounding words, this would be his opportunity; for we have approached one of the greatest mysteries which surround the problem of animated nature and distinguish it above all other problems of science. To discover the relations of man and woman to the egg-cell would be almost equivalent of the egg-cell in the body of the mother, the transfer to it by means of the seed, of the physical and mental characteristics of the father, affect all the questions which the human mind has ever raised in regard to existence.
— Rudolf Virchow
Quoted in Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel, The Evolution of Man (1897), vol 1, 148.
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Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale.
— Rudolf Virchow
From the original German “Die Medicin ist eine sociale Wissenschaft, und die Politik ist weiter nichts, als Medicin im Grossen.” In his weekly medical newspaper, 'Der Armenarzt' (Poor Doctor), Die Medizinische Reform, (3 Nov 1848), 3, No. 18, 125. As translated in Henry Ernest Sigerist, Medicine and Human Welfare, (1941) 93.
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No doubt science cannot admit of compromises, and can only bring out the complete truth. Hence there must be controversy, and the strife may be, and sometimes must be, sharp. But must it even then be personal? Does it help science to attack the man as well as the statement? On the contrary, has not science the noble privilege of carrying on its controversies without personal quarrels?
— Rudolf Virchow
In his collected writings of 1861, preface. Quoted in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 75, 300.
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The personal views of the lecturer may seem to be brought forward with undue exclusiveness, but, as it is his business to give a clear exposition of the actual state of the science which he treats, he is obliged to define with precision the principles, the correctness of which he has proved by his own experience.
— Rudolf Virchow
Cellular Pathology, translated by Frank Chance (1860), xi.
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The task of science is to stake out the limits of the knowable, and to center consciousness within them.
— Rudolf Virchow
As found in Bernard E. Farber, A Teacher’s Treasury of Quotations (1985), 264. This is probably a loose translation of the original German: “Die Aufgabe der Wissenschaftquote”..., See the more literal translation on this page, also beginning “The task of science…,” for full citation. Webmaster has not yet found a primary source for the shorter translation in these words—can you help?
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The task of science, therefore, is not to attack the objects of faith, but to establish the limits beyond which knowledge cannot go and found a unified self-consciousness within these limits.
— Rudolf Virchow
Translation of the original German: Die Aufgabe der Wissenschaft ist es daher nicht, die Gegenstände des Glaubens anzugreifen, sondern nur die Grenzen zu stecken, welche die Erkenntniss erreichen kann, und innerhalb derselben das einheitliche Selbstbewusstsein zu begründen., from 'Der Mensch' (1849), collected in Gesammelte abhandlungen zur wissenschaftlichen medicin (1856), 6. As translated in Lelland J. Rather (ed., trans.), 'On Man', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 83-84.
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There can be no scientific dispute with respect to faith, for science and faith exclude one another.
— Rudolf Virchow
Translation of the original German: “Ueber den Glauben lässt sich wissenschaftlich nicht rechten, denn die Wissenschaft und der Glaube schliessen sich aus”, from 'Der Mensch' (1849), collected in Gesammelte abhandlungen zur wissenschaftlichen medicin (1856), 6. As translated in Lelland J. Rather (ed.), 'On Man', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 83. Google translate gives, “There is no scientific justification for faith, for science and faith are mutually exclusive.”
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See also:

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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