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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index V > Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire Quotes

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Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
(21 Nov 1694 - 30 May 1778)

French author who popularized Isaac Newton's work in France by arranging a translation of Principia Mathematica. He added a commentary to explain it to non-scientists.

Science Quotes by Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire (15 quotes)

Avant Kepler tous les hommes étoent aveugles, Kepler fut borgne, et Newton a eu deux yeux.
Before Kepler, all men were blind, Kepler had one eye, and Newton had two eyes.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
From Voltaire’s Notebooks (1952), 63. As translated in Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (1996), 131.
Science quotes on:  |  Blind (35)  |  Eye (159)  |  Johannes Kepler (72)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)

Changements arrivées dans le globe: Quand on a vu de ses yeux une montagne s’avancer dans une plaine, c’est-à-dire un immense rocher de cette montagne se détacher et couvrir des champs, un château tout entier enfoncé dans la terre, un fleuve englouti qui sort ensuite de son abîme, des marques indubitables qu’un vaste amas d’eau inondait autrefois un pays habité aujourd’hui, et cent vestiges d’autres révolutions, on est alors plus disposé à croire les grands changements qui ont altéré la face du monde, que ne l’est une dame de Paris qui sait seulement que la place où est bâtie sa maison était autrefois un champ labourable. Mais une dame de Naples, qui a vu sous terre les ruines d’Herculanum, est encore moins asservie au préjugé qui nous fait croire que tout a toujours été comme il est aujourd’hui.
Changes That Have Occurred in the Globe: When we have seen with our own eyes a mountain progressing into a plain; that is to say, an immense boulder separating from this mountain and covering the fields; an entire castle broken into pieces over the ground; a river swallowed up which then bursts out from its abyss; clear marks of a vast amount of water having once flooded regions now inhabited, and a hundred vestiges of other transformations, then we are much more willing to believe that great changes altered the face of the earth, than a Parisian lady who knows only that the place where her house was built was once a cultivated field. However, a lady from Naples who has seen the buried ruins of Herculaneum, is much less subject to the bias which leads us to believe that everything has always been as it is today.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
From article 'Changements arrivées dans le globe', in Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), collected in Œuvres Complètes de Voltaire (1878), Vol. 2, 427-428. Translated by Ian Ellis.
Science quotes on:  |  Abyss (20)  |  Alteration (22)  |  Belief (400)  |  Bias (15)  |  Boulder (5)  |  Breaking (3)  |  Built (7)  |  Buried (2)  |  Castle (4)  |  Change (291)  |  Country (121)  |  Cover (23)  |  Disappearance (21)  |  Earth (487)  |  Entire (29)  |  Erosion (18)  |  Eye (159)  |  Face (69)  |  Field (119)  |  Flood (26)  |  Geologic History (2)  |  Herculaneum (2)  |  House (36)  |  Inhabitation (2)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Lady (6)  |  Land (83)  |  Mark (28)  |  Mountain (111)  |  Move (58)  |  Paris (9)  |  Place (111)  |  Plain (24)  |  River (68)  |  Rock (107)  |  Ruin (23)  |  Sinking (6)  |  Today (86)  |  Transformation (47)  |  Vast (56)  |  Vestige (4)  |  Water (244)

Quand celui à qui l’on parle ne comprend pas et celui qui parle ne se comprend pas, c’est de la métaphysique.
When he to whom a person speaks does not understand, and he who speaks does not understand himself, that is metaphysics.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899), 361.
Science quotes on:  |  Metaphysics (30)  |  Speak (49)  |  Understanding (317)

Un jour, en l'année 1666, Newton, retiré à la campagne, et voyant tomber des fruits d’un arbre, à ce que m'a conté sa nièce, (Mme Conduit) se laissa aller à une méditation profonde sur la cause qui entraîne ainsi tous les corps dans une ligne qui, si elle était prolongée, passerait à peu près par le centre de la Terre.
One day in the year 1666 Newton had gone to the country, and seeing the fall of an apple, [as his niece (Mme Conduit) told me,] let himself be led into a deep meditation on the cause which thus draws every object along a line whose extension would pass almost through the center of the Earth.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
Original French from Éléments de Philosophie de Newton, Part 1, Chap. 3, in Oeuvres Completes de Voltaire (1785), Vol. 31, 175. Translation as given in an epigraph in Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorn and John Archibald Wheeler, Gravitation (1970, 1973), 47. An alternate translation is: “One day in the year 1666, Newton went into the country, and seeing fruit fall from a tree (as his niece, Madame Conduit, has informed me), entered into a profound train of thought as to the causes which could lead to such a drawing together or attraction.” As given in Robert Chambers (ed.), The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar (1888), Vol. 2, 757. (Note: Voltaire originally published his Éléments in 1738, but Webmaster could not find the above quote in it.)
Science quotes on:  |  17th Century (10)  |  Apple (33)  |  Attraction (32)  |  Cause (231)  |  Earth (487)  |  Fruit (63)  |  Gravitation (27)  |  Meditation (10)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)  |  Thought (374)  |  Tree (143)

A physician is an unfortunate gentleman who is every day required to perform a miracle; namely to reconcile health with intemperance.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
In Great Thoughts from Master Minds (1887), 8, 49.
Science quotes on:  |  Gentleman (17)  |  Health (136)  |  Miracle (55)  |  Perform (27)  |  Physician (232)  |  Reconcile (10)  |  Requirement (45)  |  Unfortunate (6)

But nothing is more estimable than a physician who, having studied nature from his youth, knows the properties of the human body, the diseases which assail it, the remedies which will benefit it, exercises his art with caution, and pays equal attention to the rich and the poor.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
A Philosophical Dictionary: from the French? (2nd Ed.,1824), Vol. 5, 239-240.
Science quotes on:  |  Attention (76)  |  Benefit (54)  |  Caution (15)  |  Disease (257)  |  Equal (53)  |  Estimable (2)  |  Exercise (35)  |  Human Body (30)  |  Medicine (322)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Physician (232)  |  Poor (46)  |  Property (96)  |  Remedy (46)  |  Rich (48)  |  Study (331)  |  Youth (57)

Descartes constructed as noble a road of science, from the point at which he found geometry to that to which he carried it, as Newton himself did after him. ... He carried this spirit of geometry and invention into optics, which under him became a completely new art.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
A Philosophical Dictionary: from the French? (2nd Ed.,1824), Vol. 5, 110.
Science quotes on:  |  René Descartes (43)  |  Geometry (99)  |  Invention (283)  |  New (340)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)  |  Noble (41)  |  Optics (15)  |  Road (47)  |  Spirit (113)

Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing. (1760)
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
In Robert Allan Weinberg, The Biology of Cancer (2006), 726. (Note: Webmaster has not yet found this quote, in this wording, in a major quotation reference book. If you know a primary print source, or correction, please contact Webmaster.)
Science quotes on:  |  Cure (88)  |  Disease (257)  |  Doctor (100)  |  Human Being (54)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Medicine (322)  |  Nothing (267)  |  Physician (232)  |  Prescribe (6)

I know of nothing more laughable than a doctor who does not die of old age.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
Letter to Charles Augustin Ferriol, comte d'Argental (1767). In Raymond C. Rowe, Joseph Chamberlain, A Spoonful of Sugar (2007), 243.
Science quotes on:  |  Die (46)  |  Doctor (100)  |  Laugh (18)  |  Old Age (18)

In fact, no opinion should be with fervour. No one holds with fervour that seven times eight is fifty-six, because it can be shown to be the case. Fervour is only necessary in commending an opinion which is doubtful or demonstrably false.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
In Institut et Musée Voltaire, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (1994), 314. Also quoted in Max Perutz, Is Science Necessary? (1991), 196.
Science quotes on:  |  Commendation (3)  |  Demonstration (51)  |  Doubt (121)  |  Fact (609)  |  False (79)  |  Fervor (5)  |  Necessary (89)  |  Opinion (146)

Men argue, nature acts.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
Voltaire and H.I. Woolf (trans.), Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary? (1924), 281.
Science quotes on:  |  Act (80)  |  Argument (59)  |  Man (345)  |  Nature (1029)

Men who are occupied in the restoration of health to other men, by the joint exertion of skill and humanity, are above all the great of the earth. They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
A Philosophical Dictionary? (1764, 1843), Vol. 2, 317.
Science quotes on:  |  Create (98)  |  Health (136)  |  Noble (41)  |  Physician (232)  |  Preserve (38)  |  Renew (7)  |  Skill (50)

Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
'A Treatise in Toleration'. In Voltaire, Tobias George Smollett (ed.) and William F. Fleming (trans.), The Works of Voltaire (1904), Vol. 4, 265.
Science quotes on:  |  Astrology (35)  |  Astronomy (175)  |  Daughter (11)  |  Mad (15)  |  Mother (59)  |  Religion (210)  |  Superstition (50)

The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
Attributed. Webmaster has found no other citation. See, for example, Bill Swainson, Encarta Book of Quotations (2000), 961.
Science quotes on:  |  Amusement (20)  |  Cure (88)  |  Disease (257)  |  Medicine (322)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Patient (116)

There is an astonishing imagination, even in the science of mathematics. … We repeat, there was far more imagination in the head of Archimedes than in that of Homer.
— Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
In A Philosophical Dictionary: from the French (1824), 126.
Science quotes on:  |  Archimedes (22)  |  Astonishing (7)  |  Homer (7)  |  Imagination (209)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Science (1699)

Quotes by others about Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire (4)

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau!
Mock on, mock on: 'Tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.
The atoms of Democritus
And Newton's particles of light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.
Notebook Drafts (c. 1804). In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 481.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (251)  |  Democritus of Abdera (16)  |  Light (246)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)  |  Poetry (96)

When I read an Italian letter [Saggio by Voltaire] on changes which had occurred on the surface of the earth, published in Paris this year (1746), I believed that these facts were reported by La Loubère. Indeed, they correspond perfectly with the author's ideas. Petrified fish are according to him merely rare fish thrown away by Roman cooks because they were spoiled; and with respect to shells, he said that they were from the sea of the Levant and brought back by pilgrims from Syria at the time of the crusades. These shells are found today petrified in France, in Italy and in other Christian states. Why did he not add that monkeys transported shells on top of high mountains and to every place where humans cannot live? It would not have harmed his story but made his explanation even more plausible.
'Preuves de la Théorie de la Terre', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particuliere, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. I, 281. Trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi.
Science quotes on:  |  Fossil (107)  |  Mountain (111)

There are some men who are counted great because they represent the actuality of their own age, and mirror it as it is. Such an one was Voltaire, of whom it was epigrammatically said: “he expressed everybody's thoughts better than anyone.” But there are other men who attain greatness because they embody the potentiality of their own day and magically reflect the future. They express the thoughts which will be everybody's two or three centuries after them. Such as one was Descartes.
Quoted in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), Vol. 1, 239.
Science quotes on:  |  Age (137)  |  René Descartes (43)  |  Future (229)  |  Greatness (34)  |  Thought (374)

Hyper-selectionism has been with us for a long time in various guises; for it represents the late nineteenth century’s scientific version of the myth of natural harmony–all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds (all structures well designed for a definite purpose in this case). It is, indeed, the vision of foolish Dr. Pangloss, so vividly satirized by Voltaire in Candide–the world is not necessarily good, but it is the best we could possibly have.
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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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