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

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > William Whewell Quotes > Knowledge

Thumbnail of William Whewell (source)
William Whewell
(24 May 1794 - 6 Mar 1866)

English scholar and philosopher known for his survey of the scientific method and for creating scientific words, including the word “scientist.”


William Whewell Quotes on Knowledge (13 quotes)

>> Click for 64 Science Quotes by William Whewell

>> Click for William Whewell Quotes on | Discovery | Fact | Geology | Hypothesis | Law | Nature | Observation | Phenomenon | Science | Truth |

All palaetiological sciences, all speculations which attempt to ascend from the present to the remote past, by the chain of causation, do also, by an inevitable consequence, urge us to look for the beginning of the state of things which we thus contemplate; but in none of these cases have men been able, by the aid of science, to arrive at a beginning which is homogeneous with the known course of events. The first origin of language, of civilization, of law and government, cannot be clearly made out by reasoning and research; and just as little, we may expect, will a knowledge of the origin of the existing and extinct species of plants and animals, be the result of physiological and geological investigation.
— William Whewell
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1837), Vol. 3, 581.
Science quotes on:  |  Aid (97)  |  All (4107)  |  Animal (617)  |  Ascend (30)  |  Attempt (251)  |  Beginning (305)  |  Causation (14)  |  Civilization (206)  |  Consequence (207)  |  Course (408)  |  Do (1908)  |  Event (216)  |  Expect (201)  |  Extinct (21)  |  First (1284)  |  Geology (220)  |  Government (111)  |  Homogeneous (16)  |  Inevitable (49)  |  Investigation (231)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Known (454)  |  Language (293)  |  Law (895)  |  Little (708)  |  Look (582)  |  Origin (241)  |  Palaetiology (2)  |  Past (337)  |  Physiological (62)  |  Physiology (95)  |  Plant (295)  |  Present (620)  |  Reason (744)  |  Reasoning (207)  |  Remote (83)  |  Research (677)  |  Result (678)  |  Science (3880)  |  Species (402)  |  Speculation (126)  |  State (491)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Will (2354)

Astronomy, as the science of cyclical motions, has nothing in common with Geology. But look at Astronomy where she has an analogy with Geology; consider our knowledge of the heavens as a palaetiological science;—as the study of a past condition, from which the present is derived by causes acting in time. Is there no evidence of a beginning, or of a progress?
— William Whewell
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1857), Vol. 3, 516.
Science quotes on:  |  Acting (5)  |  Analogy (71)  |  Astronomy (231)  |  Beginning (305)  |  Cause (542)  |  Common (436)  |  Condition (357)  |  Consider (416)  |  Cycle (41)  |  Derived (5)  |  Evidence (248)  |  Geology (220)  |  Heaven (258)  |  Heavens (125)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Look (582)  |  Motion (312)  |  Nothing (969)  |  Past (337)  |  Present (620)  |  Progress (468)  |  Science (3880)  |  Study (656)  |  Time (1877)

In general, art has preceded science. Men have executed great, and curious, and beautiful works before they had a scientific insight into the principles on which the success of their labours was founded. There were good artificers in brass and iron before the principles of the chemistry of metals were known; there was wine among men before there was a philosophy of vinous fermentation; there were mighty masses raised into the air, cyclopean walls and cromlechs, obelisks and pyramids—probably gigantic Doric pillars and entablatures—before there was a theory of the mechanical powers. … Art was the mother of Science.
— William Whewell
Lecture (26 Nov 1851), to the London Society of Arts, 'The General Bearing of the Great Exhibition on the Progress of Art and Science', collected in Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851' (1852), 7-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (349)  |  Art (657)  |  Artificer (5)  |  Beautiful (259)  |  Brass (5)  |  Chemistry (355)  |  Construction (112)  |  Curious (91)  |  Fermentation (15)  |  Founded (20)  |  General (511)  |  Gigantic (40)  |  Good (889)  |  Great (1575)  |  Insight (102)  |  Iron (96)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Known (454)  |  Labour (98)  |  Mass (157)  |  Mechanical (140)  |  Mechanics (132)  |  Metal (84)  |  Mother (114)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Pillar (9)  |  Power (747)  |  Preceding (8)  |  Principle (510)  |  Pyramid (9)  |  Raised (3)  |  Science (3880)  |  Science And Art (186)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Success (303)  |  Theory (972)  |  Wall (67)  |  Wine (38)  |  Work (1351)

In order that the facts obtained by observation and experiment may be capable of being used in furtherance of our exact and solid knowledge, they must be apprehended and analysed according to some Conceptions which, applied for this purpose, give distinct and definite results, such as can be steadily taken hold of and reasoned from.
— William Whewell
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840), Vol. 2, 205.
Science quotes on:  |  According (237)  |  Analysis (234)  |  Applied (176)  |  Being (1278)  |  Capability (41)  |  Capable (168)  |  Conception (154)  |  Definite (110)  |  Distinct (97)  |  Exact (68)  |  Experiment (696)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Facts (553)  |  Furtherance (4)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Must (1526)  |  Observation (560)  |  Obtain (163)  |  Order (632)  |  Purpose (317)  |  Reason (744)  |  Result (678)  |  Solid (116)

It is a wrong business when the younger cultivators of science put out of sight and deprecate what their predecessors have done; but obviously that is the tendency of Huxley and his friends … It is very true that Huxley was bitter against the Bishop of Oxford, but I was not present at the debate. Perhaps the Bishop was not prudent to venture into a field where no eloquence can supersede the need for precise knowledge. The young naturalists declared themselves in favour of Darwin’s views which tendency I saw already at Leeds two years ago. I am sorry for it, for I reckon Darwin’s book to be an utterly unphilosophical one.
— William Whewell
Letter to James D, Forbes (24 Jul 1860). Trinity College Cambridge, Whewell Manuscripts.
Science quotes on:  |  Against (332)  |  Already (222)  |  Bishop (3)  |  Bitter (30)  |  Bitterness (3)  |  Book (394)  |  Business (149)  |  Charles Darwin (304)  |  Debate (38)  |  Declared (24)  |  Deprecate (2)  |  Eloquence (7)  |  Field (365)  |  Friend (168)  |  Thomas Henry Huxley (126)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Naturalist (70)  |  Oxford (16)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Precise (68)  |  Predecessor (29)  |  Present (620)  |  Reckon (31)  |  Saw (160)  |  Science (3880)  |  Sight (132)  |  Sorry (30)  |  Superseding (2)  |  Tendency (99)  |  Themselves (433)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Two (937)  |  View (488)  |  Wrong (234)  |  Year (932)  |  Young (228)  |  Younger (21)

The ideas which these sciences, Geometry, Theoretical Arithmetic and Algebra involve extend to all objects and changes which we observe in the external world; and hence the consideration of mathematical relations forms a large portion of many of the sciences which treat of the phenomena and laws of external nature, as Astronomy, Optics, and Mechanics. Such sciences are hence often termed Mixed Mathematics, the relations of space and number being, in these branches of knowledge, combined with principles collected from special observation; while Geometry, Algebra, and the like subjects, which involve no result of experience, are called Pure Mathematics.
— William Whewell
In The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1868), Part 1, Bk. 2, chap. 1, sect. 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Algebra (114)  |  All (4107)  |  Arithmetic (139)  |  Astronomy (231)  |  Being (1278)  |  Branch (150)  |  Call (769)  |  Change (595)  |  Collect (16)  |  Combine (57)  |  Consideration (139)  |  Definitions and Objects of Mathematics (33)  |  Experience (470)  |  Extend (128)  |  External (57)  |  Form (960)  |  Geometry (259)  |  Idea (845)  |  Involve (90)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Large (394)  |  Law (895)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  Mechanic (119)  |  Mechanics (132)  |  Mix (19)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Number (701)  |  Object (422)  |  Observation (560)  |  Observe (168)  |  Often (106)  |  Optics (23)  |  Phenomenon (319)  |  Portion (84)  |  Principle (510)  |  Pure (292)  |  Pure Mathematics (67)  |  Relation (157)  |  Result (678)  |  Science (3880)  |  Space (501)  |  Special (184)  |  Subject (522)  |  Term (349)  |  Theoretical (22)  |  Treat (35)  |  World (1778)

The object of science is knowledge; the objects of art are works. In art, truth is the means to an end; in science, it is the only end. Hence the practical arts are not to be classed among the sciences
— William Whewell
Aphorism 25, 'Aphorisms Respecting Knowledge', The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840), Vol. 1, xli.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (657)  |  Class (164)  |  End (590)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Mean (809)  |  Means (580)  |  Object (422)  |  Practical (200)  |  Science (3880)  |  Science And Art (186)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Work (1351)

The peculiar character of mathematical truth is, that it is necessarily and inevitably true; and one of the most important lessons which we learn from our mathematical studies is a knowledge that there are such truths, and a familiarity with their form and character.
This lesson is not only lost, but read backward, if the student is taught that there is no such difference, and that mathematical truths themselves are learned by experience.
— William Whewell
In Thoughts on the Study of Mathematics. Principles of English University Education (1838).
Science quotes on:  |  Backward (9)  |  Character (243)  |  Difference (337)  |  Experience (470)  |  Familiarity (19)  |  Form (960)  |  Important (210)  |  Inevitably (6)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Learn (632)  |  Learned (235)  |  Lesson (57)  |  Lose (159)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  Most (1729)  |  Nature Of Mathematics (80)  |  Necessarily (135)  |  Peculiar (113)  |  Read (288)  |  Student (301)  |  Study (656)  |  Teach (278)  |  Themselves (433)  |  True (214)  |  Truth (1062)

The Senses place before us the Characters of the Book of Nature; but these convey no knowledge to us, till we have discovered the Alphabet by which they are to be read.
— William Whewell
In 'Aphorisms Concerning Ideas', The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840), Vol. 1, xvii.
Science quotes on:  |  Alphabet (10)  |  Book (394)  |  Book Of Nature (12)  |  Character (243)  |  Convey (17)  |  Discover (553)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Place (177)  |  Read (288)  |  Sense (770)

The tendency of the sciences has long been an increasing proclivity of separation and dismemberment … The mathematician turns away from the chemist; the chemist from the naturalist; the mathematician, left to himself divides himself into a pure mathematician and a mixed mathematician, who soon part company … And thus science, even mere physical science, loses all traces of unity. A curious illustration of this result may be observed in the want of any name by which we can designate the students of the knowledge of the material world collectively. We are informed that this difficulty was felt very oppressively by the members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at their meetings at York, Oxford and Cambridge, in the last three summers. There was no general term by which these gentlemen could describe themselves with reference to their pursuits … some ingenious gentleman [William Whewell] proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form Scientist, and added that there could be no scruple … when we have words such as sciolist, economist, and atheist—but this was not generally palatable.
— William Whewell
In Review of Mrs Somerville, 'On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences', The Quarterly Review (1834), 51, 58-61.
Science quotes on:  |  Advancement (62)  |  All (4107)  |  Analogy (71)  |  Artist (90)  |  Association (46)  |  Atheist (15)  |  British (41)  |  Chemist (156)  |  Company (59)  |  Curious (91)  |  Describe (128)  |  Description (84)  |  Designation (13)  |  Difficulty (198)  |  Dismemberment (3)  |  Divide (76)  |  Division (65)  |  Economist (17)  |  Form (960)  |  General (511)  |  Gentleman (26)  |  Himself (461)  |  Illustration (48)  |  Inform (47)  |  Ingenious (55)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Last (426)  |  Long (789)  |  Lose (159)  |  Material (353)  |  Mathematician (389)  |  Name (333)  |  Naturalist (70)  |  Observed (149)  |  Oxford (16)  |  Palatable (3)  |  Physical (508)  |  Physical Science (101)  |  Proposal (17)  |  Pure (292)  |  Pursuit (121)  |  Result (678)  |  Science (3880)  |  Scientist (825)  |  Sciolist (2)  |  Separation (57)  |  Soon (186)  |  Student (301)  |  Summer (54)  |  Tendency (99)  |  Term (349)  |  Themselves (433)  |  Trace (104)  |  Turn (447)  |  Unity (78)  |  Want (497)  |  William Whewell (70)  |  Word (622)  |  World (1778)

This science, Geometry, is one of indispensable use and constant reference, for every student of the laws of nature; for the relations of space and number are the alphabet in which those laws are written. But besides the interest and importance of this kind which geometry possesses, it has a great and peculiar value for all who wish to understand the foundations of human knowledge, and the methods by which it is acquired. For the student of geometry acquires, with a degree of insight and clearness which the unmathematical reader can but feebly imagine, a conviction that there are necessary truths, many of them of a very complex and striking character; and that a few of the most simple and self-evident truths which it is possible for the mind of man to apprehend, may, by systematic deduction, lead to the most remote and unexpected results.
— William Whewell
In The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences Part 1, Bk. 2, chap. 4, sect. 8 (1868).
Science quotes on:  |  Acquire (39)  |  Acquired (78)  |  All (4107)  |  Alphabet (10)  |  Apprehend (5)  |  Character (243)  |  Clearness (11)  |  Complex (188)  |  Constant (144)  |  Conviction (98)  |  Deduction (82)  |  Degree (275)  |  Evident (91)  |  Feeble (27)  |  Foundation (173)  |  Geometry (259)  |  Great (1575)  |  Human (1470)  |  Imagine (165)  |  Importance (287)  |  Indispensable (28)  |  Insight (102)  |  Interest (386)  |  Kind (557)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Law (895)  |  Lead (385)  |  Man (2249)  |  Method (506)  |  Methods (204)  |  Mind (1339)  |  Mind Of Man (7)  |  Most (1729)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Necessary (363)  |  Number (701)  |  Peculiar (113)  |  Possess (156)  |  Possible (554)  |  Reader (41)  |  Reference (33)  |  Relation (157)  |  Remote (83)  |  Result (678)  |  Science (3880)  |  Self (267)  |  Self-Evident (21)  |  Simple (406)  |  Space (501)  |  Strike (69)  |  Striking (48)  |  Student (301)  |  Systematic (57)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Understand (607)  |  Unexpected (52)  |  Use (766)  |  Value (368)  |  Value Of Mathematics (60)  |  Wish (212)  |  Write (231)

We may best hope to understand the nature and conditions of real knowledge, by studying the nature and conditions of the most certain and stable portions of knowledge which we already possess: and we are most likely to learn the best methods of discovering truth, by examining how truths, now universally recognised, have really been discovered.
— William Whewell
In The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840), Vol. I, 3-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Already (222)  |  Best (459)  |  Certain (550)  |  Condition (357)  |  Discover (553)  |  Discovery (785)  |  Examining (2)  |  Hope (299)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Learn (632)  |  Learning (274)  |  Method (506)  |  Methods (204)  |  Most (1729)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Portion (84)  |  Possess (156)  |  Recognized (3)  |  Stability (25)  |  Stable (30)  |  Study (656)  |  Studying (70)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Understand (607)  |  Understanding (514)  |  Universal (189)

We pass with admiration along the great series of mathematicians, by whom the science of theoretical mechanics has been cultivated, from the time of Newton to our own. There is no group of men of science whose fame is higher or brighter. The great discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, had fixed all eyes on those portions of human knowledge on which their successors employed their labors. The certainty belonging to this line of speculation seemed to elevate mathematicians above the students of other subjects; and the beauty of mathematical relations and the subtlety of intellect which may be shown in dealing with them, were fitted to win unbounded applause. The successors of Newton and the Bernoullis, as Euler, Clairaut, D’Alembert, Lagrange, Laplace, not to introduce living names, have been some of the most remarkable men of talent which the world has seen.
— William Whewell
In History of the Inductive Sciences, Vol. 1, Bk. 4, chap. 6, sect. 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Admiration (59)  |  All (4107)  |  Applause (9)  |  Beauty (300)  |  Belong (162)  |  Belonging (37)  |  Jacob Bernoulli (6)  |  Bright (79)  |  Certainty (174)  |  Alexis Claude Clairaut (2)  |  Nicolaus Copernicus (49)  |  Cultivate (19)  |  Jean le Rond D’Alembert (11)  |  Deal (188)  |  Discovery (785)  |  Elevate (12)  |  Employ (113)  |  Leonhard Euler (35)  |  Eye (423)  |  Fame (50)  |  Fit (134)  |  Fix (25)  |  Galileo Galilei (125)  |  Great (1575)  |  Group (78)  |  High (363)  |  Human (1470)  |  Intellect (233)  |  Introduce (63)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Labor (107)  |  Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange (26)  |  Pierre-Simon Laplace (62)  |  Line (91)  |  Live (629)  |  Living (491)  |  Mathematician (389)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  Mechanic (119)  |  Mechanics (132)  |  Men Of Science (143)  |  Most (1729)  |  Name (333)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (335)  |  Other (2236)  |  Pass (238)  |  Portion (84)  |  Relation (157)  |  Remarkable (48)  |  Science (3880)  |  See (1082)  |  Seem (145)  |  Series (149)  |  Show (346)  |  Speculation (126)  |  Student (301)  |  Subject (522)  |  Subtlety (19)  |  Successor (14)  |  Talent (96)  |  Theoretical (22)  |  Time (1877)  |  Unbounded (5)  |  Win (52)  |  World (1778)


See also:
  • 24 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Whewell's birth.
  • William Whewell - context of quote “Gold and iron…are the rulers of the world” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • William Whewell - context of quote “Gold and iron…are the rulers of the world” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • William Whewell: Theory of Scientific Method, by William Whewell. - book suggestion.

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
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |
- 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.