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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Alfred North Whitehead Quotes > Imagination

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Alfred North Whitehead
(15 Feb 1861 - 30 Dec 1947)

English mathematician and philosopher who worked in logic, physics, and later in his life spent more time on the philosophy of science and metaphysics. He worked with Bertrand Russell on Principia Mathematica which shows that logic underlies all mathematics.



Giordano Bruno was the martyr; though the cause for which he suffered was not that of science, but that of free imaginative speculation. His death in the year 1600 ushered in the first century of modern science in the strict sense of the term.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'The Origins of Modern Science', Science and the Modern World (1926, 2011), 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Giordano Bruno (8)  |  Cause (542)  |  Century (310)  |  Death (391)  |  First (1284)  |  Free (233)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Martyr (3)  |  Modern (385)  |  Modern Science (52)  |  Science (3880)  |  Sense (770)  |  Speculation (126)  |  Suffer (41)  |  Term (349)  |  Year (932)

Imagination is a contagious disease. It cannot be measured by the yard, or weighed by the pound, and then delivered to the students by members of the faculty. It can only be communicated by a faculty whose members themselves wear their learning with imagination.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'Universities and Their Function', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Contagious (4)  |  Deliver (29)  |  Disease (332)  |  Education (379)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Learning (274)  |  Measurement (174)  |  Student (301)  |  Themselves (433)  |  Weigh (50)

The function of Latin literature is its expression of Rome. When to England and France your imagination can add Rome in the background, you have laid firm the foundations of culture. The understanding of Rome leads back to the Mediterranean civilisation of which Rome was the last phase, and it automatically exhibits the geography of Europe, and the functions of seas and rivers and mountains and plains. The merit of this study in the education of youth is its concreteness, its inspiration to action, and the uniform greatness of persons, in their characters and their staging. Their aims were great, their virtues were great, and their vices were great. They had the saving merit of sinning with cart ropes.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'The Place of Classics in Education', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 106.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (328)  |  Aim (165)  |  Back (391)  |  Background (43)  |  Character (243)  |  Civilization (206)  |  Concreteness (5)  |  Culture (143)  |  Education (379)  |  England (40)  |  Europe (43)  |  Expression (176)  |  Firm (47)  |  Foundation (173)  |  France (27)  |  Function (229)  |  Geography (36)  |  Great (1575)  |  Greatness (54)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Inspiration (76)  |  Last (426)  |  Latin (38)  |  Lead (385)  |  Literature (105)  |  Mediterranean (9)  |  Merit (50)  |  Mountain (187)  |  Person (363)  |  Phase (36)  |  Plain (33)  |  River (121)  |  Rome (19)  |  Rope (7)  |  Sea (309)  |  Sin (42)  |  Study (656)  |  Understanding (514)  |  Vice (40)  |  Virtue (109)  |  Youth (103)

The task of a university is to weld together imagination and experience.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'Universities and Their Function', Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 140.
Science quotes on:  |  Experience (470)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Task (147)  |  Together (387)  |  University (121)

The tragedy of the world is that those who are imaginative have but slight experience, and those who are experienced have feeble imaginations. Fools act on imagination without knowledge, pedants act on knowledge without imagination.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'Universities and Their Function', Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 140.
Science quotes on:  |  Act (272)  |  Experience (470)  |  Fool (116)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Pedant (5)  |  Tragedy (29)  |  World (1778)

The true method of discovery is like the flight of an aeroplane. It starts from the ground of particular observation; it makes a flight in the thin air of imaginative generalization; and it again lands for renewed observation rendered acute by rational interpretation.
— Alfred North Whitehead
Gifford lectures delivered in the University of Edinburgh during the session 1927-28. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929, 1979), 5.
Science quotes on:  |  Acute (7)  |  Air (349)  |  Airplane (41)  |  Discovery (785)  |  Flight (98)  |  Generalization (57)  |  Ground (218)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Interpretation (86)  |  Method (506)  |  Observation (560)  |  Particular (76)  |  Rational (91)  |  Render (93)  |  Renew (19)  |  Start (221)  |  True (214)

The university imparts information, but it imparts it imaginatively. At least, this is the function which it should perform for society. A university which fails in this respect has no reason for existence. This atmosphere of excitement, arising from imaginative consideration, transforms knowledge. A fact is no longer a bare fact: it is invested with all its possibilities. It is no longer a bur. den on the memory: it is energising as the poet of our dreams, and as the architect of our purposes.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'Universities and Their Function', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 139.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Architect (30)  |  Arising (22)  |  Atmosphere (103)  |  Bare (33)  |  Consideration (139)  |  Dream (209)  |  Education (379)  |  Excitement (51)  |  Existence (460)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Fail (185)  |  Function (229)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Impart (23)  |  Information (166)  |  Invest (18)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Memory (134)  |  Perform (121)  |  Poet (86)  |  Purpose (317)  |  Reason (744)  |  Respect (207)  |  Society (325)  |  Transform (73)  |  Transformation (69)  |  University (121)

The whole of Mathematics consists in the organization of a series of aids to the imagination in the process of reasoning.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In Universal Algebra (1898), 12.
Science quotes on:  |  Aid (97)  |  Consist (223)  |  Definitions and Objects of Mathematics (33)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  Organization (114)  |  Process (423)  |  Reason (744)  |  Reasoning (207)  |  Series (149)  |  Whole (738)

What is peculiar and new to the [19th] century, differentiating it from all its predecessors, is its technology. It was not merely the introduction of some great isolated inventions. It is impossible not to feel that something more than that was involved. … The process of change was slow, unconscious, and unexpected. In the nineteeth century, the process became quick, conscious, and expected. … The whole change has arisen from the new scientific information. Science, conceived not so much in its principles as in its results, is an obvious storehouse of ideas for utilisation. … Also, it is a great mistake to think that the bare scientific idea is the required invention, so that it has only to be picked up and used. An intense period of imaginative design lies between. One element in the new method is just the discovery of how to set about bridging the gap between the scientific ideas, and the ultimate product. It is a process of disciplined attack upon one difficulty after another This discipline of knowledge applies beyond technology to pure science, and beyond science to general scholarship. It represents the change from amateurs to professionals. … But the full self-conscious realisation of the power of professionalism in knowledge in all its departments, and of the way to produce the professionals, and of the importance of knowledge to the advance of technology, and of the methods by which abstract knowledge can be connected with technology, and of the boundless possibilities of technological advance,—the realisation of all these things was first completely attained in the nineteeth century.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In Science and the Modern World (1925, 1997), 96.
Science quotes on:  |  19th Century (33)  |  Abstract (126)  |  Advance (280)  |  All (4107)  |  Amateur (19)  |  Attack (84)  |  Attain (125)  |  Bare (33)  |  Beyond (308)  |  Boundless (26)  |  Century (310)  |  Change (595)  |  Completely (135)  |  Connect (125)  |  Conscious (45)  |  Department (92)  |  Design (196)  |  Differentiate (19)  |  Difficulty (198)  |  Discipline (77)  |  Discovery (785)  |  Element (310)  |  Expect (201)  |  Expected (5)  |  Feel (366)  |  First (1284)  |  Gap (33)  |  General (511)  |  Great (1575)  |  Idea (845)  |  Ideal (100)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Importance (287)  |  Impossible (253)  |  Information (166)  |  Introduction (35)  |  Invention (377)  |  Involved (90)  |  Isolated (14)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Lie (364)  |  Merely (316)  |  Method (506)  |  Methods (204)  |  Mistake (170)  |  More (2559)  |  New (1217)  |  Obvious (126)  |  Peculiar (113)  |  Period (198)  |  Power (747)  |  Predecessor (29)  |  Principle (510)  |  Process (423)  |  Product (160)  |  Professional (70)  |  Pure (292)  |  Pure Science (27)  |  Realisation (4)  |  Represent (154)  |  Required (108)  |  Result (678)  |  Scholarship (20)  |  Science (3880)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Self (267)  |  Set (394)  |  Slow (101)  |  Something (719)  |  Storehouse (6)  |  Technological (61)  |  Technology (261)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Think (1086)  |  Ultimate (146)  |  Unconscious (22)  |  Unexpected (52)  |  Way (1216)  |  Whole (738)


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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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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