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

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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.



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)

There is no royal road to learning. But it is equally an error to confine attention to technical processes, excluding consideration of general ideas. Here lies the road to pedantry.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 8.
Science quotes on:  |  Attention (191)  |  Consideration (139)  |  Equally (130)  |  Error (321)  |  Exclusion (16)  |  General (511)  |  Idea (845)  |  Learning (274)  |  Lie (364)  |  Pedantry (5)  |  Process (423)  |  Road (64)  |  Royal (56)  |  Technical (43)

Whatever be the detail with which you cram your student, the chance of his meeting in after life exactly that detail is almost infinitesimal; and if he does meet it, he will probably have forgotten what you taught him about it. The really useful training yields a comprehension of a few general principles with a thorough grounding in the way they apply to a variety of concrete details. In subsequent practice the men will have forgotten your particular details; but they will remember by an unconscious common sense how to apply principles to immediate circumstances. Your learning is useless to you till you have lost your textbooks, burnt your lecture notes, and forgotten the minutiae which you learned by heart for the examination. What, in the way of detail, you continually require will stick in your memory as obvious facts like the sun and the moon; and what you casually require can be looked up in any work of reference. The function of a University is to enable you to shed details in favor of principles. When I speak of principles I am hardly even thinking of verbal formulations. A principle which has thoroughly soaked into you is rather a mental habit than a formal statement. It becomes the way the mind reacts to the appropriate stimulus in the form of illustrative circumstances. Nobody goes about with his knowledge clearly and consciously before him. Mental cultivation is nothing else than the satisfactory way in which the mind will function when it is poked up into activity.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'The Rhythm of Education', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 41.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (210)  |  Apply (160)  |  Appropriate (61)  |  Become (815)  |  Chance (239)  |  Circumstance (136)  |  Circumstances (108)  |  Common (436)  |  Common Sense (130)  |  Comprehension (66)  |  Concrete (51)  |  Cram (5)  |  Cultivation (35)  |  Detail (146)  |  Education (379)  |  Enable (119)  |  Examination (98)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Facts (553)  |  Favor (64)  |  Forgotten (53)  |  Form (960)  |  Formulation (36)  |  Function (229)  |  General (511)  |  Generality (45)  |  Habit (168)  |  Heart (230)  |  Immediate (95)  |  Infinitesimal (30)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Learn (632)  |  Learned (235)  |  Learning (274)  |  Lecture (106)  |  Life (1799)  |  Look (582)  |  Memory (134)  |  Mental (177)  |  Mind (1339)  |  Minutiae (7)  |  Moon (238)  |  Nobody (104)  |  Nothing (969)  |  Obvious (126)  |  Practice (204)  |  Principle (510)  |  Remember (179)  |  Require (219)  |  Sense (770)  |  Speak (232)  |  Statement (142)  |  Stimulus (26)  |  Student (301)  |  Subsequent (33)  |  Sun (387)  |  Textbook (36)  |  Thinking (415)  |  Thorough (40)  |  Thoroughly (67)  |  Training (80)  |  University (121)  |  Useful (250)  |  Usefulness (87)  |  Variety (133)  |  Way (1216)  |  Whatever (234)  |  Will (2354)  |  Work (1351)  |  Yield (81)

You may not divide the seamless coat of learning. What education has to impart is an intimate sense for the power of ideas, for the beauty of ideas, and for the structure of ideas, together with a particular body of knowledge which has peculiar reference to the life of the being possessing it.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'The Aims of Education', The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 23.
Science quotes on:  |  Beauty (300)  |  Being (1278)  |  Body (537)  |  Coat (5)  |  Divide (76)  |  Education (379)  |  Idea (845)  |  Impart (23)  |  Intimate (15)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Learning (274)  |  Life (1799)  |  Peculiar (113)  |  Possessing (3)  |  Power (747)  |  Reference (33)  |  Sense (770)  |  Structure (346)  |  Together (387)


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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
Quotations by: Albert Einstein Isaac Newton Lord Kelvin Charles Darwin Srinivasa Ramanujan Carl Sagan Florence Nightingale Thomas Edison Aristotle Marie Curie Benjamin Franklin Winston Churchill Galileo Galilei Sigmund Freud Robert Bunsen Louis Pasteur Theodore Roosevelt Abraham Lincoln Ronald Reagan Leonardo DaVinci Michio Kaku Karl Popper Johann Goethe Robert Oppenheimer Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

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