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

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Alfred North Whitehead Quotes > Life

Thumbnail of Alfred North Whitehead (source)
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.



Life is an offensive, directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In Adventures of Ideas (1933), 102.
Science quotes on:  |  Against (332)  |  Direct (225)  |  Life (1799)  |  Mechanism (96)  |  Offensive (4)  |  Repetition (28)  |  Universe (861)

Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of human life is to grasp as much as we can out of the infinitude.
— Alfred North Whitehead
Dialogue 21 (28 Jun 1941). Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (1954, 2001) 160.
Science quotes on:  |  Circumstance (136)  |  Circumstances (108)  |  Finite (60)  |  Human (1470)  |  Infinite (233)  |  Life (1799)  |  Mind (1339)  |  Purpose (317)

The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, Seek simplicity and distrust it.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In The Concept of Nature: Tarner Lectures Delivered in Trinity College, November 1919 (1920), 163.
Science quotes on:  |  Aim (165)  |  Apt (9)  |  Complex (188)  |  Distrust (10)  |  Error (321)  |  Explanation (234)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Facts (553)  |  Fall (230)  |  Goal (146)  |  Guiding (3)  |  Life (1799)  |  Motto (28)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural Philosophy (52)  |  Philosopher (259)  |  Quest (39)  |  Science (3880)  |  Seek (213)  |  Simple (406)  |  Simplest (10)  |  Simplicity (167)  |  Thinking (415)

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order. Life refuses to be embalmed alive. The more prolonged the halt in some unrelieved system of order, the greater the crash of the dead society.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929), 515. As cited in Paul Grimley Kuntz, Alfred North Whitehead (1984), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Alive (90)  |  Amid (2)  |  Art (657)  |  Change (595)  |  Greater (288)  |  Halt (9)  |  Life (1799)  |  More (2559)  |  Order (632)  |  Preserve (83)  |  Progress (468)  |  Prolong (29)  |  Refuse (42)  |  Society (325)  |  System (537)

The point about zero is that we do not need to use it in the operations of daily life. No one goes out to buy zero fish. It is the most civilized of all the cardinals, and its use is only forced on us by the needs of cultivated modes of thought.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 63.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Buy (20)  |  Cardinal (9)  |  Civilized (18)  |  Cultivated (7)  |  Daily (87)  |  Daily Life (17)  |  Do (1908)  |  Fish (121)  |  Life (1799)  |  Mode (41)  |  Most (1729)  |  Need (290)  |  Operation (213)  |  Operations (107)  |  Point (580)  |  Thought (954)  |  Use (766)  |  Zero (37)

There is only one subject matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. Instead of this single unity, we offer children—Algebra, from which nothing follows; Geometry, from which nothing follows; Science, from which nothing follows; History, from which nothing follows; a Couple of Languages, never mastered; and lastly, most dreary of all, Literature, represented by plays of Shakespeare, with philological notes and short analyses of plot and character to be in substance committed to memory.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'The Aims of Education', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 10.
Science quotes on:  |  Algebra (114)  |  All (4107)  |  Analysis (234)  |  Character (243)  |  Children (200)  |  Dreary (5)  |  Education (379)  |  Follow (379)  |  Geometry (259)  |  History (675)  |  Language (293)  |  Life (1799)  |  Literature (105)  |  Manifestation (58)  |  Master (178)  |  Mastery (34)  |  Matter (801)  |  Memory (134)  |  Most (1729)  |  Never (1087)  |  Nothing (969)  |  Offer (141)  |  Plot (11)  |  Represent (154)  |  Science (3880)  |  William Shakespeare (102)  |  Short (197)  |  Single (354)  |  Subject (522)  |  Substance (248)  |  Unity (78)

Very little of Roman literature will find its way into the kingdom of heaven, when the events of this world will have lost their importance. The languages of heaven will be Chinese, Greek, French, German, Italian, and English, and the blessed Saints will dwell with delight on these golden expressions of eternal life. They will be wearied with the moral fervour of Hebrew literature in its battle with a vanished evil, and with Roman authors who have mistaken the Forum for the footstool of the living God.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'The Place of Classics in Education', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Author (168)  |  Bless (25)  |  Blessed (20)  |  Chinese (22)  |  Delight (109)  |  Education (379)  |  English (35)  |  Eternal (111)  |  Event (216)  |  Evil (116)  |  Expression (176)  |  Fervor (7)  |  Find (999)  |  Footstool (2)  |  French (20)  |  German (36)  |  God (758)  |  Golden (45)  |  Greek (107)  |  Heaven (258)  |  Hebrew (10)  |  Importance (287)  |  Italian (12)  |  Kingdom (78)  |  Kingdom Of Heaven (3)  |  Language (293)  |  Life (1799)  |  Literature (105)  |  Little (708)  |  Living (491)  |  Moral (195)  |  Roman (36)  |  Saint (17)  |  Way (1216)  |  Will (2354)  |  World (1778)

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)

When one considers in its length and in its breadth the importance of this question of the education of the nation's young, the broken lives, the defeated hopes, the national failures, which result from the frivolous inertia with which it is treated, it is difficult to restrain within oneself a savage rage. In the conditions of modern life the rule is absolute, the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed. Not all your heroism, not all your social charm, not all your wit, not all your victories on land or at sea, can move back the finger of fate. To-day we maintain ourselves. To-morrow science will have moved forward yet one more step, and there will be no appeal from the judgment which will then be pronounced on the uneducated.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'Organisation of Thought', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 22.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (146)  |  All (4107)  |  Back (391)  |  Breadth (15)  |  Broken (56)  |  Charm (51)  |  Condition (357)  |  Consider (416)  |  Defeat (29)  |  Difficult (247)  |  Doom (32)  |  Education (379)  |  Failure (161)  |  Fate (72)  |  Forward (102)  |  Frivolous (7)  |  Hope (299)  |  Importance (287)  |  Inertia (14)  |  Intelligence (213)  |  Judgment (132)  |  Life (1799)  |  Live (629)  |  Maintain (105)  |  Modern (385)  |  More (2559)  |  Move (216)  |  Nation (194)  |  Oneself (33)  |  Ourselves (245)  |  Question (622)  |  Race (268)  |  Result (678)  |  Rule (295)  |  Science (3880)  |  Sea (309)  |  Social (252)  |  Step (231)  |  Train (114)  |  Uneducated (9)  |  Value (368)  |  Will (2354)  |  Wit (59)  |  Young (228)

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)


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
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)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (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.