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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Eugene Paul Wigner Quotes

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Eugene Paul Wigner
(17 Nov 1902 - 1 Jan 1995)

Hungarian-American physicist who received a share of the 1963 Nobel Prize for Physics for his contributions to quantum mechanics.


Science Quotes by Eugene Paul Wigner (13 quotes)

I believe that the present laws of physics are at least incomplete without a translation into terms of mental phenomena.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'Physics and the Explanation of Life', Foundations of Physics 1970, I, 35-45.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (400)  |  Incomplete (14)  |  Law (419)  |  Mental (57)  |  Phenomenon (219)  |  Physics (301)  |  Present (103)  |  Term (87)  |  Translation (12)

It is, as Schrφdinger has remarked, a miracle that in spite of the baffling complexity of the world, certain regularities in the events could be discovered. One such regularity, discovered by Galileo, is that two rocks, dropped at the same time from the same height, reach the ground at the same time. The laws of nature are concerned with such regularities.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 537.
Science quotes on:  |  Baffling (4)  |  Complexity (80)  |  Discover (115)  |  Drop (27)  |  Event (97)  |  Galileo Galilei (101)  |  Ground (63)  |  Height (25)  |  Law Of Nature (53)  |  Miracle (55)  |  Regularity (24)  |  Remark (14)  |  Rock (107)  |  Erwin Schrφdinger (65)  |  Time (441)

Mathematics is the science of skillful operations with concepts and rules invented just for this purpose.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 536.
Science quotes on:  |  Concept (103)  |  Invented (4)  |  Mathematics (588)  |  Operation (96)  |  Purpose (139)  |  Rule (136)  |  Skillful (3)

Nothing in our experience suggests the introduction of [complex numbers]. Indeed, if a mathematician is asked to justify his interest in complex numbers, he will point, with some indignation, to the many beautiful theorems in the theory of equations, of power series, and of analytic functions in general, which owe their origin to the introduction of complex numbers. The mathematician is not willing to give up his interest in these most beautiful accomplishments of his genius.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 537.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (57)  |  Beautiful (82)  |  Complex Number (2)  |  Equation (69)  |  Experience (268)  |  Genius (187)  |  Indignation (2)  |  Interest (170)  |  Justify (19)  |  Mathematician (177)  |  Origin (77)  |  Owe (15)  |  Theorem (46)  |  Theory (583)

Physics does not endeavour to explain nature. In fact, the great success of physics is due to a restriction of its objectives: it only endeavours to explain the regularities in the behavior of objects.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'Events, Laws of Nature, and Invariance Principles', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1963). in Nobel Lectures: Physics 1963-1970 (1972), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Behavior (49)  |  Endeavor (33)  |  Explanation (161)  |  Nature (1036)  |  Objective (50)  |  Physics (301)  |  Regularity (24)  |  Restriction (6)  |  Success (202)

Physics is becoming so unbelievably complex that it is taking longer and longer to train a physicist. It is taking so long, in fact, to train a physicist to the place where he understands the nature of physical problems that he is already too old to solve them.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
As quoted by Colin Pittendrigh (1971). In George C. Beakley, Ernest G. Chilton, Introduction to Engineering Design and Graphics (1973), 40
Science quotes on:  |  Age (138)  |  Complexity (80)  |  Education (280)  |  Physicist (130)  |  Problem (363)  |  Solution (168)  |  Understand (190)

The great mathematician fully, almost ruthlessly, exploits the domain of permissible reasoning and skirts the impermissible. … [I]t is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 536.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (400)  |  Charles Darwin (285)  |  Exploit (10)  |  Mathematician (177)  |  Natural Selection (80)  |  Perfection (71)  |  Permissible (4)  |  Reasoning (79)  |  Ruthless (5)

The mathematical formulation of the physicist’s often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena. This shows that the mathematical language has more to commend it than being the only language which we can speak; it shows that it is, in a very real sense, the correct language.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 542.
Science quotes on:  |  Accurate (21)  |  Amazing (16)  |  Case (64)  |  Class (64)  |  Correct (53)  |  Crude (14)  |  Description (72)  |  Experience (268)  |  Formulation (20)  |  Language (156)  |  Mathematics (588)  |  Number (179)  |  Phenomenon (219)  |  Physicist (130)  |  Uncanny (5)

The unreasonable efficiency of mathematics in science is a gift we neither understand nor deserve.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
Quoted in Robert J. Scully, The Demon and the Quantum (2007), 191.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (588)  |  Science (1700)

The world is very complicated and it is clearly impossible for the human mind to understand it completely. Man has therefore devised an artifice which permits the complicated nature of the world to be blamed on something which is called accidental and thus permits him to abstract a domain in which simple laws can be found.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In Floyd Merrell, Unthinking Thinking: Jorge Luis Borges, Mathematics, and the New Physics (1991), 156.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstract (44)  |  Accident (55)  |  Artifice (3)  |  Blame (17)  |  Completeness (9)  |  Complication (20)  |  Devising (7)  |  Domain (21)  |  Find (249)  |  Human Mind (51)  |  Impossible (68)  |  Law (419)  |  Man (345)  |  Nature (1036)  |  Permit (20)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Understanding (318)  |  World (670)

With thermodynamics, one can calculate almost everything crudely; with kinetic theory, one can calculate fewer things, but more accurately; and with statistical mechanics, one can calculate almost nothing exactly.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
Edward B. Stuart, Alan J. Brainard and Benjamin Gal-Or (eds.), A Critical Review of Thermodynamics (1970), 205.
Science quotes on:  |  Calculation (67)  |  Crude (14)  |  Kinetic Theory (7)  |  Mechanism (41)  |  Statistics (125)  |  Thermodynamics (27)

[F. Werner, while a student in Princeton,] came to me and expressed his bewilderment with the fact that we make a rather narrow selection when choosing the data on which we test our theories. “How do we know that, if we made a theory which focuses its attention on phenomena we disregard and disregards some of the phenomena now commanding our attention, that we could not build another theory which has little in common with the present one but which, nevertheless, explains just as many phenomena as the present theory?” It has to be admitted that we have no definite evidence that there is no such theory.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 535.
Science quotes on:  |  Admit (22)  |  Attention (76)  |  Choose (35)  |  Data (100)  |  Definite (27)  |  Disregard (8)  |  Evidence (157)  |  Explain (62)  |  Focus (21)  |  Phenomenon (219)  |  Test (96)  |  Theory (583)

[T]he laws of quantum mechanics itself cannot be formulated … without recourse to the concept of consciousness.
— Eugene Paul Wigner
From essay by Eugene Wigner, 'The Probability of the Existence of a Self-Reproducing Unit', contributed in M. Polanyi, The Logic of Personal Knowledge: Essays Presented to Michael Polanyi on his Seventieth Birthday, 11th March 1961 (1961), 232.
Science quotes on:  |  Concept (103)  |  Consciousness (71)  |  Formulation (20)  |  Quantum Theory (55)  |  Recourse (6)


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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