Selected quotes on education, poetry, science and mathematics.

From: Muir, Frank. An Irreverent and Thoroughly Incomplete Social History of Almost Everything. A Scarborough Book, Stein and Day. © 1976 by Frank Muir. Pub. 1977.


Knowledge is not happiness, and science
But an exchange of ignorance for that
Which is another kind of ignorance.
Lord Byron (1788-1824) Manfred.

The teacher's life is painfull and therefore would be pityed: it wrestles with unthankfulnesse above all measure... Our calling creepes low and hath pain for companion.
Richard Mulcaster (1530?-1611) Positions.

The world's great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor its scholars great men.
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table.

Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) The Facts Concerning My Recent Resignation.

EDUCATION, n That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) The Devil's Dictionary.

We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) Skeptical Essays.

It is tiresome to hear education discussed, tiresome to educate, and tiresome to be educated.
William Lamb, second Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848) [Lord Melbourne was political tutor to Queen Victoria.]

The truth is that the average schoolmaster, on all the lower levels, is and always must door to an idiot, for how can one imagine an intelligent man engaging in so puerile an avocation?
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) New York Evening Mail, 23 Jan. 1918.

Perhaps there is something innate that in the first place disposes a man to become a University teacher or specialist. He is, I suspect, more often than not by nature and instinctively afraid of the insecure uproar of things. Visit him in college and you will see that he does not so much live there as lurk.
H. G. Wells (1866-1946) The World of William Clissold

The vanity of teaching often tempteth a man to forget he is a blockhead.
George Savile, first Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) Maxims.

`I expect you'll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That's what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behavior.'
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) Decline and Fall.

He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Maxims for Revolutionists.

Education is the process of casting false pearls before real swine.
Irwin Edman (1896-1954)

I respect no study and deem no study good, which results in money- making.
Seneca (c. 5 BCE-65 CE) Epistolae ad Lucilium.

It is when the gods hate a man with uncommon abhorrence that they drive him into the profession of a school-master
Seneca (c. 5 BCE-65 CE)

Superfluity of lecturing causes ischial bursitis.
Sir William Osler (1849-1919)

[Mark Twain said that lectures make one numb at both ends.]

Show me a man who has enjoyed his schooldays and I will show you a bully and a bore.
Robert Morley (1908-1992) Robert Morley: Responsible Gentleman.

They (academics) commit their pupils to the theatre of the world, with just taste enough of learning to be alienated from industrious pursuits, and not enough to do service in the ranks of science.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Writings.

There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there; so that what the boys get at one end they lose at the other.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) Boswell's Life.

I find that the three major administrative problems on a campus are sex for the students, athletics for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.
Clark Kerr (1911-2003) Time. 17 Nov 1958. [When he was president of the University of California.]


Publishing a volume of poetry is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
Don marquis (1878-1937) The Sun Dial.

Poetry is the parent of superstition.
Thomas Spratt (1635-1713) The History of the Royal Society of London for Improving of Natural Knowledge, 1667.

Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind.
Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) Milton.

All poets are mad.
Robert Burton (1577-1640) Anatomy of Melancholy.

Poetry is a kind of ingenious nonsense.
Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) [Barrow was a mathematician and theologian and versifier in Latin. Barrow's pupil, Sir Isaac Newton quoted this to Joseph Spence, who related it in his Anecdotes... Newton had no liking for poetry.]

Poetry is a comforting piece of fiction set to more or less lascivious music.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) Prejudices, Series III. [Poetry began as song.]


The greatest misfortune that will ever befall man was the invention of printing.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) Lothair.

No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) Boswell's Life of Johnson. 5 April 1776.

Many thanks; I shall lose no time in reading it.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) Quoted by Wilfred Meynell: Benjamin Disraeli. [This was Disraeli's standard reply to authors who sent him unsolicited manuscripts.]

A classic... something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) Mark Twain's Speeches: `Disappearance of Literature'.


The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) Following the Equator.

History repeats itself; historians repeat each other.
Philip Guedella (1889-1944)

History does repeat itself, but only when you least expect it.

Comedy is the last refuge of the nonconformist mind.
Gilbert Seldes (1893-1970) The New Republic 20th Dec. 1954.


That arithmetic is the basest of all mental activities is proved by the fact that it is the only one that can be accomplished by a machine.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1969) Mysticism and Logic


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