Science Quotes

There are many quote collections on the internet. This one includes those I find insightful and provocative. It is not intended to be complete, comprehensive, or balanced.

I have attempted to give dates for each major author, and an indication of that person's claim to fame. Some specific documentation of sources is given, but that task has a long way to go. Readers are invited to supply additional information.


Science is organized knowledge.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) English philosopher. Education.

Science is the systematic classification of experience.
George Henry Lewes (1817-78) English writer and critic.

Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.
Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) French mathematician.

Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
Adam Smith (1723-90) Scottish economist. The Wealth of Nations, 1776.

Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don't know.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English philosopher, mathematician.

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English philosopher and mathematician.

[Science is] the labor and handicraft of the mind.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English essayist, philosopher, statesman.

[Science is] the literature of truth.
Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) (1818-85) U. S. humorist.

[Science is] a series of judgments, revised without ceasing.
Pierre Emile Duclaux (1840-1904) French biochemist, bacteriologist.

[Science is] the desire to know causes.
William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English essayist.

[Science is] an imaginative adventure of the mind seeking truth in a world of mystery.
Sir Cyril Herman Hinshelwood (1897-1967) English chemist. Nobel prize 1956.

[Science is] the knowledge of consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher, author.

[Science is] piecemeal revelation.
Oliver Wendell Holmes 1 (1809-94) U. S. poet, essayist, physician.

[Science is] a great game. It is inspiring and refreshing. The playing field is the universe itself.
Isidor Isaac Rabi (1898-1988) U. S. physicist. Nobel prize 1944.

[Science is] not belief, but the will to find out.

In essence, science is a perpetual search for an intelligent and integrated comprehension of the world we live in.
Cornelius Bernardus Van Neil (1897- ) U. S. microbiologist.

I venture to define science as a series of interconnected concepts and conceptual schemes arising from experiment and observation and fruitful of further experiments and observations. The test of a scientific theory is, I suggest, its fruitfulness.
James Bryant Conant (1893-1978) U. S. Chemist and Educator.

Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U. S. physicist, born in Germany.

The origin of science is in the desire to know causes; and the origin of all false science and imposture is in the desire to accept false causes rather than none; or, which is the same thing, in the unwillingness to acknowledge our own ignorance.
William Hazlitt (1778?-1830) British writer, drama critic, social commentator, philosopher and painter.


There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.

Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. I have read and heard many attempts at a systematic account of it, from materialism and theosophy to the Christian system or that of Kant, and I have always felt that they were much too simple. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy myself, and must be my excuse for dreaming.
John Burden Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist. Possible Worlds and other Essays (1927) "Possible Worlds".

Shall I refuse my dinner because I do not fully understand the process of digestion?
Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925) English physicist.

The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated.
Wilfred Batten Lewis Trotter (1872-1939) English surgeon.

There is no adequate defense, except stupidity, against the impact of a new idea.
Percy Williams Bridgman (1882-1961) U. S. physicist, Nobel Prize, 1946.

The dispassionate intellect, the open mind, the unprejudiced observer, exist in an exact sense only in a sort of intellectualist folk-lore; states even approaching them cannot be reached without a moral and emotional effort most of us cannot or will not make.
Wilfred Batten Lewis Trotter (1872-1939) English surgeon.

[Those] who have an excessive faith in their theories or in their ideas are not only poorly disposed to make discoveries, but they also make very poor observations.
Claude Bernard (1813-78) French physiologist, 1865.

One curious result of this inertia, which deserves to rank among the fundamental 'laws' of nature, is that when a discovery has finally won tardy recognition it is usually found to have been anticipated, often with cogent reasons and in great detail.
Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller (1864-1937) English philosopher in the U. S.

In Science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurred.
Sir William Osler (1849-1919) Canadian physician.

The hypotheses we accept ought to explain phenomena which we have observed. But they ought to do more than this: our hypotheses ought to foretell phenomena which have not yet been observed.
William Whewell (1794-1866) English mathematician, philosopher.

It is a popular delusion that the scientific enquirer is under an obligation not to go beyond generalisation of observed facts...but anyone who is practically acquainted with scientific work is aware that those who refuse to go beyond the facts, rarely get as far.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) English biologist.

We see only what we know.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, dramatist.

Science increases our power in proportion as it lowers our pride.
Claude Bernard (1813-78) French physiologist.

We know very little, and yet it is astonishing that we know so much, and still more astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English philosopher, mathematician.

I believe there is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed.
Max Born (1882-1970) German Physicist. Nobel Prize, 1954.

... the scientist would maintain that knowledge in of itself is wholly good, and that there should be and are methods of dealing with misuses of knowledge by the ruffian or the bully other than by suppressing the knowledge.
Percy Williams Bridgman (1882-1961) U. S. physicist, Nobel Prize, 1946.

Physics is very muddled again at the moment; it is much too hard for me anyway, and I wish I were a movie comedian or something like that and had never heard anything about physics!
Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) Austrian Physicist in the US. (Nobel Prize, 1935). From a letter to R. Kronig, 25 May 1925.

I do not like it, and I am sorry I ever had anything to do with it.
Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) Austrian physicist. Nobel Prize, 1933. Speaking of quantum mechanics.

Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum mechanics cannot possibly have understood it.
Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist.

If anybody says he can think about quantum problems without getting giddy, that only shows he has not understood the first thing about them.
Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist.

Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American journalist, writer. In: Minority Report (1956).

An ocean traveler has even more vividly the impression that the ocean is made of waves than that it is made of water.
Arthur S. Eddington (1882-1944) English astronomer and physicist. In: The Nature of the Physical World, Cambridge (1929).

The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the phenomena of the universe; the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) English biologist.

The rotating armatures of every generator and motor in this age of electricity are steadily proclaiming the truth of the relativity theory to all who have ears to hear.
Leigh Page (1884-1952) American physicist. In: American Journal of Physics, 43, 330 (1975).

I have also a paper afloat, with an electromagnetic theory of light, which, till I am convinced to the contrary, I hold to be great guns.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) Scottish physicist. In a letter to C. H. Cay, 5 January 1865.

Innocence about Science is the worst crime today.
Sir Charles Percy Snow (1905-80) English novelist and scientist.

Taken over the centuries, scientific ideas have exerted a force on our civilization fully as great as the more tangible practical applications of scientific research.
I. Bernard Cohen (1914- ) U. S. historian of science.

Historians of a generation ago were often shocked by the violence with which scientists rejected the history of their own subject as irrelevant; they could not understand how the members of any academic profession could fail to be intrigued by the study of their own cultural heritage. What these historians did not grasp was that scientists will welcome the history of science only when it has been demonstrated that this discipline can add to our understanding of science itself and thus help to produce, in some sense, better scientists.
I. Bernard Cohen. U. S. historian of science.

If any student comes to me and says he wants to be useful to mankind and go into research to alleviate human suffering, I advise him to go into charity instead. Research wants real egotists who seek their own pleasure and satisfaction, but find it in solving the puzzles of nature.
Albert Szent-Györgi (1893-1986) U. S. biochemist.

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.
Albert Szent-Györgi (1893-1986) U. S. biochemist.

... scientific research is compounded of ... empirical procedures, general speculative ideas, and mathematical or abstract reasoning.
James Bryant Conant (1893-1978) U. S. Chemist and Educator.

It would be as useless to perceive how things 'actually look' as it would be to watch the random dots on untuned television screens.
Marvin Minsky (1927- ) U. S. computer scientist.

Boswell: But, Sir is it not somewhat singular that you should happen to have Cocker's Arithmetic about you on your journey?
Dr. Johnson: Why, Sir if you are to have but one book with you upon a journey, let it be a book of science. When you read through a book of entertainment, you know it, and it can do no more for you; but a book of science is inexhaustible.
James Boswell (1740-95) Scottish author, biographer of Samuel Johnson.

More than ever, the creation of the ridiculous is almost impossible because of the competition it receives from reality.
Robert A. Baker (1937- ) U. S. author.

What's the go of that? What's the particular go of that?
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) Scottish physicist. Comments made as a child expressing his curiousity about mechanical things and physical phenomena.

Why are things as they are and not otherwise?
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German astronomer.

What is is what must be.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz (1646-1716) German philosopher and mathematician.

We are in the ordinary position of scientists of having to be content with piecemeal improvements: we can make several things clearer, but we cannot make anything clear.
Frank Plumpton Ramsay.

One had to be a Newton to notice that the moon is falling, when everyone sees that it doesn't fall.
Paul Valéry (1871-1945) French poet and philosopher.

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night,
God said: "Let Newton be!", and all was light.
Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet.

To say that a man is made up of certain chemical elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him as a fertilizer.
Hermann Joseph Muller (1890-1967) U. S. geneticist. Nobel prize for medicine 1946.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it is tied to everything else in the universe.
John Muir (1838-1914) U. S. naturalist, explorer.

A man must have a certain amount of intelligent ignorance to get anywhere.
Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U. S. engineer and inventor.

A man gazing at the stars is proverbially at the mercy of the puddles in the road.
Alexander Smith, (The image of the astronomer walking at night while looking at the stars, stumbling into an open well, goes back to the ancient Greeks.)

It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.
Sherlock Holmes, the fictional creation of Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) British physician and novelist.

But are we sure of our observational facts? Scientific men are rather fond of saying pontifically that one ought to be quite sure of one's observational facts before embarking on theory. Fortunately those who give this advice do not practice what they preach. Observation and theory get on best when they are mixed together, both helping one another in the pursuit of truth. It is a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in a theory until it has been confirmed by observation. I hope I shall not shock the experimental physicists too much if I add that it is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they have been confirmed by theory.
Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944) English astronomer and physicist.

Theory guides. Experiment decides.
An old saying in science, seen attributed to many different persons.

Every honest researcher I know admits he's just a professional amateur. He's doing whatever he's doing for the first time. That makes him an amateur. He has sense enough to know that he's going to have a lot of trouble, so that makes him a professional.
Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U. S. Engineer and Inventor.

The scientist is a practical man and his are practical (i.e., practically attainable) aims. He does not seek the ultimate but the proximate. He does not speak of the last analysis but rather of the next approximation. His are not those beautiful structures so delicately designed that a single flaw may cause the collapse of the whole. The scientist builds slowly and with a gross but solid kind of masonry. If dissatisfied with any of his work, even if it be near the very foundations, he can replace that part without damage to the remainder. On the whole he is satisfied with his work, for while science may never be wholly right it certainly is never wholly wrong; and it seems to be improving from decade to decade.
G. N. Lewis. Quoted in Stochiometry by Leonard K. Nash. Addison-Wesley 1966. p. vii.).

The theory of our modern technic shows that nothing is as practical as theory.
Julius Robert Oppenheimer (1904-67) U. S. Nuclear physicist. Reflex, July 1977.

Poetry is not the proper antithesis to prose, but to science. Poetry is opposed to science, and prose to meter. The proper and immediate object of science is the acquirement, or communication of truth; the proper and immediate object of poetry is the communication of immediate pleasure.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) English poet, critic and philosopher. Definitions of Poetry, 1811.

The production of useful work is strictly limited by the laws of thermodynamics. The production of useless work seems to be unlimited.
Donald E. Simanek (1936- )US physicist, educator, humorist.


Science is simply common sense at its best that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) English biologist.

Science is nothing but trained and organized common sense differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) English biologist. "The Method of Zadig" in Collected Essays IV.

Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated.
George Santayana (1863-1952) U. S. philosopher and writer. The Life of Reason.

All true knowledge contradicts common sense.
Mandell Creighton

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by the age of 18.
Albert Einstein

Common sense is not so common.


Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U. S. physicist, born in Germany.

As far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality they are not certain, and so far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it can be comprehended.

The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.

I have deep faith that the principle of the universe will be beautiful and simple.

I know little about nature and hardly anything about men.

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.

One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.

But in physics I soon learned to scent out the paths that led to the depths, and to disregard everything else, all the many things that clutter up the mind, and divert it from the essential. The hitch in this was, of course, the fact that one had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examination, whether one liked it or not.

Newton, forgive me.

Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge in the field of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree if independence still available under present circumstances. [Reporter 18 Nov, 1954]

Oh, that Einstein, always skipping lectures... I certainly never would have thought he could do it.
Hermann Minkowski (1864-1909) German mathematician.


You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) Italian physicist and astronomer.

The attempt should be teach science as part of the total intellectual and historical process, of which, in fact, it has always been an important part. The students should gain thereby an insight into the principles of science...

The claim of General Education is that the history of science is part of science. So are its philosophy, its great literature, and its social and intellectual context. The contribution of science instruction to the life of the university and to society should include these elements, since science includes them...
Harvard committee on general education.

Wheeler's first moral principle:

Never make a calculation until you know the answer: make an estimate before every calculation, try a simple physical argument (symmetry! invariance! conservation!) before every derivation, guess the answer to every puzzle. Courage: no one else needs to know what the guess is. Therefore make it quickly, by instinct. A right guess reinforces this instinct. A wrong guess brings the refreshment of surprise. In either case life as a spacetime expert, however long, is more fun!
Wheeler, John A. and Edwin F. Taylor. Spacetime Physics, Freeman, 1966. Page 60.

Introductory physics courses are taught at three levels: physics with calculus, physics without calculus, and physics without physics.
Prof. Anon


I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding of a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) English physicist, mathematician.

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.
Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) French mathematician.

... they are ill discoverers that think there is no land when they can see nothing but sea.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English essayist, philosopher, statesman.

One thing that makes the adventure of working in our field particularly rewarding, especially in attempting to improve the theory, is that... a chief criterion for the selection of a correct hypothesis... seems to be the criterion of beauty, simplicity, or elegance.
Murray Gell-Mann (1929- ) U. S. Physicist (Nobel Prize, 1969) "Particles and Principles".

The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanation 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 (1861-1947) English mathematician and philosopher. Concepts of Nature, p. 163.

All of physics is either impossible or trivial. It is impossible until you understand it, and then it becomes trivial.
Ernest Rutherford (1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson) (1871- 1937) English physicist, born in New Zealand. Nobel prize for chemistry 1908.


Happy is he who gets to know the reasons for things.
Virgil (70-19 BCE) Roman poet.

To engage in experiments on heat was always one of my most agreeable employments.
Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) (1753-1814) English physicist and diplomat, born in U. S.

The joy of discovery is certainly the liveliest that the mind of man can ever feel.
Claude Bernard (1813-78) French physiologist.


Science is not formal logic–it needs the free play of the mind in as great a degree as any other creative art. It is true that this is a gift which can hardly be taught, but its growth can be encouraged in those who already posses it.
Max Born (1882-1970) German Physicist. Nobel Prize, 1954.

One thing that makes the adventure of working in our field particularly rewarding, especially in attempting to improve the theory, is that... a chief criterion for the selection of a correct hypothesis... seems to be the criterion of beauty, simplicity, or elegance.
Murray Gell-Mann, "Particles and Principles," Physics Today, 17, 11, Nov 1964, p. 22.

Every honest researcher I know admits he's just a professional amateur. He's doing whatever he's doing for the first time. That makes him an amateur. He has sense enough to know that he's going to have a lot of trouble, so that makes him a professional.
Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U. S. engineer and inventor.


It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation which could be relegated to anyone else if machines were used.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz (1646-1716) German philosopher and mathematician.


Truth in science can be defined as the working hypothesis best suited to open the way to the next better one.
Konrad (Zacharias) Lorenz (1903-89) Austrian ethologist. [Nobel prize for medicine, 1973]

The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.
Thomas H. Huxley (1825-95) English biologist.

This only is certain, that there is nothing certain; and nothing more miserable and yet more arrogant than man.
Pliny ("The Elder") (23-79) Roman naturalist. (Gaius Plinius Secundus).

Only one thing is certain—that is, nothing is certain. If this statement is true, it is also false.
Ancient paradox

The gods did not reveal from the beginning
All things to us; but in the course of time
Through seeking, men found that which is better.

But as for certain truth, no man has known it,
Nor will he know it; neither of the gods,
Nor yet of all the things of which I speak.
And even if by chance he were to utter
The final truth, he would himself not know it;
For all is but a woven web of guesses.

Xenophanes (c. 570-c. 480 BCE) Greek philosopher.

We know nothing in reality; for truth lies in an abyss.
Democritus, (c. 420 BCE) Greek philosopher.

None of us knows anything, not even whether we know or do not know, nor do we know whether not knowing and knowing exist, nor in general whether there is anything or not.
Metrodorus of Chios (c. 4th century BCE) Greek philosopher

All we know of the truth is that the absolute truth, such as it is, is beyond our reach.
Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64) German cardinal, mathematician, philosopher. De Docta Ignorantia (Learned Ignorance)

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills) (1854-1900) Irish writer.

True science teaches us to doubt and, in ignorance, to refrain.
Claude Bernard (1813-78) French physiologist.

The strongest arguments prove nothing so long as the conclusions are not verified by experience. Experimental science is the queen of sciences and the goal of all speculation.
Roger Bacon (1214?-94?) English philosopher, scientist.

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.
Pierre Abelard (1079-1142) French scholastic philosopher, theologian.

When truth is evident, it is impossible for parties and factions to rise. There never has been a dispute as to whether there is daylight at noon.
Francis Marie Arouet de Voltaire, (1694-1778) French writer. Philosophical Dictionary, 1764

Whenever truth stands in the mind unaccompanied by the evidence upon which it depends, it cannot properly be said to be apprehended at all.
William Godwin (1756-1836) British political philosopher, writer. An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, 1793.

There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English philosopher and mathematician.

It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him.
Max Planck (1858-1947) German physicist. Nobel prize for physics, 1918.

The least deviation from the truth is multiplied later.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) Greek philosopher.

The Paradox of Life:
A bit beyond perception's reach
I sometimes believe I see
that Life is two locked boxes, each
containing the other's key.

Piet Hein, Danish mathematician, physicist, philosopher, writer and creator of puzzles and games. Grooks 3

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.
Hippocrates (c460-c.377 BCE) Greek physician. Law

Those who are enslaved to their sects are not merely devoid of all sound knowledge, but they will not even stop to learn!
Galen, Claudius (c.130-c.200) Greek physician, writer. On The Natural Faculties

True science teaches us to doubt and, in ignorance, to refrain.
Claude Bernard (1813-78) French physiologist.

True science teaches, above all, to doubt and be ignorant.
Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) Spanish writer and philosopher.

Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.
Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-1962) Danish physicist.

There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English mathematician and philosopher.

Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue.
Robert K. Merton, Social Theory, 1957.


There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 BCE) Roman statesman. De Divinatione

Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer. (The Devil's Dictionary, 1911)

Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German Philosopher

Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.
Attributed to Richard Feynman (1918-88) U.S. Physicist. Nobel Prize 1965.

...philosophy is to science as pornography is to sex.
Steve Jones

Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.
Henry Louis Mencken. (1880-1956). Minority Report, H. L. Mencken's Notebooks. Knopf, 1956.

Scientists are explorers. Philosophers are tourists.
Richard Feynman


The strongest arguments prove nothing so long as the conclusions are not verified by experience. Experimental science is the queen of sciences and the goal of all speculation.
Roger Bacon (1214?-1294?) English philosopher, scientist.

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.
Lord Kelvin (William Thomson, 1st Baron) (1824-1907) English physicist and mathematician. In: Popular Lectures and Addresses, London, 1889, v. I, p. 73. See also: Life of Lord Kelvin, by S. P. Thompson, 1910, V. 2, p. 792.

If your experiment needs statistics, then you ought to have done a better experiment.
Ernest Rutherford (1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson) (1871- 1937) English physicist, born in New Zealand. Nobel prize for chemistry 1908.

No effect that requires more than 10 percent accuracy in measurement is worth investigating.
Walther Nernst (1864-1941) German physicist, chemist. Nobel prize, 1920.

To define it rudely but not inaptly, engineering is the art of doing that well with one dollar which any bungler can do with two after a fashion.
Arthur M. Wellington, The Economic Theory of Railway Location.

In these days, a man who says a thing cannot be done is quite apt to be interrupted by some idiot doing it.
Elbert Green Hubbard (1865-1915) U. S. author, editor, printer.

A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
Walter Bagehot (1826-77) English economist, political journalist and critic.

The preceding quote appears at least 66 times on the internet, with no attribution or dates. I have no idea whether it's genuine or whether Bagehot was really the first to express it. I retain it here simply because it's so widely seen, and to balance it with the following cautions:

A great frustration in life is discovering that sometimes those who say something can't be done turn out to be right.
Donald Simanek (1936- )

Nature's laws govern which things can be done, and which can't. The trouble is, when we set out to do something, we don't always know which of these categories it's in.
Donald Simanek (1936- )

Whenever you look at a piece of work and you think the fellow was crazy, then you want to pay some attention to that. One of you is likely to be, and you had better find out which one it is. It makes an awful lot of difference.
Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U. S. engineer and inventor.

Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing.
Werner Von Braun (1912-1977) German rocket engineer, in U. S. after 1945.

There ain't no rules around here! We're trying to accomplish something!
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) U. S. inventor.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) U. S. inventor.

No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.
Francis Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer, philosopher.

Chance favors the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur (1822-95) French chemist and bacteriologist.

Every experiment proves something. If it doesn't prove what you wanted it to prove, it proves something else.
Prof. Anon


Nobody knows why, but the only theories which work are the mathematical ones.
Michael Holt, in Mathematics in Art.

Strange as it may sound, the power of mathematics rests on its evasion of all unnecessary thought and on its wonderful saving of mental operations.
Ernst Mach (1838-1916) Austrian physicist, philosopher.

To talk about communication theory without communicating its real mathematical content would be like endlessly telling a man about a wonderful composer, yet never letting him hear an example of the composer's music.
John Robinson Pierce (1910- ) U. S. electrical engineer. In: Symbols, Signals and Noise, Harper. p. x.

Trying to capture the physicists' precise mathematical description of the quantum world with our crude words and mental images is like playing Chopin with a boxing glove on one hand and a catcher's mitt on the other.
George Johnson, "On Skinning Schrödinger's Cat," The New York Times, 2 June 1996.


In 1650 Bishop Ussher dated the creation from the genealogy given in the Bible at 4004 B.C.; for a long time (even for some people today) this was accepted as "gospel truth." However, if you accept a miracle such as this, what's wrong with creation 5 minutes ago? It would be scarcely more difficult for the Creator to create all of us sitting here, with our memories of events that never really happened, with our worn shoes that were never really new, with spots of soup that were never really spilled on our ties, and so on. Such a beginning is logically possible, but extremely hard to believe!
Leigh Page (1884-1952) U. S. Astrophysicist. Stars and Galaxies. Prentice-Hall

Science is the record of dead religions.
Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills) (1854-1900) Irish writer.

There are no creeds in mathematics.
Peter F. Drucker

It is...idle to pretend, as many do, that there is no contradiction between religion and science. Science contradicts religion as surely as Judaism contradicts Islam—they are absolutely and irresolvably conflicting views. Unless, that is, science is obliged to change its fundamental nature.
Brian Appleyard, Understanding the Present—Science and the Soul of Modern Man (Pan Books, London, 1992, p. 85).

The only way to reconcile science and religion is to set up something which is not science and something that is not religion.
H. L. Mencken. American journalist, writer.

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless childish.
Albert Einstein, in a 1954 letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind.


Some things need to be believed to be seen.
Guy Kawasaki

Doesn't it seem that if homo sap put as much energy into understanding it's environs as it does in believing in silliness that we might be much farther along some path to somewhere instead of mired in this morass of ignorance where we seem to have dwelt for that last "n" millenia.
Roger M. Kolaks, Clark College, Vancouver, Wa.

...people today are so accustomed to pretentious nonsense that they see nothing amiss in reading without understanding, and many of them at length discover that they can without difficulty write in like manner themselves and win applause for it. And so it perpetuates itself.
G. A. Wells, 1991

Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain't that a big enough majority in any town?
Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer. Huckleberry Finn


At 90 miles drove Eddie Shawn
The motor stopped, but Ed kept on.

There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light.
She left one day
In a relative way,
And returned home the previous night!

I am sitting here 93 million miles from the sun on a rounded rock which is spinning at the rate of 1000 miles an hour... and my head pointing down into space with nothing between me and infinity but something called gravity which I can't even understand, and which you can't even buy any place so as to have some stored away for a gravityless day...
Russell Baker

Big whirls have little whirls,
That feed on their velocity;
And little whirls have lesser whirls,
And so on to viscosity.
Lewis Fry Richardson (1881- ) English physicist, psychologist. Summarizing his classic paper, The supply of Energy From and To Atmospheric Eddies (1920).

Laws of Thermodynamics:
1. You cannot win.
2. You cannot break even.
3. You cannot stop playing the game.

Electricity is of two kinds, positive and negative. The difference is, I presume, that one comes a little more expensive, but is more durable; the other is a cheaper thing, but the moths get into it.
Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) Canadian humorist, economist. Literary Lapses (1910).

Two brothers bought a cattle ranch and named it "Focus." When their father asked why they chose that name, they replied: "It's the place where the sons raise meat."
Attributed to Prof. W. B. Pietenpol, Physics Department, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.

There's no system foolproof enough to defeat a sufficiently great fool.
Edward Teller, quoted in "Nuclear Reactions", by Joel Davis in Omni, May 1988, p. 46.

It was absolutely marvelous working for Pauli. You could ask him anything. There was no worry that he would think a particular question was stupid, since he thought all questions were stupid.
Victor Frederick Weisskopf (1908- ) Austrian physicist.


O that the gods would bring to a miserable end such fictitious, crazy, deformed labours, with which the minds of the studious are blinded!
William Gilbert (1544-1603) English physician and physicist. In De Magnete (1600). Comment on claims of a perpetual motion machine using magnets.


The male has more teeth than the female in mankind, and sheep and goats, and swine. This has not been observed in other animals. Those persons which have the greatest number of teeth are the longest lived; those which have them widely separated, smaller, and more scattered, are generally more short lived.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) Greek philosopher. History of Animals.

The leading distinction of magnets is sex... The kind that is found in Troas is black, and of the female sex, and consequently destitute of attractive power.
Pliny ("The Elder") (23-79) Roman naturalist.

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