- When man wanted to make a machine that would walk he created the wheel, which does not resemble a leg.
Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1918) 1880–1918 French poet:
I've got it!
c.287–212 bc Greek mathematician and inventor: Vitruvius Pollio De Architectura bk. 9, preface, sect. 10
- Printing, gunpowder, and the mariner's needle [compass]…these three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world.
Novum Organum (1620) bk. 1, Aphorism 129 (tr. J. Spedding); see Carlyle 1561–1626 English lawyer, courtier, philosopher, and essayist:
- The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.
Physiologie du Goût (1825) aphorism no. 9 1755–1826 French jurist and gourmet:
- Thus first necessity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbow-chairs,
And luxury the accomplished sofa last.
The Task (1785) bk. 1 ‘The Sofa’ l. 86 1731–1800 English poet:
- It's true that by blundering about, we stumbled on gold, but the fact remains that we were looking for gold.
of the discovery of the structure of DNA
What Mad Pursuit (1988) 1916–2004 English biophysicist:
- What one man can invent another can discover.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905) ‘The Dancing Men’ 1859–1930 Scottish-born writer of detective fiction:
- For most of my life I refused to work at any problem unless its solution seemed to be capable of being put to commercial use.
New York Sun February 1917 1847–1931 American inventor: interview, in
- The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.
New York Times 25 May 1946 1879–1955 German-born theoretical physicist: telegram to prominent Americans, 24 May 1946, in
- Why sir, there is every possibility that you will soon be able to tax it!
to Gladstone, when asked about the usefulness of electricity
Democracy and Liberty (1899 ed.) 1791–1867 English physicist and chemist: W. E. H. Lecky
- Whatever Nature has in store for mankind, unpleasant as it may be, men must accept, for ignorance is never better than knowledge.
Atoms in the Family (1955) 1901–54 Italian-born American atomic physicist: Laura Fermi
- What is the use of a new-born child?
when asked what was the use of a new invention
Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (1864) pt. 4, ch. 17 1706–90 American politician, inventor, and scientist: J. Parton
- salviati: Now you see how easy it is to understand.
sagredo: So are all truths, once they are discovered.
often quoted as ‘All truths are easy to understand, once they are discovered; the point is, to discover them’
Dialogue Concerning the two Chief World Systems (1632) ‘The Second Day’ tr. Stillman Drake 1564–1642 Italian astronomer and physicist:
- My reflection, when I first made myself master of the central idea of the ‘Origin’, was, How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin vol. 2 (1888) ch. 5 1825–95 English biologist: ‘On the Reception of the “Origin of Species”’ in F. Darwin
- Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
1795–1821 English poet: ‘On First Looking into Chapman's Homer’ (1817)
- Men might as well project a voyage to the moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean. 1793–1859 Irish scientific writer: speech to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1838
- It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being.
Principles of Political Economy (1848) bk. 4, ch. 6 1806–73 English philosopher and economist:
- Nothing is more contrary to the organization of the mind, of the memory, and of the imagination…It's just tormenting the people with trivia!!!
on the introduction of the metric system
Mémoires…écrits à Ste-Hélène (1823–5) 1769–1821 French monarch, emperor 1804–15:
- praise without end the go-ahead zeal
of whoever it was invented the wheel;
but never a word for the poor soul's sake
that thought ahead, and invented the brake.
1920–91 American poet and novelist: ‘To the Congress of the United States, Entering Its Third Century’ 26 February 1989
- I don't know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Anecdotes (ed. J. Osborn, 1966) no. 1259 1642–1727 English mathematician and physicist: Joseph Spence
- The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
A Shadow Passes (1918) 1862–1960 English writer:
on being asked who owned the patent of his polio vaccine:There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?
See It Now CBS TV, 12 April 1955 1914–95 American microbiologist: interview with Edwin Murrow,
- Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
The Scientist Speculates (1962) 1893–1986 Hungarian-born biochemist: Irving Good (ed.)
- Name the greatest of all the inventors. Accident.
Notebooks (1935) 1835–1910 American writer: