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date: 26 February 2020

Life Sciences 

  1. What's hit is history, what's missed is mystery.
    on the importance of securing a dead specimen of a new species
    Anonymous: late 19th-century saying, in American Naturalist 1877
  2. [The science of life] is a superb and dazzlingly lighted hall which may be reached only by passing through a long and ghastly kitchen.
    Claude Bernard 1813–78 French physiologist: An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865, tr. H. C. Green)
  3. Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order.
    Sydney Brenner 1927–  South African-born British biologist: in Nature 5 June 1980
  4. It has, I believe, been often remarked that a hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.
    Samuel Butler 1835–1902 English novelist: Life and Habit (1877)
  5. We have discovered the secret of life!
    on the discovery of the structure of DNA, 1953
    Francis Crick 1916–2004 English biophysicist: James D. Watson The Double Helix (1968)
  6. Almost all aspects of life are engineered at the molecular level, and without understanding molecules we can only have a very sketchy understanding of life itself.
    Francis Crick 1916–2004 English biophysicist: What Mad Pursuit (1988)
  7. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection.
    Charles Darwin 1809–82 English natural historian: On the Origin of Species (1859) ch. 3
  8. There is grandeur in this view of life.
    Charles Darwin 1809–82 English natural historian: On the Origin of Species (1859) ch. 14
  9. From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
    Charles Darwin 1809–82 English natural historian: On the Origin of Species (1859) ch. 14
  10. I feel like an old warhorse at the sound of a trumpet when I read about the capturing of rare beetles.
    Charles Darwin 1809–82 English natural historian: letter to John Lubbock, before 1857, Francis Darwin The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887) vol. 2
  11. [Natural selection] has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
    Richard Dawkins 1941–  English biologist: The Blind Watchmaker (1986) ch. 1; see Paley
  12. However many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead.
    Richard Dawkins 1941–  English biologist: The Blind Watchmaker (1986) ch. 1
  13. The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale.
    Richard Dawkins 1941–  English biologist: The Blind Watchmaker (1986) ch. 11; see Fisher
  14. We are survival machines, robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.
    Richard Dawkins 1941–  English biologist: The Selfish Gene (1976) preface
  15. It was Darwin's chief contribution, not only to Biology but to the whole of natural science, to have brought to light a process by which contingencies a priori improbable are given, in the process of time, an increasing probability, until it is their non-occurrence, rather than their occurrence, which becomes highly improbable.
    sometimes quoted as ‘Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability’
    R. A. Fisher 1890–1962 English statistician and geneticist: ‘Retrospect of the criticisms of the Theory of Natural Selection’ in Julian Huxley Evolution as a Process (1954)
  16. I'd lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.
    J. B. S. Haldane 1892–1964 Scottish mathematical biologist: attributed; in New Scientist 8 August 1974
  17. Probably a crab would be filled with a sense of personal outrage if it could hear us class it without ado or apology as a crustacean, and thus dispose of it. ‘I am no such thing,’ it would say; ‘I am myself, myself alone.’
    William James 1842–1910 American philosopher: The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)
  18. Life exists in the universe only because the carbon atom possesses certain exceptional properties.
    James Jeans 1877–1946 English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician: The Mysterious Universe (1930) ch. 1
  19. From elephant to butyric acid bacterium—it is all the same!
    on the unity of biochemistry, paraphrased by Jacques Monod and François Jacob in 1961 as ‘What is true for bacteria is also true for elephants’
    Albert Jan Kluyver 1888–1956 Dutch microbiologist: Albert Jan Kluyver: his life and work (1959)
  20. There are more animals living in the scum on the teeth in a man's mouth than there are men in a whole kingdom.
    on his observations of micro-organisms
    Antoni van Leeuwenhoek 1632–1723 Dutch naturalist: letter to Francis Aston, 17 September 1683
  21. There are people who do not object to eating a mutton chop—people who do not even object to shooting a pheasant…—and yet who consider it something monstrous to introduce under the skin of a guinea pig a little inoculation of some microbe to ascertain its action.
    Joseph Lister 1827–1912 English surgeon: in British Medical Journal (1897)
  22. If we succeed in giving the love of learning, the learning itself is sure to follow.
    John Lubbock 1834–1913 English biologist and politician: The Pleasures of Life (1887) pt. 1, ch. 10
  23. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence only increases in an arithmetical ratio.
    Thomas Robert Malthus 1766–1834 English political economist: Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) ch. 1
  24. When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
    John Muir 1838–1914 Scottish-born American naturalist: My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) 27 July 1869
  25. Le germe n'est rien, c'est le terrain qui est tout.
    The microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.
    Louis Pasteur 1822–95 French chemist and bacteriologist: on his deathbed, to Professor Rénon; Hans Seyle The Stress of Life (1956)
  26. The biologist passes, the frog remains.
    sometimes quoted as ‘Theories pass. The frog remains’
    Jean Rostand 1894–1977 French biologist: Inquiétudes d'un biologiste (1967)
  27. Water is life's mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.
    Albert von Szent-Györgyi 1893–1986 Hungarian-born biochemist: in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine Winter 1971
  28. The history of the living world can be summarised as the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is always something more to be seen.
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 1881–1955 French Jesuit philosopher and palaeontologist: The Phenomenon of Man (1959)
  29. For the past 15 years at ever faster rates we have been digitizing biology. By that I mean going from the analog world of biology through DNA sequencing into the digital world of the computer.
    J. Craig Venter 1946–  American biologist: Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC1, 4 December 2007
  30. Evolution advances, not by a priori design, but by the selection of what works best out of whatever choices offer. We are the products of editing, rather than of authorship.
    George Wald 1904–97 American biochemist: in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences vol. 69 1957
  31. Was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey?
    addressed to T. H. Huxley in the debate on Darwin's theory of evolution
    Samuel Wilberforce 1805–73 English prelate: at a meeting of British Association in Oxford, 30 June 1860; see Disraeli, Huxley
  32. Biology is the search for the chemistry that works.
    R. J. P. Williams 1926–2015 British chemist: lecture in Oxford, June 1996