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date: 18 February 2020


  1. Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and, where it lands, painting a target.
    Homer Burton Adkins 1892–1949 American organic chemist: attributed, A. Mackay (ed.) A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991)
  2. Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing.
    Wernher von Braun 1912–77 German-born American rocket engineer: R. L. Weber A Random Walk in Science (1973)
  3. A man will turn over half a library to make one book.
    Samuel Johnson 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: James Boswell Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) 6 April 1775
  4. If politics is the art of the possible, research is surely the art of the soluble. Both are immensely practical-minded affairs.
    Peter Medawar 1915–87 English immunologist and writer: in New Statesman 19 June 1964; see Bismarck
  5. In research the horizon recedes as we advance, and is no nearer at sixty than it was at twenty. As the power of endurance weakens with age, the urgency of the pursuit grows more intense…And research is always incomplete.
    Mark Pattison 1813–84 English educationist: Isaac Casaubon (1875)
  6. He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sun-beams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into vials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.
    Jonathan Swift 1667–1745 Irish poet and satirist: Gulliver's Travels (1726) ‘A Voyage to Laputa, etc.’ ch. 5
  7. The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where one question grew before.
    Thorstein Veblen 1857–1929 American economist and social scientist: University of California Chronicle (1908)
  8. No more impressive warning can be given to those who would confine knowledge and research to what is apparently useful, than the reflection that conic sections were studied for eighteen hundred years merely as an abstract science, without regard to any utility other than to satisfy the craving for knowledge on the part of mathematicians, and that then at the end of this long period of abstract study, they were found to be the necessary key with which to attain the knowledge of the most important laws of nature.
    Alfred North Whitehead 1861–1947 English philosopher and mathematician: Introduction to Mathematics (1911)