Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD REFERENCE ( (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single entry from a reference work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 22 February 2020


  1. When, however, the lay public rallies around an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervour and emotion—the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
    corollary to Arthur C. Clarke's law; see Clarke
    Isaac Asimov 1920–92 Russian-born biochemist and science fiction writer: Arthur C. Clarke ‘Asimov's Corollary’ in K. Frazier (ed.) Paranormal Borderlands of Science (1981)
  2. Books must follow sciences, and not sciences books.
    Francis Bacon 1561–1626 English lawyer, courtier, philosopher, and essayist: Resuscitatio (1657) ‘Proposition touching Amendment of Laws’
  3. I adhered scrupulously to the precept of that brilliant theoretical physicist L. Boltzmann, according to whom matters of elegance ought to be left to the tailor and to the cobbler.
    Ludwig Boltzmann 1844–1906 Austrian physicist: attributed; Albert Einstein Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1916) preface
  4. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    Arthur C. Clarke 1917–2008 English science fiction writer: Profiles of the Future (1962) ch. 2; see Asimov
  5. False views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.
    Charles Darwin 1809–82 English natural historian: The Descent of Man (1871) ch. 21
  6. Data! data! data!…I can't make bricks without clay.
    Arthur Conan Doyle 1859–1930 Scottish-born writer of detective fiction: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) ‘The Adventure of the Copper Beeches’
  7. It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement.
    Arthur Conan Doyle 1859–1930 Scottish-born writer of detective fiction: A Study in Scarlet (1888) ch. 3
  8. It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
    often quoted as ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler’
    Albert Einstein 1879–1955 German-born theoretical physicist: ‘On the Method of Theoretical Physics’, lecture delivered at Oxford, 10 June 1933
  9. God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.
    Albert Einstein 1879–1955 German-born theoretical physicist: Leopold Infeld Quest (1942)
  10. The grand aim of all science [is] to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest possible number of hypotheses or axioms.
    Albert Einstein 1879–1955 German-born theoretical physicist: Lincoln Barnett The Universe and Dr Einstein (1950 ed.)
  11. Quod erat demonstrandum.
    Which was to be proved.
    often abbreviated to QED
    Euclid fl. 300 bc Greek mathematician: Latin translation from the Greek of Elementa bk. 1, proposition 5 and passim
  12. The great tragedy of Science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
    T. H. Huxley 1825–95 English biologist: Collected Essays (1893–4) ‘Biogenesis and Abiogenesis’
  13. It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.
    Konrad Lorenz 1903–89 Austro-German zoologist: Das Sogenannte Böse (1963; tr. Marjorie Latzke as On Aggression, 1966) ch. 2
  14. 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)
  15. No good model ever accounted for all the facts since some data was bound to be misleading if not plain wrong.
    James Dewey Watson 1928–  American biologist: Francis Crick Some Mad Pursuit (1988)