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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Gilbert Keith Chesterton Quotes

Gilbert Keith Chesterton
(29 May 1874 - 14 Jun 1936)

British critic and poet.

Science Quotes by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (24 quotes)

“The Universe repeats itself, with the possible exception of history.” Of all earthly studies history is the only one that does not repeat itself. ... Astronomy repeats itself; botany repeats itself; trigonometry repeats itself; mechanics repeats itself; compound long division repeats itself. Every sum if worked out in the same way at any time will bring out the same answer. ... A great many moderns say that history is a science; if so it occupies a solitary and splendid elevation among the sciences; it is the only science the conclusions of which are always wrong.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In 'A Much Repeated Repetition', Daily News (26 Mar 1904). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 82.
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History is not a toboggan slide, but a road to be reconsidered and even retraced
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In 'Three Notes: On Female Suffrage', The Essential Gilbert K. Chesterton (2008), Vol. 1, 353
Science quotes on:  |  History (151)  |  Reconsideration (2)  |  Road (18)  |  Slide (3)

I despise Birth-Control first because it is ... an entirely meaningless word; and is used so as to curry favour even with those who would first recoil from its real meaning. The proceeding these quack doctors recommend does not control any birth. ... But these people know perfectly well that they dare not write the plain word Birth-Prevention, in any one of the hundred places where they write the hypocritical word Birth-Control. They know as well as I do that the very word Birth-Prevention would strike a chill into the public... Therefore they use a conventional and unmeaning word, which may make the quack medicine sound more innocuous. ... A child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce ... he is their own creative contribution to creation.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In 'Babies and Distributism', The Well and the Shadows (1935). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 272.
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I never said a word against eminent men of science. What I complain of is a vague popular philosophy which supposes itself to be scientific when it is really nothing but a sort of new religion and an uncommonly nasty one. When people talked about the fall of man, they knew they were talking about a mystery, a thing they didn’t understand. Now they talk about the survival of the fittest: they think they do understand it, whereas they have not merely no notion, they have an elaborately false notion of what the words mean.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In The Club of Queer Trades (1903, 1905), 241.
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It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
'The Point of a Pin', in The Scandal of Father Brown (1935,2000), 142.
Science quotes on:  |  Problem (178)  |  See (41)  |  Solution (109)

Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that the danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Orthodoxy (1908, 2007), 15.
Science quotes on:  |  Artist (18)  |  Creativity (43)  |  Danger (30)  |  Imagination (125)  |  Logic (131)  |  Mad (7)  |  Mathematician (105)  |  Seldom (10)

Men can construct a science with very few instruments, or with very plain instruments; but no one on earth could construct a science with unreliable instruments. A man might work out the whole of mathematics with a handful of pebbles, but not with a handful of clay which was always falling apart into new fragments, and falling together into new combinations. A man might measure heaven and earth with a reed, but not with a growing reed.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Heretics (1905), 146-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (355)  |  Measurement (108)

Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or not man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In Orthodoxy (1908, 1909), 24.
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Modern science is necessarily a double-edged tool, a tool that cuts both ways. ... There is no doubt that a Zeppelin is a wonderful thing; but that did not prevent it from becoming a horrible thing.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
'The Efficiency of the Police', Illustrated London News (1 Apr 1922). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 314.
Science quotes on:  |  Becoming (7)  |  Both (5)  |  Cutting (3)  |  Doubt (66)  |  Horrible (4)  |  Modern (42)  |  Prevention (23)  |  Science (850)  |  Tool (30)  |  Way (31)  |  Wonder (62)  |  Zeppelin (2)

People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. … In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written “to be continued in our next.”
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
'On Certain Modern Writers and the institution of the Family' Heretics (1903). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 82.
Science quotes on:  |  Alphabet (4)  |  Book (94)  |  Continuation (13)  |  Fire (58)  |  Form (65)  |  Literature (32)  |  Metaphysics (24)  |  Next (4)  |  Novel (6)  |  People (72)  |  Popular (10)  |  Reading (23)  |  Reason (172)  |  Science (850)  |  Simplicity (92)  |  Sunset (6)  |  Truth (440)  |  Wonder (62)  |  Writing (45)

Physical science is like simple addition: it is either infallible or it is false.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In All Things Considered (1908), 187.
Science quotes on:  |  Addition (12)  |  False (29)  |  Physical Science (31)  |  Simple (24)

Science in the modern world has many uses, its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich. The word “kleptomania” is a vulgar example of what I mean.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
From 'Celts and Celtophiles', in Heretics (1905, 1909), 171.
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Science only means knowledge; and for [Greek] ancients it did only mean knowledge. Thus the favorite science of the Greeks was Astronomy, because it was as abstract as Algebra. ... We may say that the great Greek ideal was to have no use for useful things. The Slave was he who learned useful things; the Freeman was he who learned useless things. This still remains the ideal of many noble men of science, in the sense they do desire truth as the great Greeks desired it; and their attitude is an external protest against vulgarity of utilitarianism.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
'About Beliefs', in As I was Saying: A Book of Essays (1936), 65-66. Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 318.
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Sir Hiram Maxim is a genuine and typical example of the man of science, romantic, excitable, full of real but somewhat obvious poetry, a little hazy in logic and philosophy, but full of hearty enthusiasm and an honorable simplicity. He is, as he expresses it, “an old and trained engineer,” and is like all of the old and trained engineers I have happened to come across, a man who indemnifies himself for the superhuman or inhuman concentration required for physical science by a vague and dangerous romanticism about everything else.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In G.K. Chesterton, 'The Maxims of Maxim', Daily News (25 Feb 1905). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 87.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (198)  |  Concentration (6)  |  Danger (30)  |  Else (4)  |  Engineer (32)  |  Enthusiasm (20)  |  Everything (33)  |  Example (21)  |  Excitement (20)  |  Expression (43)  |  Full (10)  |  Genuine (8)  |  Honour (19)  |  Logic (131)  |  Sir Hiram Maxim (4)  |  Men Of Science (90)  |  Obvious (24)  |  Old (19)  |  Philosophy (128)  |  Physical Science (31)  |  Poetry (61)  |  Real (27)  |  Requirement (26)  |  Romance (5)  |  Romanticism (3)  |  Simplicity (92)  |  Somewhat (2)  |  Superhuman (2)  |  Training (21)  |  Typical (6)  |  Vagueness (8)

The Darwinian movement has made no difference to mankind, except that, instead of talking unphilosophically about philosophy, they now talk unscientifically about science.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In The Club of Queer Trades (1903, 1905), 241.
Science quotes on:  |  Darwinian (2)  |  Difference (129)  |  Mankind (105)  |  Movement (32)  |  Philosophy (128)  |  Unscientific (6)

The people has no definite disbelief in the temples of theology. The people has a very fiery and practical disbelief in the temples of physical science.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906, 1910), 176.
Science quotes on:  |  Definite (5)  |  Disbelief (2)  |  Fiery (4)  |  Person (32)  |  Physical Science (31)  |  Practical (30)  |  Temple (12)  |  Theology (19)

The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. … It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wilderness lies in wait.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In Orthodoxy (1909), 148.
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The trouble about always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do it without destroying the health of the mind.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In 'The Health of the Mind', Illustrated London News (10 Aug 1929), collected in Selected Essays (1955), 22.
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There is no great harm in the theorist who makes up a new theory to fit a new event. But the theorist who starts with a false theory and then sees everything as making it come true is the most dangerous enemy of human reason.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In The Flying Inn (1914), 103.
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To mix science up with philosophy is only to produce a philosophy that has lost all its ideal value and a science that has lost all its practical value. It is for my private physician to tell me whether this or that food will kill me. It is for my private philosopher to tell me whether I ought to be killed.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In All Things Considered (1908), 187.
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We talk about life as being dull as ditchwater, but is ditchwater dull? Naturalists with microscopes have told me that it teems with quiet fun.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
'The Spice of Life', The Listener (1936). As cited, without initial phrase, in Bill Swainson (ed.), The Encarta Book of Quotations (2000), 201. Full sentences quote from Alzina Stone Dale, The Outline of Sanity: A Biography of G. K. Chesterton (2005), 288.
Science quotes on:  |  Microorganism (19)  |  Microscope (46)  |  Naturalist (27)  |  Nature (524)

You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In G.K. Chesterton, 'The Maxims of Maxim', Daily News (25 Feb 1905). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 90.
Science quotes on:  |  Already (5)  |  Logic (131)  |  Truth (440)  |  Without (11)

[Consider] a fence or gate erected across a road] The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In The Thing (1929). Excerpt in Gilbert Keith Chesterton and Alvaro De Silva (ed.), Brave New Family: G.K. Chesterton on Men and Women, Children, Sex, Divorce (1990), 53. Note: This passage may be the source which John F. Kennedy had in mind when he wrote in his personal notebook, “Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.” (see John F. Kennedy quotes on this site). The words in that terse paraphrase are those of Kennedy, and are neither those of Chesterton, or, as often attributed, Robert Frost (q.v.).
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[There is] one distinctly human thing - the story. There can be as good science about a turnip as about a man. ... [Or philosophy, or theology] ...There can be, without any question at all, as good higher mathematics about a turnip as about a man. But I do not think, though I speak in a manner somewhat tentative, that there could be as good a novel written about a turnip as a man.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In 'A Much Repeated Repetition', Daily News (26 Mar 1904). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 84.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
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Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
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Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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