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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index F > Robert Fulton Quotes

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Robert Fulton
(14 Nov 1765 - 24 Feb 1815)

American inventor, engineer and artist who brought steamboating from the experimental stage to commercial success

Science Quotes by Robert Fulton (4 quotes)

As the component parts of all new machines may be said to be old[,] it is a nice discriminating judgment, which discovers that a particular arrangement will produce a new and desired effect. ... Therefore, the mechanic should sit down among levers, screws, wedges, wheels, etc. like a poet among the letters of the alphabet, considering them as the exhibition of his thoughts; in which a new arrangement transmits a new idea to the world.
— Robert Fulton
A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation (1796), preface, x.
Science quotes on:  |  Alphabet (4)  |  Arrangement (26)  |  Component (6)  |  Consideration (37)  |  Desire (45)  |  Discovery (354)  |  Discrimination (4)  |  Effect (70)  |  Exhibit (3)  |  Idea (220)  |  Judgment (38)  |  Letter (15)  |  Lever (6)  |  Machine (55)  |  Mechanic (3)  |  New (99)  |  Old (19)  |  Part (55)  |  Particular (22)  |  Poet (25)  |  Production (70)  |  Screw (3)  |  Thought (168)  |  Transmission (16)  |  Wedge (2)  |  Wheel (8)

But how to raise a sum in the different States has been my greatest difficulty.
— Robert Fulton
Letter from Robert Fulton from London (5 Feb 1797) to President George Washington, proposing benefits from building canals. In Henry Winram Dickinson, Robert Fulton, Engineer and Artist (1913), 57.
Science quotes on:  |  Invention (167)

My steamboat voyage to Albany and back, has turned out rather more favorable than I had calculated. The distance from New York to Albany is one hundred and fifty miles; I ran it up in thirty-two hours, and down in thirty. I had a light breeze against me the whole way, both going and coming, and the voyage has been performed wholly by, the power of the steam engine. I overtook many sloops and schooners beating to windward and parted with them as if they had been at anchor. The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved.
— Robert Fulton
Letter to Joel Barlow, Philadelphia, from New York (22 Aug 1807), in The Literary Magazine, and American Register for 1807 (1808), Vol. 8, No. 47, 96.
Science quotes on:  |  Steamboat (3)

The fear of meeting the opposition of envy, or the illiberality of ignorance is, no doubt, the frequent cause of preventing many ingenious men from ushering opinions into the world which deviate from common practice. Hence for want of energy, the young idea is shackled with timidity and a useful thought is buried in the impenetrable gloom of eternal oblivion.
— Robert Fulton
A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation (1796), preface, ix.
Science quotes on:  |  Bury (2)  |  Cause (117)  |  Common (42)  |  Deviation (8)  |  Energy (101)  |  Envy (7)  |  Fear (52)  |  Gloom (5)  |  Idea (220)  |  Ignorance (110)  |  Impenetrable (2)  |  Ingenuity (15)  |  Meeting (9)  |  Opinion (81)  |  Opposition (22)  |  Practice (26)  |  Prevention (23)  |  Shackle (2)  |  Thought (168)  |  Timidity (3)  |  Usefulness (53)

Quotes by others about Robert Fulton (3)

What sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such nonsense.
In Ashton Applewhite, Tripp Evans and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (1992), 172, but without definitive source. Webmaster has not found any 19th-century book with such a quotation. Contact webmaster if you can help identify if this is a valid quote or merely a joke.
Science quotes on:  |  Invention (167)  |  Steamboat (3)

The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the clown.
In Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1980), 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Christopher Columbus (9)  |  Genius (86)  |  Implication (9)  |  Laughter (11)  |  Orville Wright (4)

The gentleman [Mr. Taber] from New York says [agricultural research] is all foolish. Yes; it was foolish when Burbank was experimenting with wild cactus. It was foolish when the Wright boys went down to Kitty Hawk and had a contraption there that they were going to fly like birds. It was foolish when Robert Fulton tried to put a boiler into a sail boat and steam it up the Hudson. It was foolish when one of my ancestors thought the world was round and discovered this country so that the gentleman from New York could become a Congressman. (Laughter.) ... Do not seek to stop progress; do not seek to put the hand of politics on these scientific men who are doing a great work. As the gentleman from Texas points out, it is not the discharge of these particular employees that is at stake, it is all the work of investigation, of research, of experimentation that has been going on for years that will be stopped and lost.
Speaking (28 Dec 1932) as a member of the 72nd Congress, early in the Great Depression, in opposition to an attempt to eliminate a small amount from the agricultural appropriation bill. As quoted in 'Mayor-Elect La Guardia on Research', Science (1933), New Series, 78, No. 2031, 511.
Science quotes on:  |  Agriculture (19)  |  Ancestor (17)  |  Bird (54)  |  Boat (2)  |  Boiler (4)  |  Christopher Columbus (9)  |  Experiment (367)  |  Flight (28)  |  Foolishness (3)  |  Government (48)  |  Hand (30)  |  Investigation (81)  |  Kitty Hawk (2)  |  Loss (43)  |  Men Of Science (90)  |  New York (5)  |  Politics (50)  |  Progress (198)  |  Research (358)  |  Researcher (9)  |  Scientific Progress (12)  |  Stop (23)  |  Technology (95)  |  Orville Wright (4)  |  Wilbur Wright (7)  |  Year (61)

See also:
  • todayinsci icon 14 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Fulton's birth.
  • todayinsci icon Robert Fulton - The First Steamboat from Cradle Days of New York (1909).
  • todayinsci icon The Fulton Patents - excerpt from Robert Fulton and the “Clermont” (1909).
  • todayinsci icon Inventor - Businessman - transcript of a 1940s radio talk by Charles F. Kettering.
  • todayinsci icon 11 Feb - event description for steamboat patent issued to Robert Fulton in 1810.
  • book icon The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream, by Kirkpatrick Sale. - book suggestion.
  • booklist icon Booklist for Robert Fulton Steamboats.

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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