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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index G > Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(28 Aug 1749 - 22 Mar 1832)

German poet, zoologist, botanist and geologist.


Science Quotes by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (40 quotes)

Blut ist ein ganz besondrer Saft.
Blood is a very special juice.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
'Faust I' (1808), Faust's Study III, I. 1740, in Faust I & II, trans. Stuart Atkins (1984), 45.
Science quotes on:  |  Blood (63)

Dauer in Wechsel.
Duration in change.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Favourite expression.
Science quotes on:  |  French Saying (51)

Die Geschichte der Wissenschaften ist eine grosse Fuge, in der die Stimmen der Völker nach und nach zum Vorschein kommen
The history of the sciences is a great fugue, in which the voices of the nations come one by one into notice.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 64:23.
Science quotes on:  |  History Of Science (34)

Die Mathematiker sind eine Art Franzosen. Spricht man zu ihnen, so übersetzen sie alles in ihre eigene Sprache, und so wird es alsobald etwas ganz anderes.
Mathematicians are a kind of Frenchmen. Whenever you say anything or talk to them, they translate it into their own language, and right away it is something completely different.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Quoted by Christiane Senn-Fennell, 'Oral and Written Communication', in Ian Westbury et al. (eds.), Teaching as a Reflective Practice (2000), 225.
Science quotes on:  |  Different (15)  |  Frenchman (2)  |  Language (71)  |  Mathematician (110)  |  Talk (21)

Die Wahlverwandtschaften.
Elective affinities.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Title of a novel, 1809.
Science quotes on:  |  Nomenclature (102)

Nicht Kunst und Wissenschaft allein,
Geduld will bei dem Werke sein

Not art and science only, but patience will be required for the work.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 298:11.
Science quotes on:  |  Science And Art (58)

Wer Wissenschaft und Kunst besitzt,
Hat auch Religion;
Wer jene beiden nicht besitzt,
Der habe Religion

He who possesses science and art,
Possesses religion as well;
He who possesses neither of these,
Had better have religion.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
'Gedichte' in Goethes Werke (1948, 1952), Vol. 1, 367. Cited in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (2002), 79.
Science quotes on:  |  Art And Science (17)  |  Science And Religion (159)

Wilst du ins Unendliche schreiten, Geh nur im Endlichen nach allen Seiten.
If you want to reach the infinite, explore every aspect of the finite.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe On Science: An Anthology of Goethe's Scientific Writings (1996), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Infinite (39)

Zweck sein selbst ist jegliches Tier.
Each animal is an end in itself.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
'Metamorphose der Tiere' (1806), in David Luke (ed.), Goethe (1964), 152.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (143)  |  Evolution (342)

As for what I have done as a poet, I take no pride in whatever. Excellent poets have lived at the same time with me, poets more excellent lived before me, and others will come after me. But that in my country I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of colors-of that, I say, I am not a little proud, and here have a consciousness of superiority to many.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Wed 18 Feb 1829. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford, (1971), 302.

He who posseses science and art, has religion; he who possesses neither science nor art, let him get religion.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Quoted in Miguel De Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life (1913), translated by John Ernest Crawford Flitch (1954), 210.
Science quotes on:  |  Science And Religion (159)

Hypotheses are the scaffolds which are erected in front of a building and removedd when the building is completed. They are indispensable to the worker; but the worker must not mistake the scaffolding for the building.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Maxims and Reflections (1998), as quoted without further citation, in Gιrard Chaouat and James Frederick Mowbray (eds.), Biologie Cellulaire Et Molιculaire de la Relation Materno-foetale (1991), 267.
Science quotes on:  |  Hypothesis (150)

I could never have known so well how paltry men are, and how little they care for really high aims, if I had not tested them by my scientific researches. Thus I saw that most men only care for science so far as they get a living by it, and that they worship even error when it affords them a subsistence.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Wed 12 Oct 1825. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford (1971), 119-20.
Science quotes on:  |  Error (152)  |  Human Nature (34)  |  Research (360)

I had rather be Mercury, the smallest among seven [planets], revolving round the sun, than the first among five [moons] revolving round Saturn.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 166:23.
Science quotes on:  |  Mercury (26)  |  Planet (84)  |  Saturn (8)

In all our academies we attempt far too much. ... In earlier times lectures were delivered upon chemistry and botany as branches of medicine, and the medical student learned enough of them. Now, however, chemistry and botany are become sciences of themselves, incapable of comprehension by a hasty survey, and each demanding the study of a whole life, yet we expect the medical student to understand them. He who is prudent, accordingly declines all distracting claims upon his time, and limits himself to a single branch and becomes expert in one thing.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Quoted in Johann Hermann Baas, Henry Ebenezer Handerson (trans.), Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession (1889), 842-843.
Science quotes on:  |  Academy (7)  |  Botany (30)  |  Chemistry (143)  |  Comprehension (30)  |  Education (177)  |  Lecture (31)  |  Medicine (185)  |  Student (54)  |  Study (157)

In all times it is only individuals that have advanced science, not the age.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 184:42.
Science quotes on:  |  Men Of Science (90)

In Nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it, and over it.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 183:24.
Science quotes on:  |  Nature (534)

It seems to me that every phenomenon, every fact, itself is the really interesting object. Whoever explains it, or connects it with other events, usually only amuses himself or makes sport of us, as, for instance, the naturalist or historian. But a single action or event is interesting, not because it is explainable, but because it is true.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Quoted in translated from Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten in Franz Boas, 'The Study of Geography', Science Supplement (11 Feb 1881), 9, No. 210, 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (57)  |  Amusement (14)  |  Connection (39)  |  Event (49)  |  Explanation (88)  |  Fact (325)  |  Historian (18)  |  Interest (82)  |  Naturalist (27)  |  Object (47)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Single (26)  |  Sport (7)  |  Truth (450)

It will be! the mass is working clearer!
Conviction gathers, truer, nearer!
The mystery which for Man in Nature lies
We dare to test, by knowledge led;
And that which she was wont to organize
We crystallize, instead.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As spoken by character Wagner, in Johann Goethe and Bayard Taylr (trans.), Faust: A tragedy by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated, in the original metres: The Second Part (1871), Act 2, Scene 2, Laboratory, 119.
Science quotes on:  |  Clearer (3)  |  Conviction (26)  |  Crystallize (3)  |  Dare (5)  |  Gather (7)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Mass (23)  |  Mystery (74)  |  Nature (534)  |  Nearer (5)  |  Organize (4)  |  Test (46)  |  Truth (450)  |  Work (198)

Man is born, not to solve the problems of the universe, but to find out where the problem applies, and then to restrain himself within the limits of the comprehensible.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Wed. 12 Oct 1825. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford (1971), 120.
Science quotes on:  |  Problem (180)

Man is not born to solve the problem of the universe, but to find out where the problem begins and then restrain himself within the limits of the comprehensible.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Homiletic Review, Vol. 83-84 (1922), Vol. 84, 290.
Science quotes on:  |  Enquiry (72)  |  Limit (34)  |  Research (360)  |  Universe (291)

Mathematicians are like a certain type of Frenchman: when you talk to them they translate it into their own language, and then it soon turns into something completely different.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Maxims and Reflections (1998), trans. E. Stopp, 162.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematician (110)

Mathematics can remove no prejudices and soften no obduracy. It has no influence in sweetening the bitter strife of parties, and in the moral world generally its action is perfectly null.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 271:3.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (367)

Nature does not suffer her veil to be taken from her, and what she does not choose to reveal to the spirit, thou wilt not wrest from her by levers and screws.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 119:29.
Science quotes on:  |  Lever (7)  |  Nature (534)

Nature goes her own way, and all that to us seems an exception is really according to order.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Thurs 9 Dec 1824. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford (1971), 75.
Science quotes on:  |  Nature (534)

No one can take from us the joy of the first becoming aware of something, the so-called discovery. But if we also demand the honor, it can be utterly spoiled for us, for we are usually not the first. What does discovery mean, and who can say that he has discovered this or that? After all it's pure idiocy to brag about priority; for it's simply unconscious conceit, not to admit frankly that one is a plagiarist.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Epigraph to Lancelot Law Whyte, The Unconscious before Freud (1960).
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (360)  |  Plagiarism (3)  |  Priority (3)

Nothing is more consonant with Nature than that she puts into operation in the smallest detail that which she intends as a whole.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe On Science: An Anthology of Goethe's Scientific Writings (1996), 59.
Science quotes on:  |  Detail (33)  |  Evolution (342)  |  Nature (534)

Only he who finds empiricism irksome is driven to method.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Maxims and Reflections (1998), trans. E. Stopp, 154.
Science quotes on:  |  Empirical (3)

Science has been seriously retarded by the study of what is not worth knowing and of what is not knowable.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Attributed. In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 382:30.
Science quotes on:  |  Science (875)  |  Study (157)

Someday someone will write a pathology of experimental physics and bring to light all those swindles which subvert our reason, beguile our judgement and, what is worse, stand in the way of any practical progress. The phenomena must be freed once and for all from their grim torture chamber of empiricism, mechanism, and dogmatism; they must be brought before the jury of man's common sense.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe On Science: An Anthology of Goethe's Scientific Writings (1996), 31.
Science quotes on:  |  Common Sense (34)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Progress (200)

The credit of advancing science has always been due to individuals, never to the age.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 422:12.
Science quotes on:  |  Men Of Science (90)

The first and last thing which is required of genius is the love of truth.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 106.
Science quotes on:  |  First (42)  |  Genius (92)  |  Last (13)  |  Love (64)  |  Truth (450)

The Primal Plant is going be the strangest creature in the world, which Nature herself must envy me. With this model and the key to it, it will be possible to go on for ever inventing plants and know that their existence is logical; that is to say, if they do not actually exist, they could, for they are not the shadowy phantoms of a vain imagination, but possess an inner necessity and truth. The same law will be applicable to all other living organisms.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
To Herder, 17 May 1787. Italian Journey (1816-17), trans. W. H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer (1970), 310-11.
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (342)  |  Plant (96)

The works of Lavoisier and his associates operated upon many of us at that time like the Sun's rising after a night of moonshine: but Chemistry is now betrothed to the Mathematics, and is in consequence grown somewhat shy of her former admirers.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In Luke Howard, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and D.F.S. Scott (ed.), Luke Howard (1772-1864): His Correspondence with Goethe and his Continental Journey of 1816(1976), 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Admirer (2)  |  Chemistry (143)  |  Consequence (44)  |  Former (2)  |  Mathematics (367)  |  Moonshine (3)  |  Night (26)  |  Rising (3)  |  Shy (2)  |  Sun (115)  |  Work (198)

There is no patriotic art and no patriotic science.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 473:44.
Science quotes on:  |  Science And Art (58)

There is no permanence in doubt; it incites the mind to closer inquiry and experiment, from which, if rightly managed, certainty proceeds, and in this alone can man find thorough satisfaction.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 474:2.
Science quotes on:  |  Doubt (67)  |  Experiment (369)

What is the universal?
The single case.
What is the particular?
Millions of cases.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe On Science: An Anthology of Goethe's Scientific Writings (1996), 92.
Science quotes on:  |  Universal (26)

Whatever Nature undertakes, she can only accomplish it in a sequence. She never makes a leap. For example she could not produce a horse if it were not preceded by all the other animals on which she ascends to the horse's structure as if on the rungs of a ladder. Thus every one thing exists for the sake of all things and all for the sake of one; for the one is of course the all as well. Nature, despite her seeming diversity, is always a unity, a whole; and thus, when she manifests herself in any part of that whole, the rest must serve as a basis for that particular manifestation, and the latter must have a relationship to the rest of the system.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe On Science: An Anthology of Goethe's Scientific Writings (1996), 60
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (342)  |  Horse (17)  |  Nature (534)

Whether one show one's self a man of genius in science or compose a song, the only point is, whether the thought, the discovery, the deed, is living and can live on.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 549:41.
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (360)  |  Genius (92)  |  Thought (170)

Without my attempts in natural science, I should never have learned to know mankind such as it is. In nothing else can we so closely approach pure contemplation and thought, so closely observe the errors of the senses and of the understanding, the weak and strong points of character.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Fri 13 Feb 1829. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford (1971), 293.
Science quotes on:  |  Character (39)  |  Mankind (111)



Quotes by others about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4)

Goethe's devil is a cultivated personage and acquainted with the modern sciences; sneers at witchcraft and the black art even while employing them, and doubts most things, nay, half disbelieves even his own existence.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 128:24.
Science quotes on:  |  Witchcraft (2)

[Thomas Henry] Huxley, I believe, was the greatest Englishman of the Nineteenth Century—perhaps the greatest Englishman of all time. When one thinks of him, one thinks inevitably of such men as Goethe and Aristotle. For in him there was that rich, incomparable blend of intelligence and character, of colossal knowledge and high adventurousness, of instinctive honesty and indomitable courage which appears in mankind only once in a blue moon. There have been far greater scientists, even in England, but there has never been a scientist who was a greater man.
'Thomas Henry Huxley.' In the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925). Reprinted in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy: A New Selection from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (2006), 157.
Science quotes on:  |  Aristotle (101)  |  Character (39)  |  England (17)  |  Thomas Henry Huxley (77)  |  Intelligence (76)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Scientist (237)

Pathology, probably more than any other branch of science, suffers from heroes and hero-worship. Rudolf Virchow has been its archangel and William Welch its John the Baptist, while Paracelsus and Cohnheim have been relegated to the roles of Lucifer and Beelzebub. ... Actually, there are no heroes in Pathology—all of the great thoughts permitting advance have been borrowed from other fields, and the renaissance of pathology stems not from pathology itself but from the philosophers Kant and Goethe.
Quoted from an address to a second year class, in Levin L. Waters, obituary for Harry S. N. Greene, M.D., in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine (Feb-Apr 1971), 43:4-5, 207.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (52)  |  Beelzebub (2)  |  Borrowing (4)  |  Branch (23)  |  Field (69)  |  Hero (10)  |  Immanuel Kant (27)  |  Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (13)  |  Pathology (9)  |  Philosopher (67)  |  Renaissance (5)  |  Stem (7)  |  Suffering (20)  |  Rudolf Virchow (27)  |  Worship (11)

[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. ... On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller's works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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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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- 100 -
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 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
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