Pierre Simon Laplace
Pierre Simon Laplace
(23 Mar 1749 - 5 Mar 1827)

French mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, known for his exact approach to science.

“Nature laughs at the difficulties of integration.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Quoted in The Armchair Science Reader
I. Gordon and S. Sorkin (New York 1959)

“The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
The Principle of Laplace

“Read Euler: he is our master in everything.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Quoted in Calculus GemsG. Simmons (New York 1992)

“Such is the advantage of a well constructed language that its simplified notation often becomes the source of profound theories.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Quoted in Mathematical Maxims and Minims N. Rose (Raleigh N C 1988)

Napoleon: “You have written this huge book on the system of the world without once mentioning the author of the universe.”
Laplace: “Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Quoted in Budget of Paradoxes, A. De Morgan

“...by shortening the labours doubled the life of the astronomer.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
about Napier's logarithms
Quoted in In Mathematical Circles
H. Eves (Boston 1969).

“It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity and the great ease which it has lent to computations put our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions; and we shall appreciate the grandeur of the achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Quoted in Return to Mathematical Circles
H. Eves (Boston 1988). 

“It is interesting thus to follow the intellectual truths of analysis in the phenomena of nature. This correspondence, of which the system of the world will offer us numerous examples, makes one of the greatest charms attached to mathematical speculations.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Exposition du systθme du monde (1799)

“The theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus; it enables us to appreciate with exactness that which accurate minds feel with a sort of instinct for which of times they are unable to account.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Introduction to Thιorie Analytique des Probabilitiιs

“The mind has its illusions as the sense of sight; and in the same manner that the sense of feeling corrects the latter, reflection and calculation correct the former.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities
(Dover, 1952), p. 160

“It is remarkable that a science which began with the consideration of games of chance should have become the most important object of human knowledge.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Thιorie Analytique des Probabilitiιs

“All the effects of Nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace

“Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, if moreover this intelligence were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula both the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
expressing his belief in causal determinism
Introduction to Oeuvres vol. VII, Theorie Analytique de Probabilites (1812-1820)

“What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
Allegedly his last words
Quoted in Budget of Paradoxes, A. De Morgan

“Man follows only phantoms.”
— Pierre Simon Laplace
— His true last words, according to De Morgan
Quoted in Budget of Paradoxes, A. De Morgan

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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