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Chemist Quotes (66 quotes)

Carl Sagan quote A Subject Called Chemistry
Wellington College. CC by-NC 2.0 (source)

Bin Chemiker der kein Physiker ist, ist gar nichts.
A chemist who is not a physicist is nothing at all.
J. R. Partington (ed.), A History of Chemistry (1961), Vol. 4, 282.
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Engineering, too, owes its most useful materials to the achievements of chemists in identifying, separating, and transforming materials: structural steel for the framework of bridges and buildings, portland cement for roadways and aqueducts, pure copper for the electrical industries, aluminum alloys for automobiles and airplanes, porcelain for spark plugs and electrical insulators. The triumphs of engineering skill rest on a chemical foundation.
In Fundamental Chemistry, and Elementary Textbook for College Classes (1936), 8.
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Remarking about Frederick Sanger who used the new technique of paper chromotography:
They are not chemists there, just a lot of paper hangers.

Quoted in 'Alexander Robertus Todd, O.M., Baron Todd of Trumpington', obituary by Damiel M. Brown and Hans Kornberg in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 2000, 46, 527. At Cambridge, Todd and his colleagues began using paper chromotography in the early 1950s to separate a mixture of vitamin B12 reaction products as a method to identify them.
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[Recalling Professor Ira Remsen's remarks (1895) to a group of his graduate students about to go out with their degrees into the world beyond the university:]
He talked to us for an hour on what was ahead of us; cautioned us against giving up the desire to push ahead by continued study and work. He warned us against allowing our present accomplishments to be the high spot in our lives. He urged us not to wait for a brilliant idea before beginning independent research, and emphasized the fact the Lavoisier's first contribution to chemistry was the analysis of a sample of gypsum. He told us that the fields in which the great masters had worked were still fruitful; the ground had only been scratched and the gleaner could be sure of ample reward.
Quoted in Frederick Hutton Getman, The Life of Ira Remsen (1980), 73.
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[When questioned on his longevity] First of all, I selected my ancestors very wisely. ... They were long-lived, healthy people. Then, as a chemist, I know how to eat, how to exercise, keep my blood circulating. ... I don't worry. I don't get angry at people. I don't worry about things I can't help. I do what I can to make the world a better place to live, but I don't complain if things aren't right. As a scientist I take the world as I find it.
[About celebrating his 77th birthday by swimming a half mile in 22 minutes] I used swim fins and webbed gloves because a man of intelligence should apply his power efficiently, not just churn the water.
As quoted in obituary by Wallace Turner, 'Joel Hildebrand, 101', New York Times (3 May 1983), D27.
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A chemist who does not know mathematics is seriously handicapped.
Quoted in Albert Rosenfeld, Langmuir: The Man and the Scientist (1962), 293.
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A writer must be as objective as a chemist: he must abandon the subjective line; he must know that dung-heaps play a very reasonable part in a landscape, and that the evil passions are as inherent in life as good ones.
Letter to M. V. Kiselev (14 Jan 1887). In L. S. Friedland (ed.), Anton Chekhov: Letters on the Short Story (1967).

Albertus [Magnus] ... debased the doctrine of Aristotle with the itch of the chemists flowing with the bloody flux of quicksilver and the stench of sulphur.
De Orta et Causis Subterraneorum Lib. V (1546), 46, trans. John Howes.
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Baeyer—a chemist who was more of an encyclopedist than a researcher.
In Richard Willstätter, Arthur Stoll (ed. of the original German) and Lilli S. Hornig (trans.), From My Life: The Memoirs of Richard Willstätter (1958), 174.
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Be a physical chemist, an organic chemist, an analytical chemist, if you will; but above all be a Chemist.
[Admonishing his students to avoid over-specialization.]
F. H. Getman, The Life of Ira Remsen (1940), 71.
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Boundaries which mark off one field of science from another are purely artificial, are set up only for temporary convenience. Let chemists and physicists dig deep enough, and they reach common ground.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-Book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 183.
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Chemists do have a good sense of humor but lose it when they serve as referees.
A. Nickon and E. F. Silversmith, Organic Chemistry: The Name Game, Modern Coined Terms and Their Origins (1987), 293, footnote.
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Chemists must unite in order to force upon the reluctant world the power of their discoveries.
Shortly after World War I. Quoted, as a memory of Pope, in Sir William Jackson Pope Memorial Lecture by Leslie H. Lampitt, 'Sir William Jackson Pope: His Influence on Scientific Organisation' Journal of the Royal Society of Arts (31 Jan 1947), 95, No. 4736, 174. Webmaster notes that this is given as a memory, and the wording therefore may not be verbatim.
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Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the greatest poet, but always his encouragement and support ... The sailor and traveller, the anatomist, chemist, astronomer, geologist, phrenologist, spiritualist, mathematician, historian and lexicographer are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets and their construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem.
In Walt Whitman and William Michael Rossetti (ed.), 'Preface to the First Edition of Leaves of Grass', Poems By Walt Whitman (1868), 46.
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For example, there are numbers of chemists who occupy themselves exclusively with the study of dyestuffs. They discover facts that are useful to scientific chemistry; but they do not rank as genuine scientific men. The genuine scientific chemist cares just as much to learn about erbium—the extreme rarity of which renders it commercially unimportant—as he does about iron. He is more eager to learn about erbium if the knowledge of it would do more to complete his conception of the Periodic Law, which expresses the mutual relations of the elements.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 20.
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For many centuries chemists labored to change lead into precious gold, and eventually found that precious uranium turned to lead without any human effort at all.
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Gay-Lussac was quick, lively, ingenious and profound, with great activity of mind and great facility of manipulation. I should place him at the head of all the living chemists in France.
In Mary Elvira Weeks, Discovery of the Elements (1934), 161, citing J. Davy, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Humphry Davy, Bart. (1836) Vol. 1, 469.
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I am an organic chemist, albeit one who adheres to the definition of organic chemistry given by the great Swedish chemist Berzelius, namely, the chemistry of substances found in living matter, and my science is one of the more abstruse insofar as it rests on concepts and employs a jargon neither of which is a part of everyday experience. Nevertheless, organic chemistry deals with matters of truly vital Importance and in some of its aspects with which I myself have been particularly concerned it may prove to hold the keys to Life itself.
In 'Synthesis in the Study of Nucleotides', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1957. In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1942-1962 (1964), 522.
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I have spent some months in England, have seen an awful lot and learned little. England is not a land of science, there is only a widely practised dilettantism, the chemists are ashamed to call themselves chemists because the pharmacists, who are despised, have assumed this name.
Liebig to Berzelius, 26 Nov 1837. Quoted in J. Carriere (ed.), Berzelius und Liebig.; ihre Briefe (1898), 134. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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I hope that in due time the chemists will justify their proceedings by some large generalisations deduced from the infinity of results which they have collected. For me I am left hopelessly behind and I will acknowledge to you that through my bad memory organic chemistry is to me a sealed book. Some of those here, Hoffman [August Hofmann] for instance, consider all this however as scaffolding, which will disappear when the structure is built. I hope the structure will be worthy of the labour. I should expect a better and a quicker result from the study of the powers of matter, but then I have a predilection that way and am probably prejudiced in judgment.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (9 Dec 1852), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), 209-210.
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I must confess the language of symbols is to me
A Babylonish dialect
Which learned chemists much affect;
It is a party-coloured dress
Of patch'd and piebald languages:
'T is English cut on Greek and Latin,
Like fustian heretofore on satin.
'Additional Observations on the Use of Chemical Symbols', Philosophical Magazine, Third series (1834), 4, 251. Cited in Timothy L. Alborn, 'Negotiating Notation: Chemical Symbols and British Society, 1831-1835', Annals of Science (1989), 46, 437.
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I saw [Linus Pauling] as a brilliant lecturer and a man with a fantastic memory, and a great, great showman. I think he was the century’s greatest chemist. No doubt about it.
From transcript of audio of Max Perutz in BBC programme, 'Lifestory: Linus Pauling' (1997). On 'Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA' webpage 'I Wish I Had Made You Angry Earlier.'
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I suppose that the first chemists seemed to be very hard-hearted and unpoetical persons when they scouted the glorious dream of the alchemists that there must be some process for turning base metals into gold. I suppose that the men who first said, in plain, cold assertion, there is no fountain of eternal youth, seemed to be the most cruel and cold-hearted adversaries of human happiness. I know that the economists who say that if we could transmute lead into gold, it would certainly do us no good and might do great harm, are still regarded as unworthy of belief. Do not the money articles of the newspapers yet ring with the doctrine that we are getting rich when we give cotton and wheat for gold rather than when we give cotton and wheat for iron?
'The Forgotten Man' (1883). In The Forgotten Man and Other Essays (1918), 468.
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I would like to emphasize strongly my belief that the era of computing chemists, when hundreds if not thousands of chemists will go to the computing machine instead of the laboratory for increasingly many facets of chemical information, is already at hand. There is only one obstacle, namely that someone must pay for the computing time.
'Spectroscopy, Molecular Orbitals, and Chemical Bonding', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1966). In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1963-1970 (1972), 159.
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If these d'Hérelle bodies were really genes, fundamentally like our chromosome genes, they would give us an utterly new angle from which to attack the gene problem. They are filterable, to some extent isolable, can be handled in test-tubes, and their properties, as shown by their effects on the bacteria, can then be studied after treatment. It would be very rash to call these bodies genes, and yet at present we must confess that there is no distinction known between the genes and them. Hence we can not categorically deny that perhaps we may be able to grind genes in a mortar and cook them in a beaker after all. Must we geneticists become bacteriologists, physiological chemists and physicists, simultaneously with being zoologists and botanists? Let us hope so.
'Variation Due to Change in the Individual Gene', The American Naturalist (1922), 56, 48-9.
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If you want to become a chemist, you will have to ruin your health. If you don't ruin your health studying, you won't accomplish anything these days in chemistry.
Liebig's advice to Kekulé.
Quoted in Berichle der Deutschen Chemishen Gesellschaft, 23, 1890. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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It has hitherto been a serious impediment to the progress of knowledge, that is in investigating the origin or causes of natural productions, recourse has generally been had to the examination, both by experiment and reasoning, of what might be rather than what is. The laws or processes of nature we have every reason to believe invariable. Their results from time to time vary, according to the combinations of influential circumstances; but the process remains the same. Like the poet or the painter, the chemist may, and no doubt often' does, create combinations which nature never produced; and the possibility of such and such processes giving rise to such and such results, is no proof whatever that they were ever in natural operation.
Considerations on Volcanoes (1825), 243.
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It is my intent to beget a good understanding between the chymists and the mechanical philosophers who have hitherto been too little acquainted with one another's learning.
The Sceptical Chymist (1661).
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It is one of the signs of the times that modern chemists hold themselves bound and consider themselves in a position to give an explanation for everything, and when their knowledge fails them to make sure of supernatural explanations. Such a treatment of scientific subjects, not many degrees removed from a belief in witches and spirit-rapping, even Wislicenus considers permissible.
In H. Kolbe, 'Sign of the Times', Journal für Praktische Chemie (1877), 15, 473. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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It is structure that we look for whenever we try to understand anything. All science is built upon this search; we investigate how the cell is built of reticular material, cytoplasm, chromosomes; how crystals aggregate; how atoms are fastened together; how electrons constitute a chemical bond between atoms. We like to understand, and to explain, observed facts in terms of structure. A chemist who understands why a diamond has certain properties, or why nylon or hemoglobin have other properties, because of the different ways their atoms are arranged, may ask questions that a geologist would not think of' formulating, unless he had been similarly trained in this way of thinking about the world.
‘The Place of Chemistry In the Integration of the Sciences’, Main Currents in Modern Thought (1950), 7, 110.
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Just think of the differences today. A young person gets interested in chemistry and is given a chemical set. But it doesn't contain potassium cyanide. It doesn't even contain copper sulfate or anything else interesting because all the interesting chemicals are considered dangerous substances. Therefore, these budding young chemists don't get a chance to do anything engrossing with their chemistry sets. As I look back, I think it is pretty remarkable that Mr. Ziegler, this friend of the family, would have so easily turned over one-third of an ounce of potassium cyanide to me, an eleven-year-old boy.
In Barbara Marinacci, Linus Pauling In His Own Words (1995), 29.
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Langmuir is the most convincing lecturer that I have ever heard. I have heard him talk to an audience of chemists when I knew they did not understand more than one-third of what he was saying; but they thought they did. It's very easy to be swept off one's feet by Langmuir. You remember in [Kipling's novel] Kim that the water jar was broken and Lurgan Sahib was trying to hypnotise Kim into seeing it whole again. Kim saved himself by saying the multiplication table [so] I have heard Langmuir lecture when I knew he was wrong, but I had to repeat to myself: 'He is wrong; I know he is wrong; he is wrong', or I should have believed like the others.
'How to Ripen Time', Journal of Physical Chemistry 1931, 35, 1917.
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Mr Justus Liebig is no doubt a very clever gentleman and a most profound chemist, but in our opinion he knows as much of agriculture as the horse that ploughs the ground, and there is not an old man that stands between the stilts of a plough in Virginia, that cannot tell him of facts totally at variance with his finest spun theories.
Magazine
The Southern Planter (1845), 3, 23.
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Oh! That the Chemist's magic art
Could crystallize this sacred treasure!...
That very law which moulds a tear,
And bids it trickle from its source;
That law preserves the earth a sphere,
And guides the planets in their course.

&$039;On a Tear', in Samuel Rogers et al., The Poetical Works of Rogers, Campbell, J. Montombery, Lamb, and Kirke White (1836), 101.
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Science as an intellectual exercise enriches our culture, and is in itself ennobling. ... Though to the layman, the world revealed by the chemist may seem more commonplace, it is not so to him. Each new insight into how the atoms in their interactions express themselves in structure and transformations, not only of inanimate matter, but particularly also of living matter, provides a thrill.
Speech at the Nobel Banquet (10 Dec 1983) for his Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes (1984), 43.
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So far no chemist has ever discovered exchange-value either in a pearl or a diamond.
Karl Marx
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (1867), trans. Ben Fowkes (1976), Vol. 1, 177.
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Specialists never contribute anything to their specialty; Helmholtz wasn’t an eye-specialist, but a German army doctor who invented the ophthalmoscope one Saturday afternoon when there wasn’t anything else to do. Incidentally, he rewrote whole chapters of physics, so that the physicists only know him as one of their own. Robert Mayer wasn’t a physicist, but another country doctor; and Pasteur, who made bacteriology, was a tanner’s son or a chemist, as you will.
In Fischerisms (1930), 7.
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Suppose [an] imaginary physicist, the student of Niels Bohr, is shown an experiment in which a virus particle enters a bacterial cell and 20 minutes later the bacterial cell is lysed and 100 virus particles are liberated. He will say: “How come, one particle has become 100 particles of the same kind in 20 minutes? That is very interesting. Let us find out how it happens! How does the particle get in to the bacterium? How does it multiply? Does it multiply like a bacterium, growing and dividing, or does it multiply by an entirely different mechanism ? Does it have to be inside the bacterium to do this multiplying, or can we squash the bacterium and have the multiplication go on as before? Is this multiplying a trick of organic chemistry which the organic chemists have not yet discovered ? Let us find out. This is so simple a phenomenon that the answers cannot be hard to find. In a few months we will know. All we have to do is to study how conditions will influence the multiplication. We will do a few experiments at different temperatures, in different media, with different viruses, and we will know. Perhaps we may have to break into the bacteria at intermediate stages between infection and lysis. Anyhow, the experiments only take a few hours each, so the whole problem can not take long to solve.”
[Eight years later] he has not got anywhere in solving the problem he set out to solve. But [he may say to you] “Well, I made a slight mistake. I could not do it in a few months. Perhaps it will take a few decades, and perhaps it will take the help of a few dozen other people. But listen to what I have found, perhaps you will be interested to join me.”
From 'Experiments with Bacterial Viruses (Bacteriophages)', Harvey Lecture (1946), 41, 161-162. As cited in Robert Olby, The Path of the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1974, 1994), 237.
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The chemical or physical inventor is always a Prometheus. There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god. But if every physical and chemical invention is a blasphemy, every biological invention is a perversion. There is hardly one which, on first being brought to the notice of an observer from any nation which had not previously heard of their existence, would not appear to him as indecent and unnatural.
Lecture (4 Feb 1923) to the Heretics Society, Cambridge University, published in Daedalus; or, Science and the Future (1924), 44.
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The chemist in America has in general been content with what I have called a loafer electron theory. He has imagined the electrons sitting around on dry goods boxes at every corner [viz. the cubic atom], ready to shake hands with, or hold on to similar loafer electrons in other atoms.
'Atomism in Modern Physics', Journal of the Chemical Society (1924), 1411.
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The chemist works along his own brilliant line of discovery and exposition; the astronomer has his special field to explore; the geologist has a well-defined sphere to occupy. It is manifest, however, that not one of these men can tell the whole tale, and make a complete story of creation. Another man is wanted. A man who, though not necessarily going into formal science, sees the whole idea, and speaks of it in its unity. This man is the theologian. He is not a chemist, an astronomer, a geologist, a botanist——he is more: he speaks of circles, not of segments; of principles, not of facts; of causes and purposes rather than of effects and appearances. Not that the latter are excluded from his study, but that they are so wisely included in it as to be put in their proper places.
In The People's Bible: Discourses Upon Holy Scripture: Vol. 1. Genesis (1885), 120.
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The chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasures amid smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I were to change places with the Persian king.
Physica subterranea (1667). Quoted in The Chemistry Leaflet (1935), 9, 490, which also comments that it was hanging as an inscription “on the walls of the library of the Chemists’ Club in New York City.”

The chemists work with inaccurate and poor measuring services, but they employ very good materials. The physicists, on the other hand, use excellent methods and accurate instruments, but they apply these to very inferior materials. The physical chemists combine both these characteristics in that they apply imprecise methods to impure materials.
Quoted in R. Desper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 116.
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The establishment of the periodic law may truly be said to mark a line in chemical science, and we anticipate that its application and and extension will be fraught With the most important consequences. It reminds us how important above all things is the correct determination of the fundamental constants of our science—the atomic weights of the elements, about which in many cases great uncertainty prevails; it is much to be desired that this may not long remain the case. It also affords the strongest encouragement to the chemist to persevere in the search for new elements.
In The Encyclopaedia Britannica: Ninth Edition (1877), Vol. 5, 714.
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The loveliest theories are being overthrown by these damned experiments; it's no fun being a chemist anymore.
Liebig to Berzelius, 22 Jul 1834. Quoted in J. Carriere (ed.), Berzelius und Liebig: ihre Briefe (1898), 94. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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The recent ruling by the Supreme Court restricting obscenity in books, magazines and movies, requires that we re-examine our own journals for lewd contents. The recent chemical literature provides many examples of words and concepts whose double meaning and thinly veiled overtones are an affront to all clean chemists. What must a layman think of ‘coupling constants’, ‘tickling techniques’, or indeed ‘increased overlap’? The bounds of propriety are surely exceeded when heterocyclic chemists discuss homoenolization.
In Chemical Engineering News (8 Oct 1973), 68.
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The remotest discoveries of the Chemist, the Botanist, or the Mineralogist, will be as proper objects of the Poet’s art as any upon which it can be employed, if the time should ever come when these things shall be familiar to us, and the relations under which they are contemplated by the followers of these respective sciences shall be manifestly and palpably material to us as enjoying and suffering beings.
In W. J. B. Owen (ed.), Preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1800, 1957), 124-125.
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The responsibility for maintaining the composition of the blood in respect to other constituents devolves largely upon the kidneys. It is no exaggeration to say that the composition of the blood is determined not by what the mouth ingests but by what the kidneys keep; they are the master chemists of our internal environment, which, so to speak, they synthesize in reverse. When, among other duties, they excrete the ashes of our body fires, or remove from the blood the infinite variety of foreign substances which are constantly being absorbed from our indiscriminate gastrointestinal tracts, these excretory operations are incidental to the major task of keeping our internal environment in an ideal, balanced state. Our glands, our muscles, our bones, our tendons, even our brains, are called upon to do only one kind of physiological work, while our kidneys are called upon to perform an innumerable variety of operations. Bones can break, muscles can atrophy, glands can loaf, even the brain can go to sleep, without immediately endangering our survival, but when the kidneys fail to manufacture the proper kind of blood neither bone, muscle, gland nor brain can carry on.
'The Evolution of the Kidney', Lectures on the Kidney (1943), 3.
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The step between practical and theoretic science, is the step between the miner and the geologist, the apocathecary and the chemist.
Modern Painters (1852), Part 3, 8.
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The structure known, but not yet accessible by synthesis, is to the chemist what the unclimbed mountain, the uncharted sea, the untilled field, the unreached planet, are to other men … The unique challenge which chemical synthesis provides for the creative imagination and the skilled hand ensures that it will endure as long as men write books, paint pictures, and fashion things which are beautiful, or practical, or both.
In 'Art and Science in the Synthesis of Organic Compounds: Retrospect and Prospect', in Maeve O'Connor (ed.), Pointers and Pathways in Research (1963), 41.
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The struggle between the unitary and dualistic theories of chemical affinity, which raged for nearly a century, was a form of civil war between inorganic and organic chemists.
Comment made on a postcard sent to Robin O. Gandy. Reproduced in Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983), 513.
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The tendency of the sciences has long been an increasing proclivity of separation and dismemberment … The mathematician turns away from the chemist; the chemist from the naturalist; the mathematician, left to himself divides himself into a pure mathematician and a mixed mathematician, who soon part company … And thus science, even mere physical science, loses all traces of unity. A curious illustration of this result may be observed in the want of any name by which we can designate the students of the knowledge of the material world collectively. We are informed that this difficulty was felt very oppressively by the members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at their meetings at York, Oxford and Cambridge, in the last three summers. There was no general term by which these gentlemen could describe themselves with reference to their pursuits … some ingenious gentleman [William Whewell] proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form Scientist, and added that there could be no scruple … when we have words such as sciolist, economist, and atheist—but this was not generally palatable.
In Review of Mrs Somerville, 'On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences', The Quarterly Review (1834), 51, 58-61.
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There is in the chemist a form of thought by which all ideas become visible in the mind as strains of an imagined piece of music. This form of thought is developed in Faraday in the highest degree, whence it arises that to one who is not acquainted with this method of thinking, his scientific works seem barren and dry, and merely a series of researches strung together, while his oral discourse when he teaches or explains is intellectual, elegant, and of wonderful clearness.
Autobiography, 257-358. Quoted in William H. Brock, Justus Von Liebig (2002), 9.
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Those who consider James Watt only as a great practical mechanic form a very erroneous idea of his character: he was equally distinguished as a natural philosopher and a chemist, and his inventions demonstrate his profound knowledge of those sciences, and that peculiar characteristic of genius, the union of them for practical application.
As reported in Proceedings of the Public Meeting held at Preemasons' Hall, on the 18th June, 1824, for Erecting a Monument to the Late James Watt (1824), 8.
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To the Philosopher, the Physician, the Meteorologist, and the Chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of Ozone.
Ozone and Antozone (1873), 1.
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Unless the chemist learns the language of mathematics, he will become a provincial and the higher branches of chemical work, that require reason as well as skill, will gradually pass out of his hands.
Quoted in Journal of the Chemical Society, 1929, 6, 254.
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We have no knowledge, that is, no general principles drawn from the contemplation of particular facts, but what has been built up by pleasure, and exists in us by pleasure alone. The Man of Science, the Chemist and Mathematician, whatever difficulties and disgusts they may have had to struggle with, know and feel this. However painful may be the objects with which the Anatomist's knowledge is connected, he feels that his knowledge is pleasure; and where he has no pleasure he has no knowledge.
In Lyrical Ballads: With Pastoral and Other Poems (3rd Ed., 1802), Vol. 1, Preface, xxxiv.
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We may affirm of Mr. Buffon, that which has been said of the chemists of old; though he may have failed in attaining his principal aim, of establishing a theory, yet he has brought together such a multitude of facts relative to the history of the earth, and the nature of its fossil productions, that curiosity finds ample compensation, even while it feels the want of conviction.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1847), Vol. 1, 73.
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We speak erroneously of “artificial” materials, “synthetics”, and so forth. The basis for this erroneous terminology is the notion that Nature has made certain things which we call natural, and everything else is “man-made”, ergo artificial. But what one learns in chemistry is that Nature wrote all the rules of structuring; man does not invent chemical structuring rules; he only discovers the rules. All the chemist can do is find out what Nature permits, and any substances that are thus developed or discovered are inherently natural. It is very important to remember that.
From 'The Comprehensive Man', Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure (1963), 75-76.
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What chemists took from Dalton was not new experimental laws but a new way of practicing chemistry (he himself called it the “new system of chemical philosophy”), and this proved so rapidly fruitful that only a few of the older chemists in France and Britain were able to resist it.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 133.
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When the chemist makes gloves, he usually cannot help making them in pairs for both hands.
'The Origin of Life: A Chemist’s Fantasy', Science Progress (1912), 7, 318.

While the unique crystal stands on its shelf unmeasured by the goniometer, unslit by the optical lapidary, unanalysed by the chemist,—it is merely a piece of furniture, and has no more right to be considered as anything pertaining to science, than a curious china tea-cup on a chimney-piece.
In 'Report on the Progress and Present State of Mineralogy', Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1831 -32), 364-365.
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Why can the chemist not take the requisite numbers of atoms and simply put them together? The answer is that the chemist never has atoms at his disposal, and if he had, the direct combination of the appropriate numbers of atoms would lead only to a Brobdingnagian potpourri of different kinds of molecules, having a vast array of different structures. What the chemist has at hand always consists of substances, themselves made up of molecules, containing defined numbers of atoms in ordered arrangements. Consequently, in order to synthesize anyone substance, his task is that of combining, modifying, transforming, and tailoring known substances, until the total effect of his manipulations is the conversion of one or more forms of matter into another.
In 'Art and Science in the Synthesis of Organic Compounds: Retrospect and Prospect', in Maeve O'Connor (ed.), Pointers and Pathways in Research (1963), 28.
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Will fluorine ever have practical applications?
It is very difficult to answer this question. I may, however, say in all sincerity that I gave this subject little thought when I undertook my researches, and I believe that all the chemists whose attempts preceded mine gave it no more consideration.
A scientific research is a search after truth, and it is only after discovery that the question of applicability can be usefully considered.
Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1897). In Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to July 1897 (1898), 261.
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[The popular impression about some chemists is that] the aquafortis and the chlorine of the laboratories have as effectually bleached the poetry out of them, as they destroy the colours of tissues exposed to their action.
'The alleged Antagonism between poetry and Chemistry.' In Jesse Aitken Wilson, Memoirs of George Wilson. Quoted in Natural History Society of Montreal, 'Reviews and Notices of Books,' The Canadian Naturalist and Geologist (1861) Vol. 6, 391.
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[While in school, before university,] I, like almost all chemists I know, was also attracted by the smells and bangs that endowed chemistry with that slight but charismatic element of danger which is now banned from the classroom. I agree with those of us who feel that the wimpish chemistry training that schools are now forced to adopt is one possible reason that chemistry is no longer attracting as many talented and adventurous youngsters as it once did. If the decline in hands-on science education is not redressed, I doubt that we shall survive the 21st century.
Nobel laureate autobiography in Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1996 (1997), 191.
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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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