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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index H > Category: Human Nature

Human Nature Quotes (34 quotes)

A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations.
The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), 8th edition, trans. Sarah A. Solovay and John M. Mueller, ed. George E. G. Catlin (1938, 1964 edition), 13.

All the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human nature; and...however wide any of them may seem to run from it, they still return back by one passage or another. Even Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Natural Religion, are in some measure dependent on the science of MAN; since they lie under the cognizance of men, and are judged of by their powers and faculties.
A Treatise on Human Nature (1739-40), ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (1888), introduction, xix.
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An act cannot be defined by the end sought by the actor, for an identical system of behaviour may be adjustable to too many different ends without altering its nature.
Suicide: A Study in Sociology (1897), trans. J. A. Spaulding and G. Simpson (1952), 43.
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Biology occupies a position among the sciences both marginal and central. Marginal because, the living world, constituting only a tiny and very “special” part of the universe, it does not seem likely that the study of living beings will ever uncover general laws applicable outside the biosphere. But if the ultimate aim of the whole of science is indeed, as I believe, to clarify man's relationship to the universe, then biology must be accorded a central position, since of all the disciplines it is the one that endeavours to go most directly to the heart of the problems that must be resolved before that of “human nature” can even be framed in other than metaphysical terms.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), xi.
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Blushing is the most peculiar and most human of all expressions. Monkeys redden from passion but it would take an overwhelming amount of evidence to make us believe that any animal can blush.
The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), 310.

Do we really wish to replace the fateful but impartial workings of chance with the purposeful self-interested workings of human will?
Reported in 1981, expressing concern for the future of gene-splicing.
'Shaping Life in the Lab'. In Time (9 Mar 1981).
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For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 404-5.
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Human nature is not nearly as bad as it has been thought to be.
Toward a Psychology of Being (1962, 1999), 5.
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Humanity is at the very beginning of its existence—a new-born babe, with all the unexplored potentialities of babyhood; and until the last few moments its interest has been centred, absolutely and exclusively, on its cradle and feeding bottle.
EOS: Or the Wider Aspects of Cosmology (1928), 12.

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.
Wed 12 Oct 1825. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford (1971), 119-20.
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I have no friends. The more you learn about the dignity of the gorilla, the more you want to avoid people.
From article about interview (May 1985) with Associated Press East Africa Correspondent, Barry Shlachter, at her Karisoke Research Station. Syndicated in Summer 1985. Seen, for example, in Barry Shlachter, 'Woman Fierce Protector of Gorilla Friends', Lawrence Journal-World (29 Jul 1985), 7.
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In reality, all Arguments from Experience are founded on the Similarity which we discover among natural Objects, and by which we are induc'd to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such Objects. And tho' none but a Fool or Madman will ever pretend to dispute the Authority of Experience, or to reject that great Guide of human Life, it may surely be allow'd a Philosopher to have so much Curiosity at least as to examine the Principle of human Nature, which gives this mighty Authority to Experience, and makes us draw Advantage from that Similarity which Nature has plac'd among different Objects. From Causes which appear similar we expect similar Effects. This is the Sum of our experimental Conclusions.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 63.
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It is well-known that both rude and civilized peoples are capable of showing unspeakable, and as it is erroneously termed, inhuman cruelty towards each other. These acts of cruelty, murder and rapine are often the result of the inexorable logic of national characteristics, and are unhappily truly human, since nothing like them can be traced in the animal world. It would, for instance, be a grave mistake to compare a tiger with the bloodthirsty exectioner of the Reign of Terror, since the former only satisfies his natural appetite in preying on other mammals. The atrocities of the trials for witchcraft, the indiscriminate slaughter committed by the negroes on the coast of Guinea, the sacrifice of human victims made by the Khonds, the dismemberment of living men by the Battas, find no parallel in the habits of animals in their savage state. And such a comparision is, above all, impossible in the case of anthropoids, which display no hostility towards men or other animals unless they are first attacked. In this respect the anthropid ape stands on a higher plane than many men.
Robert Hartmann, Anthropoid Apes, 294-295.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (26)

Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history; he discovered the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of idealogy [sic], that mankind must first of all eat and drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, religion, art etc.
Engels' Speech over the Grave of Karl Marx, delivered at Highgate Cemetery, London, 17 Mar 1883. Quoted in Karl Marx 1818-1883, for the Anniversary of his Death (1942), 27.
Science quotes on:  |  Charles Darwin (216)

Man is only a moral being because he lives in society, since morality consists in solidarity with the group, and varies according to that solidarity. Cause all social life to vanish, and moral life would vanish at the same time, having no object to cling to.
The Division of Labour in Society (1893), trans. W. D. Halls (1984), 331.

Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason allows us to discover it. I have given the evidence to the best of my ability; and we must acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
Concluding remarks. The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 405.
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Religion divides us, while it is our human characteristics that bind us to each other.
interview in Free Inquiry magazine
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Science has been arranging, classifying, methodizing, simplifying, everything except itself. It has made possible the tremendous modern development of power of organization which has so multiplied the effective power of human effort as to make the differences from the past seem to be of kind rather than of degree. It has organized itself very imperfectly. Scientific men are only recently realizing that the principles which apply to success on a large scale in transportation and manufacture and general staff work to apply them; that the difference between a mob and an army does not depend upon occupation or purpose but upon human nature; that the effective power of a great number of scientific men may be increased by organization just as the effective power of a great number of laborers may be increased by military discipline.
'The Need for Organization in Scientific Research', in Bulletin of the National Research Council: The National Importance of Scientific and Industrial Research (Oct 1919), Col 1, Part 1, No. 1, 8.
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Society is not a mere sum of individuals. Rather, the system formed by their association represents a specific reality which has its own characteristics... The group thinks, feels, and acts quite differently from the way in which its members would were they isolated. If, then, we begin with the individual, we shall be able to understand nothing of what takes place in the group.
The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), 8th edition, trans. Sarah A. Solovay and John M. Mueller, ed. George E. G. Catlin (1938,1964 edition), 103-4.

Taking a very gloomy view of the future of the human race, let us suppose that it can only expect to survive for two thousand millions years longer, a period about equal to the past age of the earth. Then, regarded as a being destined to live for three-score years and ten, humanity although it has been born in a house seventy years old, is itself only three days old. But only in the last few minutes has it become conscious that the whole world does not centre round its cradle and its trappings, and only in the last few ticks of the clock has any adequate conception of the size of the external world dawned upon it. For our clock does not tick seconds, but years; its minutes are the lives of men.
EOS: Or the Wider Aspects of Cosmology (1928), 12-3.
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The development of statistics are causing history to be rewritten. Till recently the historian studied nations in the aggregate, and gave us only the story of princes, dynasties, sieges, and battles. Of the people themselves—the great social body with life, growth, sources, elements, and laws of its own—he told us nothing. Now statistical inquiry leads him into the hovels, homes, workshops, mines, fields, prisons, hospitals, and all places where human nature displays its weakness and strength. In these explorations he discovers the seeds of national growth and decay, and thus becomes the prophet of his generation.
Speech (16 Dec 1867) given while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, introducing resolution for the appointment of a committee to examine the necessities for legislation upon the subject of the ninth census to be taken the following year. Quoted in John Clark Ridpath, The Life and Work of James A. Garfield (1881), 217.
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The first and most fundamental rule is: Consider social facts as things.
The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), 8th edition, trans. Sarah A. Solovay and John M. Mueller, ed. George E. G. Catlin (1938, 1964 edition), 14.

The influence of Association over our Opinions and Affections, and its Use in explaining those Things in an accurate and precise Way, which are commonly referred to the Power of Habit and Custom, is a general and indeterminate one.
Observations on Man, His Frame, His Duty, and His Expectations (1749), part 1, 5-6.
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The pilots I worked with in the aerospace industry were willing to put on almost anything to keep them safe in case of a crash, but regular people in cars don't want to be uncomfortable even for a minute.
as quoted by Karl Ritter, Associated Press writer in news article Inventor of Three-Point Seat Belt Dies, 26 Sep 2002
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The whole inherent pride of human nature revolts at the idea that the lord of the creation is to be treated like any other natural object. No sooner does the naturalist discover the resemblance of some higher mammals, such as the ape, to man, than there is a general outcry against the presumptuous audacity that ventures to touch man in his inmost sanctuary. The whole fraternity of philosophers, who have never seen monkeys except in zoological gardens, at once mount the high horse, and appeal to the mind, the soul, to reason, to consciousness, and to all the rest of the innate faculties of man, as they are refracted in their own philosophical prisms.
Carl Vogt
From Carl Vogt and James Hunt (ed.), Lectures on Man: His Place in Creation, and in the History of the Earth (1861), 10.
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There are four classes of Idols which beset men's minds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names,—calling the first class Idols of the Tribe; the second, Idols of the Cave; the third, Idols of the Market Place; the fourth, Idols of the Theatre …
The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For every one (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolours the light of nature; owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature; or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like.
There are also Idols formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, which I call Idols of the Market-place, on account of the commerce and consort of men there. For it is by discourse that men associate; and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar, and therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. Nor do the definitions or explanations where with in some things learned men are wont to guard and defend themselves, by any means set the matter right. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.
Lastly, there are Idols which have immigrated into men's minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the Theatre; because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage-plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion.
The New Organon (1620) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 4, 53-55.

Thus we have given to man a pedigree of prodigious length, but not, it may be said, of noble quality.
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 1, 213.

To be anthropocentric is to remain unaware of the limits of human nature, the significance of biological processes underlying human behavior, and the deeper meaning of long-term genetic evolution.
Tanner Lecture on Human Values, University of Michigan, 'Comparative Social Theory' (30 Mar 1979).
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To find fault with our ancestors for not having annual parliaments, universal suffrage, and vote by ballot, would be like quarrelling with the Greeks and Romans for not using steam navigation, when we know it is so safe and expeditious; which would be, in short, simply finding fault with the third century before Christ for not being the eighteenth century after. It was necessary that many other things should be thought and done, before, according to the laws of human affairs, it was possible that steam navigation should be thought of. Human nature must proceed step by step, in politics as well as in physics.
The Spirit of the Age (1831). Ed. Frederick A. von Hayek (1942), 48.
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Under the Providence of God, our means of education are the grand machinery by which the 'raw material' of human nature can be worked up into inventors and discoverers, into skilled artisans and scientific farmers, into scholars and jurists, into the founders of benevolent institutions, and the great expounders of ethical and theological science.
Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Board of Education of Massachusetts for the years 1845-1848, Life and Works of Horace Mann (1891), Vol. 4, 228.
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We come therefore now to that knowledge whereunto the ancient oracle directeth us, which is the knowledge of ourselves; which deserveth the more accurate handling, by how much it toucheth us more nearly. This knowledge, as it is the end and term of natural philosophy in the intention of man, so notwithstanding it is but a portion of natural philosophy in the continent of nature. And generally let this be a rule, that all partitions of knowledges be accepted rather for lines and veins, than for sections and separations; and that the continuance and entireness of knowledge be preserved. For the contrary hereof hath made particular sciences to become barren, shallow, and erroneous; while they have not been nourished and maintained from the common fountain. So we see Cicero the orator complained of Socrates and his school, that he was the first that separated philosophy and rhetoric; whereupon rhetoric became an empty and verbal art. So we may see that the opinion of Copernicus touching the rotation of the earth, which astronomy itself cannot correct because it is not repugnant to any of the phenomena, yet natural philosophy may correct. So we see also that the science of medicine, if it be destituted and forsaken by natural philosophy, it is not much better than an empirical practice. With this reservation therefore we proceed to Human Philosophy or Humanity, which hath two parts: the one considereth man segregate, or distributively; the other congregate, or in society. So as Human Philosophy is either Simple and Particular, or Conjugate and Civil. Humanity Particular consisteth of the same parts whereof man consisteth; that is, of knowledges that respect the Body, and of knowledges that respect the Mind. But before we distribute so far, it is good to constitute. For I do take the consideration in general and at large of Human Nature to be fit to be emancipate and made a knowledge by itself; not so much in regard of those delightful and elegant discourses which have been made of the dignity of man, of his miseries, of his state and life, and the like adjuncts of his common and undivided nature; but chiefly in regard of the knowledge concerning the sympathies and concordances between the mind and body, which, being mixed, cannot be properly assigned to the sciences of either.
The Advancement of Learning (1605) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 3, 366-7.
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We have reason not to be afraid of the machine, for there is always constructive change, the enemy of machines, making them change to fit new conditions.
We suffer not from overproduction but from undercirculation. You have heard of technocracy. I wish I had those fellows for my competitors. I'd like to take the automobile it is said they predicted could be made now that would last fifty years. Even if never used, this automobile would not be worth anything except to a junkman in ten years, because of the changes in men's tastes and ideas. This desire for change is an inherent quality in human nature, so that the present generation must not try to crystallize the needs of the future ones.
We have been measuring too much in terms of the dollar. What we should do is think in terms of useful materials—things that will be of value to us in our daily life.
In 'Quotation Marks: Against Technocracy', New York Times (1 Han 1933), E4.
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What is that we human beings ultimately depend on? We depend on our words. We are suspended in language. Our task is to communicate experience and ideas to others.
Quoted in Aage Petersen, 'The Philosophy of Niels Bohr', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1963, 19, 10.
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[I] grew up as a disciple of science. I know its fascination. I have felt the godlike power man derives from his machines.
Quoted in 'Antiseptic Christianity', book review of Lindbergh, Of Flight and Life in Time magazine, (6 Sep 1948).
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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