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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Memory Quotes (41 quotes)

MACBETH: Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
DOCTOR: Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.
MACBETH: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.
Macbeth (1606), V, iii.
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A multitude of words doth rather obscure than illustrate, they being a burden to the memory, and the first apt to be forgotten, before we come to the last. So that he that uses many words for the explaining of any subject, doth, like the cuttle-fish, hide himself, for the most part, in his own ink.
John Ray
The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691).
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A strict materialist believes that everything depends on the motion of matter. He knows the form of the laws of motion though he does not know all their consequences when applied to systems of unknown complexity.
Now one thing in which the materialist (fortified with dynamical knowledge) believes is that if every motion great & small were accurately reversed, and the world left to itself again, everything would happen backwards the fresh water would collect out of the sea and run up the rivers and finally fly up to the clouds in drops which would extract heat from the air and evaporate and afterwards in condensing would shoot out rays of light to the sun and so on. Of course all living things would regrede from the grave to the cradle and we should have a memory of the future but not of the past.
The reason why we do not expect anything of this kind to take place at any time is our experience of irreversible processes, all of one kind, and this leads to the doctrine of a beginning & an end instead of cyclical progression for ever.
Letter to Mark Pattison (7 Apr 1868). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 360-1.
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Dream analysis stands or falls with [the hypothesis of the unconscious]. Without it the dream appears to be merely a freak of nature, a meaningless conglomerate of memory-fragments left over from the happenings of the day.
Carl Jung
Dream Analysis in its Practical Application (1930), 1-2.
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He [Robert Hooke] is but of midling stature, something crooked, pale faced, and his face but little belowe, but his head is lardge; his eie full and popping, and not quick; a grey eie. He haz a delicate head of haire, browne, and of an excellent moist curle. He is and ever was very temperate, and moderate in dyet, etc. As he is of prodigious inventive head, so is a person of great vertue and goodnes. Now when I have sayd his Inventive faculty is so great, you cannot imagine his Memory to be excellent, for they are like two Bucketts, as one goes up, the other goes downe. He is certainly the greatest Mechanick this day in the World.
Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 165.
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Heraldry has been contemptuously termed 'the science of fools with long memories.'
The Pursuivant of Arms: Or, Heraldry Founded Upon Facts (1873), 3.
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Historians constantly rewrite history, reinterpreting (reorganizing) the records of the past. So, too, when the brain's coherent responses become part of a memory, they are organized anew as part of the structure of consciousness. What makes them memories is that they become part of that structure and thus form part of the sense of self; my sense of self derives from a certainty that my experiences refer back to me, the individual who is having them. Hence the sense of the past, of history, of memory, is in part the creation of the self.
The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness (1995), 87.
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How many discoveries are reserved for the ages to come when our memory shall be no more, for this world of ours contains matter for investigation for all generations.
From Quaestiones Naturales as translated in Charles Singer, From Magic to Science (1958), 57.
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Human personality resembles a coral reef: a large hard/dead structure built and inhabited by tiny soft/live animals. The hard/dead part of our personality consists of habits, memories, and compulsions and will probably be explained someday by some sort of extended computer metaphor. The soft/live part of personality consists of moment-to-moment direct experience of being. This aspect of personality is familiar but somewhat ineffable and has eluded all attempts at physical explanation.
Quoted in article 'Nick Herbert', in Gale Cengage Learning, Contemporary Authors Online (2002).
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I have been especially fortunate for about 50 years in having two memory banks available—whenever I can't remember something I ask my wife, and thus I am able to draw on this auxiliary memory bank. Moreover, there is a second way In which I get ideas ... I listen carefully to what my wife says, and in this way I often get a good idea. I recommend to ... young people ... that you make a permanent acquisition of an auxiliary memory bank that you can become familiar with and draw upon throughout your lives.
T. Goertzel and B. Goertzel, Linus Pauling (1995), 240.
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I have enjoyed the trees and scenery of Kentucky exceedingly. How shall I ever tell of the miles and miles of beauty that have been flowing into me in such measure? These lofty curving ranks of lobing, swelling hills, these concealed valleys of fathomless verdure, and these lordly trees with the nursing sunlight glancing in their leaves upon the outlines of the magnificent masses of shade embosomed among their wide branches—these are cut into my memory to go with me forever.
John Muir
Letter, written 'among the hills of Bear Creek, seven miles southeast of Burkesville, Kentucky'(Sep 1867). In John Muir and William Frederick Badé (Ed.), A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), xix. This was by far Muir's longest botanical excursion made in his earlier years.
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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 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 think it would be just to say the most essential characteristic of mind is memory, using this word in its broadest sense to include every influence of past experience on present reactions.
In Portraits from Memory: and Other Essays (1956), 143
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Intelligence is an extremely subtle concept. It's a kind of understanding that flourishes if it's combined with a good memory, but exists anyway even in the absence of good memory. It's the ability to draw consequences from causes, to make correct inferences, to foresee what might be the result, to work out logical problems, to be reasonable, rational, to have the ability to understand the solution from perhaps insufficient information. You know when a person is intelligent, but you can be easily fooled if you are not yourself intelligent.
In Irv Broughton (ed.), The Writer's Mind: Interviews with American Authors (1990), Vol. 2, 57.
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Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this silence is that you have to know how to read music. For instance, the scientific article may say, 'The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one- half in a period of two weeks.' Now what does that mean?
It means that phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat—and also in mine, and yours—is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away.
So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week's potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out—there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.
'What do You Care What Other People Think?' Further Adventures of a Curious Character (1988), 244.
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Leo Szilard’s Ten Commandments:
1. Recognize the connections of things and the laws of conduct of men, so that you may know what you are doing.
2. Let your acts be directed towards a worthy goal, but do not ask if they will reach it; they are to be models and examples, not means to an end.
3. Speak to all men as you do to yourself, with no concern for the effect you make, so that you do not shut them out from your world; lest in isolation the meaning of life slips out of sight and you lose the belief in the perfection of the creation.
4. Do not destroy what you cannot create.
5. Touch no dish, except that you are hungry.
6. Do not covet what you cannot have.
7. Do not lie without need.
8. Honor children. Listen reverently to their words and speak to them with infinite love.
9. Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the memory of your friends does not hinder you from being what you have become.
10. Lead your life with a gentle hand and be ready to leave whenever you are called.
Circulated by Mrs. Szilard in July 1964, in a letter to their friends (translated by Dr. Jacob Bronowski). As printed in Robert J. Levine, Ethics and Regulation of Clinical Research (1988), 431.
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Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.
In Marilyn R. Zuckerman, Incredibly American: Releasing the Heart of Quality (1992), 25.
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Memory is the thing you forget with.
Perspectives (1966). In Memory (1999), 71.

Memory is to mind as viscosity is to protoplasm it gives a kind of tenacity to thought—a kind of pied à terre from which it can, and without it could not, advance.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 58.
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Not that we may not, to explain any Phenomena of Nature, make use of any probable Hypothesis whatsoever: Hypotheses, if they are well made, are at least great helps to the Memory, and often direct us to new discoveries. But my Meaning is, that we should not take up anyone too hastily, (which the Mind, that would always penetrate into the Causes of Things, and have Principles to rest on, is very apt to do,) till we have very well examined Particulars, and made several Experiments, in that thing which we would explain by our Hypothesis, and see whether it will agree to them all; whether our Principles will carry us quite through, and not be as inconsistent with one Phenomenon of Nature, as they seem to accommodate and explain another.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 13, 648.
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One of the grandest figures that ever frequented Eastern Yorkshire was William Smith, the distinguished Father of English Geology. My boyish reminiscence of the old engineer, as he sketched a triangle on the flags of our yard, and taught me how to measure it, is very vivid. The drab knee-breeches and grey worsted stockings, the deep waistcoat, with its pockets well furnished with snuff—of which ample quantities continually disappeared within the finely chiselled nostril—and the dark coat with its rounded outline and somewhat quakerish cut, are all clearly present to my memory.
From Reminiscences of a Yorkshire Naturalist (1896), 13.
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Our brains seem to be organised to make random comparisons of the contents of our memories. Daydreaming allows the process to go into free fall. Suddenly, there is a new idea, born with intense excitement. We cannot organise this process but we can distort or even defeat it.
[Commenting that creativity is not a method that can be learnt and taught.]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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Science quickens and cultivates directly the faculty of observation, which in very many persons lies almost dormant through life, the power of accurate and rapid generalizations, and the mental habit of method and arrangement; it accustoms young persons to trace the sequence of cause and effect; it familiarizes then with a kind of reasoning which interests them, and which they can promptly comprehend; and it is perhaps the best corrective for that indolence which is the vice of half-awakened minds, and which shrinks from any exertion that is not, like an effort of memory, merely mechanical.
Report of the Royal Commission on Education (1861), Parliamentary Papers (1864), Vol 20, 32-33, as cited in Paul White, Thomas Huxley: Making the "Man of Science" (2003), 77, footnote. Also quoted in John Lubbock, The Pleasures of Life (1887, 2007), 63.
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Science, then, is the attentive consideration of common experience; it is common knowledge extended and refined. Its validity is of the same order as that of ordinary perception; memory, and understanding. Its test is found, like theirs, in actual intuition, which sometimes consists in perception and sometimes in intent. The flight of science is merely longer from perception to perception, and its deduction more accurate of meaning from meaning and purpose from purpose. It generates in the mind, for each vulgar observation, a whole brood of suggestions, hypotheses, and inferences. The sciences bestow, as is right and fitting, infinite pains upon that experience which in their absence would drift by unchallenged or misunderstood. They take note, infer, and prophesy. They compare prophesy with event, and altogether they supply—so intent are they on reality—every imaginable background and extension for the present dream.
The Life of Reason, or the Phases of Human Progress (1954), 393.
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The advances of biology during the past 20 years have been breathtaking, particularly in cracking the mystery of heredity. Nevertheless, the greatest and most difficult problems still lie ahead. The discoveries of the 1970‘s about the chemical roots of memory in nerve cells or the basis of learning, about the complex behavior of man and animals, the nature of growth, development, disease and aging will be at least as fundamental and spectacular as those of the recent past.
As quoted in 'H. Bentley Glass', New York Times (12 Jan 1970), 96.
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The faculty for remembering is not diminished in proportion to what one has learnt, just as little as the number of moulds in which you cast sand lessens its capacity for being cast in new moulds.
Religion: a Dialogue, and Other Essays (1890), 99.
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The general root of superstition [is that] men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other.
In The Works of Francis Bacon (1819), Vol. 2, 73.
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The idea that memory is linear is nonsense. What we have in our heads is a collection of frames. As to time itself—can it be linear when all these snatches of other presents exist at once in your mind? A very elusive and tricky concept, time."
Interview with Sarah Crown, in The Guardian (25 Jul 2009).
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The memory, a child once said, is "the thing we forget with."
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 181.
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The senses at first let in particular Ideas, and furnish the yet empty Cabinet: And the Mind by degrees growing familiar with some of them, they are lodged in the Memory, and Names got to them.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book I, Chapter 2, Section 15, 55.
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The spectacular thing about Johnny [von Neumann] was not his power as a mathematician, which was great, or his insight and his clarity, but his rapidity; he was very, very fast. And like the modern computer, which no longer bothers to retrieve the logarithm of 11 from its memory (but, instead, computes the logarithm of 11 each time it is needed), Johnny didn't bother to remember things. He computed them. You asked him a question, and if he didn't know the answer, he thought for three seconds and would produce and answer.
From interview with Donald J. Albers. In John H. Ewing and Frederick W. Gehring, Paul Halmos Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics (1991), 9.
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The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject ... And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them ... Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate ... Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all.
Natural Questions, Book 7. As translated by Thomas H. Corcoran in Seneca in Ten Volumes: Naturales Quaestiones II (1972), 279 and 293.
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The vacuum-apparatus requires that its manipulators constantly handle considerable amounts of mercury. Mercury is a strong poison, particularly dangerous because of its liquid form and noticeable volatility even at room temperature. Its poisonous character has been rather lost sight of during the present generation. My co-workers and myself found from personal experience-confirmed on many sides when published—that protracted stay in an atmosphere charged with only 1/100 of the amount of mercury required for its saturation, sufficed to induce chronic mercury poisoning. This first reveals itself as an affection of the nerves, causing headaches, numbness, mental lassitude, depression, and loss of memory; such are very disturbing to one engaged in intellectual occupations.
Hydrides of Boron and Silicon (1933), 203.
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These are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater.
Love's Labour's Lost (1595), IV, ii.
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To learn is to incur surprise—I mean really learning, not just refreshing our memory or adding a new fact. And to invent is to bestow surprise—I mean really inventing, not just innovating what others have done.
In How Invention Begins: Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines (2006), 217.
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We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'.
In The Selfish Gene (1976).
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What we call man is a mechanism made up of … uncrystallized matter … all the colloid matter of his mechanism is concentrated in a countless number of small cells. … [T]hese cells [are] dwelling places, communes, a walled town within which are many citizens. ... [T]hese are the units of life and when they pass out into space man as we think we know him is dead, a mere machine from which the crew have left,so to speak. ... [T]hese units are endowed with great intelligence. They have memories, they must be divided into countless thousands of groups, most are workers, there are directing groups. Some are chemists, they manufacture the most complicated chemicals that are secreted by the glands.
Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison (1948), 203-44. In Mark Seltzer, Serial Killers (1998), 215-6.
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Whereas, to borrow an illustration from mathematics, life was formerly an equation of, say, 100 unknown quantities, it is now one of 99 only, inasmuch as memory and heredity have been shown to be one and the same thing.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 57.
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[In an established surgical practice] there is a ghost in every bed [and fortunately] surgeons get long lives and short memories.
In B.J. Moran, 'Decision-making and technical factors account for the learning curve in complex surgery', Journal of Public Health (2006), 28375-378.
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[Science has shown you that] 'you,' your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. as Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased it: 'You're nothing but a pack of neurons.'
The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for Soul (1994), 3.
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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
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
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
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
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
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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