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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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Symbol Quotes (23 quotes)

Accordingly, we find Euler and D'Alembert devoting their talent and their patience to the establishment of the laws of rotation of the solid bodies. Lagrange has incorporated his own analysis of the problem with his general treatment of mechanics, and since his time M. Poinsτt has brought the subject under the power of a more searching analysis than that of the calculus, in which ideas take the place of symbols, and intelligent propositions supersede equations.
J. C. Maxwell on Louis Poinsτt (1777-1859) in 'On a Dynamical Top' (1857). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 1, 248.
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Artificial intelligence is based on the assumption that the mind can be described as some kind of formal system manipulating symbols that stand for things in the world. Thus it doesn't matter what the brain is made of, or what it uses for tokens in the great game of thinking. Using an equivalent set of tokens and rules, we can do thinking with a digital computer, just as we can play chess using cups, salt and pepper shakers, knives, forks, and spoons. Using the right software, one system (the mind) can be mapped onto the other (the computer).
Machinery of the Mind: Inside the New Science of Artificial Intelligence (1986), 250.
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Atoms are round balls of wood invented by Dr. Dalton.
Answer given by a pupil to a question on atomic theory, as reported by Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe.
Reports of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 57th report, 1887, 7.
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Chemical signs ought to be letters, for the greater facility of writing, and not to disfigure a printed book ... I shall take therefore for the chemical sign, the initial letter of the Latin name of each elementary substance: but as several have the same initial letter, I shall distinguish them in the following manner:— 1. In the class which I shall call metalloids, I shall employ the initial letter only, even when this letter is common to the metalloid and to some metal. 2. In the class of metals, I shall distinguish those that have the same initials with another metal, or a metalloid, by writing the first two letters of the word. 3. If the first two letters be common to two metals, I shall, in that case, add to the initial letter the first consonant which they have not in common: for example, S = sulphur, Si = silicium, St = stibium (antimony), Sn = stannum (tin), C = carbonicum, Co = colbaltum (colbalt), Cu = cuprum (copper), O = oxygen, Os = osmium, &c.
'Essay on the Cause of Chemical Proportions, and on some circumstances relating to them: together with a short and easy method of expressing them', Annals of Philosophy, 1814, 3,51-2.
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Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. ... the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.
In 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125-129.
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Every improvement that is put upon the real estate is the result of an idea in somebody's head. The skyscraper is another idea; the railroad is another; the telephone and all those things are merely symbols which represent ideas. An andiron, a wash-tub, is the result of an idea that did not exist before.
Speaking to a committee considering a new Copyright Bill (6 Dec 1906). In Mark Twain and William Dean Howells (ed.), Mark Twain's Speeches? (1910), 320. An andiron is a metal bar, used in a pair, as a stand for logs in a fireplace. The Copyright Bill proposed to give authors, artists and musicians copyright for the term of his life and for 50 years thereafter. John Philip Sousa spoke for the musicians.
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Every science that has thriven has thriven upon its own symbols: logic, the only science which is admitted to have made no improvements in century after century, is the only one which has grown no symbols.
Transactions Cambridge Philosophical Society, vol. X, 1864, p.184
Science quotes on:  |  Logic (132)

I end with a word on the new symbols which I have employed. Most writers on logic strongly object to all symbols. ... I should advise the reader not to make up his mind on this point until he has well weighed two facts which nobody disputes, both separately and in connexion. First, logic is the only science which has made no progress since the revival of letters; secondly, logic is the only science which has produced no growth of symbols.
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I have been battering away at Saturn, returning to the charge every now and then. I have effected several breaches in the solid ring, and now I am splash into the fluid one, amid a clash of symbols truly astounding. When I reappear it will be in the dusky ring, which is something like the state of the air supposing the siege of Sebastopol conducted from a forest of guns 100 miles one way, and 30,000 miles the other, and the shot never to stop, but go spinning away round a circle, radius 170,000 miles.
Letter to Lewis Campbell (28 Aug 1857). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 1846-1862, 538.
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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 would not for a moment have you suppose that I am one of those idiots who scorns Science, merely because it is always twisting and turning, and sometimes shedding its skin, like the serpent that is [the doctors'] symbol.
From 'Can a Doctor Be a Humanist?' (1984). Collected in The Merry Heart: Reflections of Reading, Writing and the World of Books (1997), 98.
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In the world of physics we watch a shadowgraph performance of the drama of familiar life. The shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper. It is all symbolic, and as a symbol the physicist leaves it. ... The frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant of recent advances.
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), xiv-xv.
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It is good to recall that three centuries ago, around the year 1660, two of the greatest monuments of modern history were erected, one in the West and one in the East; St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Taj Mahal in Agra. Between them, the two symbolize, perhaps better than words can describe, the comparative level of architectural technology, the comparative level of craftsmanship and the comparative level of affluence and sophistication the two cultures had attained at that epoch of history. But about the same time there was also created—and this time only in the West—a third monument, a monument still greater in its eventual import for humanity. This was Newton’s Principia, published in 1687. Newton's work had no counterpart in the India of the Mughuls.
'Ideals and Realities' (1975). Reprinted in Ideals and Realities (1984), 48.
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It really is worth the trouble to invent a new symbol if we can thus remove not a few logical difficulties and ensure the rigour of the proofs. But many mathematicians seem to have so little feeling for logical purity and accuracy that they will use a word to mean three or four different things, sooner than make the frightful decision to invent a new word.
Grundgesetz der Arithmetik(1893), Vol. 2, Section 60, In P. Greach and M. Black (eds., Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege (1952), 144.
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Mathematicians may flatter themselves that they possess new ideas which mere human language is as yet unable to express. Let them make the effort to express these ideas in appropriate words without the aid of symbols, and if they succeed they will not only lay us laymen under a lasting obligation, but, we venture to say, they will find themselves very much enlightened during the process, and will even be doubtful whether the ideas as expressed in symbols had ever quite found their way out of the equations into their minds.
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Not one of them [formulae] can be shown to have any existence, so that the formula of one of the simplest of organic bodies is confused by the introduction of unexplained symbols for imaginary differences in the mode of combination of its elements... It would be just as reasonable to describe an oak tree as composed of blocks and chips and shavings to which it may be reduced by the hatchet, as by Dr Kolbe's formula to describe acetic acid as containing the products which may be obtained from it by destructive influences. A Kolbe botanist would say that half the chips are united with some of the blocks by the force parenthesis; the other half joined to this group in a different way, described by a buckle; shavings stuck on to these in a third manner, comma; and finally, a compound of shavings and blocks united together by a fourth force, juxtaposition, is joined to the main body by a fifth force, full stop.
'On Dr. Kolbe's Additive Formulae', Quarterly Journal of the Chemical Society (1855), 7, 133-4.
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On foundations we believe in the reality of mathematics, but of course, when philosophers attack us with their paradoxes, we rush to hide behind formalism and say 'mathematics is just a combination of meaningless symbols,'... Finally we are left in peace to go back to our mathematics and do it as we have always done, with the feeling each mathematician has that he is working with something real. The sensation is probably an illusion, but it is very convenient.
'The Work of Nicholas Bourbaki'American Mathematical Monthly (1970), 77, 134. In Carl C. Gaither, Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither, Mathematically Speaking: a Dictionary of Quotations (), 194.
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Science is the reduction of the bewildering diversity of unique events to manageable uniformity within one of a number of symbol systems, and technology is the art of using these symbol systems so as to control and organize unique events. Scientific observation is always a viewing of things through the refracting medium of a symbol system, and technological praxis is always handling of things in ways that some symbol system has dictated. Education in science and technology is essentially education on the symbol level.
Essay in Daedalus (Spring1962), 279.
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That small word “Force,” they make a barber's block,
Ready to put on
Meanings most strange and various, fit to shock
Pupils of Newton....
The phrases of last century in this
Linger to play tricks—
Vis viva and Vis Mortua and Vis Acceleratrix:
Those long-nebbed words that to our text books still
Cling by their titles,
And from them creep, as entozoa will,
Into our vitals.
But see! Tait writes in lucid symbols clear
One small equation;
And Force becomes of Energy a mere
Space-variation.
'Report on Tait's Lecture on Force:— B.A., 1876', reproduced in Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (2001), 19. Maxwell's verse was inspired by a paper delivered at the British Association (B.A.. He was satirizing a “considerable cofusion of nomenclature” at the time, and supported his friend Tait's desire to establish a redefinition of energy on a thermnodynamic basis.
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The honor you have given us goes not to us as a crew, but to ... all Americans, who believed, who persevered with us. What Apollo has begun we hope will spread out in many directions, not just in space, but underneath the seas, and in the cities to tell us unforgettably what we will and must do. There are footprints on the moon. Those footprints belong to each and every one of you, to all mankind. They are there because of the blood, sweat, and tears of millions of people. Those footprints are the symbol of true human spirit.
From his acceptance speech (13 Aug 1969) for the Medal of Freedom presented to him as one of the three astronauts on the first manned moon landing mission. In Leon Wagener, One Giant Leap: Neil Armstrong's Stellar American Journey (2004), 226.
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The woof and warp of all thought and all research is symbols, and the life of thought and science is the life inherent in symbols; so that it is wrong to say that a good language is important to good thought, merely; for it is the essence of it.
From 'The Ethics of Terminology', in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 129.
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We thought of universities as the cathedrals of the modern world. In the middle ages, the cathedral was the center and symbol of the city. In the modern world, its place could be taken by the university.
L.A. Times (21 Jul 1999)
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[Culture] denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms, by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.
The Interpretation of Cultures (1977), 89.
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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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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
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Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
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Bible
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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
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Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
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Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
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Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
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Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
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Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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Hippocrates
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Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
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- 10 -
Aristotle
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Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
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