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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it... That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
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Wrong Quotes (50 quotes)

“The Universe repeats itself, with the possible exception of history.” Of all earthly studies history is the only one that does not repeat itself. ... Astronomy repeats itself; botany repeats itself; trigonometry repeats itself; mechanics repeats itself; compound long division repeats itself. Every sum if worked out in the same way at any time will bring out the same answer. ... A great many moderns say that history is a science; if so it occupies a solitary and splendid elevation among the sciences; it is the only science the conclusions of which are always wrong.
In 'A Much Repeated Repetition', Daily News (26 Mar 1904). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 82.
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After reading a paper by a young theoretical scientist, Pauli, shaking his head sadly, commented:
Das ist nicht einmal falsch.
That is not even wrong.
Attributed.

Dogbert (advice to Boss): Every credible scientist on earth says your products harm the environment. I recommend paying weasels to write articles casting doubt on the data. Then eat the wrong kind of foods and hope you die before the earth does.
Dilbert cartoon strip (30 Oct 2007).
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A fear of intellectual inadequacy, of powerlessness before the tireless electronic wizards, has given rise to dozens of science-fiction fantasies of computer takeovers. ... Other scientists too are apprehensive. D. Raj Reddy, a computer scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University, fears that universally available microcomputers could turn into formidable weapons. Among other things, says Reddy, sophisticated computers in the wrong hands could begin subverting a society by tampering with people’s relationships with their own computers—instructing the other computers to cut off telephone, bank and other services, for example.
Magazine
An early prediction of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), viruses and worms like Stuxnet. As stated, without further citation, in 'The Age of Miracle Chips', Time (20 Feb 1978), 44. The article introduces a special section on 'The Computer Society.' Please contact Webmaster if you know a primary source.
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A theory has only the alternative of being right or wrong. A model has a third possibility: it may be right, but irrelevant.
Manfred Eigen, 'The Origin of Biological Information', in Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Physicists's Conception of Nature (1973), 618.
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All the modern higher mathematics is based on a calculus of operations, on laws of thought. All mathematics, from the first, was so in reality; but the evolvers of the modern higher calculus have known that it is so. Therefore elementary teachers who, at the present day, persist in thinking about algebra and arithmetic as dealing with laws of number, and about geometry as dealing with laws of surface and solid content, are doing the best that in them lies to put their pupils on the wrong track for reaching in the future any true understanding of the higher algebras. Algebras deal not with laws of number, but with such laws of the human thinking machinery as have been discovered in the course of investigations on numbers. Plane geometry deals with such laws of thought as were discovered by men intent on finding out how to measure surface; and solid geometry with such additional laws of thought as were discovered when men began to extend geometry into three dimensions.
Lectures on the Logic of Arithmetic (1903), Preface, 18-19.
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An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious—just dead wrong.
'Sunday Observer: Terminal Education', New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1980), 8.
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At least once per year, some group of scientists will become very excited and announce that:
•The universe is even bigger than they thought!
•There are even more subatomic particles than they thought!
•Whatever they announced last year about global warming is wrong.
From newspaper column '25 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years' (Oct 1998), collected in Dave Barry Turns Fifty (2010), 183.
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Certainlie these things agree,
The Priest, the Lawyer, & Death all three:
Death takes both the weak and the strong.
The lawyer takes from both right and wrong,
And the priest from living and dead has his Fee.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1737).
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For every complex question there is a simple answer–and it's wrong.
Anonymous
Although often seen attributed to H.L. Mencken, webmaster has not found found a primary source, and no authoritative quote collection containing it. If you have a primary source, please contact webmaster, who meanwhile lists this quote as only being author unknown.
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I can live with doubt and uncertainty. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.
From transcript of a BBC television program, 'The Pleasure of Finding Things Out' (1981). In Richard Phillips Feynman and Jeffrey Robbins (ed.), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: the Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (2000), 24.
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I have no patience with attempts to identify science with measurement, which is but one of its tools, or with any definition of the scientist which would exclude a Darwin, a Pasteur or a Kekulé. The scientist is a practical man and his are practical aims. He does not seek the ultimate but the proximate. He does not speak of the last analysis but rather of the next approximation. His are not those beautiful structures so delicately designed that a single flaw may cause the collapse of the whole. The scientist builds slowly and with a gross but solid kind of masonry. If dissatisfied with any of his work, even if it be near the very foundations, he can replace that part without damage to the remainder. On the whole, he is satisfied with his work, for while science may never be wholly right it certainly is never wholly wrong; and it seems to be improving from decade to decade.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 6-7.
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I know Teddy Kennedy had fun at the Democratic convention when he said that I said that trees and vegetation caused 80 percent of the air pollution in this country. ... Well, now he was a little wrong about what I said. I didn't say 80 percent. I said 92 percent—93 percent, pardon me. And I didn’t say air pollution, I said oxides of nitrogen. Growing and decaying vegetation in this land are responsible for 93 percent of the oxides of nitrogen. ... If we are totally successful and can eliminate all the manmade oxides of nitrogen, we’ll still have 93 percent as much as we have in the air today.
[Reagan reconfirming his own pathetic lack of understanding of air pollutants.]
Address to senior citizens at Sea World, Orlando, Florida (9 Oct 1980). As quoted later in Douglas E. Kneeland, 'Teamsters Back Republican', New York Times (10 Oct 1980), D14.
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If I say [electrons] behave like particles I give the wrong impression; also if I say they behave like waves. They behave in their own inimitable way, which technically could be called a quantum mechanical way. They behave in a way that is like nothing that you have seen before.
'Probability abd Uncertainty—the Quantum Mechanical View of Nature', the sixth of his Messenger Lectures (1964), Cornell University. Collected in The Character of Physical Law (1967), 128.
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If there is a wrong way to do something, then someone will do it.
[Subsequently became known as Murphy's Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”]
As quoted in Robert L. Forward, 'Murphy Lives!', Science (Jan-Feb 1983), 83, 78. Short form in J.A. Simpson (ed), The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (1982).
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If you do not feel equal to the headaches that psychiatry induces, you are in the wrong business. It is work - work the like of which I do not know.
The Psychiatric Interview‎ (1954, 1970), 10.
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If [science] tends to thicken the crust of ice on which, as it were, we are skating, it is all right. If it tries to find, or professes to have found, the solid ground at the bottom of the water it is all wrong. Our business is with the thickening of this crust by extending our knowledge downward from above, as ice gets thicker while the frost lasts; we should not try to freeze upwards from the bottom.
Samuel Bulter, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 329.
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In the modern world, science and society often interact in a perverse way. We live in a technological society, and technology causes political problems. The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know.” The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.
Frederick S. Pardee Distinguished Lecture (Oct 2005), Boston University. Collected in 'Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society', A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (2007), 43-44.
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It appears that anything you say about the way that theory and experiment may interact is likely to be correct, and anything you say about the way that theory and experiment must interact is likely to be wrong.
In Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature (1992), 128.
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It is better to go near the truth and be imprisoned than to stay with the wrong and roam about freely, master Galilei. In fact, getting attached to falsity is terrible slavery, and real freedom is only next to the right.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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It's better to read first rate science fiction than second rate science—it's a lot more fun, and no more likely to be wrong.
Lecture at Wired 2013 (18 Oct 2013).
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Logic is only the art of going wrong with confidence.
This is a slightly reworded version of part of a quote by Joseph Wood Krutch (see herein beginning “Metaphysics...”.) This note is included here to help readers identify that it is incorrectly cited when found attributed to Morris Kline, John Ralston Saul or W.H. Auden. In fact, the quote is identified as simply by Anonymous by Kline in his Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty (1980), 197; and as an “old conundrum” in Saul's On Equilibrium: The Six Qualities of the New Humanism (2004), 124.
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Many errors, of a truth, consist merely in the application of the wrong names of things. For if a man says that the lines which are drawn from the centre of the circle to the circumference are not equal, he understands by the circle, at all events for the time, something else than mathematicians understand by it.
In 'Prop. 47: The human mind possesses an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God', Ethic, translated by William Hale White (1883), 93-94. Collected in The English and Foreign Philosophical Library, Vol. 21.
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Marxists are more right than wrong when they argue that the problems scientists take up,. the way they go about solving them, and even the solutions they arc inclined to accept, arc conditioned by the intellectual, social, and economic environments in which they live and work.
In Mankind Evolving: The Evolution of the Human Species, 128. As cited in Ted Woods & Alan Grant, Reason in Revolt - Dialectical Philosophy and Modern Science (2003), Vol. 2, 183.
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Metaphysics may be, after all, only the art of being sure of something that is not so and logic only the art of going wrong with confidence.
In The Modern Temper (1956), 154. The second part of Krutch's quote is often seen as a sentence by itself, and a number of authors cite it incorrectly. For those invalid attributions, see note herein for quote beginning “Logic is the art...”.
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Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath.
'What We Owe to the Trees', Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Apr 1882), 46, No. 383, 686.
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No nation can be really great unless it is great in peace, in industry, integrity, honesty. Skilled intelligence in civic affairs and industrial enterprises alike; the special ability of the artist, the man of letters, the man of science, and the man of business; the rigid determination to wrong no man, and to stand for righteousness—all these are necessary in a great nation.
Address (2 Jun 1897) at U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. In 'Washington's Forgotten Maxim', United States Naval Institute Proceedings (1897), 23, 450.
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Occasionally and frequently the exercise of the judgment ought to end in absolute reservation. It may be very distasteful, and great fatigue, to suspend a conclusion; but as we are not infallible, so we ought to be cautious; we shall eventually find our advantage, for the man who rests in his position is not so far from right as he who, proceeding in a wrong direction, is ever increasing his distance.
Lecture at the Royal Institution, 'Observations on the Education of the Judgment'. Collected in Edward Livingston Youmans (ed)., Modern Culture (1867), 219.
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Progress may have been all right once, but it went on too long;
I think progress began to retrogress when Wilbur and Orville started tinkering around in Dayton and at Kitty Hawk, because I believe that two Wrights made a wrong.
From poem 'Come, Come, Kerouac! My Generation is Beater Than Yours', in magazine New Yorker (4 Apr 1959).
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Science is founded on uncertainty. Each time we learn something new and surprising, the astonishment comes with the realization that we were wrong before.
In 'On Science and Certainty', Discover Magazine (Oct 1980), 58.
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Some people will tell you “the hell with the environment” and others say “to hell with industrial development.” They're both wrong.
As quoted by Advocate News Service in 'Budget by Air Board Pleases State Salons', reporting budget hearings before Texas State House and Senate committees, before which Barden said that Texas must have a “balancing” of environmental and industrial growth needs. In The Victoria Advocate (30 Jan 1977), 5A.
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The discovery of an interaction among the four hemes made it obvious that they must be touching, but in science what is obvious is not necessarily true. When the structure of hemoglobin was finally solved, the hemes were found to lie in isolated pockets on the surface of the subunits. Without contact between them how could one of them sense whether the others had combined with oxygen? And how could as heterogeneous a collection of chemical agents as protons, chloride ions, carbon dioxide, and diphosphoglycerate influence the oxygen equilibrium curve in a similar way? It did not seem plausible that any of them could bind directly to the hemes or that all of them could bind at any other common site, although there again it turned out we were wrong. To add to the mystery, none of these agents affected the oxygen equilibrium of myoglobin or of isolated subunits of hemoglobin. We now know that all the cooperative effects disappear if the hemoglobin molecule is merely split in half, but this vital clue was missed. Like Agatha Christie, Nature kept it to the last to make the story more exciting. There are two ways out of an impasse in science: to experiment or to think. By temperament, perhaps, I experimented, whereas Jacques Monod thought.
From essay 'The Second Secret of Life', collected in I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998), 263-5.
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The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.
Spoken by Old Man in What is Man? In What is Man? and Other Essays (1917), 89.
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The history of acceptance of new theories frequently shows the following steps: At first the new idea is treated as pure nonsense, not worth looking at. Then comes a time when a multitude of contradictory objections are raised, such as: the new theory is too fancy, or merely a new terminology; it is not fruitful, or simply wrong. Finally a state is reached when everyone seems to claim that he had always followed this theory. This usually marks the last state before general acceptance.
In 'Field Theory and the Phase Space', collected in Melvin Herman Marx, Psychological Theory: Contemporary Readings (1951), 299.
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The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right. You can't all be correct. And what if all of you are wrong? It's a possibility, you know. You must care about the truth, right? Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical. I'm not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they're called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation.
Contact (1997), 162.
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The observer is not he who merely sees the thing which is before his eyes, but he who sees what parts the thing is composed of. To do this well is a rare talent. One person, from inattention, or attending only in the wrong place, overlooks half of what he sees; another sets down much more than he sees, confounding it with what he imagines, or with what he infers; another takes note of the kind of all the circumstances, but being inexpert in estimating their degree, leaves the quantity of each vague and uncertain; another sees indeed the whole, but makes such an awkward division of it into parts, throwing into one mass things which require to be separated, and separating others which might more conveniently be considered as one, that the result is much the same, sometimes even worse than if no analysis had been attempted at all.
In A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive (1858), 216.
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The presentation of mathematics where you start with definitions, for example, is simply wrong. Definitions aren't the places where things start. Mathematics starts with ideas and general concepts, and then definitions are isolated from concepts. Definitions occur somewhere in the middle of a progression or the development of a mathematical concept. The same thing applies to theorems and other icons of mathematical progress. They occur in the middle of a progression of how we explore the unknown.
Interview for website of the Mathematical Association of America.
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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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There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That's perfectly all right; they're the aperture to finding out what's right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.
Quoted in Donald R. Prothero and Carl Dennis Buell, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters (2007), 3.
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There must be a marsh in the brains of these men or there would not be so many frogs of wrong ideas gathered in their heads.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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There was once an Editor of the Chemical Society, given to dogmatic expressions of opinion, who once duly said firmly that 'isomer' was wrong usage and 'isomeride' was correct, because the ending 'er' always meant a 'do-er'. 'As in water?' snapped Sidgwick.
Obituary of Nevil Vincent Sidgwick by L. E Sutton, Proceedings of the Chemical Society (1958), 318.
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We are at our human finest, dancing with our minds, when there are more choices than two. Sometimes there are ten, even twenty different ways to go, all but one bound to be wrong, and the richness of the selection in such situations can lift us onto totally new ground.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1979), 39.
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We call the one side [of humanity] religion, and we call the other science. Religion is always right. ... Science is always wrong; it is the very artifice of men. Science can never solve one problem without raising ten more problems.
Speech at the Einstein Dinner, Savoy Hotel, London (28 Oct 1930). Reproduced in George Bernard Shaw and Warren Sylvester Smith (ed.), The Religious Speeches of George Bernard Shaw (1963), 83.
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We may, perhaps, imagine that the creation was finished long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues still more magnificently, and at the highest levels of the world.
In The Divine Milieu (1927, 1968), 62.
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We started out by giving away [our maps and guides], and it was the wrong principle. The day I found a Michelin guide book used to prop up a wobbly table, we put a price on them.
As quoted by H.M. Davidson, in System: The Magazine of Business (Apr 1922), 41, 446.
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We won't argue; you're wrong. [A common comment to his employees illustrating his resistance to changing his mind about his grand schemes.]
As expressed in Adam Macqueen, The King of Sunlight: How William Lever Cleaned Up the World (2005), and in some of its book reviews.
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When I entered the field of space physics in 1956, I recall that I fell in with the crowd believing, for example, that electric fields could not exist in the highly conducting plasma of space. It was three years later that I was shamed by S. Chandrasekhar into investigating Alfvén's work objectively. My degree of shock and surprise in finding Alfvén right and his critics wrong can hardly be described. I learned that a cosmic ray acceleration mechanism basically identical to the famous mechanism suggested by Fermi in 1949 had [previously] been put forth by Alfvén.
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988), 195.
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When introduced at the wrong time or place, good logic may be the worst enemy of good teaching.
Quoted, without citation, in The American Mathematical Monthly (Mar 1993), 100 No. 3, 286.
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[Great scientists] are men of bold ideas, but highly critical of their own ideas: they try to find whether their ideas are right by trying first to find whether they are not perhaps wrong. They work with bold conjectures and severe attempts at refuting their own conjectures.
'The Problem of Demarcation' (1974). Collected in David Miller (ed.) Popper Selections (1985), 118-119.
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“Try another Subtraction sum. Take a bone from a dog: what remains?” [asked the Red Queen]
Alice considered. “The bone wouldn't remain, of course, if I took it—and the dog wouldn’t remain; it would come to bite me—and I’m sure I shouldn’t remain!”
“Then you think nothing would remain?” said the Red Queen.
“I think that’s the answer.”
“Wrong, as usual,” said the Red Queen, “the dog's temper would remain.”
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871, 1897), 190-191.
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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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- 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