Brilliant Chemistry Quotes

A selection of brilliantly quotable quotes from chemists through the ages:

Henry Edward ArmstrongThe physical chemists never use their eyes and are most lamentably lacking in chemical culture. It is essential to cast out from our midst, root and branch, this physical element and return to our laboratories.

Henry Edward Armstrong, 1848 to 1937
william ramsayThe country which is in advance of the rest of the world in chemistry will also be foremost in wealth and in general prosperity.

William Ramsay, 1852 to 1916
Louis PasteurTime is the best appraiser of scientific work, and I am aware that an industrial discovery rarely produces all its fruit in the hands of its first inventor.

Louis Pasteur, 1822 to 1895
Book PageWith monads and diads, and pentads and triads,
My brain has been addled completely;
And what’s really meant by ‘something-valent,’
Is a question I give up discretely.

John Cargill Brough, 1834 to 1872
johann joachim becherThe chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasures amid smoke and vapor, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I were to change places with the Persian king.

Johann Joachim Becher, 1635 to 1682
thomas thomsonChemistry, unlike other sciences, sprang originally from delusions and superstitions, and was at its commencement exactly on a par with magic and astrology.

Thomas Thomson, 1773 to 1852
humphry davyExperimental science hardly ever affords us more than approximations to the truth; and whenever many agents are concerned we are in great danger of being mistaken.

Humphry Davy, 1778 to 1829
Peter AtkinsChemistry begins in the stars. The stars are the source of the chemical elements, which are the building blocks of matter and the core of our subject.

Peter Atkins, 1940 to present
dorothy crowfoot hodgkinStill I had a lurking question. Would it not be better if one could really ‘see’ whether molecules as complicated as the sterols, or strychnine were just as experiment suggested?

Dorothy Hodgkin, 1910 to 1984
DemocritusWe think there is color, we think there is sweet, we think there is bitter, but in reality there are atoms and a void.

Democritus, c. 460 – c. 370 BC
linus paulingEvery aspect of the world today – even politics and international relations – is affected by chemistry.

Linus Pauling, 1901 to 1994
Sir William CrookesChemists do not usually stutter. It would be very awkward if they did, seeing that they have at times to get out such words as methylethylamylophenylium.

Sir William Crookes, 1832 to 1919
GeberI saw that people trying to synthesize gold and silver were working in ignorance, and by false methods; I then perceived that they belonged to two classes, the dupers and the duped. I pitied both of them.

Geber, c. 712 – c. 815 AD
Gilbert Newton LewisA detective with his murder mystery, a chemist seeking the structure of a new compound, use little of the formal and logical modes of reasoning. Through a series of intuitions, surmises, fancies, they stumble upon the right explanation, and have a knack of seizing it when it once comes within reach.

Gilbert Lewis, 1875 – 1946
Michael FaradayChemistry is necessarily an experimental science: its conclusions are drawn from data, and its principles supported by evidence from facts.

Michael Faraday, 1791 to 1867
justus von liebigA fact acquires its true and full value only through the idea which is developed from it.

Justus von Liebig, 1803 to 1873
william ramsayNothing can be more certain than this: that we are just beginning to learn something of the wonders of the world on which we live and move and have our being.

William Ramsay, 1852 to 1916
jw mellorTrial by combat of wits in disputations has no attraction for the seeker after truth; to him, the appeal to experiment is the last and only test of the merit of an opinion, conjecture, or hypotheses.

Joseph Mellor, 1869 to 1938
humphry davyWe must reason in natural philosophy not from what we hope, or even expect, but from what we perceive.

Humphry Davy, 1778 to 1829


  1. Jimmy says


    “Chemistry, unlike other sciences, sprang originally from delusions and superstitions, and was at its commencement exactly on a par with magic and astrology.”

    The way modern food and nutrition theories go back and forward with advice about fats, carbs and the like makes me think that a lot of it is almost on a par with magic and astrology.

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