An eclectic mix of fantastically quotable scientists talking about biology:
Although Nature needs thousands or millions of years to create a new species, man needs only a few dozen years to destroy one.
Victor Scheffer, 1906 to 2011
I believe that thirty million of these animalcules together would not take up as much room, or be as big, as a coarse grain of sand.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 1632 to 1723
Biology is the study of the complex things in the Universe. Physics is the study of the simple ones.
Richard Dawkins, 1941 – present
If physics and biology one day meet, and one of the two is swallowed up, that one will be biology.
J. B. S. Haldane, 1892 to 1964
By ‘life,’ we mean a thing that can nourish itself and grow and decay.
Aristotle, 384 BC to 322 BC
Everything that human beings or living animals do is done by protein molecules. And therefore the kind of proteins that one has and therefore the ability one has is determined by the genes that one has.
Har Gobind Khorana, 1922 – 2011
Instead of being the biological center of the Universe, I believe our planet is just an assembly station, but one with a major advantage over most other places. The constant presence of liquid water almost everywhere on the Earth is a huge advantage for life, especially for assembling life into complex forms by the process we call ‘evolution.’
Fred Hoyle, 1915 to 2001
The finding of the double helix thus brought us not only joy but great relief. It was unbelievably interesting and immediately allowed us to make a serious proposal for the mechanism of gene duplication.
James Watson, 1928 – Present
The development of biology is going to destroy to some extent our traditional grounds for ethical belief and it is not easy to see what to put in their place.
Francis Crick, 1916 – 2004
Nearly 2.5 billion years of prokaryotic cells and nothing else – two-thirds of life’s history in stasis at the lowest level of recorded complexity… Why did life remain at stage 1 for two-thirds of its history if complexity offers such benefits?
Stephen Jay Gould, 1941 to 2002
I think it would be quite wrong to suggest that my colleagues have rejected me or that I reject them. Quite the reverse. It’s only a small, vociferous group – mainly biologists, I’m sorry to say – that go beyond ordinary scientific criticism and start becoming personal.
James Lovelock, 1919 – present
Gaia Theorist, Inventor, Scientific Polymath
This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits.
Rachel Carson, 1907 to 1964
Why the dinosaurs died out is not known, but it is supposed to be because they had minute brains and devoted themselves to the growth of weapons of offense in the shape of numerous horns.
Bertrand Russell, 1872 – 1970
Mathematician and Philosopher
Perhaps it is not amiss to remark that the biologist may not hope to solve the ultimate problems of life any more than the chemist and physicist may hope to penetrate the final mysteries of existence in the non-living world.
Edmund Beecher Wilson, 1856 to 1939
All increasing or dominant species (and it is from these that new species arise) vary considerably, in all their parts, organs and faculties, in every generation.
Alfred Russel Wallace, 1823 to 1913
Zoologist, Evolutionary Biologist
Did the genome of our cave-dwelling predecessors contain a set or sets of genes which enable modern man to compose music of infinite complexity and write novels with profound meaning? …It looks as though the early Homo was already provided with the intellectual potential which was in great excess of what was needed to cope with the environment of his time.”
Susumu Ohno, 1928 to 2000
The time however has arrived when biology must, like the other sciences, make a fresh start in a purely speculative direction, free from all entanglement with medical or any other art.
Auguste Compte, 1798 to 1857
Philosopher of Science
Although the alternate ‘wax and wane’ cycles are the rule rather than the exception in all fields of human endeavor, in that of biological sciences the ‘wane’ is all too often indicative of a justified loss of faith in the rational and methodical approach that had at first raised so much hope.
Rita Levi-Montalcini, 1909 to 2012
I believe that new mathematical schemata, new systems of axioms, certainly new systems of mathematical structures will be suggested by the study of the living world.
Stan Ulam, 1909 – 1984
Dr. Ikemoto repeatedly told me that we should not perform research that simply reproduced somebody else’s results. Rather, we should do something unique and new.
Shinya Yamanaka, 1962 to Present
Stem Cell Biologist
Primates are visual animals above all, and anatomical work, in particular, is as much pictorial as verbal.
Stephen Jay Gould, 1941 to 2002
On the principle of successive variations not always supervening at an early age, and being inherited at a corresponding not early period of life, we can clearly see why the embryos of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes should be so closely alike, and should be so unlike the adult forms.
Charles Darwin, 1809 to 1882
Naturalist, Evolutionary Biologist
Our thoughts, visions and fantasies have a physical reality. A thought is made of hundreds of electrochemical impulses.
Carl Sagan, 1934 to 1996
Astrobiologist, Planetary Scientist
Botany consists in the gathering of plants, and the dismembering of them, in connection with the use of a complicated terminology. That is the beginning and end of botany as it is understood by the majority.
Herbert Maule Richards, 1871 to 1928
It is thus probable that germs of the lowest organisms known to us are continually being carried away from the earth and the other planets upon which they exist. As seeds in general, so most of these spores, thus carried away, will no doubt meet death in the cold infinite space of the universe. Yet a small number of spores will fall on some other world, and may there be able to spread life, if conditions be suitable.
Svante Arrhenius, 1859 to 1927
Author of this page: The Doc
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