18th-century Mathematician Quotes
Those periods of history when phenomena previously thought to be due to totally diverse causes have been reduced to a single principle were almost always accompanied by the discovery of many new facts, because a new approach in the conception of causes suggests a multitude of new experiments to try and explanations to verify.
In our daily walks we tread with heedless step upon the apparently uninteresting objects of which it [geology] treats; but could we rightly interrogate the rounded pebble in our path, it would tell us of the convulsions by which it was wrenched from its parent rock, and of the floods by which it was abraded and placed beneath our feet.
It is not scholarship alone, but scholarship impregnated with religion, that tells on the great mass of society. We have no faith in the efficacy of mechanic's institutes, or even of primary and elementary schools, for building up a virtuous and well conditioned peasantry, so long as they stand dissevered from the lessons of Christian piety.
It will seem not a little paradoxical to ascribe a great importance to observations even in that part of the mathematical sciences which is usually called Pure Mathematics, since the current opinion is that observations are restricted to physical objects that make impressions on the senses.
A very extensive class of phenomena exists, not produced by mechanical forces, but resulting simply from the presence and accumulation of heat. This part of natural philosophy cannot be connected with dynamical theories, it has principles peculiar to itself, and is founded on a method similar to that of other exact sciences.
It is to the influence of the opinion of those whom the multitude judges best informed and to whom it has been accustomed to give its confidence in regard to the most important matters of life that the propagation of those errors [pertaining to errors of truth] is due which in times of ignorance have covered the face of the earth.
The design of this Memoir is to deduce strictly from a few principles, obtained chiefly by experiment, the rationale of those electrical phenomena which are produced by the mutual contact of two or more bodies, and which have been termed galvanic; its aim is attained if by means of it the variety of facts be presented as unity to the mind.
To history we shall adhere no farther, than is sufficient to preserve an unbroken series of methods gradually becoming more exact and extensive; the series beginning with the first rude, though perfectly just, method of James Bernoulli, and ending with Lagrange's exquisite and refined Calculus of Variations.
The infinitely small neither have nor can have theory; it is a dangerous instrument in the hands of beginners [...] anticipating, for my part, the judgement of posterity, I would dare predict that this method will be accused one day, and rightly, of having retarded the progress of the mathematical sciences.
The poetic beauty of Davy's mind never seems to have left him. To that circumstance I would ascribe the distinguishing feature in his character, and in his discoveries,—a vivid imagination sketching out new tracts in regions unexplored, for the judgement to select those leading to the recesses of abstract truth.
Of Humphry Davy