18th-century Naturalist Quotes
In geology we cannot dispense with conjectures: [but] because we are condemned to dream let us ensure that our dreams are like those of sane men—e.g. that they have their foundations in truth—and are not like the dreams of the sick, formed by strange combinations of phantasms, contrary to nature and therefore incredible.
Natural history is the most extensive, and perhaps the most instructive and entertaining of all the sciences. It is the chief source from which human knowledge is derived. To recommend the study of it from motives of utility, were to affront the understanding of mankind.
The flowers and ground together make so pretty a piece of tapestry, that one might be surprised to find such colouring and workmanship hid, as it were industriously, under a rock; but the works of Nature are every where well finished, and can not be otherwise than exact and beautiful in their degree.
Mad with the agonies he endures from these fresh attacks, the infuriated Sperm Whale rolls over and over; he rears his enormous head, and with wide expanded jaws snaps at everything around him; he rushes at the boats with his head; they are propelled before him with vast swiftness, and sometimes utterly destroyed.
If it be so interesting to us to follow, in the infancy of our species, the almost obliterated traces of extinct nations, why should it not also be so, to search, amid the darkness of the infancy of the Earth, for the traces of revolutions which have taken place anterior to the existence of all nations?
Who can say but your new Star [Uranus], which exceeds Saturn so much in its distance from the Sun, may exceed him as much in magnificence of attendance? Who knows what new rings, new satellites, or what other nameless and numberless phenomena remain behind, waiting to reward future industry and improvement?
In spite of the errors into which I may have been led, the work may possibly contain ideas and arguments that will have a certain value for the advancement of knowledge, until such time as the great subjects, with which I have ventured to deal, are treated anew by men capable of shedding further light upon them.