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Eric Temple Bell Quotes
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The so-called obvious was repeatedly scrutinized from every angle and was frequently found to be not obvious but false. "Obvious" is the most dangerous word in mathematics.
Eric Temple Bell
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The mistakes and unresolved difficulties of the past in mathematics have always been the opportunities of its future; and should analysis ever appear to be without or blemish, its perfection might only be that of death.
Eric Temple Bell
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Out of fifty mathematical papers presented in brief at such a meeting, it is a rare mathematician indeed who really understands what more than half a dozen are about.
Eric Temple Bell
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It is the perennial youthfulness of mathematics itself which marks it off with a disconcerting immortality from the other sciences.
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Some, of my unmathematical friends have incautiously urged me to include a note about the origin of modern calculating machines. This is the proper place to do so, as the Queen of queens has enslaved a few of these infernal things to do some of her more repulsive drudgery. What I shall say about these marvelous aids to the feeble human intelligence will be little indeed, for two reasons: I have always hated machinery, and the only machine I ever understood was a wheelbarrow, and that but imperfectly.
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Fashion as king is sometimes a very stupid ruler. As was observed a little way back, the kernel of Plücker's theory of geometric dimensionality is that the dimensionality of a given space is not an absolute constant, but depends upon the elements, accepted as irreducible, in terms of which the space is described.
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Science makes no pretension to eternal truth or absolute truth; some of its rivals do. That science is in some respects inhuman may be the secret of its success in alleviating human misery and mitigating human stupidity.
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This is precisely what common sense is for, to be jarred into uncommon sense. One of the chief services which mathematics has rendered the human race in the past century is to put "common sense" where it belongs, on the topmost shelf next to the dusty canister labeled "discarded nonsense."
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Fools have always been governed by fools and doubtless always will be, but not all scientists and mathematicians are yet fools.
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Wisdom was not born with us, nor will it perish when we descend into the shadows with a regretful backward glance that other eyes than ours are already lit by the dawn of a new and truer mathematics.
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There is a sharp disagreement among competent men as to what can be proved and what cannot be proved, as well as an irreconcilable divergence of opinions as to what is sense and what is nonsense.
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The pursuit of pretty formulas and neat theorems can no doubt quickly degenerate into a silly vice, but so also can the quest for austere generalities which are so very general indeed that they are incapable of application to any particular.
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All measurements in science are statistical in character.
Eric Temple Bell
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The toughminded suggest that the theory of the infinite elaborated by the great mathematicians of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, without which mathematical analysis as it is actually used today is impossible, has been committing suicide in an unnecessarily prolonged and complicated manner for the past half century.
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Any impatient student of mathematics or science or engineering who is irked by having algebraic symbolism thrust upon him should try to get along without it for a week.
Eric Temple Bell
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The straight line of the geometers does not exist in the material universe. It is a pure abstraction, an invention of the imagination or, if one prefers, an idea of the Eternal Mind.
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The distinction between the mathematical method and the scientific is seen in the agonies of very young children to do what their teachers sometimes tell them is mathematics. Anyone who was subjected to elementary geometry when his infantile brain was as unripe as a green walnut will recall the protracted misery he endured.
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The statistical method is social mathematics par excellence.
Eric Temple Bell
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The tensor calculus that cost Einstein an effort to master is now a regular part of an undergraduate course in the better technical schools. The subject has been so thoroughly emulsified that even an eighteen-year-old can swallow it without regurgitating. But this does not prove that wither his brain or his stomach is stronger than Einstein's was.
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This does not mean that objections cannot be well taken: it merely calls attention to the fact that in mathematics, as in everything else, this earth is not yet to be confused with the Kingdom of Heaven.
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What I aspired to be, And was not, comforts me.
Robert Browning
Eric Temple Bell
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Born:
February 7, 1883
Died:
December 21, 1960
(aged 77)
Bio:
Eric Temple Bell was a Scottish-born mathematician and science fiction writer who lived in the United States for most of his life. He published non-fiction using his given name and fiction as John Taine.
Known for:
Men of Mathematics (1937)
The magic of numbers (1946)
The last problem
Mathematics, queen and servant of science (1951)
The development of mathematics (1940)
Most used words:
mathematics
,
science
,
obvious
,
mathematicians
,
abel
,
human
,
truth
,
years
,
assumptions
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