French Mathematician Quotes
Sneezing absorbs all the functions of the soul just as much as the [sexual] act, but we do not draw from it the same conclusions against the greatness of man, because it is involuntary; although we bring it about, we do so involuntarily. It is not for the sake of the thing in itself but for another end, and is therefore not a sign of man's weakness, or his subjection to this act.
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.
We have found a beautiful and most general proposition, namely, that every integer is either a square, or the sum of two, three or at most four squares. This theorem depends on some of the most recondite mysteries of number, and is not possible to present its proof on the margin of this page.
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.
Mathematicks therefore is a Science which teaches or contemplates whatever is capable of Measure or Number as such. When it relates to Number, it is called Arithmetick; but when to measure, as Length, Breadth, Depth, Degrees of Velocity in Motion, Intenseness or Remissness of Sounds, Augmentation or Diminution of Quality, 6tc. it is called Geometry.
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.
Papers should include more side remarks, open questions, and such. Very often, these are more interesting than the theorems actually proved. Alas, most people are afraid to admit that they don't know the answer to some question, and as a consequence they refrain from mentioning the question, even if it is a very natural one. What a pity! As for myself, I enjoy saying 'I do not know'.