My Favorite Quotes

I keep running across statements or pieces of books or poems that capture something I think is profound and that I want to remember. Over the years I have forgotten as many as I have remembered, so I am going to keep a record of them here. Whenever I encounter a new one I will add it to the top of the list. Some of these are probably personal to me and will not appeal to many of you, but I hope most of them will be worth reading and thinking about for most of you. When I find new quotes, I will put them at the top of the list so you can always tell easily if something new has been added.

No woman ever conceived a child, no mare a foal, without Him. But once, and for a special purpose He dispensed with that long line which is His instrument: once His life-giving finger touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events. Once the great glove of Nature was taken off His hand. His naked hand touched her. There was of course a unique reason for it. That time He was creating not simply a man but the Man who was to be Himself: was creating Man anew: was beginning, as this divine and human point, the New creation of all things. The whole soiled and weary Universe quivered at the direct injection of essential life; direct uncontaminated, not drained through all the crowded history of Nature.

-C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis was a professor of Medieval Literature at Cambridge in the middle of the twentieth century and one of my favorite thinkers. He is somewhat out of fashion now, I believe, but that is a great pity.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

-T. S. Eliot in The Four Quartets

Poetry is the art of giving different names to the same thing. Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things.

-Henri Poincare
Henri Poincare was one of the greatest mathematicians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

You cannot be a good mathematician without also being a poet.

– Sophia Kovalevskaya
Sophia Kovalevskaya was the first female Ph.D. and as it happens, a mathematician. She was one of the main early contributors to the theory of Partial Differential Equations.

Men find it nearly impossible to speak humbly of humility, or chastely of chastity, or skeptically of skepticism.

-Blaise Pascal

You have to be fast only if you are trying to catch fleas.

-Israel Gelfand
Israel Gelfand was an excellent contemporary mathematician who recently died. Here he was encouraging a student who was being a little slow catching on to a new idea.

When we ask for advice we are usually looking for an accomplice.

-Leonhard Euler
Yet another great mathematician from the mid-eighteenth century. He was one of the greatest mathematicians of all time and did much of his work totally blind, doing the problems in his head and dictating.

The most worthwhile scientific books are those in which the author clearly indicates what he does not know; an author most hurts his readers by concealing difficulties.

-Evariste Galois
I am not entirely sure of myself attributing this quote to Galois. He also was a genius mathematician who ended up revolutionizing the way we thought about algebra and died when was 21 years old.

The only commodity sold in America, of which the buyer is glad to get less than he pays for, is education.


The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wise men are always full of doubt.

-Lord Bertrand Russell

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

-Albert Einstein

The cockroach and the rat live by competition and the law of supply and demand; it is the privilege of being human that we may live by the law of grace and mercy.

-Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry is a contemporary, a farmer in Kentucky, an author, poet and philosopher.


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2 Comments on “My Favorite Quotes”

  1. Eric Alagan Says:

    I enjoyed all these quotes – thanks.

    One doubt and nothing to do with the above quotes. Why do people give greater credence to the words of dead people? I know of at least a few dead ‘luminaries’ – who were dumb!

    Let’s start with Aristotle and his contention that > rational faculty lay in the hearts of humans…

  2. Good question. But if somebody dead does say something, it ought to be remembered. I agree that we should not neglect the living, but still honor the dead who deserve some honor. Most dead people never get quoted at all.
    I never did like Aristotle much. I was more of a Plato guy, for what it is worth. And even better, Paul.
    Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate you stopping by.

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